Company bosses are well used to being centre stage when it comes to business, but one prominent north-east entrepreneur is also in the spotlight as a pantomime dame this month.
Step forward Phil Murray, 50, the personable CEO of Aberdeen-based oil service firm Petrotechnics.
Mr Murray is making his acting debut, alongside fellow amateurs, as an ugly sister in a village hall pantomime – Beastie and the Beaut – this festive season.
There is another daunting challenge to be tackled over the next few weeks: the annual football challenge match between Petrotechnics’ finest and the best young talent Kirkhill Primary School has to offer.
Youth won out over experience at last year’s five-a-side event, which formed part of a blossoming relationship between the school and the company.
The tie-up is part of Determined to Succeed, the Scottish Government’s strategy for delivering enterprise in education
In his business life, Mr Murray has steered Petrotechnics through major internationalisation since it was established in 1990.
The firm has seen 60% year-on-year growth over the past four years and now employs about 180 people at operations in Aberdeen, Russia, Trinidad and America.
West Tullos-based Petrotechnics has developed various software packages aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of frontline operations in the energy industry. Its products are used in 180 locations worldwide and the firm expects further strong growth from the £13.5million turnover seen in the year to March 31, 2008.
It was named among the finalists in the Scottish section of the Bank of Scotland Corporate £35million Entrepreneur Challenge 2008.
It was beaten at the final hurdle in October, but competition judges were nevertheless impressed by its progress.
The track record of Petrotechnics and its chief executive is remarkable when you consider that Mr Murray could easily have been killed in a head-on car smash on the coast road between Aberdeen and Montrose in 1986.
His multiple injuries left him unable to walk unaided for five years and he went through 56 hours of surgery to rebuild his shattered hand, arm and leg.
It is now nearly 20 years since he remortgaged his home to start up a new business from his back bedroom. He had begun his career as a graduate engineer with oil giant BP and quickly made his mark there before the car crash.
Mr Murray was a forerunner for working from home on a computer during his recuperation. It was during this period he realised there was an alternative to the existing system of controlling work offshore. He said: “It was all form-filling in triplicate, similar to a communist state circa 1950.”
Petrotechnics was born and just under two decades later more than 80% of all work carried out in the North Sea is managed using its software.
The firm’s big breakthrough came 10 years ago following a highly successful pilot of its Sentinel PRO system across 29 installations in BP’s Eastern Trough Area Project in the North Sea.
This success persuaded other majors to follow suit and a period of rapid growth followed.
Petrotechnics opened an office in Houston a year ago and now has 50 staff based in the US. With major contracts under way and further developments pending, other offices have opened in the Caribbean and Russia.
Petrotechnics is now truly international, with 80% of its revenue from overseas and 18 nationalities among its staff.
The firm has recently achieved the milestone of 5million operating hours on Sentinel PRO, with about 1,000 people a month passing through its e-learning centre. Mr Murray said: “Our growth has been totally organic, with no external investment and little debt. We realised from day one that success in the oil and gas industry was linked to international growth.
“We set out to establish ourselves in the North Sea and build up our reputation from there. Based on a successful track record here, we have been able to access international markets and move into the downstream oil and gas business.”
Mr Murray said the firm was about to enter a new phase and develop its system to its next stage of evolution.
Petrotechnics has won a string of honours over the years, including at the Scottish Offshore Achievement Awards and, in March, the 2008 European Business Award for Growth Strategy of the Year, however, Mr Murray believes its best achievements can be seen in its community links, such as the partnership with Kirkhill nursery/primary.
He said: “It’s often what we do outside of what you would call normal work that makes Petrotechnics what it is.”
Five-a-side football is a passion for Petrotechnics’ boss away from work and he tries to play twice a week.
“It was a big kick after the accident getting back playing football and it was the same for ski-ing,” he said.
He landed his pantomime role through a recent visit to his local amateur drama group to offer help as a stagehand shifting scenery.
“You just find time for it,” said Mr Murray, who lives at Catterline, near Stonehaven, with his wife, Debbie, a lawyer with a livery business and event-management organisation. The busy couple have three children: Sam 14, Holly 15, and Drew 16.