Each week, we ask small businesses some key questions. Here we speak to Mike Rae, managing director of Highland Copiers in Inverness.
Born and raised in Inver- ness, football was my pas- sion as a boy. I was lucky enough to start my working life as a professional, playing for Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
I then moved on to become a fitness instructor at what is now Ban- natyne’s gym, where I made many friends and contacts.
My self-confidence in speaking to a wide range of people also grew, which is essential in business.
Roy McLennan, then of Highland Office Equipment (HOE), approached me and offered me a job as a salesman. I worked for HOE for 12 very happy years and was proud to be part of a great team.
However, I believe local is best and following the acquisition of HOE by Capital Document Solutions of Edinburgh I saw a gap for a locally-owned office equipment supplier with its own highly-skilled engineering team. So it was that I started Highland Copiers 16 months ago.
How did you get to where you are today?
I believe passionately in hard work, honesty, in- tegrity and having a high regard for people and cus- tomer service, along with a little luck. Stick to these and you can’t go wrong.
Who helped you?
My business partners, Adrian Gray and Fraser Maclean, both of AJG Parcels, helped me estab- lish a really effective, streamlined and rational back-office setup.
They also looked after the funding needed to get this capital-intensive business started. This allowed me to do what I do best - focus my time on our customers and growing the business.
Our suppliers – Develop (Dsales), Siemens and Grenke – have also been very helpful, and the information from Highland Opportunity/Business Gateway and the Federation of Small Businesses has been invaluable.
I have also had a lot of support from my wife, Karen, and mum and dad, as well as my mum’s husband, Tich McCooey, and friends such as Charlie Barbour, Andy Glasgow and Paul Reilly.
Finally, I owe a huge debt to both Roy McLennan and William Main for giving me my chance at HOE and for being such great role models in both my personal life and career.
What has been your biggest mistake?
It has to be the quality family time that is sometimes lost when working flat-out setting up a business. Being self-employed doesn’t suit everyone, but for those that it does suit it is really rewarding.
However, these rewards come at a cost and family life can suffer at times. You need to work hard at both.
What is your greatest achievement?
In business, it is the overwhelming response I have had from the 200 customers that have come on board and supported us in only 16 months. But I am most proud of my great family.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
Public sector procurement rules. While central purchasing sometimes achieves the lowest price, local businesses can frequently do better on price and provide a much better service.
Public bodies should seek out best value for their customers, which is different to lowest possi- ble price, and local authorities should recognise that procurement is a tool for economic development.
What do you still hope to achieve?
The foundations of a great business are now in place and my long-term ambition is for it to continue to thrive and grow while sticking to our core values – providing customers throughout the Highlands and Moray with a fantastic local service, delivered professionally and personally, with ethical local agreements.
What do you do to relax?
Spend time with my wife and our three children, Ethan, Oliver and Holly. A bottle of red might sometimes get into the mix but not when the kids are around.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
With a young business, I don’t have much time for this sort of thing but I do like watching films at weekends. Also football and F1.
My wife forces me to watch TV dramas on catch-up at silly hours of the night, and I secretly enjoy them.
What do you waste your money on?
I spend it on socialising, weekend trips and holidays and none of it is wasted.
How would your friends describe you?
Hyperactive – I’m always busy – and, I would like to think kind, generous and funny.
What would your enemies say about you?
Hyperactive, busy, generous and funny.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I used to compete in the Scottish Rally Championship but have taken a break.
I dream of building the business to a level where I can once again compete, in which case my dream car would be a WRC VW Polo.