Tearing up the rule book – Ascot Group founder Andrew Scott
Irish-born Andrew Scott is an entrepreneur who has acquired, built and sold several companies spanning manufacturing, distribution and retail.
A director of IMF Group PLC at 25, he studied at Cranfield School of Management and is a consultant and speaker on business growth, marketing and innovation.
How did you start your business career?
“Growing up in Belfast during the 1970s and early 80s was a tough environment; but when I moved to London at 18 it was a completely different world and I quickly knew I wanted to go into business.
“I launched my first venture, an electronics business, at 19 but ran out of money after 3 months – so it was back to the drawing board!”
When did you get a taste for mergers and acquisitions?
“I was fortunate enough to join a successful London architectural products business, which grew quickly through acquisition.
“I landed a senior management position at a fairly young age and threw myself into the role, learning everything I could about business growth and M&A.
“I later used these skills to build a number of companies; working with owner-managers, private investors, VC’s and the City.”
What brought you to the West Country?
“In 1998 I was headhunted to turn around a failing business in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. Bristol was an ideal location between London and Wales, so I moved to the area for what I expected would be a couple of years.
“The business in Wales proved very successful and grew from £1million to £12million PA in 4 years, before being acquired by the U.S Fortune 500 giant, Masco Corporation.
“But by then I was already hooked and Bristol/North Somerset had become my home.”
What prompted you to launch the Ascot Group?
“Over the years I had worked with many companies on key issues such as growth, profit improvement, customer relations and innovation – breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’ so to speak.
“While management and finance were often a factor, it was marketing that was the common denominator – attracting new customers, getting the brand and positioning just right, and increasing revenue from existing customers.
“I had always been frustrated with ‘fluffy’ ad agencies who were more concerned with winning design awards than delivering growth for clients, so in 2004 I decided to put my business experience to use in the marketing industry and launched Purplex – a full service PR, branding and digital marketing agency.
“Today we employ 40 people, with clients across the UK and Europe; from large international corporations to small, local businesses in a diverse range of sectors.
“In 2007 we acquired Insight Data Ltd, a specialist market research and data analytics business, and in 2012 we launched Business Leader Ltd as a publishing and media business.”
How did Business Leader Magazine come about?”
“I worked with a publishing business in Yorkshire several years ago with great success, so I knew the industry; it just made sense.
“I had a talented team of designers, journalists and media people, and we own Insight Data, one of the leading data research companies in the UK.
“We launched Business Leader Magazine in 2012 with significant investment and resources, and it is now firmly established as the leading business publication for Bristol, Somerset and North Somerset.
“The print edition is mailed to 10,000 selected business owners, decision makers and key influencers, and the e-newsletter has already grown to over 25,000 weekly subscribers.”
And the Business Leader Awards followed?
“Yes, we wanted an awards event that was really special yet open to all businesses large and small.
“We held the first Business Leader Awards in 2013, hosted by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, followed this year by the global business icon Michelle Mone OBE, who proved an enormous hit.
“It is fantastic to see so many organisations get behind the event.”
What business advice would you give?
“Be clear on your target audience and market, and create differential in your product/service offering – be unique.
“When it comes to budgets and forecasts, create a ‘what if’ scenario – under-estimate sales and over-estimate costs, it will help you survive!
“And always keep moving; companies that stand still die.
“Marketing is the key to sustained growth; those companies with strong brands, great reputations and customer loyalty consistently out-perform the ‘also rans’ – and as Michelle Mone showed at last month’s Business Leader Awards, you don’t need a huge budget to achieve this.”