Forfar Roof Truss Ltd is Scotland’s go-to brand for roof trusses and floor joists. Hear their founder’s incredible success story and discover how MiTek are helping him get ahead.
They say Alan Hampton is a bit of a maverick. The Managing Director of Forfar Roof Truss Ltd does things the right way, his way, and whatever happens he’s the protagonist of his own story. This rebellious streak and passion for being different comes from his days as a punk rocker, days that haven’t been forgotten. His meetings happen in an office adorned with Sex Pistols posters and classic vinyl. And it’s this attitude that has always stood Alan in good stead.
Today his business serves over 300 regular customers, employs 36 people and supports numerous local charities as it awaits confirmation of its first £4 million turnover year. That wasn’t always the case.
One roll of the dice to save a business
The father of four didn’t step into business as much as tumble into it headlong. When his old employer started going under, the then 27-year-old designer had two weeks to work something out or face unemployment.
What’s the most punk rock thing one could do in those circumstances? Obviously it’s buying the business and having a go yourself. Alan says he knew he was good at what he did; “I was the only one in meetings who wasn’t getting shouted at.”
The banks weren’t in a rush to help the young entrepreneur and the local authority didn’t want to know. With days left to beat the receivers, Alan’s parents put their home up as collateral to secure the sale of what is now Forfar Roofing Truss Ltd: “When we took on the business, as a 27 year old, this was essentially a muddy field. It was a large shed which had been previously used for storing potatoes and an old helicopter.”
Alan credits his early success to straightforward fear of failure:
“I think there’s no greater incentive to get you to work hard and make sure that thing will not fail is the thought of letting your parents down. So that was very much my motivation early on.”
The pressure of knowing that dropping the ball meant homelessness for parents kept things on an upward trajectory. Not long after reclaiming his shed and turning it into a thriving manufacturing operation, it was time to expand. That expansion has continued for 30 years.
A Scottish David beating global Goliaths
The business today is proudly local and fiercely independent. Alan is beating off the big multinationals with a personal touch; clients get his mobile number and the promise that they can ring any time. That dogged determination to succeed has transformed Forfar into Scotland’s leading component manufacturing business.
When it’s time to give back to the community, Alan strays from the beaten track once again. Partnering with the local newspaper, he invites readers to pitch their favourite local charities for his donations. It’s led to him backing causes ranging from school libraries to niche charities. Without his help, many of those charities would go ignored.
That buys enormous goodwill in the local community for Alan and his family. Of course, Forfar is a family business; his two eldest sons have found their ways into designer roles at the firm: “they’ve ended up coming in the family business and now they love doing what their dad does”, says Alan.
Meanwhile, some of the team have been loyal to Forfar from the very start across three decades: “I love working with my family and friends, really. A lot of the people we have in the factory have been with us from day one, 29 years ago, and I love that. It’s a real family feeling.”
That isn’t just a huge vote of confidence in Alan’s leadership, it also helps get things done. “You offer a more consistent service when you’re not replacing staff every six months, people come to know and trust who they’re speaking to.”
It’s a characteristic that’s reflected in his relationship with MiTek: “We have a great partnership with MiTek. It’s been the same reps, the same people that you work with, and having these relationships is priceless. It’s great having guys that you know”.
You’ll see the same pragmatism in the firm’s approach to sustainability. Alan took his business green long before it was fashionable. It’s been 15 years since he installed a biomass boiler to convert waste into clean energy. Last year saw 196 solar panels added to his roof. When the famous Scottish weather is kind, the whole facility runs on renewables.
That individualism and drive to be different is a winning formula. Ditching the received wisdom, Alan trials new tools, methods, and services which keep him on top. By working with MiTek, he’s had a little help along the way.
Helping Alan grow his business
Unlike the banks and local council, MiTek were invested in Alan from the start:
“MiTek were very supportive right from day one. They took a chance pretty much on an unknown 27-year-old, taking a gamble, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck with them ever since.”
We knew if anyone could turn the company around, it was Alan. Having been trained on our software, he could hit the ground running. We’ve since evolved together: “MiTek are clearly the market leader and as they’ve grown and they’ve developed with their products, we’ve taken them all on board and we’ve grown and developed at the same time, and it’s been a fantastic business marriage.”
“And I’m absolutely delighted that 29 years on where we are now, I’ve kept that loyalty and repaid that loyalty.” Alan is a regular face at our customer seminars and a constant source of positive feedback. He uses our Posi-Joist system to ensure his designs have the strength and durability to make it into the real world.
To develop those designs, he uses our PAMIR 3D software, and he’s not the only one. Both of his sons are trained to use MiTek software and, by Alan’s own admission, ‘they picked it up a lot quicker than their old man’. But give him some credit, he’s been watching the system evolve for over 30 years, he’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve.
Most recently, he’s started partnering with our Dedicated Services Team. Alan’s taste for the unorthodox sometimes comes back to bite him. Unusual, complex client requirements often occupied his designers for days while the bread-and-butter work piled up.
To get around this, he’s now working with one of our design teams in Vietnam. What started as a small-scale pilot to handle estimating is now a global collaboration. A designer himself by trade, his standards are high, so his trust is worth its weight in gold. Now, his core team can focus on the business while we work on those more complex curveball requests.
“We started off very much using them purely for quoting work. We then realised that we could expand that slightly further and start to put out more quotes to new markets, to new customers, and to new areas where we hadn’t been before, particularly where this type of work is very bespoke and very complex.
“We started to pick up work in that field. Now we view Dedicated Services very much as an integral part of our team.”
Succeeding against the odds with MiTek
From a do-or-die punk with his back against the wall to one of Scotland’s most colourful and successful business figures, it’s been quite a ride and it isn’t over yet. Forfar Roof Truss Ltd has its eyes set firmly on the future, with MiTek supporting every step of the way.