Member of the Week - Gael Force Group
Gael Force’s roots are firmly set in the town of Stornoway where a young Stewart Graham first started out in 1983 under his own drive and determination to repair and manufacture creels for the local fishing community. He built the business on the island and in the late 1980s was employing a number of staff and had opened a creel factory. In the early 1990s, distribution operations were relocated to Inverness and the range of fishing equipment being supplied expanded to include rope and other commercial fishing essentials. Over time and through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions the business has widened its focus on other marine sectors, including pontoon manufacturing and leisure marine retail, but primarily in supply and manufacturing of aquaculture equipment and technology.
Today, Gael Force is a trusted supplier in the markets they serve with its range of concrete feed barges, fish feeding systems, underwater technology, moorings and supply chain management services. Over the past 35 years the business has valued the strong customer relationships they have developed along the way and believe that through close collaboration with their partners they are best placed to provide the value-adding solutions which enhance and improves the businesses and lives of their customers.
Their connection to the challenging Atlantic seas forms part of their proud heritage and has guided Gael Force in the development of their rugged and robustly engineered product and dedicated service. They are unpretentious in their approach to business, continually seeking to understand the needs of their customers and always looking to innovate in all areas of their activity.
Their range of facilities can be found across the UK, in Inverness, Forres, Oban, Fort William, Glasgow, Plymouth and, of course, Stornoway.
Across their group of companies they have around 225 employees… and growing! Demand for their products and services is enabling them to recruit around 40 new people into a range of exciting roles in the first half of this year!
We spoke to Marc Wilson, Marketing Manager at Gael Force Group. About his role, Marc said: “My role as Marketing Manager is to lead our group marketing activity and promote all that we do on the good ship ‘Gael Force’! The role encompasses a vast range of different responsibilities and I am incredibly lucky to have a small but enthusiastic team to keep me on the right track. All of what we do as a team is guided by our Strategic Marketing Plan – an exciting and ambitious plan for growth which is designed to deliver on our business objectives and support us in achieving our Group vision and mission.
"This year has started with a bang, with a huge promotional effort underway to spread the word about our recruitment drive, and later in the year we will be co-ordinating our involvement in Aqua-Nor, the world’s biggest aquaculture equipment exhibition in Norway. We are also moving forward with our export plans by preparing to set-up in Newfoundland, Canada to service the local aquaculture market over there. With this comes a whole host of new opportunities to promote our brand, products and services globally which is a fantastic prospect”.
We asked Marc why Gael Force Group would like to feature as member of the week: “? Primarily to increase our profile in the area and to improve our employer brand. As a reasonably large employer in the area, we remain quite unknown and that may be attributed to the fact that we have not been proactive in the past and due to the type of equipment we sell which is very niche and most likely not very well understood or known about in the wider public. A common remark we receive from new employees is “I thought Gael Force was just a shop selling things for boats”… We want to try and dispel that notion as best as possible and help improve how we are perceived.”
Marc told us about their new innovative range of SeaFeed steel feed barges which are new to the market and are set to be manufactured at their boatbuilding facility at Corpach, Fort William. Marc said: “In October 2018, we acquired Corpach Boatbuilding Company which has just recently been rebranded to Gael Force Boatbuilding. We acquired the business with the aim to grow their existing business and develop new streams of business in steel barge building and potentially steel workboats. The prospect of bringing steel barge building to the West Coast of Scotland is something we are hugely excited about and, equally, our workforce at our premises in Corpach are just as motivated by our plans.”
Marc share with Inverness Chamber their business plans for the next 12 months: “This year, we will continue to make progress towards our target of £50m turnover by end of 2021 by building on our export strategy, creating new streams of business in Atlantic Canada and exploring opportunities in new export markets. We remain totally focused on driving innovation and R&D in the sectors we serve and this will continue to be a huge focus for us as we look over the hill beyond 2021. It’s our ability to innovate that is enabling us to provide trusted, competitive and alternative products to imported aquaculture equipment in Scotland.”
Gael Force Group have been successful at the past two Highland Business Awards, winning Outstanding Performing Business in 2017 and 2018, and Business Leader of the Year in 2018 for their founder and MD Stewart Graham. Production Director Stephen Offord, who collected the outstanding performing business award last year, commented, "To win this award for the second year running is a magnificent achievement and acknowledgement of the enormous progress our business has made in the past two years. Across our highly skilled teams, we are aligned in our values and strategic objectives, and this will continue to drive us to deliver trusted product and services for our customers.”
Marc told us what Gael Force Group value most about their Chamber membership: “Knowing that we are part of the local business community and network, and having that option of using the chamber to connect with other businesses is of great value. As we move forward with our plans for export, we would envisage using the Chamber’s services for assistance in the preparation of paperwork and connecting to research services, which will most definitely be where we find value.”
Marc provided his top-tip to other Chamber members to maximise their membership: “Stay very closely connected with the Chamber and utilise them as an additional arm for your business.”