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Box-out 2: How to keep overheads in check” Outsource

George Yule is a stalwart of Britain’s fast-growing offshore oil and gas sector, an industry prone to sudden and unpredictable reversals of fortune.

Between 2006 and 2010, Yule headed a major independent oil-field services firm. Over the course of four years, annual revenues boosted by a series of takeovers jumped from £5.1m to £45m, with staffing numbers rising from 45 to 87.

Following a brief sabbatical, he was appointed executive chairman of another Aberdeen-based energy firm, Romar International, which extracts metals from oil pumped from seabeds around the world. Yule hopes to turn Romar into a £10m-a-year firm by 2015, from £2.5m last year.

Yet the turbulent events of recent years have radically altered his thinking about who to hire and when.

After the pain of the financial crisis, the oil industry is booming again, with per-barrel prices at well over $100. But Yule and others in the industry are wary about hiring in great numbers again. The recession allowed us to have a hard, critical look at our company, and to ask if we really wanted to take on more permanent people,” says Yule, who currently employs ten people.

Here, Yule follows some basic tenets. First, he aims to get as much as possible out of existing staff. He notes: “I would far rather have too few people working at 100 per cent than a larger number working at 90 per cent.

Yet wherever possible, he seeks to outsource work. IT and human resources services have both been outsourced at Romar, as has quality assurance.

As the company expands overseas, Romar acknowledges that he ll need to bring in more staff but he ll do it on a temporary or agency basis where possible: “If economic conditions change, you need to be able to make swift, effective decisions and temporary staff allow you to do that.

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