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BH helps steer Gardner Marine Diesels to success

Posted: September 16, 2010

In less than a year Michael Harrison, the entrepreneurial managing director of Gardner Marine Diesels, the Canterbury-based business that builds and service Gardner engines in marine applications, attended to vessels in eight different countries on four continents. To say that business is thriving for Gardner Marine Diesels would be an understatement.

It’s been a rapid expansion for Gardner Marine Diesels (GMD), having begun life in 2004 after the original manufacturing business, L. Gardner & Sons Ltd, ceased volume engine production in the mid 1990s. “My father used to work for the original business, which is how I got into it,” explains Michael. “I talked to a few clients, and they were interested in what I was doing, so we decided to set up the business.”

GMD began producing remanufactured engines, working only on Gardner engines, a strategy that has enabled the business to build its capabilities around some of the best engines ever to be manufactured in the UK. Not only that, but it has enabled GMD to develop a worldwide reputation for offering a high quality service and expertise in an extremely specialist and niche field.

“We now supply spare parts, servicing and recon and rebuilt engines to the classic marine world,” says Michael. “We buy in old engines that have been used in automotive or marine applications and, as a result, have a stockholding that means we can supply to a client who requests a particular engine, rebuilding it with new parts and adding modern systems to bring it up to scratch. The boats we usually sell to are private yachts, perhaps new built yachts along classic lines. It’s really where someone wants a slow-running classic engine.”

Around 70% of the business this year has been abroad, with GDM carrying out a lot of servicing work in the Mediterranean. Understandably, with business currently so buoyant, it’s extremely important to Michael that he knows his financial affairs are being handled with the same level of expertise that his business delivers to GMD clients. With Burgess Hodgson at the helm, he has the peace of mind that allows him to fly off at short notice to service a Gardner engine on the other side of the world.

But, as Michael explains, this wasn’t always the case. “My previous accountants simply didn’t understand my business or give me any support,” he says. “There was a VAT enquiry over some items I’d bought that year and the letters they sent to HRMC were just wrong. The whole investigation was brought about because they accounted for something twice on the return. At that point, I needed the matter to be sorted out by someone whom I could trust – which was why I turned to Burgess Hodgson.”

Michael believes it is the level of expertise and business support that he receives from Burgess Hodgson that really makes the difference – and separates the firm from its competitors. “I was relatively new to the accounts side when we started GMD, and I needed to know what information I needed to keep. My previous accountants never told me this or what was needed:

Burgess Hodgson is very confident in what I’m doing and tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. The firm has a very positive attitude and always quick to respond. It’s a very personal service, which is the key.”

Burgess Hodgson also provides payroll services for Michael and his two full-time members of staff, as well as VAT returns and forecasts for the bank. “It’s the knowledge and understanding about my business Burgess Hodgson provides that really makes the difference to me,” explains Michael. “It’s an excellent relationship.”

With GMD now able to offer a one-stop-shop service for Gardner marine engines, having recently acquired the assets of PGE Services Ltd, which specialises in complex engineering tasks such as fuel pump calibration and injector overhauls. “We’ll be able to control the whole process now,” says Michael. “With the business having grown so quickly, we need to have a professional accountants on hand. Our business changes all the time: Burgess Hodgson is flexible and responsive enough to help us grow.”