After 30 years at top, Ogilvie boss still looks forward
IN 1989, when Duncan Ogilvie was just
22, he assumed the role of chief executive of Ogilvie Group, the company started by his grandfather at the end of the Second World War.
Having worked in the business as a schoolboy, at weekends and holidays, it could be said that Mr Ogilvie was not without experience, but the unexpected death of his father at 46 propelled him into a role which he has now held for 29 years.
“I haven’t worked anywhere else,” he says. “I went to college for a year but it wasn’t for me. I was too busy wanting to work in the business at that point.”
Based in Stirling, Ogilvie is a diverse organisation, with interests in construction, homes, transport fleets, surveying and web security.
Much of that diversity has taken place during Mr Ogilvie’s tenure, but the company has had variety in its veins since 1979 when the then Ogilvie Builders formed a subsidiary called Steadfast to provide vehicle hire services.
By the time Mr Ogilvie had taken over, Ogilvie Homes had also been founded, in 1985, leading to the incorporation of Ogilvie Group later the same year.
In 1993, Mr Ogilvie brought Steadfast closer to the family with a change of name to Ogilvie Fleet.
A cyber security firm called Net Defence came into the portfolio in 2009.
Longdin & Browning was acquired in 2014 and joined with Loy Surveys in the newly created Ogilvie Surveys division. When Malcolm Hughes was acquired in February 2017, the group became one of the largest players in the survey sector.
Active Auto Solutions was then picked up for £4.6 million in August 2017, with the accident management firm complementing the existing fleet business, which now has 16,000 vehicles.
The most recent addition came in September, with the acquisition of Cheshire-based Tilsun Vehicle Contracts enabling the company to enter the personal contract hire market.
“Tilsun was totally planned,” he says. “We made a lot of money and had good times with the residual values of our vehicles over the last five years and because we can see the number of car registrations falling there will be a softening in the used car market, so we looked at what else we could get involved in that we could still attach to our fleet business.”
The first thing the company did was introduce a daily rental, which Mr Ogilvie says will continue to grow, pushing Tilsun revenue past the current £5m.
Plans are to grow the fleet to 17,000, with Mr Ogilvie confident of further growth.
In the construction business, he expects revenue to stay roughly where it is, about £67m or 250 homes. “We like the size of Ogilvie Homes at present,” he adds.
Under his tenure, revenue has reached £269m, having grown by a quarter in the year to June 2017, a period which saw profit climb 16 per cent to £5.3m.
“If you’re involved in our line of businesses for this length of times, the economy goes up and down, you go on a good run but you know it won’t last forever,” he says. “I was 22 when I took over and we’ve moved forward in the same manner ever since.”
While its revenue puts the group among the top 50 privately-held businesses in Scotland, Mr Ogilvie says turnover is not a number that matters too much to him.
“A financial year is a shot in time, the balance sheet is the overall scoreboard.
What happens during a financial year is important but the main thing is the growth of the balance sheet.”
That balance sheet as of June 2017 showed net assets of £46.3m. When asked if he’s content with that number Mr Ogilvie laughs.
“Content? Yes, I suppose am,” he says. “It’s a good strong healthy balance sheet. I’m still looking to grow it but I’m content with where it is.”
Being in such a strong cash position means acquisition remains a key component of the business’ growth. “There is nothing on the go just now but I would imagine that there will be some things we’re looking at over the next 6-12 months,” he says.
Mr Ogilvie stresses the importance of the support he receives from non-executive directors, and the company chairman, Willie Mcdermott.
“Because of my age [when I took over] we ran with a chairman who was there to help, and even as I’ve got older I’ve continued with that.”
Mr Mcdermott has been in post for the last four years. “He’s been pivotal in the decisions to diversify and the latest acquisitions we’ve gone through he’s been there with us.”
As a family business it is no surprise to hear Mr Ogilvie talk of the importance of staff, and the longevity of his charges.
“Ten years’ service isn’t a lot for us,” he says. “We’ve got 20, 30, 40 years and we’ve got one at 50 years’ service and another who’ll retire next year with 49.”
The current level of profit growth can be maintained, Mr Ogilvie believes, adding the group is on target for the current year with six months to go.
“It’s great, it’s exciting. I enjoy doing what we’re doing and the diverse nature of the group, or it wouldn’t be this way.”
Having been in position for nearly three decades, Mr Ogilvie has seen good times and bad, and nothing can compare to the years after the 2008 financial crash, though he takes huge pride in the fact the business remained profitable every year.
“Just now, it’s not a fantastic economic environment but it’s by no means a poor one,” he says. “If we all sit back and think of what happened in the world [in 2008], these are decent operating conditions.”
Looking ahead and he believes the business will remain in the family, with another generation taking the seat occupied by him, his father and grandfather.
“The three of us are custodians of a business, we look to improve it, to grow it, to do things that excite us, but not to sell. I’m not just growing it to sell out and retire. I want to see a fourth generation come in, but my children are too young yet so I can’t say if that will happen.”
Duncan Ogilvie has led the family business since 1989 and says its profit growth can be maintained.