Each week, the Press and Journal asks small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Finlay MacBeath, director of Haldis Solutions at Bruntskerry, Walls, Shetland
How and why did you start in business?
Born and raised in Wester Ross, where my family ran the village shop and post office, I joined the police on leaving school and was posted to Shetland, where I spent most of my career.
I married a Shetland lass, Catherine, 36 years ago, and we have a great family.
With retirement from the police drawing ever closer, I knew I wanted to continue working and I had felt stifled by some of the inflexible processes in the public sector.
I really enjoyed opportunities to think on my feet and plan my own day’s work and, given that business was in my blood, I decided to follow the Shetlanders’ approach to life and be confident and bold and start my own venture.
How did you get to where you are today?
I have always been interested in all aspects of the oil and gas industry, and I knew that many companies had little understanding of, or access to, information on the services available in Shetland.
This really mattered when things went badly wrong, especially when lives were at stake.
As a policeman, I was trained as an emergency responder and involved in a variety of incidents – some of which were truly traumatic for the people involved.
I realised the importance of providing understanding and support for these unfortunates, for even the toughest need to know there is someone there to help them.
This was reinforced by my own spell in hospital on the Scottish mainland some years ago. I well remember the feeling of isolation and loneliness.
This was the eureka moment. I set up Haldis Solutions to help alleviate the stress felt by people in need in what was effectively a foreign land, and to liaise between them, their employers and local services.
After all, I was used to being on call at all hours and to reacting quickly and effectively when people were caught up in the most stressful situations.
I had also built up an extensive list of contacts in a wide range of fields throughout Shetland. I could relate to folk brought ashore from installations for medical or compassionate reasons – medevacs.
The business has since expanded and I now act as a facilitator – a local presence and resource for companies seeking contacts and information on Shetland and the local services and resources available.
Flexibility has become a byword, every day is different and I am kept very busy running a 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round service.
Who helped you?
Catherine, my family and many friends. Their encouragement and confidence in me was really important.
My police training helped me find answers to important questions on tax, VAT, banking, employment law and so on.
Federation of Small Businesses membership provides access to numerous support and advice streams, and also allows me to meet others with similar experiences, while Business Gateway provides some very useful training courses.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Not having the courage to go it alone sooner.
What is your greatest achievement?
The pleasure I get from helping people suffering in an alien environment – a hospital – is amazing, and I have standing invitations to visit places throughout the country as a result.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
I’d stop the late payment of invoices, which would allow companies to compete on level playing fields in both global and domestic markets; and I would also simplify the language used in regulations and legislation.
What do you still hope to achieve?
To expand Haldis Solution, making it the go-to place for local support and presence. I have recently been approached to provide similar services in other areas, so expansion is on the cards.
What do you do to relax?
I use Facetime to talk to my two wonderful grand-daughters in Aberdeenshire, though they can be exhausting. I also enjoy caravanning throughout the country – this year’s big trip is
to southern Ireland – and I love riding out on my Yamaha 1300 motorbike.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
Nature and factual programmes on TV; while I am listening to everything from light classical to traditional and heavy rock. My reading material is very varied.
What do you waste your money on?
I don’t, though caravanning and socialising are expensive, especially when undertaken at the same time, however, we’ve made many friendships throughout the land, and that is money well spent.
How would your friends describe you?
Always there when needed, I hope, just like Haldis Solutions.
What would your enemies say about you?
Life’s too short for enemies. I try to look forwards, not backwards, and to let bygones be bygones.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
My VW Touareg ticks all the boxes, though I have had a Hillman Avenger, then Hillman Hunters and a number of Triumph 2000 and 2500S models – and I would love another. I also still have my big “Yammy” bike – perfection on wheels.
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