Jim Land
Jim Land

CEO Interview – Jim Land of Cresent

What does your company do?
Cresent are Control of Work and Health and Safety specialists. We work in high-hazard facilities, both onshore and offshore, in the Oil and Gas, Marine and Nuclear industries all over the world.

We are a consultancy led business; we love to understand exactly what our client’s issues and problems are before providing them with solutions.

What we do is make work safe. We provide Control of Work solutions, both electronic and paper-based to the Oil and Gas and Marine industries. We were the first Control of Work provider to design an Integrated Safe System of Work (ISSoW) for the marine industry back in 2007 with Technip – and even better, they’re still using it!

We also provide a whole host of training and competence solutions including e-learning, bespoke training, classroom courses, course design, safety inductions and campaigns.

We provide a holistic approach to Control of Work using processes, procedures, and associated software products, hardware, training and consumables. This appeals particularly to companies focussed on saving operating costs, whilst getting all the benefits of an expert supplier.

What do you do there / what is your role?
I am Cresent’s CEO; my role is to help the people in my team to excel in everything they do and manage the business.

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company
Cresent was founded 35 years ago and has had steady growth through adapting to changing market requirements, keeping to our core business, having outstanding people, systems and training.

So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?
We reacted quickly to the industry downturn in 2014/15 by halving our people numbers and slashing our operating costs. We are now considerably leaner, more focussed and once again growing revenue and making profits.

Downsizing a company is always an incredibly hard thing to do, but necessary to the long term health of the business.
I am confident that every person in my team gives 110% every day and it’s thanks to every one of them that Cresent is performing well and experiencing growth – even through these difficult times in the oil and gas market.

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?
Safety. 35 years ago it was mostly lip service. That does still happen, but considerably less than it did. I think the safety culture of the Oil and Gas industry has matured considerably.

What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?
We sell to oil and gas operators, large contractors and the marine industry. In the last few years we’ve also diversified into the nuclear industry and COMAH registered sites.

Why did you launch the company?
I am an innovator; I am constantly thinking of new and better ways to do things! Systems and the way people use them fascinates me.

I couldn’t find an employer at the time that satisfied what I wanted to do so I started my own company. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What is your background?
I left school to become a civil engineer before changing direction and becoming an industrial radiographer in the oil and gas industry. From there I progressed from doing the work to managing work and then finally set up my own business.

What are your goals for your business?
Continuing steady growth with satisfied customers. It’s incredibly important to me that we have happy customers. We’re not afraid to give them our opinion and steer them in a different direction but overall we want to make our customers feel understood. Thanks to this we’ve had many long term customers over the 35 years we’ve been in business.

I also want to continue building and adding to our great team of people. Someone asked me recently what I’m most proud of and my answer was simple – the people. Business is about people at the end of the day and I am incredibly proud of the team we’ve got at Cresent. They regularly go above and beyond what would reasonably be expected in order to meet customer requirements, while ensuring that safety is at the core of everything that we do.

What are your biggest current challenges?
The industry downturn. We’ve found that a lot of people are trying to prove the worth of their job roles and this is having quite a negative effect on the supply chain, with many opting to try and do work that is not quite their niche in an attempt to keep their roles relevant. Although we obviously cannot bear a grudge to anyone in this position, as it’s just job protection in a difficult market, we’ve found that this doesn’t just have a negative impact on the supply chain, but often the work being done is not as good as when it was previously being contracted out to experts.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
On one occasion we tried a little too hard to please a major customer who had senior people with their own agendas, something that is quite a common issue in the Oil and Gas industry, which it seems didn’t include us or our products and services.

This company then cancelled a contract on us with short notice and held onto payment for the work that had already been completed. This was nearly enough to finish Cresent, and it would have done if it hadn’t been for lots of great relationships we have and the patience of our fantastic suppliers. Don’t get me wrong, this obviously isn’t always the case but this industry definitely has its ups and downs.

It didn’t finish us and we certainly learned a lot from that experience. It didn’t stop us from wanting to keep our customers happy, but it has made us a little more careful and definitely stronger for it. I always say that every day is a school day and this situation certainly was one to learn from.

What do you do outside work?
I have spent a lot of time over the last 35 years building the business and a good team, which has meant sacrificing parts of my life that are important to me – so now I’m making up for it. Out of work I like to spent time with my family and friends, and if I can mix in socialising and motorcycles then all the better!

What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?
If I could go back and give myself a bit of advice it would be to know the real value of good people and to employ for attitude and team player ethos. Business is about making money, but that’s just an outcome, all of the income comes from people.

What’s the secret to good leadership?
Knowing that you don’t know everything – including whether your own leadership ability is good or not. It’s only others telling you this that counts.

I make sure to keep an open door and I am always keen to hear what other people have to say. I wouldn’t criticise others if I couldn’t take the same criticism myself.

Where do you see the company in five years?
Most probably without me as CEO. There are others in the team that I will need to make way for.

How can the scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
There is much talk of exporting and we do indeed do a lot of this but a strong domestic economy allows start-ups to develop in a much safer commercial environment. Helping businesses to grow locally before helping them to grow internationally.

I’ve noticed, in Aberdeen particularly, a lot of initiatives focused around ‘Buying Local’ as the city has struggled in the downturn. Ensuring that there is enough support and incentive there for start-ups and companies to grow in their local and national markets is so important.

Also, as a final piece of advice to anyone starting their own company: don’t be afraid of the hard work as when you’re doing something you love, it won’t feel like work at all.