Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who gives so much time and effort to an ambitious football club, Keith Moorhouse peppers a discussion of his other prominent role with numerous sporting analogies.
In addition to being chairman of Cove Rangers, Mr Moorhouse, 41, is managing director of Aberdeen-based ATR Group following a management buy-in of the business in May last year.
Less than 18 months on, he and ATR chief executive Robert Skidmore are now looking to take their oilfield equipment rental business “to the premiership” in much the same way as Cove Rangers has its sights set on promotion to a higher level.
Mr Moorhouse said: “ATR Group was a robust, well-established business, with huge growth potential.
“Since the management buy-in, we have seen turnover rise from £12million to over £18million and staff numbers increase by almost 50%. We are well on our way to achieving our targets of doubling the turnover in three years.”
The group comprises six companies – Aberdeen Tool Rental, ATR Fasteners, ATR Engineering, ATR Hydraulics, ATR Industrial Supplies and ATR Plant Services – supplying equipment and services to businesses from the oil and gas sector to the industrial and home-improvement markets.
There are ATR operations employing 130 people at various sites around Aberdeen, including in Howemoss Drive, Dyce; Souterhead Road, Altens; Denmore Road, Bridge of Don; and at Westhill Business Park plus a facility at transport and logistics firm Ashley Group’s Dyce base.
Mr Moorhouse always had ambitions to be an entrepreneur. For as long as he can remember, he had the goal of owning his own business by age 40.
The deal to acquire ATR – for more than £10million – was signed just two months after his 40th birthday.
With one key milestone achieved, all eyes were on Cove Rangers this summer as the football club’s chairman came close to taking the Highland League team into the Scottish League.
Cove were pipped at the post by south-west Scotland club Annan Athletic in a vote to fill a vacancy created by the sudden and spectacular demise of Gretna FC.
Gretna vanished from Scotland’s footballing map after plunging into administration part-way through their first season in the Premier League, leaving the door open for a new club to come into the lower divisions.
Cove missed out, despite running Annan close, but Mr Moorhouse has put that disappointment behind him and holds on to the hope that some day the Allan Park side will take their place in the higher league. A better stadium is seen as key to achieving that dream and the club already has planning consent for a new ground at Calder Park.
Meanwhile, ATR’s boss is also involved in efforts to help find a suitable location for a £53million multipurpose community stadium for Aberdeen Football Club.
When he left Kincorth Academy in 1983, Mr Moorhouse began training as a draughtsman. He soon realised this was not the career for him and instead joined Aberdeen-based plumbing and heating supply firm William Wilson, whose joint managing director at the time was Mr Skidmore.
Mr Moorhouse said: “I joined the contracts department of William Wilson and moved through the ranks to become a sales supervisor.
“In 1989, I left to take up a sales role for BSS Group – a plc and one of the largest distributors of pipeline, flanges and fittings for the construction and energy sectors.”
He quickly became a branch manager for BSS, then a regional sales manager, an area director and finally regional managing director for Scotland and northern England.
The goal of owning his own business was brewing in his mind, however, and just a few years ago the search for a suitable firm in which to invest began in earnest. Mr Moorhouse was put in touch with Mr Skidmore, who was also looking for a new challenge following William Wilson’s acquisition by building material giant Wolseley in late 2005.
Mr Moorhouse said: “We considered several options, but ATR stood out.
“The existing owners were keen to exit, but were looking for the right team to take the business forward, building on the strong foundations and consistent growth that had been achieved to date.
“ATR was a good fit for us in terms of our experience and what we wanted to achieve. The business was long established, well respected and full of good people.”
Mr Moorhouse and Mr Skidmore put together an acquisition package involving investment from Aberdeen Asset Managers and backing from the Royal Bank of Scotland, and sealed a deal that has left them each holding a stake of about one-third in the business.
Since then, the business partners have spearheaded an ambitious growth strategy involving several acquisitions. Mr Moorhouse said: “Our strategy is simple and clear. We want to grow a rental-based business focused on the oil and gas market both in the North Sea and overseas.
“To do this, we are investing in the asset fleet and in our people, working more closely with equipment suppliers and manufacturers and, through listening to our customers and identifying new opportunities.”
More than £2million has already been invested in the asset fleet, increasing the availability of some much sought-after items of equipment for offshore use.
Mr Moorhouse and Mr Skidmore made their first acquisition within several months of taking over ATR, buying the international business of Bridon International, in Baku, Azerbaijan. The operation distributes wire rope and lifting equipment and provides lifting-gear testing, management and certification services.
Mr Moorhouse said: “Bridon was refocusing its business on manufacture rather than distribution and we saw an opportunity to break into this region.”
ATR later snapped up Bridon International’s Aberdeen-based lifting service division.
Mr Moorhouse said: “We quickly identified a gap in the market for lifting services. This deal added a new dimension to the ATR Group, with the introduction of on and offshore inspection and certification services. The acquisition also helped us significantly and more quickly expand our existing range of specialist lifting equipment and accessories for both sale and rent.”
Mr Moorhouse now wants to see ATR Group become a major player as an equipment provider to the offshore maintenance and operations market. He said: “The investment in our product range and rental asset fleet to ensure available stock has enabled us to build on existing business and secure new lucrative contracts, however, there is still a lot to be done.
“We are looking at another acquisition and exciting expansion plans for other oil and gas provinces, most notably Africa.
“We have set our sights on doubling the business. That will take us into the premiership, but if we are to stay in that league we need to continue to develop and increase our workforce and build on our reputation for availability and delivery.”
Mr Moorhouse, who gained three international caps as a goalkeeper for Scotland at Under-16 level and played for both Kings Street Boys Club and Stoneywood, has always had a passion for football.
As a long-term resident of Cove, he was asked to get involved in the commercial aspects of the local team in 1997 and became its chairman in 2000.
“It was a great honour for me and the best timing as this was the year we won the league for the first time,” he said, adding: “Being part of Cove Rangers allows me to take my mind off business for a short while, although I still look to manage the club in the same way I look at the business.”
Mr Moorhouse and his wife Colleen, a carer, have two children: Grant, 16, and Sofi, seven. Grant is already showing a talent for football, having been taken on as a full-timer at Ross County.