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Shaped for growth

In a specialist sector, such as rubber and plastic moulding, an ageing workforce is a key risk when you’re on the cusp of major growth. Find out how Burnetts Manufacturing, took a key strategic decision to find the right partners, both in-house and external, to drive the business forward.

Being on the cusp of major growth meant taking a key strategic decision: to find the right partners – both in-house and external – to drive the business forward, says Burnetts Manufacturing MD Alan Murphy.

Rubber and plastic moulder Burnetts Manufacturing supplies an astonishing 69 million components to clients across six sectors every year, from automotive and marine to industrial batteries.

It has enjoyed strong growth under the leadership of Managing Director Alan Murphy, with its turnover increasing by about £6 million over the past decade.

But, as the firm sets its sights on transforming from a second tier to first tier supplier to Jaguar Land Rover, it has identified that an ageing workforce is a key risk. And, says Alan, this is a specialist sector where talented, experienced people are thin on the ground.

Nurturing its talent pipeline has become paramount, especially at the top of the business. Fortunately, one recruit is making his presence felt.

“My son Declan was able to gain his graduate training and valuable experience working for a large automotive customer before joining Burnetts in 2014,“ Alan explains. He quickly progressed to the role of Commercial Director and, for many customers, has become the face of Burnetts. “For me he is the perfect partner, challenging strategic decisions and bringing a fresh perspective to the future of the company.”

Team under development

Previous corporate experience means that Alan has always been confident in his ability to be on top of the numbers. But, as the leadership team has expanded and he has looked to delegate responsibility for key decisions, he realised that the team needed expert support to upskill.

So, Haines Watts Partner Chris Timms came on board, bringing with him a team with specialist expertise in areas of particular interest to the business, such as corporate tax. First stop was to make sure the business claimed any R&D reliefs it was entitled to.

“Our clients do not simply send us drawings of the products they want us to manufacture. Often, we work with them to develop designs, and research which new technologies and manufacturing techniques could benefit their business,” Alan says. “So, R&D goes hand-in-hand with this, and it means moulding parts is now only one facet of our ability to make an income.”

Haines Watts has also reviewed the corporate structure, including how property is managed under a family-owned partnership, as well as potential risks to their bottom line. “As we export 70% of our products overseas, the effect of Brexit on foreign exchange is a concern,” Alan explains. “So, we now have a strategy in place for this.”

New era of business

For Alan, there is one other important role for Haines Watts as the manufacturer moves into its next phase of growth. “As someone who has always filled the role of Financial Director as well as Managing Director, I wouldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t understand the numbers,” Alan says.

“But if Declan learned how to manage financials from me, it would be ad-hoc and unstructured. So, I will be looking to the team at Haines Watts to upskill Declan in a formal and organised way. In the coming weeks, we’ll be taking part in Haines Watts tax and strategy workshops, for a start.

“Declan has driven our agenda to target the automotive sector, securing a contract for first tier supply that will see us develop new products for future models, introduce stringent automotive systems and invest in more new talent,” he adds.

Continuing to service

However, it is not all about change. Declan is moving forward with one important family business motto in mind – know the customer. “We put the customer first, which means knowing how our part integrates into their design, knowing their systems and strategy, and striving to exceed their expectations,” he concludes.

“But, as the business has grown, we know that it’s important to take carefully considered risks. With Haines Watts on the team, we know we can make well-informed decisions.”


It’s important to take carefully considered risks. With Haines Watts on the team, we know we can make well-informed decisions.

Declan Murphy Burnetts Manufacturing

Haines Watts Partner view

Our relationship with Burnetts Manufacturing may be in its infancy, but we already have a clear vision of how we are going to work together. 

Alan doesn’t see Declan as merely his son or the new Commercial Director – he sees him as a partner. And Declan, in particular, sees Haines Watts as the partner who will help him achieve great things. 

We are now making sure that the business has access to all the specialist expertise that Haines Watts can offer, in areas from company structure, tax relief and general business planning to finding new talent and making sure their people have the right training and support.

I see the company’s future growth being exponential, reaching at least £10m over the next two years, thanks to plans to achieve the standards required to become a tier one supplier to their major clients.

In many ways Burnetts Manufacturing is the perfect client for us. Alan has a unique mind, being both technically and commercially savvy. Declan, on the other hand, has vision and energy and is working closely with us to drive the business forward.

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