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.

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