Ian MacGregor’s market-leading business was conceived after a casual chat with friends at the London Boat Show. 13 years later, Ian’s path to a sale didn’t run completely to plan, but perseverance led to the best possible outcome.
The early days
The eldest of six children, Ian left school at 15 and became an apprentice electrician. Five years later he decided to pursue a change of direction. Although he remained in the electrical industry, he moved into sales, building a highly successful career.
His career saw him moving up the management ladder and around the country, finally settling in North Wales to take a job with MITA, a trunking systems manufacturer, helping to grow the company from £4m in 1988 to £24m in 1999.
Here Ian experienced his first taste of acquisitions, when MITA was acquired in 1999.
Ian was contracted to remain with the company for a further two years after the sale but ended up staying for three, before leaving to set up on his own.
Ian and his wife Lillian had been talking about starting their own business for a few years and things finally came together after a chat with some friends at the London Boat Show.
“We also spoke to neighbour, who worked for NatWest and he said he thought the business was bankable, so we did it,” Ian explains. “Next moment we had started designing products, with our 15-year-old son drawing up the trunking for us.”
Marco Gearing began trading on 1st November 2003 and within a few years had established itself as a major UK manufacturer of cable-management products and the largest UK manufacturer of steel wire cable tray.
They were helped by grants from the Welsh Development Agency and Anglesey County Council, which was keen to create jobs in the area, and a loan from Finance Wales. Crucially, HSBC Asset Finance weighed in with a £550,000 finance loan.
“The first months were quite tough, but we just went out meeting potential customers and sent sacksful of samples out each day,” Ian explains. “Slowly we were establishing ourselves and by July 2004 we had enough sales each month to break even. We made sales of £0.75m in the first year and doubled it the following year.
“Eventually we were able to join all the electrical installation industry buying groups and gradually we just became an accepted part of the market.”