Craig Hutcheon CA shares the story behind Hutcheon Mearns
When Craig Hutcheon CA sensed an opening for a new kind of advisory firm, he foresaw a niche business of around 20 people. A few years on, he’s already more than doubled that – and he isn’t stopping there, reports Fiona Nicolson.
Spotting a problem that needs to be solved often sows the seeds of a new business. In the case of Hutcheon Mearns, the idea began when its co-founder saw how he could turn a resourcing challenge into a successful enterprise. After starting his career at KPMG, Craig Hutcheon CA moved to the oilfield-services company, Reservoir Group, where, as Group Finance Controller, he oversaw more than 20 acquisitions and managed a finance team of 55.
“In a fast-growing private-equity business, some of the biggest challenges arose from employing the right people, finding the right recruitment partners to work with and getting the short-term cover needed,” he recalls. Craig started to realise that there was a gap in the market. This sparked the idea for a new business, one which would solve these problems. So, in 2015, he co-founded Hutcheon Mearns, offering both recruitment and consultancy services. It took off, confirming his hunch to be correct.
But after the first few years, he realised something had to give. “I was undertaking full-time consultancy assignments and it soon became clear that I couldn’t do that and also grow the business. So I had to find project work instead,” he explains. Craig hit on the idea of developing a financial due-diligence report for private-equity companies looking to invest in smaller businesses. From experience, he knew what they needed. “They wanted something short that accurately told them exactly what the risk areas were within that business and what they needed to look out for,” says Craig.
Backing his hunch, he set up an advisory arm of the business, at a time when, serendipitously, a former Reservoir colleague was looking to set up a boutique corporate-finance business. They decided to do this together, as part of Hutcheon Mearns, adding these services to recruitment and consultancy.
Today, the firm’s main services are delivered through three main channels: people, deals and insight. The people side encompasses recruitment, executive search, interim cover that’s provided by the firm’s own employees, and outsourcing, which includes delivering the services of a finance team – also provided by Hutcheon Mearns employees. The deals component of the business focuses on corporate finance, financial due diligence and strategic advisory services, and the insights division’s expertise helps clients improve their financial processes.
The next stage was to grow the business from its original base in Aberdeen. In 2021, Hutcheon Mearns opened a new office in Dundee. “In the space of two years, we have grown the team there to eight people and moved into bigger premises,” Craig says.
The firm has now grown to employ a total of 46 people and counting. While most staff are based in Aberdeen and Dundee, expansion into Scotland’s Central Belt is also under way, starting with a base in the capital. “We have recruited our first senior hire in Edinburgh and we’re looking to recruit our second very soon,” says Craig.
The company recently added another string to its bow, as Craig explains: “We rebranded recently, as Hutcheon Mearns Finance and Hutcheon Mearns Real Estate. Our real-estate business, which launched in March this year, is largely Aberdeen-based at the moment, although it will expand across Scotland.”
The real-estate side of the business offers advice on a wide range of matters in commercial property, and moving into this market is helping to solve another client problem. “Property is the second-biggest expense that businesses have, after people,” says Craig. “We’re already seeing deals being concluded and some significant fees coming in.”
Next on the agenda for Hutcheon Mearns? Further expansion, would you believe. “After our move into the Central Belt, we will be looking at markets in England. There’s a natural synergy for our business in London, as a lot of our clients are located there.” Craig is also aiming to expand the firm’s scope, as well as its geography. “We’re looking at a number of opportunities in complementary, synergistic, professional-services areas, such as a software solution in the recruitment space,” says Craig.
If this all sounds like a lot for one business in the space of a few, admittedly eventful years, Craig would be the first to admit growth has exceeded all expectations: “I never envisaged it would get this big – I thought we would be more of a 20-people business at most.”