Managing director of SengS Subsea Engineering Solutions, Murray Kerr, 33, shares an insight into his journey to where he is today, and the lessons he’s learned along the way
What did you want to be when you were young?
When I was younger I always wanted to be a fighter jet pilot but, because I never got stuck in at school, I blew that chance.
What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
The main career stepping stones have been that I volunteered and constantly went outwith my comfort zone and I have a good work ethic.
Anything you would do differently?
Looking back at my time as a young adult, I would have done a lot of things differently. I left school with no qualifications, not even a standard grade. This was a big mistake and I struggled for many years to gain qualifications. However, with grit and determination I managed to gain a degree in aeronautical engineering and many HNCs and HNDs along the way. I have a passion now for education, whereas before I thought I was being preached to by teachers.
I should have gone backpacking around the globe. Getting away from everything and leaving my comfort zone would have helped me become more independent and forced me to enjoy many new experiences. I also would have liked to have had a mentor in my life, someone older and wiser who could advise on setting business goals. That would have been very valuable.
As a mentor yourself, then, what’s the best way to motivate others?
What I have found is that being able to motivate people is the key to success, because no one can achieve anything alone. The key things I try and do every day are to listen to people – find out what their goals and dreams are – and encourage them. This is the most important step as people get scared if they think they will fail or look stupid. Encourage them by saying “I think you will be great at that” or “I think your skills in X will help you to succeed”.
What’s your best career advice?
Focus on giving everything you do 100% of your ability and ensure you have a passion for what you’re doing. More importantly, never quit. Along the journey you WILL get a lot of knockbacks, but just look at it as one big obstacle course and keep smiling.
Are you scared of making mistakes?
Everyone makes mistakes. However, the best thing to do is admit your mistake and tell someone as soon as you discover something went awry. Being up front demonstrates professionalism, a trait most employers greatly value.
Best achievement so far?
Managing to start a successful company within a recession and without initial funding. SengS has now conducted over 150 projects in 19 months and recently won the 2014 Grampian Business Award for a business under three years old. I plan to increase the size of the workforce from 13 to 35 by this time next year and to take on four to six trainees or technicians every year.
This month, we’re building an extension to our Ellon premises, which we only moved into in June, to meet the expanding needs of the business. All this would not have been possible without the team I have behind me in the company and also various support networks and agencies. Scottish Enterprise for instance, have been very supportive and are helping to fund a business development project to grow the business.
The longer you’re in business, the more mistakes you’ll make, but generally the ratio of good decisions to bad ones improves over time and it’s also important to learn from them. My most serious mistakes have always involved trust: trusting the wrong people or not trusting my employees enough.
Who’s been your greatest influence?
Mainly successful entrepreneurs who have started from the bottom and achieved great success through sheer hard work, determination and refusal to give up – the classic rags-to-riches tale.
What do you want to achieve in the rest of your career?
Ideally to go from strength to strength and branch out into different fields. I like a challenge and the minute my job becomes mundane or “too easy” I am instantly looking and thinking of new business ideas to create new challenges.
What’s your idea of a perfect retirement?
Having stability for myself and my family, reaping the rewords of a more relaxed lifestyle after years of stress and hard work. Enjoying spending quality time with my family and taking up old, or any new, hobbies.
What would your autobiography be called?
You Will Amount To Nothing’ – this has been my driving force to success.
SengS Subsea Engineering Solutions is an independent engineering company founded in 2012 to provide engineering design, consultancy, IRM project support, testing and flushing, subsea tooling and repair and refurbishment of subsea and topside applications.