Name: Martin Sweeney and Stephen Sweeney.

Age: 39 and 35.

What is your business called?

The Sweeney Group; my brother Stephen and I are joint managing directors.

Where is it based?

Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

What services does it offer?

Sweeney Group specialises in the regeneration of derelict buildings. Our construction business, Rhino Contracts, works on group development projects on an in-house basis. We have expanded during the last couple of years to build up a portfolio of buy-to-let properties in the west of Scotland.

We are also on schedule to open Sweeney Apartments and Rooms in Motherwell, which we hope will be the first of several serviced apartment developments. The project is a collection of nine luxury residences designed as a “home away from home” for both business and leisure travellers. The serviced apartments are on the site of a former landmark guest house in a prominent position close to the town centre.

We are also working with councils and housing associations to design and build affordable housing.

What is its turnover?


How many employees does it have?

We run a tight ship with me and Stephen at the helm, supported by our three-strong office team. We work with around 20 regular sub-contractors and many more project by project.

When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

Stephen was studying law and politics at the University of Strathclyde when he decided to quit and set up an awnings business, A1 Awnings, to capitalise on the smoking ban. He ran this business, fitting out facilities for pubs’ customers who wanted to smoke outside, for nearly four years before the recession of 2008/9. When that business ceased, he went back to Strathclyde and completed an honours degree in marketing and management. In 2014 Stephen set-up as Rhino Gas and Renewables, refurbishing properties with new, energy-efficient boilers. I joined a short time later and this soon expanded into refurbishing kitchens and bathrooms.

As a result of attending hub South West’s Building for Growth programme, as well as the Build Lanarkshire business development program, we changed tack and started to tender for housing association work to deliver projects on a wider scale, undertaking up to 100, then 200 plus home refurbishment contracts.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I graduated from the University of the West of Scotland with a BA degree in Leisure Management and became a manager with the Mitchells and Butler pubs group, having previously worked for it as a student. I moved to Tesco for nine years working in management roles in stores in Edinburgh and Coatbridge before setting up our family business.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We used our own money and received investment from family members and friends who wanted a better return on their money than they could earn elsewhere. We have raised around £1.5m this way and pay investors a 10 per cent annual return. We have also used commercial funding when it has been available and reinvest most of our profits.

What was your biggest break?

Getting ourselves properly educated about the property world before jumping in head-first. We believe that all real wealth is based on property investment and decided to take a course of study with the Legacy Education Alliance (LEA) which provides financial education to students from more than 100 countries and territories around the world and for which we are now both mentors and instructors.

Earlier this year at a ceremony in Las Vegas we were inducted into the LEA 2019 Hall of Fame for the rapid and successful expansion of our business from its contracting origins into property development.

What was your worst moment?

For Stephen the worst moment came during the 2008 financial crisis when A1 Awnings ceased trading after the funder of a number of pub companies faced financial challenges.It was a blow at the time but, on the other hand, it was an important learning experience and we believe we have profited from it.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The freedom to make our own decisions and to see the fruits of our labours, especially when we first encounter a derelict building and then bring it back to life once again. We also take satisfaction in being the masters of our own destiny.

What are your ambitions for the business?

To grow our portfolio and to continue to deliver for our customers and investors. We are determined to play our part in regenerating town centres in the west of Scotland, bringing people back into homes in the heart of their towns, just as we have accomplished recently in Kilmarnock. There, the upper floors of a former council building which had lain derelict for twelve years, was brought back into use to provide town centre accommodation that will support wider regeneration efforts in the area. After ten months of renovation work, the property has now been transformed into five town centre flats.

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

Reduce demands on landlords who are doing the right thing. There are thousands of properties in Scotland which are not fit to live in: they need to be rewired, replumbed, made rain and wind resistant and re-decorated to a standard most people would find acceptable. Professional private sector landlords like us are spearheading this important initiative and should not be burdened with additional headaches such as increased Land and Buildings Transactions Tax and the Universal Credit rules, which do not properly address the issues tenants face.

We are members of the Scottish Association of Landlords which has been lobbying the governments on these important issues.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Never give up.

How do you relax?

Golf, the gym and spending time with our families. Our dad, Jim, and mum, Liz, have been huge influences on us. Also, my mum’s brother Kenny has been instrumental in supporting our growth through investment and business support. We also like football – supporting our local team Motherwell FC. We both have a great interest in self-development and share books on these topics during our business trips to London and for holiday reading.