Keeping the business in the family

ScotPanel Display Ltd is a family run business that provides exhibition displays for trade shows and major indoor and outdoor events. 

Based in Cumbernauld, Director Chris Hall started the business with his father Edward in 1999. When the company hit difficulties, Chris came to Johnston Carmichael for help. 

“Our urgent need for assistance from Johnston Carmichael was to stop the winding up order on the company”, comments ScotPanel managing director, Chris Hall, reflecting on his initial meeting with Donald McNaught.

“It was quite a stressful situation. I’d been to see a few accountants and lawyers and everything they said was doom and gloom. When I met Donald, he was very calm and reassuring and said ‘OK, let’s try to sort something out’. 

“That’s not what I was expecting given what other people had said to me so to hear that was just very welcome.

“Johnston Carmichael got to work immediately - they contacted the debtors which allowed me to continue trying to work with clients rather than concentrating on the money. I could focus on running the business while they were working in the background sorting things out.

“I wanted to concentrate on reassuring clients because obviously it was a worrying time for them as well so that assistance took a real weight off my shoulders. It was very stressful but Donald and the team were great, always reassuring and available on the end of the phone if I needed them to speak to a client or if I needed advice.”

With Johnston Carmichael’s help, ScotPanel was able to avoid liquidation and continue trading.

“We had major cash flow issues and a winding up order had been issued by HMRC; they wouldn’t listen directly to me. Johnston Carmichael had to step in - I don’t know what they did behind the scenes with HMRC but they got the extension which ultimately allowed us to continue trading and saved the business.”

Johnston Carmichael’s restructuring team helped raised finance on the company’s property to allow final payments to creditors. By refinancing assets during an insolvency process, ScotPanel were able to retain control of their own destiny.

“Our priority was obviously just to keep the business within the family. Our clients appreciate that we’re a small family business and like the personal attention we can give them.

“I think if we’d sold out to investors, we would have lost some of that relationship. My dad and I set up the business in 1999; it’s important to keep it small and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Despite the administration process, ScotPanel was able to retain its loyal customer base.

“Our customers were great. They’re loyal, they liked the service we were providing and they wanted to continue working with us. A few were worried that we might not be able to complete a job because of the circumstances. Donald was able to reassure them, and say ‘they’re in a good position to get the job done’. That open communication was essential.”

Putting appropriate accounting processes and controls in place was a top priority, an area Johnston Carmichael’s business solutions team, led by Hugh Boyle, was able to assist with.

 “It’s been a seamless integration – Johnston Carmichael has taken care of all financial areas of the business. They continue to do the wages, the accounts, VAT returns, all the stuff I don’t want to do! 

I want to be out meeting new clients and working on jobs and know that Johnston Carmichael are in the background taking care of everything.

Chris Hall 

Director, ScotPanel Display Ltd

“They know the business and they know how we work so we have a good relationship. For the first time in a long time I enjoy coming into work because I have no worries about getting bills paid and paying the wages. I can concentrate on working with the clients and doing what I do best.”

Chris concludes: “They’re almost like an early warning system. They might say to me, ‘look in four or five months’ time we might hit some issues’. That lets me look at things early, sort it all out and take the necessary steps. It’s great to know that everything’s looked after professionally.”