For Stuart Anderson, an apprenticeship at 16 paved the way to a career as a successful international business owner. Stuart has developed a group of companies, including manufacturing facilities in the UK and in Germany, designing and producing equipment for the worldwide chocolate and confectionery industry. Here he tells us how he grew and subsequently came to sell his business.
An entrepreneurial state of mind
Stuart started a five-year apprenticeship with Low & Duff at 16. At 21, frustrated with the way the company was being run, and its subsequent decline, he re-located for a job at Rolls Royce in Northern Ireland, working on aero engines. This proved invaluable in terms of experience: “In the two years I was there the technology they were using put me 10 years ahead of general engineering.”
After two years, Stuart wanted to set up his own manufacturing business, but first had to raise some capital. He started a design company, supplying high pressure pipework and pressure vessel designs to prestigious companies such as Michelin and GlaxoSmithKline.
In 1974 he heard that Low & Duff had gone into liquidation. Stuart says “I was based in Dundee when I heard about the company going under, so I called my lawyers and immediately set up Low & Duff (Developments) Ltd.”
Stuart’s manufacturing journey had begun. But it was not all plain sailing: “It was a passion for the business that led me to resurrect it. They had run down the company so much that when I called past clients, they wouldn’t even speak to me. It took me about five years to build the business back up.”
At the same time, Stuart was strategically growing the business overseas: “I could see big potential overseas. It became easier for us to sell to Japan than London. 90% of our business was export.”
Growing the business
In 1995 Stuart bought land in Arbroath and built new facilities, bringing the fabrication and assembly shops together with the main manufacturing facility for the first time. This, along with the acquisition of a manufacturer in Germany (Petzholdt-Heidenauer Maschinen), enabled the company to achieve the international growth it needed.
By the time Stuart came to BCMS, he was the owner of Pitlivie Holdings, Low & Duff (Developments), Petzholdt-Heidenauer and MacIntyre Chocolate Systems Ltd.
Deciding to sell
Stuart already had a long-term plan in place: “The plan was, come 2013 we had to decide what we would do long term. My daughter, who is involved in the business, told me she did not want to run it, as she felt out of her depth when it came to the engineering side. That’s when I decided I needed to sell the business.”
When asked what brought him to BCMS, Stuart replies, “BCMS was running a seminar in Dundee and I thought ‘I’m going to go’ as I wasn’t sure about how I would go about selling a business. I was very impressed, it was totally different to the way I approached selling. I’m a good salesman, I reckon I could sell most things to anybody, but selling a company and selling it completely confidentially is a different matter.
“After the seminar I decided to visit BCMS’ Haslingden office and met the team there. I signed up straight away and it was all done in a year. And it was turmoil in that time! But BCMS was always there to sort things out for us and to smooth over any issues. BCMS has a great team.”