Each week we ask small firms key questions. Here we speak to Jack Barclay, managing director of Shetland-based Unst Inshore Services
Q. How and why did you start in business?
A. Born in Shetland, I moved to New Zealand with my family as a child but returned to the Northern Isles on holiday and I’ve been here ever since.
I worked at Unst Airport as ground crew for helicopters supplying oil and gas rigs, and then on fire safety before redundancy hit. It was time to take control of my future so I started Unst Inshore Services, working on salmon farm maintenance and support. Becoming self-employed took a bit of getting used to, but I enjoyed the whole development side of it.
Q. How did you get to where you are today?
A. By going wherever the work was. Polar Circle salmon pens came on to the market, and I went to Norway to learn how to assemble them before bringing them back to the UK. If anyone in Ireland, Faroe or Scotland ordered the salmon pens, I would build them.
My younger son, Brydon, worked for me during school holidays. When he left school he joined me as an apprentice, and I later made him a full partner.
We could see a need for new specialist boats and so developed our own. Our Fluggaboats are ideally suited to working in the harshest sea conditions. Their quality is recognised and they’re selling really well, so we are very busy.
Q. Who helped you?
A. Shetland Islands Council, along with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, provided a loan plus some grant assistance. After some time we joined the Federation of Small Businesses, which helps with stuff we wouldn’t normally think about. But this is first and foremost a family business. My wife Winifred helps with administration and keeps us fed, and she sometimes provides an extra pair of hands in the workshop.
Q. What has been your biggest mistake?
A. Believing people when they say running your own business is easy – it’s not. We currently work 12-hour days, and a weekend off is a big deal. That said, the work is very enjoyable.
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Winning our last order. The faith the company put in us to supply six very innovative boats is really appreciated, giving us a real confidence boost.
Positive feedback from the guys who use the boats is even more special, making all the hard work worthwhile.
Q. If you were in power in government, what would you change?
A. I would provide more help for business start-ups, ideally a grant paid over five years in reducing amounts. To help reduce dole queues and support even more businesses I would pay apprentices’ wages in full for the first 12 months and then 50% over the next 12.
Q. What do you still hope to achieve?
A. Take on another apprentice. Helping my son with his apprenticeship was really interesting and I’d like to help another young person in the same way.
Q. How do you relax?
A. I can’t relax, though TV at the end of a long day helps put my brain into neutral.
Q. What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
A. I have very little spare time, but watch Formula 1 and nature programmes whenever I get the opportunity.
Q. What do you waste your money on?
A. Nothing – Winifred invests it for me. We love spending money on our grandkids, though current restrictions mean we don’t see them as much as we’d like.
Q. How would your friends describe you?
A. Someone to help fix a problem, preferably mechanical.
Q. What would your enemies say about you?
A. I don’t think we have any – in small communities we all try to get along.
Q. What do you drive and dream of driving?
A. I drive a Nissan Navarra Techna Auto, mainly as a towing vehicle, though I would love a Mazda MX5 RF to take touring around Scotland whenever the coronavirus pandemic eventually passes.