Life Lessons: Passing on the legacy
Bryan Bunn, managing director of Nortech Group, talks about his passion to promote apprenticeships, a necessary initiative in the challenging market conditions caused by low oil prices, resulting in massive lay-offs in the sector
Having started Nortech Group in 2011, my business plan was quite modest, with a reasonably conservative initial three-year plan. However, we exceeded our initial targets pretty quickly, which pushed us straight through the establishment phase and into a growth phase within the first nine months. We started with four employees and the business grew quickly to 50 people within the space of 18 months on the back of securing a number of key contracts. As our quick growth proved, entrepreneurs have to pivot quickly to set a new direction to maintain growth and stay in the game.
One thing that I am extremely passionate about is giving something back. As a former apprentice myself, I know that I benefitted hugely from the training and experience it gave me, so it’s very close to my heart. As a business, we’re proud to be part of an initiative called ‘The 5% Club’, which is sponsored by the UK Government, where a minimum of 5% of a business’ employees are undergoing some form of further education. In terms of implementation, a development and training model is definitely something that we would like to deliver with our JV in Abu Dhabi, Al Dhabi Nortech Engineering Consultancy, in the future. Although it wouldn’t be the same model as that of the UK apprenticeship, it should contain the same ethos – a commitment and passion for improving the skills of local people.
When I left school, the North East of England had a significant manufacturing industry. Back then, the majority of boys went into apprenticeships. I was offered an apprenticeship at ICI which, at the time, was the best technical trainer in the area. What I learnt and the skills I gained were excellent and they have not only influenced my job choices, but have also been very useful throughout my career.
I find that I need to be very balanced when it comes to combining being an engineer and an entrepreneur. Engineers are very exact, structured individuals, which can be a limiting factor entrepreneurially. So the two aspects definitely clash. I think that to be an entrepreneur you need to have something that sparks off a thought process in which you can recognise opportunity. It’s very much heart-over-head.
I think that the lay-offs in the oil and gas industry were inevitable as the industry’s cost model was wrong, making many projects unsustainable. When I was laid off during the (British PM Margaret) Thatcher era, I learnt to be mentally tough. I was prepared to do anything and work anywhere; I even worked on a market stall! I did whatever I could to earn money so that I could get back into engineering. During every change in the market I see an opportunity; the market brings challenges and within those challenges lie opportunities. My advice for people who have lost their jobs in a similar way is to never give up and to be passionate despite the challenges.
I noticed that there was a gap in the marketplace for a small to medium size engineering service provider. Luckily I was able to take four of my former employees with me. I have a strong work ethic, which has helped me establish the joint venture with Dhabi Consultancy LLC. Working closely with them, we have carved out a position in the market we are motivated to build upon. People come to us now because they’ve heard good things and because we’re different. I’m available to my clients 24/7, and I would never want our business to become too big and lose the personal approach that’s been so important in making us a success. The aim is to replicate this with Al Dhabi Nortech Engineering Consultancy.