Getting to know you: Brian Palmer, CEO at Tharsus Group

What do you currently do?

I am the chief executive of Tharsus Group, which consists of three companies – Tharsus Engineering, Tharsus Direct and Tharsus Vision.

I led the management buy in of Tharsus Welding and Sheet Metal Company which became Tharsus Engineering. Following this, I started Tharsus Direct in 2005 when I spotted an opportunity in the telecoms sector, and then in 2007 bought a company called Direct Message out of administration which went on to become Tharsus Vision.

Tharsus has survived the collapse of a number of key markets but thankfully, I’ve overseen an average 30% year-on-year growth over the last decade.

The impact of the recession on the outdoor advertising market and delays to a number of MOD procurement projects have led to a radical reinvention of the business over the last three years.

We’ve developed our capability as a manufacturing partner thanks to a combination of our core competencies and the experience we’ve gained in designing and marketing our own product ranges.

Tharsus is now working with a diverse range of customers, helping them to develop and manufacture complex electro-mechanical products, and I’m confident that we have a solid foundation that will allow us to secure the long-term, sustainable growth of the business.

What is your inspiration in business?

I’m inspired by anyone who runs a business that I respect as better than Tharsus because I’m driven by the desire to always improve and feel there is always more to be learnt.

Improvement might be about striving for technical excellence, exceeding our growth targets or the way we do business as a corporate citizen.

I believe that there’s always something to learn from your experiences, your colleagues and your peers.

Who do you admire?

I admire the everyday person who triumphs over adversity. True inspiration isn’t in the business world but seeing those who fight and cope with the tough challenges that life throws at them on a daily basis.

Just reading about the achievements of people who’ve overcome illness and injury to fulfil their ambitions really does put a crap day at the office into perspective.

If I had to pick someone from my industry that has inspired me it would be Sir Frank Whittle. Whittle is one of the truly great British engineers who has had a massive impact on the engineering world in general.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?

I think we’ve got more of the big decisions right than wrong. But a key aspect of business is that you learn from your mistakes.

Many of the challenges that we’ve faced as a business have been the result of external factors, so there’s little to be gained in looking back and regretting the decisions I’ve made.

What’s crucial is that I’ve built a better understanding of the benefits Tharsus can bring to our customers and how we differentiate ourselves from the competition in the contract manufacturing market.

I believe that our experiences have allowed us to evolve a business model that will build a stronger and more successful future for Tharsus.

Over the last two years, we’ve held our nerve, invested in excess of £1.5m and recently opened a new generation of manufacturing facility in the North East. We’re already seeing the results and have secured a number of long term contracts with customers who have confidence in our integrated approach to product development and manufacture.

What defines your way of doing business?

I’m a firm believer that if you do the right thing, treating people properly and professionally, then the results will come.

We know that if we build the best product possible for our customer then we’ll benefit from their success.

Whether we’re working with major multinationals or new start-ups, our aim is always to understand their business model and make a contribution that will help them capitalise on the opportunities that exist in their marketplaces.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

You need to understand why you’re in business and what you want out of it. Business is like a game – you need to give it your all and be comfortable with the risks you need to take to achieve your aims.

In terms of your product or service, differentiation is critical. Define what sets you apart from your competition, stick to it and focus on communicating your USP.

It’s also important to think a number of steps ahead. Working with Tharsus makes real economic sense for many of our customers in terms of the value and confidence that’s created by having a fully resolved and responsive manufacturing and product development strategy in place.

After all, if you consider the real value of Apple, for example is all about the exciting products they’ll be bringing to the market over the next ten years rather than what they’re doing now.