Established in 1985, Highlander remains a family business. In addition to supplying a large range of rucksacks, tents, sleeping bags and accessories, Highlander also provides bespoke product runs where viability exists. Military equipment and clothing forms part of Highlander's range, supplied to both various governments around the world, and purchased privately by troops posted to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition to their significant UK market share, and an active export market to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Highlander continues to seek new breakthrough international markets.
Highlander was in a strong position to grow in a market that was generally contracting due to the decline in independent retailers. Scottish Enterprise began working with the team at Highlander to provide the support to reshape their business and enable them to take full advantage of these opportunities.
As Ramin Golzari, Sales Director of Highlander notes "Working with Scottish Enterprise was great as they encouraged us to get away from our day to day routine and job roles; to think about the big picture, the future of the business and how we wanted it to develop. They challenged our thought processes, making us look at challenges and obstacles in new and innovative ways."
Following the success in winning the official London 2012 products license, Scottish Enterprise supported the delivery of an Organisational Development Workshop. While the contract win presented an exciting opportunity for Highlander, it was also a risk since it required accelerated growth and new approaches. The workshop helped Highlander analyse the growth requirements resulting from the win; consider the requirements it brought and what needed to change to facilitate successful contract delivery.
This led to further work as part of the Leadership for Growth Programme. Management and leadership coaching was provided to one of the company directors. This was followed up by a project involving an external consultant who facilitated analysis of all job roles, considering staffing requirements, understanding existing skill sets, and development areas of current staff, allowing Highlander to take stock and identify where new staff requirements lay.
Funding support allowed Highlander to bring in two interim Managers for Hire (MFH). The first MFH helped introduce a new financial structure to the company, aligning its structure to work with large national clients. The Finance Manager tackled minimising waste, maximising efficiency and stripping out complacent financial practices within the business.
The second MFH fulfilled a business development role, helping Highlander break into international markets as well as supporting the move from independent to national retailers. This new skill set enabled the company to move from an agent structure to a more successful distribution structure.
Scottish Enterprise has also helped provide Information and Communication Technology specialism and website development support. This is leading to the re-development of Highlander's website. Online processing of orders will consequently make Highlander's sales processes more efficient.
Highlander also engaged with Scottish Development International to help make the most of international opportunities. SDI support included provision of market research and provision of contacts and introductions to help set up meetings in Russia and China.
Golzari comments, "As a small business we would have to think hard about investing in the Manager for Hire and the International Manager for Hire roles. But both roles have added huge value to our business - contributing to double digit growth month on month, at the same time as our competitors' businesses are declining."