Mike Carr, MD
From can lad to Managing Director is quite a trajectory.
Mike Carr has made that journey and he's not done yet.
Carr is at the helm of NSG, a Deeside-based company his father helped found in the early 1970s. It has a turnover of around £18m.
NSG stands for National Scaffolding Group, but the name doesn't really do it justice.
Carr describes the firm as a "multi-disciplined contractor". As well as providing scaffolding for the industrial and construction sectors, it also offers a range of other services that includes thermal insulation, industrial painting, blasting, specialist cleaning and more recently rail.
NSG's blue-chip client list includes Ineos, Eli Lilly, BHP, Cammell Laird and Centrica. It also has customers in the social housing market including Liverpool Housing Trust, and construction sector clients include, Balfour Beatty, Bovis, Lovell and Downing.
The diverse nature of the business helped it to ride out the recession.
Carr, who led a management buyout of the firm in May, said: "The building sector is certainly not as busy as it used to be. If you look back to 2008, we must have had 20 to 30 projects on the go in Liverpool. We worked on Liverpool One, the Arena and Convention Centre, the canal link, the family courts - the list goes on. Since the credit crunch hit, that market has been quite challenging, which is why one of my key objectives has been to diversify."
NSG still enjoys a good flow of work from its industrial clients, winning a lot of "shutdown campaigns". This is when something like a petrochemical site has to be shut down and dismantled for maintenance. NSG will support that work.
"We have ridden out the recession and maintained profitability," added Carr. "Our order book looks good long-term. There is no magic formula - we just try to be present in every available market. We are working very closely with Jim Williams, of Tender Management, in sourcing work, and also starting some ventures with Guy Blundell, of Northern Brickwork. We are certainly much more than just a scaffolding company."
NSG, which also has an office in Bootle, employs 395 people. All are employed directly. The firm does not use agency or temporary staff. And it is this, says Carr, which allows the firm to concentrate on what he claims is its number one priority - health and safety.
NSG can boast a long list of awards and accreditations as evidence of that commitment.
He said: "This company's origins come from working in places like nuclear and petrochemical sites. Safety is top priority in such places, and we have brought that ethos into all our other sectors. I like to ensure we invest a lot of time and money in systems and training. It is a fundamental principle for me.
"Employing people directly means we can ensure that everyone is properly trained to a high standard."
Carr was born and brought up in Liverpool and left Gateacre Comprehensive after completing his A-levels. University was a possibility, but the teenager was keen to get into the world of work as quickly as possible.
He said: "I had been working part-time for Sainsbury's and they wanted me to join their management trainee scheme. But I was also offered a place on the John Lewis scheme so I opted for that."
Carr spent two years working at the chain's Liverpool city centre George Henry Lee store.
He left a little frustrated at waiting around too long for promotion, but is still grateful for the lessons learned there.
"Their training scheme was excellent and I still quote things today that I learned back then," he added. Carr then joined NSG and his father ensured he would start right at the bottom.
He said: "I've been at the firm 26 years now, and I must have done every single job here at some point. I was a labourer and a can lad - I learned this business from the bottom upwards."
In 1992, he became operations director of the firm and he still held that role in 2001 when the company was sold to a German multi-national, Plettac. A year later, Carr led a buyout of the firm with two other directors, only to sell it again in 2007 to MWB for £4.3m - a decision he came to regret.
"I wasn't happy with the way things were being run under MWB, so I bought the company back in May this year. I run the company along with my fellow directors and shareholders - Rob Trotter and Rob Callaghan."
"Mad" Liverpool FC fan and keen golfer, Carr, is fully-committed to staying with NSG and growing it both organically and through acquisition.
"We don't really have a nemesis - a rival that covers all of the sectors we do. We have competitors in each one. The refreshing thing for clients is that we tick a lot of boxes.
"I am fully committed to the
company. It is all I know. I have been here man and boy, top to
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