Magazine article Management Today

Game for Expansion

Magazine article Management Today

Game for Expansion

Article excerpt

As a young man Roy Collins was a keen soccer player with enough ability to make it to the Birmingham City reserves team. His ambitions as a footballer though were short-lived as he knew he was never going to make serious money as a player. Nevertheless, his interest in the game and in other sports, particularly golf, led him to financial success.

In 1986 Collins invented a new kind of golf spike which became the core product of a company called Trisport. Now run by his 32-year-old son, David, Trisport has come from nowhere to grab 60% of the world market in golf spikes. That market share could increase still further with the launch of Trisport's latest product: a titanium tungsten carbide spike which all the professional players now want under their feet.

From a modern factory in Tamworth, Trisport churns out up to two million spikes a week. They are driven into soles, shipped out to Taiwan for completion and sold in every country where golf is played. Some 97% of the company's [Pounds]4 million sales are for export and it expects sales to grow this year by 35%.

Trisport has not stopped with golf shoes. It has developed a revolutionary new studs sytem for soccer boots using plastics technology that can be applied to other sports shoes. It has even developed a new lightweight alloy horseshoe which is half the weight of a conventional steel shoe. 'We give it a polyurethane coating and it becomes what we jokingly call the Reebok horseshoe,' says David Collins.

Football bootmakers Umbro have calculated that Trisport's new, all-plastic stud system saves the average footballer the strain of lifting the equivalent of 1.25 tons during any single game. 'It is the lightest, safest stud system in the world,' claims Collins, a bachelor known in some corners of Tamworth as Mr Stud.

By any standards Trisport is an exciting company and is just one of more than 30 businesses which make up Bromsgrove Industries--itself still a modest specialist engineering conglomerate. Bromsgrove has been carefully stitched together with a stream of acquisitions over the past half a dozen years by 39-year-old Iranian-born solicitor Bijan Sedghi.

Inevitably, with one third of the group supplying the depressed aerospace and motor industry, not all Bromsgrove companies have growth prospects as exciting as Trisport. But many do. Take Vetchberry, a stainless steel stockist and Sedghi's first acquisition after he moved from being a non-executive to executive chairman in 1987. He paid [Pounds]500,000 -- the equivalent of one year's turnover for the business -- and watched delighted as Vetchberry boss David Latham grew sales through the worst recession since the war to [Pounds]11.5 million in the year to last March. Vetchberry has made its niche in the market with a cheaper, nickel-free, stainless steel now increasingly replacing galvanised metal across a wide range of industries, from automotive to building and petrochemicals. An enthusiastic Latham insists: 'We still only have a 3% share of the market and there is a tremendous opportunity out there.'

Another recession-bucking offshoot is Frederick Yates, a showpiece hi-tech company supplying precision tooling and master gears to the car industry. It sends 85% of production overseas. Even Jack Bonar, a down-to-earth Scot who runs BSK Aluminium, the biggest company in the group, enthuses about the prospects. 'As well as being the sole source of manifolds for Ford diesel cars in Europe,' he says, 'we are the sole supplier of the Ford Zeta engine, a world-class engine going into the Orion, Escort Sierra and Fiesta. We are the first foundry in the UK to win Ford's quality accreditation.' He claims that roughly 55% of all sales end up in Germany. Even before Britain left the ERM he felt his plants were competitive against the Germans. 'We have grown sales in six years from [Pound]5.3 million to [Pound]23 million and even though last year was a difficult year for the car industry, it was the best one we have ever had. …

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