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Brian Palmer: “Our success is the result of our collective ability”

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Name:

Brian Palmer

Role and company:

Chief executive of Tharsus Engineering

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

2011 turnover: £9.17m

2011 EBITDA: £954,000

Employee numbers:

150

Growth forecast for the next three years:

2012 – £13m / 2013 – £19m / 2014 – £25m

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

In three words: contact, manufacturing, plus.

There are plenty of companies offering assembly services in our marketplace who can bolt components together. Where we differ is in our ability to develop fully integrated solutions, resolving the engineering issues that prevent our customers from taking full advantage of opportunities in their markets.

What’s the big vision for your business?

We’re leading the way in creating a new manufacturing niche, offering a unique end-to-end design and manufacturing service that brings together final assembly with full electro-mechanical product design and development, technology integration, certification, in-sourced material conversion, sheet metal and fabrication and supply chain management.

It’s the type of genuinely knowledge-based approach that we believe underpins the future of UK manufacturing.

We’re already enjoying success with both spin-outs and start-ups and also market leaders with an international track record and we believe that there are plenty more customers out there who don’t yet realise that this service exists.

The service offers the perfect solution for businesses looking to accelerate the journey from concept to market who need avoid the distraction of setting up their own manufacturing facilities.

In the case of one customer with lease-service business model, we have full responsibility for the product that underpins the delivery of their service.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

Over the last six months our exports have grown by more than 200 per cent and now represent approximately 25 per cent of current turnover.

I feel like we now have a truly scalable business model, with a team capable of delivering the business’s true potential, enabling us to maintain our growth rate.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

Even though the business has been hit badly on a number of occasions over the years by the collapse of key markets, we’ve consistently achieved 30 per cent year on year growth for the last ten years.

Having successfully built a global customer base for our innovative outdoor advertising solutions, including all of the major players such as Clear Channel, CBS, Viacom, etc., the market was hit badly by the economic downturn.

However, we took the opportunity to focus on the core strengths of the business and contract manufacturing plus has been the result – developing and manufacturing products for third party customers rather than looking to continue to develop, build and market our own products.

What makes you mad in business today?

Unions who believe that people are owed a career or job and that organisations don’t need to change.

The world is a tough place, so we should never expect an easy ride and it’s essential to evolve as a business to tackle the challenges and opportunities thrown up in such an unpredictable global marketplace.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

There will be a number of new entrants which we see as positive for everyone as it means the sector will become more established and potential customers will become more aware of the benefits that contract manufacturing plus can bring.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Our total investment over the last three years is in excess of £3m and we’ve also been successful in securing monies through the Regional Growth Fund.

It’s allowed us to open a new manufacturing facility that was instrumental in winning a four year contract, against global competition, that underpins our continued growth.

Belief and confidence in our growth strategy were essential and the decision to retain and develop our design team has been critical in developing the contract manufacturing plus approach that is now yielding impressive results.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Our success is the result of our collective ability to come up with innovative solutions for our customers so I’m always keen to encourage ideas and new thinking.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Cars!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Policy, stability, consistency and a reduction in red tape.

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