Marco Galea, CEO of Oxford House, has directed the company’s evolution towards its centenary through diversification, innovation and customer engagement. His clear vision of growth, sustainability and an unwavering commitment to meeting clients’ changing needs has been critical in guiding the company through its development, as he balances the preservation of Oxford House’s legacy with the need to blend traditional business values with market trends.

The pressure of legacy can weigh heavily on a leader, particularly in a family-run business, but Marco Galea has successfully managed to navigate this context at Oxford House in his position at the helm, working to attain a balance between family ties and professional responsibilities. Whether striking the right tone or taking tough decisions, for Marco, steering a nearly century-old business is all about adaptive growth while implementing innovation with a touch of tradition.

Marco’s role at Oxford House goes beyond mere management. He is ushering in a new era for the company while respecting the rich legacy that has already been built. “As the Managing Director of Oxford House, I am a dynamic and hands-on leader, dedicated to driving excellence in every facet of our operations,” Marco explains.

His approach combines a deep commitment to the business with a culture of collaboration and innovation, while his leadership style mingles practical business strategies with an enthusiasm for the industry. He not only focuses on financial performance but also on building a sustainable business model that prioritises stakeholder relationships and market adaptability.

Under Marco’s guidance, Oxford House has seen significant transformations. From its early days as a haberdashery in Valletta to becoming a leading importer of renowned brands like Bosch, Nobilia Kitchens, Steelcase, and more.

Over the years the company has continued to evolve: “crucially, we expanded the business strategically and successfully from being a manufacturing entity to one of Malta’s leading brand importers,” says Marco, as he reflects on his landmark career moments. “Oxford House’s strategic expansion was not just about growth but also about adapting to changing market needs,” he explains.

As anyone involved in a family business knows, there are always unique challenges, particularly when it comes to family ties. When dealing with such a legacy as Oxford House, Marco understands the importance of striking a balance between making the right decisions and appeasement. For Marco, this has meant planning for growth and expansion, while keeping his feet firmly on the ground. He notes, “navigating this landscape means constantly finding the right equilibrium, even if it means taking tough decisions.”

Outside the office, Marco finds comfort and relaxation in travel, DIY projects and music. “Balancing my business responsibilities with my personal life can be a challenge. However, travelling for both business and pleasure is one of my biggest passions,” he shares. His pastimes reflect his approach to life and leadership: a fusion of hands-on involvement and appreciation for the finer things. These two elements are evident at Oxford House every day. One such example is the company’s service centre, which was set up in 2016 and specialises in delivering an exceptional experience to Oxford House’s customers. “We have also built a robust logistics operational system to provide an optimum and fast service to our clients,” Marco shares.

Innovation remains at the forefront of Oxford House’s strategy. The firm’s focus is on introducing new product lines that align with current home and office trends, particularly in the context of the current remote work culture. Being the company’s leader means looking ahead, and Marco is eyeing opportunities for market expansion, both locally and internationally. An expansion of this kind involves navigating regulatory environments, understanding diverse consumer behaviours and establishing a strong brand presence in new markets. Over the years, Oxford House has strategically expanded its product offerings, broadening its range to include a comprehensive selection of smart appliances, furniture designs through quality product material and office solutions to ensure that the diverse needs of the company’s clientele are met.

Oxford House has reached several milestones throughout its long operation, from implementing sustainable practices, such as the installation of photovoltaic panels and the recycling of packaging materials, to establishing strategic partnerships with suppliers, which has allowed the company to offer a diverse range of high-quality products, thereby solidifying its position as a market leader. Marco’s vision of excellence is embedded in a culture of understanding and addressing the unique requirements of Oxford House’s customers, adopting a client-centric approach throughout, especially enabled thanks to trained employees. “As a close-knit team, we believe in the ongoing training of our employees at Oxford House. This approach reinforces our vision and mission to deliver a superior experience for our customers and stakeholders,” Marco explains.

Maintaining the delivery of excellence in turbulent times, however, is a challenge. One of the critical strategies for Oxford House during the recent period of global difficulties, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues, has been the continued embrace of digital transformation. The company is enhancing its online presence, developing a more robust e-commerce platform and utilising digital marketing tools to reach a broader audience. Its digital shift, however, is not without its pitfalls, as it requires balancing the traditional retail experience with the convenience of online shopping.

In addition, Oxford House is on a journey of sourcing sustainable products and evolving its efforts to be more environmentally conscious. As environmental concerns become increasingly dominant, both locally and across the globe, Oxford House is integrating sustainability into its business model, which includes offering eco-friendly products and adopting green practices in its operations. Marco recognises the importance of sustainability not only as a corporate responsibility but also as a factor that increasingly influences consumer choices. “Sourcing sustainable products has indeed become an integral part of our business plan,” he shares. “We are witnessing – and understanding – the growing importance of environmental responsibility across the business landscape, and we know that we must play our part. For this reason, we ensure that our products are eco-friendly, from our array of domestic appliances to products like office chairs from the company Steelcase, which is committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in production.”

Looking ahead, Marco remains focused on further automating systems, structuring departments and ensuring continuous growth. His vision is clear: to adapt to cultural changes and the diversity of Oxford House’s employees while maintaining the company’s core vision. “Being a good leader means delegating, trusting and creating the next generation of leaders. It’s the only way forward,” he asserts.

As Oxford House nears its 100th anniversary, its legacy stands firm with Marco in his leadership role. His constant innovative thinking and relentless pursuit of excellence continue to echo throughout the company. His journey from the roots of a family business to CEO of one of Malta’s sectoral leaders shine through the company’s success. Through his stewardship, Oxford House has grown and evolved, and is ever ready to set new benchmarks and reach further achievements in Malta’s business landscape.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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