“If you take a look at the game industry ten years ago,” says Stevenson, “all the good game was exported to Europe and the US. Meat had to reach such stringent export standards – veterinary inspected – that all we got over here were the rejects.”
Stevenson’s business plan turned this system on its head. He concentrated on supplying high profile chefs and restaurants around Scotland and then the rest of the UK with premium quality meat.
“It was all because of my stubbornness,” he says. “I didn’t speak Italian, French or German. I didn’t want to have to chase invoices half way across the world. I’m comfortable with English and Scottish law. I wouldn’t know how to sue someone hiding behind European law.”
The £6m-turnover firm currently supplies all of Scotland’s Michelin-starred chefs, as well as a number of five-star hotels in England. Because of this impressive client base, Braehead’s reputation for consistently first-class game soon reached foreign shores.
“The Europeans started asking us to export our game,” says Stevenson. “It worked out well: you can charge more for something when people are trying to buy it, rather than when you’re trying to sell.”
Braehead only exports the game it doesn’t sell over here – a total role reversal of the traditional model. Stevenson’s rivals, who have been negotiating fraught export laws and chasing European and US customers for years were spitting with fury.
Especially as Stevenson subscribes to the “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen” school of business. “I don’t give credit to customers abroad. I do at home,” he says. “Their money has to be with us before the game leaves English shores. If you ask me how much of my revenue comes from export, I’d tell you that I don’t care. It’s surplus.”