Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

It's a family affair: A&G knocks up a half-century of trading

Raymond Acheson, managing director of concrete products manufacturer Acheson & Glover, talks about how the company, which is celebrating 50 years in business, has faced up to the challenges of the current economic climate.

We intend to be around for a long time to come, and the family-run ethos of the business will stand us in good stead. We are currently rebranding, revamping our website and promoting '50 solid years in business'. We have just opened five newly designed Outside Room Centres around the province, aimed at homeowners wishing to make the most of their patio and paving areas.

Long-term goals are to expand our markets and customer base and continue to develop new, innovative products. The future for construction businesses such as ours lies in developing sustainable products for the environment of the future, and we are already working on this. These products will have to reflect the green environment which will largely be dictated by the government. At Acheson & Glover we have always focused on the environment and have won a number of awards for our energy saving and sustainability initiatives.

We have been active in the British precast market for the last decade and have an extensive range of industry contacts. But even more crucially, Acheson & Glover is known as a 'solutions provider'. Our team came up with unique product solutions for a number of Olympics contracts and we were the only company in the UK able to supply 500mm deep hollowcore slabs, which are specially designed to take the extra-heavy loads required for the Olympics stadium.

The short term goal in the construction sector is about survival. This has been the toughest time we have had to go through in the 30 years that I have been in the business. Like everyone else in this sector, our sales, profitability and employment have all been affected, but we will come through it stronger.

Some divisions within the company have performed reasonably well, given the climate, but as a whole, the company has had to respond to the market changes. There is little sign of growth in the construction industry and there may not be for a few years yet, but our genuine commitment to customers and a determination to provide solutions which meet their requirements has been reflected through customer loyalty.

This hasn't been an issue for us. We are dedicated to the development and the future of our workforce and have substantially invested in up-skilling. Our junior managers have gone through extensive training through our in-house learning and development department and we would like to thank all involved for their commitment to the project.

There have been redundancies in our business which have been a necessary evil and we are fully aware of the devastating impact this has on the affected employees and also on those left behind.

"You have two ears, two eyes and one mouth and you should use them in that proportion!" However some of my employees may not agree that I always do this! John Anderson, the original manager in Fivemiletown, told me that when I was young and starting out in the company. He used to smoke the pipe and sit back in his chair - one of the old school quarry types.