Martin Anderson is in a hurry, or at least one could be forgiven for thinking he is. For sure, Triton Group’s CEO is a man with a mission – to take the famous Perry Slingsby brand and really make something of it.
Perry Slingsby is a famous name in offshore oil&gas circles and is synonymous with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and associated systems.
It has been around for a long time; arguably, however, it has never realised its full potential. That is Anderson’s goal while, at the same time, creating an offshore marine technologies and systems group that, although headquartered in Scotland, will become recognised around the world.
Anderson is a product of Heriot-Watt University, a mechanical engineer who cut his teeth as a project engineer under subsea luminaries like Tom Ehret and Steve Davy.
They were at Comex Houlder when the young Scot joined as a project engineer in the 1980s, but 1990 saw him head for Stolt in the wake of Ehret and Co when they decamped.
But how come he was a project engineer; this had not been the original idea.
“At school, while doing my best to fail my Highers exams, I held the dream of being a diver. I got as far as a competence test and getting on to a course,” recalls Anderson.
“But my father, who had other ideas, insisted that I got a proper education. That’s why I’ve got a degree and all that.”
The all that bit includes an MBA.
“Throughout the 1990s, I was part of the Stena-CSO-Technip story and grew up through the various ranks.
“I did a side trip to Brazil, where I was four years at Brasflex, arriving back late-2001 to work for Ian Stevenson (Technip).
“He’s a Hibs (Hibernian Football Club) supporter … I’m a Hearts (Heart of Midlothian) fan … but somehow we got on fine.”
The relationship must have worked as Anderson found himself in charge of a Technip unit generating £200million of business – a “pyramid” of projects.
And yet he was restless.
“I needed something more interesting where I could make a difference.”
Anderson was aware of Perry Slingsby. It was a small company within the Technip group and a special brand in its own right.
“It had lot of history, a lot of legacy, it generated passion … both positive and negative. It seemed pretty unloved … no one took much interest in it. It seemed like it was being used as a prize for upcoming managers to go try their hand on.
“As I subsequently found out, it had suffered from several years of managers for whom it was a stepping stone to something else.”
Anderson decided that Perry Slingsby was an opportunity to go into something totally different to what he had done before; he had never been involved in manufacturing, ergo he had no idea what it involved.
“It was something where I could create my own world, even though it was being touted for sale – not that it was a secret.”
Anderson saw that Perry Slingsby was getting to the point where it either had to be got rid of or fixed properly. He decided that he was the one to sort it out.
“I joined on the basis that, within six months, we could be selling the company and whatever will be will be. Indeed, I was under remit to go and work this process.
“In fact, there was a due diligence going on at that time. There was a venture capitalist in Canada that had made an offer. In fact, there had been two offers and the second had been progressed. That was mid-2003.
“I spent a lot of time stabilising things while trying to understand what it was the company did and could do and come up with some sort of a plan going forward for Technip in case there wasn’t a sale.
“The due diligence process did falter. The party made a derisory offer and Technip was correct in turning it down, by which time I had started to create interest in what Perry Slingsby was really about.
“There’s more to this than you guys understand,” Anderson would say. “It’s not a manufacturing business; it’s a controls business – a technology business.
“We started winning work.”