Never taking second best is key, explains Tes founder
Brian Taylor started the multi-award winning waste and water treatment company TES in his garden shed. Now, 15 years on, the firm boasts contracts all over the world and has an annual revenue of more than £13m.
The company, based in Cookstown, designs and manufactures waste water systems for a variety of industries, including domestic and public settings, such as schools, hospitals and even stock exchange buildings.
It is quite an accomplishment for Mr Taylor who had no prior experience in starting up a business.
"I founded the company myself, starting out in my garden shed," he said.
Six months later, a former colleague, Noel McCracken, came on board as managing director.
"We are both electrical engineers but Noel had more managerial experience, whereas I was a very practical person, so it meant we were able to tender for larger projects."
Mr Taylor said one of the primary aims was to develop the firm's portfolio of contracts outside of Northern Ireland.
And he and his staff have worked hard to achieve this.
"We have a dedicated sales team chasing work," he said.
"From an international point of view, we are looking at new markets all the time.
"We work for a lot of companies in the Middle East and South Africa, with quite a bit of success in the likes of Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
"We have completed three sewage treatment projects in Libya which involved travelling out there and finding a local partner we could work with.
"We tendered for some projects and they are actually now done and finished.
"We designed sewage plants for three oil refineries.
"They were designed and fully built here and then they were shipped over there and our local partners took them from the docks and installed them.
"Libya is too unstable now for us to continue working there, they almost have two governments and actually our local guy has even left the country because it's so unstable.
"However, we are in the process of setting up an office in Colombia because we see great opportunities there.
"We have employed a guy from Bogota who has been living in England but is moving back home and he is going to be our local person on the ground.
"Colombia really fitted for us because they have very few sewage treatment plants.
"The water system is generally very good, but the sewage normally runs straight in to the rivers.
"Colombia is coming out of a period of unrest, a bit like Northern Ireland, and there is investment being made in local towns and villages in relation to water treatment.
"The Colombian government are very interested in what we have to offer.
"It is a big risk but we will try and do what we did in Libya."
Closer to home, TES also has two offices in England, one in Newcastle upon Tyne and Stoke-on-Trent, as well as a second manufacturing plant.
They were established to allow the company to deliver major contracts in England.
In particular, the office in Newcastle upon Tyne was set up 18 months ago to allow TES to deliver a 10-year contract with Northumberland Water to supply mechanical and electrical equipment.
"That started about two years ago and it's going great," said Mr Taylor.
The company has also secured a framework agreement with Irish Water which will allow them to tender for all the major and minor mechanical and electrical engineering works for the company for the next three years.
So, looking to the future, where does he see TES?
"The big thing would be to go to £20m revenue and I think we are going to do that.
"We are also on the look-out for possible acquisitions of companies with other framework agreements.
"When we started out a big job was worth £500 to £1,000 and we had five or six employees.
"Within the first year, tendering was coming up close to £50,000 to £60,000 and now we're tendering for £5m and £6m projects, and we have 140 employees.
"We can be very competitive, especially outside of Northern Ireland, because we have such a good work ethic here so we can go anywhere in the world.
"This has been a great achievement there are always other little problems to deal with so you never feel like you are quite finished.
"We are always striving for is to keep standards very high and never take second best.
"I suppose the one thing I would say to people thinking of starting their own business is there is no right time to do it.
"You don't have to have all your ducks in a line to go, just do it.
"I wanted to start my own business for years and it was hard work but it isn't the big dark art everyone thinks it is.
"If I can do it, anyone can."