James Aimer Ltd. | Eric’s Story

James Aimer have a history as rich as their coffee. Dating back to 1884, they produce private label tea and coffee in Dundee that’s enjoyed by tea and coffee lovers across the country.

As you can imagine, a lot has changed in 130 years. There’s more competition. Production methods have changed. Technology has advanced. But, at its heart, James Aimer still has the same philosophy. They source the best tea leaves and coffee beans available and produce a final product they’re rightly proud of.

James Aimer is one of those Scottish success stories that you’ve probably never heard of. The chances are though, that you may well have experienced their tea and coffee in one of the hotels, restaurants, cafes or independent coffee shops that they supply.

Under the stewardship of Managing Director, Eric Duncan, the business has enjoyed considerable success in recent years. Eric’s been at the helm for over twenty years and what’s clear is he still has the same passion and drive for the business.

Eric’s Challenge | Planning for the future

Eric and his fellow director James Aston lead a committed team of tea and coffee producers. Like many directors of smaller businesses, they are responsible for both the strategic and operational aspects of the business. Put simply that means that all major decisions on the future of the business rest on the shoulders of Eric and James.

Eric knew that he needed to plan for a future where he took a less hands on approach to the business. A future where the day-to-day running of the business was left in the capable hands of someone else.

Eric said,

“I knew it would be difficult to let go, and shift from managing all day-to-day operations to a more strategic role. But I knew it was critical for the future of the business.”

Eric did what he regularly does – he called Steve.

Working together

Henderson Loggie have worked with James Aimer for over 14 years. In recent years, our Partner Steve Cartwright has established a strong partnership with Eric. We help Eric and the James Aimer team to be compliant and we fulfill the traditional accountant’s role. We review and comment on their management accounts, prepare their annual accounts, manage their taxes and help manage their payroll. While these are hugely important for the business, there’s another level to how Eric and Steve work together.

Eric sums it up perfectly.

“Steve is a sounding board and our trusted business advisor.”

When it came to the challenge of evolving his role from operational to strategic, Eric already had the idea of recruiting a General Manager. He wanted Steve’s perspective. Increasing the headcount in any organisation isn’t a decision to be made lightly. That’s especially the case in a small business. Steve already knew the financial health of the business and knew that this wasn’t a cost, rather it was an investment. And, as with any investment, the conversations focused on how to maximise the return on investment.

That meant getting specific. What would the General Manager do? What were the specifications of the role? Where would the line be drawn between Eric, James and the new General Manager’s responsibilities? This was a natural and organic business conversation about the future of James Aimer Ltd.

By the end of the conversation Steve and Eric both had clarity not just on how this would work, but on what it would allow Eric to focus on. He would be freed up to work with James on the sales and marketing plans, have more time to work with existing and new suppliers and have the capacity to think about the long term growth of the business.

Not their first rodeo

This wasn’t unusual for Steve and Eric. It’s just how they work together. The relationship they’ve established is based on trust and respect. That trust has been built on the back of a number of key investment discussions.

When Eric was looking to buy new equipment to streamline the packaging and distribution of their tea, it was Steve he called. And, when the opportunity came to extend their premises and, improve their production capabilities – it was Steve’s opinion that Eric courted. That’s just the nature of the relationship. Here’s Eric’s view.

“When I’m considering any capital investment, the first thing I do is put it into a business model. Basically, I look at the numbers. Then, I ask Steve to challenge me on it. It’s critical that I have his input on the financing of the purchase of any equipment.”

The future

Eric’s passion for the future of James Aimer Ltd. comes through clearly. It’s impossible to ignore the rise in popularity of the coffee sector. The Starbucks and Costa Coffee’s of this world report record growth and continue to expand. And while it’s the ‘big boys’ that get most of the attention, much of the growth in the sector is being fuelled by the rise of the independent coffee shop. As a private label coffee and tea producer – that’s good news for Eric. He can see the growth opportunities.

And that growth will be based on the very thing that’s sustained the business for over 130 years – an obsessive attention to detail and drive to create the highest quality private label tea and coffee.

The final word – Eric’s perspective

“There are a lot of growth opportunities for our industry and, of course, our business. Steve and Henderson Loggie will continue to play a significant role in the future of our company. On a personal level, Steve is the person I bounce ideas off of. He’s my sounding board and provides another voice to challenge my ideas.

I trust his advice and respect his perspective on our business. And while our planned quarterly reviews are a great opportunity to take stock of the health of the business, where we get the biggest benefit is in our access to Steve. I know that I can pick up the phone at any time and have a conversation about an idea or a challenge we’re facing.

Those conversations will continue to help James, myself and the entire James Aimer Ltd. team – a team that Steve is very much part of.”