East Kilbride engineer doubles down on digital technology amid lockdown


Fergus Adams



What is your business called?

Dougall Baillie Associates

Where is it based?

East Kilbride

What services does it offer?

Consulting Civil, Structural and Transportation Engineering Services

To whom does it sell?

Anyone who wishes to build. Most of our clients are major national housebuilders, including Barratt, Bellway, Cala, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Stewart Milne. Housebuilding represents around 75 per cent of our work and infrastructure projects the other 25 per cent. In the BC (Before Covid-19) era, the Scottish Government, via Homes for Scotland, was targeting 35,000 new homes a year I’d like to see a revived determination to achieve that goal.

What is its turnover?

£3.3 million


How many employees?


When was it formed?

The company was formed by Willard Dougall and George Baillie in 1985. It is now in its fourth generation of ownership. In 1993, I started in the firm’s Transport Department after graduating from Glasgow University then moved over to the Civil Engineering side. In 1999 four associates in the firm agreed an internally funded management buyout of George and Willard. I became an associate in 2004 and together with Robin Duncan and Norman MacLean staged a second buyout of the business in 2009. In December 2018 I bought out Robin and Norman.

Why did you take the plunge?

Personal ambition and the opportunity that it afforded both the company and me. I was, and continue to be, exceptionally enthusiastic about running what I think is a great business.

What was your biggest break?

In 2009, as I concluded my first buyout, we were in the middle of the credit crunch and suffering severely from the downturn which hit the property sector exceptionally hard. We had begun a four-day week to prevent making redundancies. Our turnover dropped by nearly 40%. The upside, however, was winning a contract with Argyll Community Housing Association shortly after the buyout.

ACHA needed a survey of all its external areas which stretch from Cardross, outside Helensburgh, to the Isle of Mull.

It kept half the company busy for three years. That project, together with strategic projects at Union Square, Silverburn and Braehead, saved the company from making redundancies during the financial crisis and ensured that we had the full staff complement in place to take advantage of post-recession growth opportunities.

What was your worst moment?

The shock and uncertainty of Covid-19. We have elected to put a quarter of the team on furlough and have gone down to a four-day week; we have also become totally flexible on hours of work to suit everyone’s personal circumstances.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Our team, which makes the company so successful. My role, in part, is to make sure the business environment is one where staff enjoy coming to work.

What are your top priorities?

To navigate through the Covid-19 crisis, then through the inevitable recession.

Before the lockdown we tested our systems to ensure that we could effectively work remotely.

This involved upgrading our IT systems and some software packages.

Once lockdown was confirmed staff began homeworking, which was a seamless transition.

We have adopted a rigid communication structure, with each department holding programming meetings on a Monday morning. This then feeds into a management meeting in the afternoon, at which time directors and associates discuss the current workload, opportunities, future projections and any industry / client news. All meetings are held via Zoom or Teams.

We have constant discussions via Teams to maintain camaraderie and for information sharing, which helps manage loneliness, which could affect those who live alone. It also maintains the staff bond. This is further enhanced on Friday afternoons when work stops early and we (virtually) meet for a pub quiz, with a beer or glass of wine.

The situation has undoubtedly improved our communications and programming across the business, ensuring that all members of staff are fully employed, wherever possible.

No matter how hard you try, there is no substitute for face to face contact, even if it’s just to show off my lock-down beard!

Despite it all, I am tentatively positive and keen to re-commence our growth plans, alongside maintaining standards, once the economy starts up again.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Ensure that support continues to be there for first time buyers and continue to invest in infrastructure to help the construction industry make a full recovery as quickly as possible.

As we know from the last recession, investment in construction results in economic growth for the country.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Hard work.

Success is not something that comes to you, you need to invest time and effort.

How do you relax?

Currently, garden projects and spending time with the family.

Contact Info

01355 266480

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