It's not difficult to work out where Frank Salmon's entrepreneurial streak comes from. In the case of majority shareholder and chief executive of CMS Distribution, the Mayo-based specialist distributor, which supplies business and consumer technologies, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
His father Jackie, a returned emigrant, bought a tractor when he came back from Manchester in the 1950s (the first in the village of Knock) and hired himself out to local farmers, transporting hay, turf, animals or whatever was necessary.
Salmon's father died when he was 10 and a year later the young Frank was working in a local restaurant washing dishes before being promoted to a waiter's role - serving the visiting pilgrims to the Knock Shrine.
While Salmon has been based in London for the past 36 years he has kept close links to home. CMS is headquartered in Kiltimagh, just down the road from Knock. The company also boasts several offices across the globe, from the US to China, Europe to Australia.
With its international footprint, CMS distributes software and hardware as well as consumer technologies for over 100 manufacturers and vendors. Its client base involves 3,000 resellers and retail partners worldwide.
Salmon bought CMS in 1988 from its London- based owner when he was an employee at the firm. In 1991, the company moved into the distribution business and the Kiltimagh base opened in 1993.
"When we were choosing the [Co Mayo] location, the advice was that we needed to be in Dublin. But we learned early on that it's the front-end people that need to be near the customers, not the office or headquarters," he says.
"We got a lot of support from the local business development firm, IRD Kiltimagh, in the early days. And Ireland West Airport [Knock] has been key for us - it is our gateway."
The Kiltimagh office supports our global business - from customer services to finance - and we demonstrated early on that the remote working model works for us. We have 100 people in the town and just over 400 globally, we are in 11 locations in seven countries."
Salmon only attends the Mayo office once a month and is enjoying the success of remote working - which has emerged as a talking point since the onset of Coronavirus. He believes that if you have the right team of people they can work very efficiently outside of an office location.
"We are a frontline company because we serve both the HSE and the NHS, so we have been working away during the pandemic. I think, in terms of the way we all work, this is a game-changer. This whole working-from-home concept is the biggest experiment and my view on things would have changed, we've seen an increase in engagement with staff," he says.
Salmon adds that the days of simply going to city office tower blocks have ended and workers have demonstrated that they can do a good job working from home and that they are diligent.
"Because they don't have a commute they will go that extra mile. And the fact that they don't have a commute means they can also put in the extra bit of time," he says.
"For us there are three types of employees -those who prefer the office atmosphere, a third want the flexibility of splitting their time, and the remainder want to work from home. There are challenges to all models though, including childcare," Salmon adds.
He feels the same way about the urban-rural divide and says there are several advantages to having headquarters in a non-urban location.
The urban-rural question has become an important point in the attempts to form a government between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. All three parties have agreed in principle to the idea that a recovery plan for the economy would include regional and business supports.
"I think many companies will come out of this pandemic exploring the options of rural working. There are obvious advantages, like the quality of life for staff, and we are also very fortunate with the team of people we have in Kiltimagh, the local talent. The infrastructure cost of supporting a member of staff in Kiltimagh is five times less than it is in London. We have many advantages in the west - the quality of our team and Ireland West Airport is also a distinct plus for us in terms of accessibility. It's our gateway to the rest of the world," he says.
Prior to the disruption that Covid-19 brought, Salmon had been focusing on the challenge of protecting the business from Britain's exit from the EU.
Last year, CMS entered the French market with the acquisition of Paris-based Avesta, a distributor of hardware technologies with an emphasis on mobile and high-tech products which has operations in the Netherlands as well. The company has also relocated its warehouse facility to a new 150,000 sq ft facility in Yorkshire that offers customers and other manufacturers additional storage space for Brexit contingency planning.
"The challenge with Brexit is two-fold," he says. "It's not knowing what trade agreements will be in place and the fear of the unknown. It causes anxiety in people and we lost some great people who left London to go home, including staff from France and Spain. However, there are still about 24 nationalities across the whole group."
He adds that while the pandemic has overshadowed everything, the Brexit crisis is still looming there in the background.
"The impact on Ireland could be worse than in the UK but Irish people are very resilient and, typically, sometimes businesses will find a way to resolve issues where politicians can't," he says.
He remains sanguine about the business, though, despite the economic uncertainty, but is concerned about what effect this recession could have on the next generation. Recessions, he says, teach you hard lessons and he has worked through four of them - the first time just a year after he acquired CMS.
"Coming through a recession creates scars but also instils wisdom. It teaches you to appreciate value more, I am very prudent when it comes to value and the expectation of what value is - whether it's time or a euro. I'm less likely to get carried away with a wave or wild economics."
The Irish economy is on track to contract by 12.4pc this year, according to the latest forecast from the Economic and Social Research Institute. This would mark the biggest slump in the Republic's history as a Covid-19 wreaks havoc on homes, businesses and Government finances.
The forecast is one of the starkest yet and is more pessimistic than that of the Government's projections or those of the two main banks. The Government has predicted a contraction of 10.5pc this year.
Salmon believes that when the economic upturn comes it will, most likely, be a W-shaped recovery.
"The end of 2020 and 2021 will be difficult as Governments will have to take off the stabilisers at some stage. You become a little bit wiser with time. For many people this will be their first experience of disruption and it will be difficult for young people. They will be hit most by this recession."
But despite the social and economic headache that is Coronavirus, CMS is still in expansion mode. The direction, for Salmon, is more east than west with a focus on the UK.
"President Donald Trump doesn't exactly instil confidence. The US market is very complex and targeted while the UK is a much more concentrated market while still having the benefits of a multicultural society. The UK economy is a very old one and only time will tell.
"For now it's the journey we're going on. There was a time when I felt disappointed with the outcome of Brexit, for example. But I've adapted and it has become a new normal - you get on with it," he says.
His optimism is obvious too in his medium-to-longer-term ambitions for CMS and he is on target for a 2022 IPO, pending business performance. If necessary, the date could be pushed out to 2023.Salmon currently owns about 80pc of the firm, staff hold 12pc of the shares and the remainder are with other original shareholders.
"This would help us to fund future growth across Europe, USA and Asia and unlock some value for longstanding shareholders and key staff members," he says.
"Now that we have gotten over the worst of it, CMS has proven during Covid-19 to be resilient and while our sector has been affected, we're fortunate to have been able to trade through the crisis."
Frank Salmon of CMS Distribution on his roof terrace in Highgate.
CEO and majority shareholder in CMS Distribution
London and Knock, Co. Mayo
College of Technology Bolton St, Dublin, Ireland; FA level 1 coach; EY education alumni
Four years working in the print and publishing industry in London
Two children, aged 16 and 12
Coaching underage football, following Mayo and Arsenal, playing Perudo (dice game) and golf
Arsène Wenger. His ability to create that success at Arsenal, every weekend exposing your soul, was tremendous
Just finished Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari
What’s your best piece of business advice?
Having a growth mindset is everything. This is particularly true now that we are living in a time of great change and disruption.
What career lessons have you learnt along the way?
Living through recessions teaches you to appreciate value more. I am very prudent when it comes to value and the expectation of what value is – whether it’s time or a euro. I’m less likely to get carried away with a wave or wild economics.
Sunday Indo Business