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A Family Business That Has It Covered!

Family-run commercial textile manufacturing business, The Beal Group, is a group of companies originally founded in Glasgow in 1979 as Tony Beal Ltd, which has grown over the past 40 years through innovation and acquisitions.

The group of companies are committed to UK manufacturing of quality textile products across various sectors through individual companies that include Mitco, Rhino and Rhino Defence, Stronghold, Graffix Detail and the latest acquisiton, BCT Outdoors.

Passionate about delivering quality products, The Beal Group is synonymous with manufacturing excellence and providing customised and printed textile products that meet the needs of their customers.

Manufactured in the UK, supplying to businesses around the world, their products cover a range of sectors from Oil & Gas, Defence, Automotive, Agriculture, Construction and Sport & Leisure.

With a combined production facility of over 120,000 square feet, across their two UK bases, one in Glasgow and one in the West Midlands, they have the capacity to manufacturer over 2,500 items per week. Paul Andrews spoke to second generation Managing Director, David Beal to find out more about this pioneering family firm.

As David explains, “It all started when my Dad moved to Scotland and after a few jobs, he settled into one working with hauliers and farmers and was often asked to repair their tarpaulins which is where it all started and he built up a successful business manufacturing and supplying flat covers to the haulage and agricultural sectors.”

The business was founded in 1979 but it was not until 1988 that David joined the family business. “I didn’t necessarily apply myself at school and was not interested in going to college so I started work in the business. I loved it and loved the fact that we were actually making things,” continues David.

“As time went by we there was less demand for tarpaulins and it became obvious that there was not the market to grow this side of the business in Scotland. We started thinking about the future and where to take the business,” he adds.

The next stage in the journey was literally the result of ‘knocking on a door’ as David approached the Ministry of Defence in Glasgow. “I literally walked in the door, met the right person at the right time and walked out with a tender document to complete,” explains David. “I was 21 years of age and thought that sales was easy after that as we went on and won the contract to supply the MoD, a customer that we still work with today. Business continued to evolve and diversify into new sectors.”

Sadly, the business suffered a serious setback in 2007 when Tony passed away. David was the eldest of three boys and he recognised their differences and that it would not be a good idea to go into business together. One of his brothers was also honest enough to ask David to “tell me you are going to buy the business and take it on” as he had no interest in taking on a role in the business. The stage was set and David ‘begged, borrowed and raised the funds' to acquire the business and a new chapter in the family business began.

The timing of the purchase was far from ideal as the economy was on the brink of recession and the transport sector, still a key source of business, was one of the first sectors to be hit by the downturn. The business needed to focus and David took strategic decisions to future proof the business and make sure that it was not dependent on one core sector again. They began moving into new sectors, understanding the specific needs of each and offering a service that resulted in them becoming the ‘go to place’ for their products.

The group continues to grow with David at the helm, coming a long way since ‘we supplied flat covers to the farming sector, although that’s a specific market we still continue to service and have fond memories ofand their journey of diversification has stood them well. For David, the fact that it is a family business really resonates.

“My son now works in the business, having worked like I did during school holidays. He continued with his education and gained a good degree and has a skill for the operational side of the business. He also gets the culture and understands the impact that having our name above the door generates."

"It might sound corny but family means everything to me, my family personally and the wider workforce who I see as family too,” continues David.

“There are people in the factory who have worked for us since I started here and never worked for anyone else. There is a great culture and shared values when you have worked with individuals for such a long time but it also means that they can read you like a book so you have to be careful to keep an eye on everything, the business, the finances, the culture and the future because now that we are the size we are, there is not enough time in the day for everyone to have their ‘moment’ with me,” he adds.

“We are focused on introducing structures and procedures to match the size that the business has grown to need but there is still an emotional tie to a business that you have seen grow over the years and put your heart and soul into developing too. We have a good team and a good culture that is based around the values that are important to me,” continues David.

“These values and the loyalty of our team came to the fore during the pandemic when we continued to operate as we were fulfilling a number of ‘essential contracts’ and everyone pulled together to make things happen. It was obviously a difficult time for the country as a whole but we made it work and took all the necessary steps to protect the workforce too.”

David understands the nuances of running a family business and appreciates that it is people that make the difference.

He also appreciates the personal journey that he has been on and that as the business has grown the way it is managed has had to evolve too.

“We have developed the team and I have been able to step away from the day-to-day operations with a number of key roles that have made such a positive difference, to me and the business."

"I have been able to take time to focus on the strategy and to continue to identify ways for us to continue to diversify and embrace new opportunities but also to look at how we can become more sustainable too, and to remove the cyclical impact of some of the sectors on our business too.”

This is a business that is continuing to grow, building on the legacy and entrepreneurial spirit of its founder and now in the hands of a pioneering and equally entrepreneurial second generation. Education and continual learning is also part of the philosophy that has enabled the business to evolve.

“I am a firm believer in learning and completed the Growth Advantage Programme at the University of Strathclyde and that helped us immeasurably, personally for me as it helped me to shape our strategy, but also the way it has influenced the trajectory of the business too,” continues David.

Family remains at the core of the business and one of the proudest moments on the journey to date for David was being able to fund the acquisition and continue the legacy of his father.

“My Dad and I were very close and had worked together for a number of years and to lose him when we did and then to have to face a hostile takeover bid before successfully taking on the business was not easy. I put everything on the line and borrowed what I could and to look back and know that every penny was repaid and to see where we are today makes me incredibly proud. We have come a long way and that is down to the people that we have involved and I know that Dad would be proud of what we have built and where the business is today,” continues David.

This is a business that continues to evolve and has plenty of plans for the future. They are currently growing a new ‘second life’ business that recycles other products and prevents them ending up in landfill which is exciting and offers plenty of scope too. “This is really exciting and signals a new chapter for the business and is an exciting addition to our portfolio of products,” continues David. “It is great to see new ideas and ways of working, especially when it is ultimately good for the planet too,” he concludes.

There is a next generation in the wings with David having a son and two daughters, one of whom is already involved in the business so who knows what the future has in store. One thing that is certain is that the family values, purpose and resilience are inherent in the business and the name above the door is well respected within the sectors in which they operate.

For David, this is really important. “We want everyone involved to feel values and know that they are appreciated for what they do. If we do the right thing and our people fell happy working for us and doing what they do, feeling that they have actually achieved something, then we have done our job and are conducting business the right way, “ he continues.

“Family business is important. It matters and it is because we are family that we can make a really positive impact, doing business the right way. Nobody will say that is easy but with the right guidance, frameworks and values in place, the family business can be a real force for good – being a good place to work but also a good place for innovation, customer service and by looking at the circular economy, good for the environment too.”

A nod to the past, an eye on the future – this is a family business that has it covered.


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