Name: Iain Doherty.
ID Systems UK Ltd.
Headquarters in Falkirk with bases in Glasgow, Inverness, Penrith and Birmingham.
Mechanical, electrical, control and automation engineering services to the water, gas and industrial sectors.
To whom does it sell?
We have quite a varied client portfolio from utility organisations such as Scottish Water and National Grid to construction firms and direct user organisations.
What is its turnover?
Approximately £5 million.
How many employees? 53.
When was it formed? 2001.
Why did you take the plunge?
Starting my own business was something I always wanted to do. When I decided to go it alone I had a very stable job and could have done very well as an employee, but I could see the opportunity to do it myself.
At the time, the water industry in Scotland was going through a dramatic change with the new entity of Scottish Water being created.
I undertook some work to assess and identify improvements of procurement of "Telemetry" (remote monitoring and measurement systems) within the industry and it was obvious there was a need for the supply chain to react to the new-look industry.
Creating a new business was a huge decision to take, especially as I had a six-month-old baby, but I knew that I could make it work.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I'm a time-served electrician and went on to achieve a CEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering through night classes and remote learning while I was working as a project engineer with an electrical engineering business.
My last job was as principal consultant and project director for an engineering consultancy in charge of reasonably big jobs.
There is certainly a place for consultancies but they are usually only involved at the beginning of a project and I wanted to be more "hands on" and involved with successful outcomes.
When I started my own business a phrase I used to use a lot was "from cradle to grave".
How did you raise the start-up funding?
I managed to get a secondment working for Scottish Water which helped the money to come in from day one and employed a couple of engineers to get out and build a small portfolio to get us started.
A credit card also provided a bit of funding too.
What was your biggest break?
Our first framework award with Scottish Water to provide Telemetry services in 2003 was a real coup. At the time the incumbents were far larger and it was a great achievement for our small team.
What was your worst moment?
In 2009, I received a phone call from a client saying they couldn't pay our invoices because they were in dispute with their own client.
Both the end client and our client were liquidated leaving unpaid bills of more than £200,000.
That was the start of a very stressful 18 months that took the company from 117 staff down to 20 and cost us about £1.2 million. I've learned from that experience and have completely changed our risk strategy to avoid that happening again.
We now take on less high-risk jobs and focus on maintaining our reputation to keep the referrals and opportunities coming through.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
When I was working for a consultancy I was in less of a position to influence decisions and in my own company I love having the freedom to provide what I think are the best solutions.
For example, in 2011, IDS identified a solution to resolve pump ragging, which basically means pumps getting clogged by sewage. If you can imagine the amount of human waste that has to be managed through pipe systems alone it's inevitably a very common problem throughout the world.
Our solution, the Deragger II, clears any clogging without the need of emergency callouts that use up manpower and time so it helps our clients improve their environmental performance, energy efficiency, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.
Its effectiveness has also led to a number of innovation awards, which we're really proud of.
We were also named Scottish Water's 2011-12 Supplier of the Year, which is a great endorsement.
What do you least enjoy?
The main issue I have with running my business is dealing with the negativity across the sector that has been recently created as a result of the current economic climate.
I can understand that organisations have to be vigilant in their work during this period, but it has led to a lack of investment and communication between suppliers and businesses.
When I first started my business more than 10 years ago I was optimistic and I had confidence because the market was buoyant. It's changed days but I know the opportunities are there, we just need to look harder or innovate more.
Unfortunately there are many companies who are standing still to survive rather than investing in their staff and business, which is making it difficult to create momentum.
The water industry operates on a five-yearly capital spend cycle which in effect provides a boom and bust effect on the supply chain. This provides a great deal of uncertainty with many examples of supply chain organisations going into liquidation in the recent past.
With this level of uncertainty and risk, many of the remaining organisations are unwilling to invest, which blocks apprenticeships and long-term employment.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
To create a sustainable Scottish SME that is valued and trusted by our clients.
What are your top priorities?
To continue to grow a sustainable business providing excellent service; to continuously improve our Environmental and Health and Safety performances; to provide opportunities for all staff including apprenticeships, graduate schemes and professional qualifications; to seek out innovation opportunities; to become an employer of choice where staff feel valued, trusted and engaged. This is particularly important as we continue to recruit.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
The support and guidance we are receiving from Scottish Enterprise is excellent, but we did not know the level of support that is available at the beginning. More could always be done to promote the guidance available.
It would help for schools and colleges to produce business ready recruits. This is not just about skill sets but raising the profile of the engineering sector as a credible employer and as a nation to provide some home-grown talent and provide hope for youths coming through the school system.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?
Cash flow management is the lifeblood of any business and not something to be embarrassed about. If you don't learn quickly you are likely not to be in business long.
How do you relax?
Not sure you would call it relaxing but I love being with my family, my wife (Corrine) and my three children Cameron (11), Lily (5) and Alex (2).