Protec: A legacy with new beginnings

Protec’s General Manager, Matt Allen, sits down with TPiMEA to discuss the latest developments at the company, including a revamped management structure and a new and improved scenic department.

Operating in the Middle East since 1999, Protec has undoubtedly played an integral part in the rapid development of the region’s live events scene, becoming a mainstay of the industry over the past 20-plus years. While the death of the company’s pioneering founder, Stephen Lakin – an industry titan and one of the earliest backers of TPiMEA – left a gaping void in the community, when it came to the continued day-to-day running of Protec, Lakin left the company in extremely capable hands. “Steve gave me carte blanche to do things how I saw fit and bring in the people who I knew and trusted,” explained Protec’s General Manager, Matt Allen. “He wanted to make sure that we had all the tools and the opportunity to carry this on and honour his legacy.”

With more than a decade of experience in the Middle East and approaching two years in his current position, Allen has the rare opportunity of shaping one of the region’s longest-standing independent technical production houses – and it’s an opportunity he has grabbed with both hands. “We’ve had a major refresh, overhauling the rental system and bringing in a new operations team – and everybody is taking ownership over everything we do,” he told TPiMEA. “Everyone has embraced the change, and we’ve got a good energy and a great group of people from all over the world working together to make things happen.”

One of the biggest changes the GM has instigated is the expansion of Protec’s fabrication department. “It’s something that Protec has always offered, but I don’t think it’s been pushed as much in the past,” Allen said. “There aren’t many companies out there that can do what we do in terms of fabrication, and we need to make more noise about that.”

Key to the growth of the fabrication side of the business is Production Director Jurgens Potgieter, who worked with Allen in his previous company and joined Protec with a similar brief. “It’s a two-channel approach; we want to develop two high-level companies in one,” Allen explained. “Our aim is to take the fabrication department from a secondary offering to a major draw.”

The GM reiterated his belief in the importance of having trust in his team. “Just as I was given the freedom to bring in my own people and do things my way, we afford all the HODs that same freedom,” he commented. “It’s so helpful if you have a solid core of people who you’ve worked with and trust. Not only do we have that, but we’ve also been lucky with others coming in who have slotted into the company seamlessly.”

Protec’s DIP headquarters has always been one of the more impressive facilities in Dubai, and lots of work has been going in behind the scenes to ensure that the revamped fabrication department lives up to the company’s high standards. “The facilities are second to none,” Allen stated. “We have the capability to create everything from custom staging and experiential environments, to large scale opening ceremonies and exhibition stands – pretty much anything you would ever want.”

This increased capacity and the ability to produce more refined items has allowed the company to explore new markets, with the luxury corporate sector one that has proved particularly fruitful. “The luxury stuff requires a far greater level of detail and refinement that only a few specialised companies can cater to,” Allen explained. “There’s a huge opportunity in that market that we’re keen to capitalise on.”

That’s not to say that Protec has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to other sectors. “Our scope of work is incredibly diverse,” Allen revealed. “From large-scale shows and festivals such Defected, Elrow XXL and Tomorrowland, to luxury events for Cartier and Chanel, and set building for Dubai Opera’s production of Macbeth, each type of project requires its own way of thinking and operating, and we have the specialists to deal with every facet of the business.”

Protec’s HQ also boasts a fully equipped previsualisation suite, which brings a greater level of certainty to clients. “We can invite people in and show them exactly how things are going to look,” Allen said, noting his preference for being brought onto projects as early as possible. “Getting us involved in the concept stage means that the client can maximise what we bring, and that is going to pay off in the long term,” he added. “However, if there’s a situation where something is needed urgently, we also have the flexibility and agility to deliver that.”

Allen was keen to dispel what he says is a long-held misnomer about Protec. “The old perception was that Protec wouldn’t take on smaller jobs, but that’s not the case at all,” he stated. “While we like to get involved in the larger projects, we’re just as interested in repeat smaller jobs, and we approach each project with the same vigour. We’re extremely detail focused in everything we do, and we take a lot of care throughout the process, making sure all the touchpoints are slick.”

Saudi Arabia continues to be a market that attracts significant interest from Dubai-based companies, and Protec is no exception. “You can see the projects that are coming out of the country and it’s clear that Saudi is a market that is here to stay,” Allen stated, noting the company’s long history of work in the Kingdom. “Protec was launched off the back of the Faisaliah Tower project back in 1999, so we have a long history of working in the Kingdom over many years. We had great success with the World Defence Show last year and with our Super Dome in situ in Saudi, we’re ideally suited to working in the Kingdom.”

With sustainability an increasingly hot topic in the UAE, Protec has introduced several policies and procedures to ensure that the company is doing its bit. “We reuse materials wherever possible, which makes sense both financially and environmentally. We can build projects at scale here in the warehouse and test before we go. That means we bring fewer materials to site, require fewer truck runs and only use what we need,” Allen highlighted.

Looking to the future, Allen is focused on growing the company organically. “When the quality of work is there, you get recommendations and further work comes from it. Keeping and advancing those relationships and maintaining standards is crucial,” he explained. “Our end clients are our focus. We are a homegrown Middle East company that is focused on supporting our clients here in the Middle East from the smallest event they have right up to the largest.”

As we wrapped up the interview, Protec’s GM reflected on the legacy left for him by the company’s founder. “Steve was a legend of the industry; Protec was his life’s work and passion, and we need to continue what he started,” he concluded. “I feel privileged to have been given the trust and the freedom to continue Steve’s legacy. The opportunity to throw myself into a company like this was a massive one. We won’t reach our goals overnight, but we’re moving in the right direction and we’re on the right track.

Photos: Protec