LERWICK-based Garriock Bros Ltd is looking back at 40 years of success, which has seen the company transform itself from a small joinery firm into one of Scotland’s largest privately-owned businesses.
Operating from headquarters at the town’s Gremista industrial estate, managing director and majority shareholder George Garriock and five other directors now oversee an operation with global reach that ranges from civil engineering and plant hire to house building and contract crushing.
The company is a prime example of a local business successfully expanding into the UK mainland and was recently listed as the 19th most successful small and medium sized business (SME) on a list of the top 300 Scottish firms.
Employing around 180 people in Shetland, Orkney, Inverness, Edinburgh and Coventry, half of the company’s annual turnover of £24 million is now generated outside of its native isles.
Explaining the company’s philosophy, George said: “We’ve are extremely proactive when it comes to getting out there and looking for potential businesses and depots to acquire.
“It’s all about doing the necessary footwork and following the process through to completion.”
The company’s journey started back in September 1975 when the small joinery business George started with his brother Martin at the age of just 17 became a limited company.
After almost 20 years of building predominantly Norwegian Fjogstad houses across the isles, Garriock Bros started its long trail of acquisitions in 1994 when they bought out Hewden Plant Hire and developed it into the largest plant and equipment hirer in Shetland.
Two years later they crossed the water to Orkney to buy a local tool hire company and then, in 2004, they stepped up their activities there by taking over a Kirkwall-based garage and renaming it Orkney Motors. The company also owns car and van hire firm Drive Orkney.
The biggest leap in the company’s fortunes came in 2002 when they gained a foothold on the Scottish mainland by taking over a major contract crushing operation in Newbridge, near Edinburgh.
In 2005 the company went on to become the official Scottish distributor for multinational Finnish mining and construction company METSO, a contract that was extended in 2011 to include the English and Welsh distributorship. Following a £3 million investment, Garriock Bros opened its Coventry depot the same year.
The METSO contract and its associated dealership in second-hand mining machinery sees the local firm trading across the globe with customers in New Zealand, Singapore and Panama to mention just a few. Today, the METSO distributorship accounts for a third of Garriock Bros.’ annual turnover.
Closer to home, they took over Brae-based Nicolson Plant in 2007, which also included the Sullom Mine quarry. When Hanson pulled out of Shetland two years later, Garriock Bros. added that company’s three quarries and its block and ready mix plants to its already diverse operation.
Their thirst for expansion remains undiminished. Earlier this year the firm bought T&N Joinery and renamed it GB Building Centre and it will enhance its UPVC window manufacturing division.
The company is also close to signing a deal to buy the premises of Hillside Garage to expand its presence in Brae, and are planning to build an new depot in Orkney at a cost of £1.5 million to expand its sales and plant hire there.
Today the company maintains a high profile in Shetland with its fleet of bright red lorries, trucks and low loaders that are involved at some level in almost every large civil engineering development in the isles.
“We are very proud to be a Shetland company making its mark nationally,” George said. “It’s very important to us that we never forget where we came from.”
“The economy in Shetland is very buoyant due to the oil industry, which meant that it was never as badly affected by the recession as mainland Scotland was.
“With the wider picture continuing to improve, we’re hoping to see growing opportunities in a number of different sectors.”
With so much going on it is hardly surprising that the company’s 40th birthday passed almost unmarked. Ten years ago, when the firm celebrated its 30th anniversary, they had a big do in the empty Gremista building they just had acquired from Schlumberger before moving in.
“That was not practicable this time round,” George said “with so many employees and the logistics involved.”
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