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Matching people to positions in the oil and gas industries

IN this week's SME Focus we hear from an entrepreneur who has helped build a fast-growing oil and gas consultancy that had to overcome a significant obstacle in its early days.

recruitment: Jo McGregor, right, is co-director of the company with her friend Angie McGregor, whom she first met at an under-14s disco where they were both dressed as 'rude girls'.
recruitment: Jo McGregor, right, is co-director of the company with her friend Angie McGregor, whom she first met at an under-14s disco where they were both dressed as 'rude girls'.

Name: Jo McGregor

Age: 45

What is your business called?

McGregor Consultants Ltd

Where is it based?


What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We are a well-engineering recruitment consultancy, which specialises in matching people to high level drilling, subsea, completions and health and safety positions worldwide. We cover a very technical niche market in which we have years of experience.

Whom does it sell to?

We have more than 50 oil and gas operator clients, based all over the world, including the UK, Europe, South America, all areas of Africa, SE Asia and the Middle East.

What is its turnover?

This year our turnover increased by almost 32% to more than £21.8 million, exceeding all our expectations. In the first 10 months of trading, we turned over £1.9m, growing this to £4.6m in year two and £9 in year three. During the first year of the recession, turnover increased to £9.4m, and in 2012/11 that figure reached £15m, rising again last year to £16.7m.

McGregors has made a concerted effort to increase the UK side of the business in recent years. Around 25% of the business is now UK-based, 75% international.

How many employees?

12. Earlier this year we picked up the Employer of the Year Award at the Grampian Awards for Business Excellence, which was a fantastic achievement for us all.

When was it formed?

The summer of 2006.

Why did you take the plunge?

Angie, my co-director at McGregors, and I had known each other for years - we first met at an under-14 disco when we were both Rude Girls, dressed from head-to-toe in black and white!

We became firm friends and kept in touch over the years, even when Angie joined the Royal Navy and travelled all over the world, and I moved to Indonesia for a time.

We both ended up back in Aberdeen, working for the Peak Group oil and gas consultancy, where we spent almost 10 years - I specialised in consultancy while Angie branched into finance.

Our previous employment at the Peak Group provided us with a great grounding, and we learned a huge amount about the oil and gas business during that time. However, when the company was bought over by the AGR Group we both felt that the emotional ties had been severed and that this was the time for us to try something new.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We were lucky enough to be offered the opportunity of private funding from two former colleagues so, with their investment, two laptops, and a business plan, we moved into an office in Aberdeen's Victoria Street. It was a huge decision for us as we both had young families, but very exciting at the same time. However, things were complicated by restrictive covenants from our previous employers, forbidding us from contacting any of their clients. We therefore had to start from scratch using other contacts in the oil and gas industry. It was tough at times, but I think it helped us build many close relationships, which we maintain to this day.

What was your worst moment?

The death of one of our consultants is always devastating. We are a company which gets to know its consultants and their families very well and when something like this happens it puts everything into perspective. We have had a couple of bereavements, one of whom I had known for 20 years and was particularly close to. I was one of the first people his wife contacted and I visited his family a few days afterwards.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The people we work with, from colleagues to the clients and consultants - we have a lot of different personalities and that makes the job very interesting and enjoyable.

What do you least enjoy?

Many of our consultants are working all over the world, so dealing with the different tax regimes for each country, not to mention the different circumstances facing each individual, can at times be very challenging.

What is your biggest bugbear?

Large clients who promise to pay by a certain date and then fail to deliver. This is something which affects many SMEs - for us cash flow is king, as it is in any other business. The effects of having to wait for large sums of money can be huge.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

To continue to grow and build our reputation worldwide. We have recently branched out into staff placements, matching senior professionals in staff roles, including drilling managers and senior drilling engineers both domestically and internationally.

We will continue to develop in this area as it has been very successful so far. In May, we were shortlisted for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and, although we didn't win, it was a great experience. It really helped us to put things into focus for the future by making us sit back and think about how we had got to where we are today, and what we wanted to do in the future.

What are your top priorities?

Reputation, building trust with clients and consultants, knowing and understanding the clients and consultants and their expectations and continuing to have fun along the way,

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish Governments do that would help?

SMEs are vital to economic growth and the Government needs to look at the ever present constraints they face in obtaining funding in order to build their businesses.

Banks need to be encouraged to lend, to have an understanding of the oil & gas industry and not to penalise SMEs whose main clients are internationally based. When looking for invoice factoring or overdraft facilities, banks tend not to loan you so much money if your clients are international. From a lending perspective, they need to better understand how the oil and gas industry works.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

People are key to this business in every possible way, and I am a strong believer in treating everyone in the way in which I would like to be treated.

How do you relax?

I love entertaining and having a house full of people. I have three children, and the house is rarely quiet.

We also insist on having dinner together every evening, where we all get the chance to say what we have been up to that day.

I used to run a youth football team, which was a huge commitment but great fun. I do miss it, but my youngest child plays football, so I still spend my weekends on the side-lines.

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