ALASTAIR Morton admits with a smile that joining the family business wasn’t a choice so much as an inevitability.

His parents had started Strathaven-based agricultural engineering business AY Morton back in 1974, and he’d grown up tinkering with tractors and machinery, so there was never any question about his future career.

More than 25 years later he still works alongside his mum, having grown and expanded the company to became the first Scottish supplier of US-made Polaris utility vehicles, developing award-winning bespoke designs for specialised ambulances, farming, forestry and defence vehicles at home and abroad.

“Agriculture is still our main market, accounting for 70 per cent of sales,” explains Mr Morton. “But we also supply to utility companies, local authorities, parks and recreation firms, foresters and country estates.

“Then there’s the sports and leisure side of things. We’re the only Scottish dealer of Polaris sports and leisure vehicles – fun buggies. We started cross-country rallying with the buggies and created the Scottish championship, which we won this year. The rallying is a good opportunity to promote the leisure side of AY Morton.”

With Alistair and his mum at the helm, and just two other members of staff, it’s a close-knit business.

“We have our moments but it’s great working with mum because we know each other so well,” he adds. “As all small businesses know, it can be hard to find staff that you trust. Our team is just right. Because it’s a family business you feel pride and a responsibility to keep things going – the onus is on you.”

In the future, the businessman sees growth potential in electric vehicles and the development of bespoke vehicles for the emergency services. “For me it’s all about adding value to what is already a great product. There are now 70 dealers in the UK, so we have to offer something different to have an edge over our competitors.”

That “something different” also extends to a second business created by Mr Morton, building and letting out industrial units in the Strathaven area, which highlights the importance of diversification and not putting all your eggs in one basket.

So, having successfully grown and diversified the family business, what advice would he offer to those hoping to follow in his footsteps?

“If you want something you have to do it yourself,” he says. “Be self-reliant and resilient. If you are seeking more avenues for your business, it’s up to you to make the change happen.

“If there’s something you don’t know about, find the people that do have knowledge and learn from them.

“I’d also say in my experience it’s important to strike while the iron is hot. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

“But perhaps the most important thing of all is to make sure you manage your finances. Cash really is king – there’s no getting away from that. It’s one thing winning a big order but you’ve got to be able to fund it.”

As part of this, he says it’s also imperative to have a strong relationship with your bank, in his case RBS. “We’ve been with RBS for a good few years now andHaving a one-to-one relationship with your business manager is key. I can pick up the phone and get straight through to someone who can actually make decisions – that’s the sort of relationship you need.”