TAKING over an existing business is never going to be easy. But it’s even trickier when the boss you’re taking over from also happens to be your dad.

That’s exactly what Stephen Rowland did in 2016 when he became a director of the civil and structural engineering firm his father set up in Paisley almost 30 years ago.

And although RDA Consulting Ltd was in good shape when he took the reigns, it’s gone from strength to strength over the last two years thanks to a growing order book.

The company provides engineering services to a wide range of clients, from individuals adding an extension to their home, to property developers and renewable energy companies.

And when the need arises, Mr Rowland, who originally worked as a graphic designer before re-training in computer aided design, still turns to his dad Jim for help.

“I joined the company in 2005 at the bottom wrung and being the boss’s son meant I got a harder time than anyone else,” smiles the 43-year-old.

“Me taking over helped dad to retire, I think, though I still get lots of advice from him and at busy times I bring him back as a consultant.

“I was very keen to modernise and me taking over has allowed us to move into the twenty first century.”

Doubling the number of staff was a key element of this modernisation strategy, as was moving into new offices at Storage Vault in Paisley last November.

“We had looked at various options but one of the best things for us about Storage Vault was the fact that the offices were brand new and we were able to have a say in the specification in terms of layout and facilities,” explains Mr Rowland. “It was great to move into a brand new space and there’s a really good atmosphere.

“Making the move has allowed us to refresh the company and improve our productivity. The staff are much happier now, too. We also work closely with an architect we met here at the complex – it’s been a fantastic move for us all round.”

As for how best to manage transition in a family business, he believes retaining good relations with existing staff is crucial.

“If you’ve been with the business for a while and have worked with the staff, they see you put in the graft alongside them and it’s so much easier than walking in the door and saying ‘I’m the boss now’.

“Remember, you need them more than they need you. Our associate engineer Fiona has been with the company longer than me. She came to work for my dad straight from university and has stuck with us ever since. Having that sort of loyalty makes all the difference. Treat staff fairly and they'll stick with you and fight for the business alongside you.

“You also need to be able to step back before you respond to difficulties. Don’t just jump with both feet - take a while to work out how to respond.”

Mr Rowland is confident he can add even more stability to the foundations laid by his father over the years.

“The thing I enjoy most about my job is watching the business grow,” he says.

“My dad did all the legwork getting it up and going, building the reputation. Now I’m expanding and improving, and that’s really satisfying.”

The fact that Mr Rowland’s wife Leila also works for the business, dealing with finance, means RDA is a truly family affair. And yet another familial addition could also be on the cards.

“My youngest daughter Megan is 15 and very interested in DEC at school,” says the director. “That's the modern version of we used to call technical drawing. She came in to do work experience recently and it went really well. I’m hoping she sticks in and becomes an architect – I have a vision that we could one day be a one-stop-shop for engineering and architecture. There’s definitely a place for her here if she works hard."