We supply and install high-quality floor coverings.
To whom does it sell?
Sixty per cent of business is end-user clients and about 40% is business-to-business.
What is its turnover?
How many employees?
Seven full-time staff and seven self-employed fitters.
When was it formed?
1893. It was my paternal great-grandfather who started the business in the east end of Glasgow. I first started working in Millers Flooring part-time in 1984 and my brother and co-director, Stephen, has been involved for around 17 years.
Why did you take the plunge?
I left school much sooner than I should have, with dreams of pursuing a professional golf career, which didn't materialise. To try and follow that path I went straight into the family business.
My parents insisted that I start at the very bottom, which is one of the things that really served me well. I started as an apprentice floor-layer, moved to salesman and then to managing one of the branches, and finally to running the business.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I was at school – and playing lots of golf.
What was your biggest break?
The re-invention of linoleum as Marmoleum (in the 1990s) breathed new life into the market. Marmoleum was the name chosen by Forbo Nairn of Kirkcaldy for the major rebranding and launch into the domestic market of their Linoleum product.
Forbo spent a lot of money advertising the new range of tiles and borders to compete against other high-end products such as ceramics and Amtico. Consumers loved the product and the fact that Linoleum was a key part of our brand heritage was a big advantage.
What was your worst moment?
It has been particularly challenging recently, a double whammy of the recession and tram works. But it has taught me to focus on driving down costs and looking at every part of the business and really managing. I know we will come out of it much, much stronger. It has been a tough experience, but I'm also glad it happened.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
I love the fact that I love what I do. It's not a chore. We've got a good team of guys and we all get on well. The customers that we now have and the projects we get to work on are very interesting; you meet really interesting people, which is a bit cliched but it's absolutely true.
What do you least enjoy?
My brother Stephen and I assume different roles and we play to our strengths. He takes care of health and safety and personnel because that's not my forte. I focus on the marketing and sales side and the structure of the business. And the financial side I enjoy; maths and arithmetic were my strongest subjects at school, so I enjoy working with the figures.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
The ambition is for the business to grow significantly. We've identified that opening large shops is not really the way to go, but that there's room for satellite stores of a good flooring company around major cities in central Scotland.
We're thinking of opening up to seven or eight of them between Edinburgh and Glasgow. We're also thinking of developing a manufacturing capability on the wholesale side of the business, so we're less exposed if there are further downturns.
What are your top priorities?
Developing the wholesale business in Edinburgh and wood-floor retailing in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
There's lots of room for growth in the manufacturing side, which is the taping and binding service (this is too competitive an area to go into much detail at the moment); we've just completed £80,000-worth of work within the refurbishment of the schools sector, which is something we've never done before. Stephen has managed that tremendously well and it has already opened the door to winning further tenders – for the same kind of work and for other sectors.
Finally, we've just joined the Chamber of Commerce, which has resulted in a lot of things coming through. There are a lot of training programmes that look very good.
What single thing would most help?
In Edinburgh, it would be great if the tram works were completed soon. The disruption has been incredible. We saw a drop in turnover of £300,000 in the year of infrastructure works on Leith Walk.
I would not associate the full £300,000 with the trams because it was also the beginning of the financial crisis. However, I reckon that a 50-50 split would be too fair to the trams. And our Glasgow showroom is at the heart of where the Commonwealth Games will be hosted in 2014, so again, we're embracing that.
Clyde Gateway has done a fantastic job in leading the regeneration of the area, and I have to say the contractors are absolutely first-class. Their communication with local businesses has been excellent, the disruption kept to a minimum.
But saying that, I will look forward to the day when all these road works, trams and renovations come to an end so we can crack on with our business unhindered.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
We're just beyond the threshold for small business rates (the Scottish Government's Small Business Bonus Scheme applies to businesses properties with a combined rateable value of up to £25,000) and are therefore not classed as a small business – yet we are undoubtedly a small business.
Where government's idea of a small business stops is short of where the threshold should be. It seems bizarre that for a company like ours there's no help, while one just a little smaller benefits from financial support.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?
The most valuable lesson by an absolute mile is keeping a control on costs. Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity as the aphorism goes.
How do you relax?
Getting up at 5.30 in the morning before my kids and my wife have woken up, getting a cup of coffee, sitting at the computer looking at websites – at flooring websites. That, believe it or not, is how I like to relax.
But I also enjoy a glass of wine, playing a game of golf (I hope to take up membership at a club in Glasgow, where the aim would be to get back to near the six handicap I had through my teens and twenties) and, of course, spending time with my family.