It began 90 years ago with a determined young man with a vision, called Bennett Beardshaw.
The vision got him fired, but the company he founded has grown and thrived, while his old employer has vanished.
For much of its history, the family-owned, Bacon Lane-based Special Steels Group has kept quiet about its success.
The company has quietly expanded from heat treating engineering steels, into testing and machining, processing super alloys and making forgings for customers’ whose activities span everything from general engineering to aerospace, medical products to heavy earth movers and automotive to oil and gas.
Being hailed as Britain’s fastest-growing privately- owned company two years running has raised the Special Steels Group’s profile and, with turnover for the 280 employee business nearing £60 million after one of the Group’s best years ever, it is now set for further growth.
Special Steel’s latest expansion centres on its acquisition of A4e’s former headquarters on Bessemer Road, next to one of the Group’s works.
“Before the acquisition of the A4e building, the number one constraint on growth was space,” says group chief executive Simon Marshall.
“We kept building extensions, but we were backed up against the River Don and there was nowhere to expand left or right. We debated whether to move out, but we didn’t want to keep driving stuff around and it would be too expensive to move the furnaces and the forge.”
The acquisition will be the catalyst for further expansion for a number of the group’s subsidiaries, including its Special Quality Alloys business, which has major growth potential, and its Special Machined Products subsidiary, which had machines spread across the company’s Bessemer Road works.
Special Steel Group’s growth is based on a combination of founder Bennett Beardshaw’s philosophy and that of his grandson, group chairman Alan Beardshaw.
“Grandfather always said: ‘If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Don’t owe the banks money. Wait until you can afford it,” says Mr Beardshaw.
“I take the view that a business never stands still. It can either go forwards or backwards – and we have always tried to move forward. The reason we are still here today is we have a rolling policy of reinvestment.”
Alan Beardshaw reckons he has gained more pleasure from the business than he ever imagined was possible and is justifiably proud that a fourth generation, his sons Chris and Benn – short for Bennett – is now heavily involved in its direction.
He says: “All the family business names that were around when I started have gone. We are really proud of the fact that this is a fourth generation, totally privately-owned business. We get unsolicited offers virtually by the week, but the business isn’t for sale.
“If we can pass this on to another generation and future generations, that will be a far greater achievement.”