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15 November 2004
The Herald
Scotland's emerging business talent steps forward to be recognised

SCOTLAND'S entrepreneurial spirit will be recognised when the Entrepreneur of the Year 2004 awards are presented in front of 700 guests at a dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow on November 25.

Sponsored by The Herald, Bank of Scotland and PriceWaterhouse

Coopers, the awards fall into two categories:

l Emerging Entrepreneur of

the Year

l Entrepreneur of the Year

Our preview of the three short-listed finalists in each category begins with the nominations for Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year.

Name: Chris Giles

Company: Giles Insurance Brokers

Location: Irvine, Ayrshire

Started: 1967

Employees: 300

Turnover: 80m

Giles took control of a small insurance broker from his father Michael in 1995 and since then has led the transformation of the business into one of the UK's leading independent players.

Having started out with one office in Irvine, Ayrshire, the Oxford University English graduate has pursued a path of rapid expansion through acquisition with aplomb.

With 23 takeovers under his belt, Giles now heads a company that boasts a network of 19 offices across the UK. These employ more than 300 staff. Giles has specialised in arranging cover for small and medium-sized businesses for most of its life, but recently moved into the professional indemnity market with the 400,000 purchase of Bath, Avon-based Maybury & Maybury.

The deal should help Giles achieve his objective of growing premium income by 60%, to 10m, within two years, and to more than 15m by 2008.

Earlier this year, 40-year-old Giles - who has a 70% shareholding in the company - announced plans to complete a management buy-out of the business shortly. This would be expected to pave the way for a stock market flotation by the fourth quarter of 2007. In the meantime, with increasing regulation likely to pile yet more pressure on small players, Giles expects to have plenty of opportunities to carry on buying.

PwC comment: With a substantial number of acquisitions under his belt, Chris has been actively consolidating this fragmented market sector. Future acquisitions and office openings across the UK are expected to provided a platform to support the possibility of IPO once the business has achieved sufficient scale.

Name: Simon Howie

Company: Simon Howie Ltd

Location: Dunning, Perthshire

Started: 1986

Employees: 160

Turnover: 17.2m

Former message boy Howie has come a long way since he started running his first butcher's store in Dunning, Perthshire, at the age of 19 in 1986.

After quietly expanding the business and a move into supplying stores groups, the 37-year-old earned the nickname 'Haggis King' with deals to supply the offal treat and other meats to the Sainsbury retail chain in the latter part of the 1990s.

He moved up a division last year when he scooped a contract worth more than 1m annually to sell meat in the supermarket giant's outlets across Scotland from Howie-branded counters.

With more than 150 hotels and restaurants also buying his produce, Howie felt well justified in investing 2m in trebling capacity at his Auchterarder processing plant last year.

He is targeting a 100%-plus increase in turnover from 4.5m to 10m-plus in the coming years.

Not content with spicing up the butchery business, Howie has also established successful ventures in industries ranging from laminates fabrication to property development. The Shore Laminates business Howie founded in Perth in 1991, after failing to find a suitable supplier of foodsafe panels for his butcher's shop, has grown to become a leading player in the trade. It has supplied wall panels for prestige projects like Glasgow Airport.

Just two years after launching Shore Recycling to process redundant fridges in 2002, Howie sold the business to a management buy-out team in September in a deal which valued the firm at some 19m.

The business, which Howie started with a 2m investment, operates the only permanent facility for recycling fridges in Scotland. It has won contracts with local authorities and waste management companies across the UK.

PwC comment: Simon has a flair for identifying new growth opportunities, and has seized these opportunities to create a portfolio of diverse and profitable businesses. He is an excellent example of the success that can be achieved from taking early-stage risks.

Name: Clift Graham

Company: ECG Group

Location: Lanarkshire

Started: 1972

Employees: 400

Turnover: 37m

In eight years running the show at the firm where he started his working life as an apprentice fitter, Clift Graham has helped the ECG heating installation to facilities management group become one of Scotland's fastest-growing privately-owned firms.

Founded by his father Eric in 1972 as a ventilation company specialising in local authority work, ECG has diversified to offer a wide range of services to the commercial sector, such as the design and installation of giant air conditioners for office blocks.

The Blantyre, Lanarkshire-headquartered company now employs around 400 people in a network of offices extending from Glasgow to London.

Eric Graham remains a major shareholder in ECG, but Clift, who became managing director in 1996, has been in charge during the dramatic expansion of the group across the UK in recent years. Since 1999 turnover has surged from (pounds) 11m to 37m.

The 40-year-old junior Graham plans to continue developing new services and exploiting mergers and acquisitions to keep growth plans on track.

PwC comment: Clift has transformed his family business into a significant UK player in the mechanical and electrical engineering services sector. With its key account relationships, and a growing suite of services, we believe the future for his business will be very prosperous.

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