How I got where I am today: Graeme Morrison
Published: 29 Aug 2014
What did you want to be when you were young?
A professional golfer, but when I realised that I didn’t have the talent to make a living playing golf, and after watching the Lee Harvey Jones Troubleshooter series, I knew I wanted to be involved in managing businesses.
What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
I qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young in Glasgow before moving to Sydney, Australia for two years before returning to EY in Aberdeen. During those years I was exposed to a range of businesses and projects within audit and corporate finance.
I left EY to join a start-up company that was in the process of raising $100million to build a well intervention vessel. This gave me huge exposure to the commercial aspects of the business, including negotiation, ship-building contracts, financial structuring and managing a business while running with minimal cash. This resulted in me moving into various businesses to support management in turnarounds.
I then set up GCSS with Steve McDonald in January 2013, and from a standing start we have acquired three businesses – Plant Shifters (Scotland), Surelift UK and Surelift NDT – within 18 months.
Anything you would do differently?
I wish I had had the confidence to set up my own business earlier.
Are you scared of making mistakes?
No, provided that I don’t make the same mistake twice. If you are prepared to take risks to succeed you have to accept that you won’t get things right all the time. The key is to recognise and acknowledge your mistakes quickly and move on.
People who are set in their ways and don’t make the most of opportunities.
Who has been your greatest influence?
My family have been a huge support and encouraged me to follow my dreams. Also, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a number of bosses – good and bad – and I’ve tried to learn from them all, whether it be the determination and drive to succeed or avoiding mistreating staff.
And books written by Tim Ferriss and Robert Kiyosaki have had a huge influence on the way I view businesses and try to strike an appropriate work-life balance
What advice have you ignored?
“Don’t ruin your career by setting up on your own.”
Best achievement so far?
Without doubt being able to juggle getting the kids to dancing/swimming/nursery with negotiating the next acquisition, running the day-to-day business, training for marathons and still managing to fit in some time with my wife and sleep. Also going into partnership with Steve McDonald and putting the GCSS Group together.
Staying in a job I didn’t like for too long because I wanted to make the role a success. Also thinking Serena, my wife, was being a bit of a drama queen when she went into labour with our first child – still haven’t been forgiven for that one.
What do you want to achieve in the rest of your career?
To grow and develop the GCSS Group so that it is sustainable and works just as well without me being involved. Also to use my experiences and knowledge to help others set up and grow their own business.
What’s your idea of the perfect retirement?
Travelling the world with my family, passing on my knowledge and experiences to help individuals grow and develop new businesses and, last but not least, having a property in Sydney overlooking the harbour.
Is a “career for life” a thing of the past?
Not totally, although going forward more individuals will have to take more responsibility for developing their career. However, I think the days of having a defined career path from the outset are reduced.
What have you actively tried to avoid in your career?
Being a ‘yes’ man. I’ve always felt that I was employed for my expertise and to express my opinion and, as a result, it is important to be open and honest, even if it is not the consensus view.
What has motivated you?
New challenges. I enjoy going into new businesses/industries and testing myself.
What’s the best way to motivate others?
Recognising that each individual is different, understanding what excites the individual and, where possible, rewarding them accordingly. This can be problematic in larger companies as it can result in inconsistent treatment of staff. Ultimately you manage people, not policies.
Your favourite stress-buster?
Spending time with my family and running. I’m hoping to complete the six World Series marathons – I’m half way there. I’m currently in training for the New York marathon in November and looking to raise funds for Friends of Hazlehead.
What’s your best career advice?
Life’s too short to waste it doing something you don’t enjoy. In business turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality.
What’s your dream job?
A judge on Dragon’s Den.