Often things that last start from humble beginnings.
The story of a few north-east farmers getting some lorries together because no one would pick up or deliver during weekends in the 1960s is about as wistful a back story as be told.
Stories like these don’t often stretch out 50 years later with those few lorries becoming a fleet, with that fleet becoming part of a global organisation operating across more than seven countries and employing some 2,000 people.
Yet that’s exactly what has happened here at ASCO, or the Aberdeen Service Company as it was originally known.
This year the firm celebrates its 50th year in business with a new global headquarters, a strong investment in new technology and the team is hiring – particularly good news for the north-east, which has suffered an oil blow.
Despite being a global agent, however, ASCO has still managed to maintain the reputation of a family business with a lengthy history. ASCO has become a byword for transportation of oil and gas materials and equipment in the north-east.
“For me personally there have been about 10 or 12 of my immediate family and four generations of my wider family who’ve all worked at ASCO. I think if you look at Peterhead or Aberdeen, predominantly it’s still quite family orientated to a degree. There’s a lot of heritage,” said Jamie Marr.
Mr Marr started as a YTS Apprentice and in his 27 years with ASCO has climbed from the distribution floor to the position of general manager.
As Mr Marr came through the ranks he has taken on a number of roles and made sacrifices along the way to reach his position, and he’s still climbing, recently earning an MBA from Robert Gordon University.
He said: “I’ve found the company encouraging, very much so. There have been opportunities.
“There’s probably more opportunities now both locally and internationally, that’s been a major difference from when I started and the company was more local, more UK based. Over the years it’s grown to be a global organisation.”
In stark contrast to many employers in the current job market – and many large multi-nationals – a position with ASCO is still consider a long-term gig.
Despite the downturn in oil price ASCO continues to search for new talent around the north-east.
The apprentice programme is something it has managed to continue and grow, and like Mr Marr, the company is strongly focused on employee progression, whether that is in the company or through further education.
The idea of working in collaboration with your staff also seems to be how they view their relationship with clients, as Matt Thomas, global client director for ASCO, points out: “We don’t want to work for clients, we want to work with them and for them to view our services as an extension of their own capabilities.
“In my view, we need to move away from any master-slave relationships, because I don’t believe they will ever be as successful as a relationship which is rooted in a mutual alliance.
“The best things are achieved when you combine two parties who share similar values and are both goal-orientated in the same direction, resulting in positive outcomes for all concerned.”
Regardless of market pressures, ASCO always seems to have plotted the most no-nonsense path.
Rather than lose its head during a boom or its steam during a bust the firm has continued to invest in staff and prudent growth.
ASCO is as ingrained in the north-east as the north-east is in them. Its 50-year history has been built brick by brick, but there is always more shaping to do.
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