The constant pursuit of growth and market dominance are the key drivers for most businesses, my own included. But as you’d expect, keeping abreast of technology forms a vital part of that effort, especially if we are to retain our blue chip client base in the highly competitive and fast-moving Oil & Gas and Power Generation sectors. And new technologies alone are not a substitute for experience and personal customer service.
Two of the principal companies that make up UnitBirwelco – Birwelco Limited and Unit Superheater Engineering Limited – are each over 100 years old. They have survived by being adaptable to change. Together with our third business – Unit Engineers and Constructors Limited – the Group is able to offer clients a full suite of complementary services: a technology provision, design, an engineering capability, manufacturing capacity and a construction/maintenance service. This is rare not just in the UK, but internationally. Furthermore, our customers, who are loyal but also demanding, recognise our strength through diversity and value the experience of our team.
Size is not the most decisive factor. UnitBirwelco falls within the definition of an SME – a company that employs less than 250 people – however we regard this as a plus factor. It is worth remembering that official Government statistics show there were 5.7m UK SMEs in 2018, 2.2m more than at the start of the millennium. SMEs account for 99% of all companies in the private sector.
The Federation of Small Businesses estimates that SMEs collectively employ 16.3m people, or 60% of employees in the private sector, and that the annual turnover of these companies is a staggering £2 trillion per annum. The value of SMEs to the UK economy is beyond question.
Of course there are some disadvantages to being a smaller company, such as when big customers change payment terms in an effort to drive down their own costs. But, as study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted, “SMEs can be more flexible and responsive to customer needs than larger integrated firms.” They have also proved to be highly resourceful when it comes to forming strategic alliances or joint ventures to attack overseas markets.
Our own track record demonstrates that, despite setbacks and market confusion created by factors outside of our control (e.g. Brexit), dedication to swift and efficient customer service pays off. Our order book is growing and we face a bright future thanks largely to keeping those core values alive.