The sharp drop in the oil price is a test for everyone in the industry. Mike Loggie, founder and chief executive of Aberdeen-based Saltire Energy, a supplier of drilling tools and rental equipment to the global oil and gas sector, is determined to see it as an opportunity.
“We are very fleet of foot, we are a small organisation, our costs are tight and we are out there aggressively looking for business,” he says.
“We are going to grow through this. We are not battening down the hatches and waiting for the good times to return, we are taking the opportunity while everyone else is laying people off and getting rid of equipment.”
Saltire, which Mr Loggie established in 1986, saw its turnover grow by 68 per cent to £36.3m in the three years to 2014. It employs 82 staff. About 60 per cent of its business is international, with a focus on the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Caspian region as well as the North Sea.
Mr Loggie worked in a jute mill and the Royal Air Force after leaving school at 16. He then went to the Middle East to work as a “roughneck” — or manual labourer — on an oil rig in order to make enough money to get started in business on his own. Returning to his native Aberdeen as the oil industry was becoming established, he spotted a need for high-quality rental equipment.
“The entrepreneurial thing evolves when you start taking risks, because when you go into business on your own all you are doing is working longer hours,” he says. “Then you realise that to make anything out of this that you wouldn’t make by working for someone else, you have to take risks and see opportunities. You have to be innovative.”
Operating in an industry as volatile as energy means coping with its vicissitudes. “You have been at the bottom of so many holes and you have climbed out of them, only to fall in yet another one, not necessarily of your own doing but that’s what life throws at you.”
Saltire has succeeded, Mr Loggie believes, by delivering high standards of customer service: “You have to be different from everybody else in the pack. You have to offer the customer what they really need, not just what you want to give them. You have to take risks and put your money where your mouth is.”
He adds: “You have got to do things not just a bit better but an awful lot better instead of following the pack. You have to start raising the bar. There are lots of opportunities. I don’t think being in one industry is very different from another, as long as you learn what you are doing.”
Mr Loggie says would-be entrepreneurs must do their homework in researching the market they want to get into, but if they really feel their idea has potential and believe in themselves, they should have a go. “You mustn’t regret something you haven’t done.”
He is a philanthropist, having set up a community programme in 2008 to support local and international projects, primarily helping disadvantaged young people. One initiative was to offer children at Aberdeen primary schools a chance to take part in sports such as swimming and football.
He also built a school in Thailand for the children of Burmese refugees, helping them to get enough education to get into Thai schools.
“I’ve been lucky,” Mr Loggie says. “All I want to do is give people, kids in particular, an opportunity.”
Now 71, he has no plans to call it a day. “When my achievements are greater than my dreams, then it’s time to hand over to somebody. My dreams increase every day, so I’ll just carry on what I am doing.”