BCW Engineering Ltd case study transcript

Alec Cassie, Managing Director, BCW Engineering Ltd

BCW started in 2002. In the first year we turned over £300,000 and now 12 years on we’re at £18.4 million. One thing we can’t do is stop dead. Like swimming in the sea, once you start you’ve got to keep swimming. If you start treading water you’ll die. You’ll either drown or somebody will eat you, so you need to continue so we have to grow as a complete business.

Our philosophy is to be diversified, in both aerospace and automotive, this will take us and give balance to the company so that we can weather any kind of storm that will possibly come in the future. We have a long-term policy; our policy was to build a company that had a lot of young people in it, to bring on the next generation. We do a lot of work with universities, colleges, we bring in people that have took the normal route that you could say in life and been educated, but mixed with that, we bring in people that have had some social barriers. We have an ethos of “I would like to work in this company”.

We needed to buy our first piece of equipment and we went to MACH 2002, which is the machine tool exhibition and in there was stood a member of Close Brothers called Steve Gee. We walked in explained to him that we were starting our own venture and he immediately gave us £100,000 on credit to go and buy a machine. So this was a big step by Close Brothers to take that kind of risk. I didn’t have to go to a bank because of my previous work with them. So it was a great starting point and we bought a machine at that show and we now have some 84 machine tools.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt in business is not to be complaisant and expect the unexpected, so I try to put all kinds of risk analysis into our plan and for all of the paperwork and all of the plans that you do you have to be agile to be able to deliver that plan on time. Things hit you that you don’t expect but we’re very good at handling the unexpected i.e. 2008 in a growing company was the biggest crash, financial crash, that I can remember and I’m getting on now so, we managed that very well, we managed it but as a team of people taking pay cuts, organising no overtime payment but not just the workforce, the owners as well. This kind of business needs a lot of investment for the return that you get, so cash is always a problem and cash flow is always a problem so you have to have a mind-set that you’re not going to take big dividends out of the company. You’ve got to caress and look after your company, even more so when you’ve got capital to put into it.

Close Brothers have enabled us to invest in the state of our machinery, especially when the banks ran scared in 2008. Trying to grow with the normal banking situation was in turmoil, money was very difficult to get, but in that year we still went forward and they still backed us with our business plans so they’ve been very important to us and sometimes even though we don’t have to use Close Brothers now that we are more established we do use Close Brothers because we remember what they did for us and when they backed us when other people wouldn’t.