AN ambitious entrepreneur who has doubled the revenues of his business services firm in two years has his eyes on national expansion.
Glaswegian former shop assistant David Harper came to the North East for a job selling advertising in 1998 before meeting experienced Newcastle training consultant George Heydon.
They set up Talent Training in Gateshead a decade ago and developed the business to employ around 40 staff organising the training of hundreds of apprentices from across the region every year. Harper, who left school with no qualifications at 15, renamed the business HarperCo after buying out Heydon’s half-share two years ago.
He has expanded its range of services through a series of acquisitions and joint ventures and now employs more than 100 people.
“I’m looking to take on new companies and grow ones within the group to have a national business within a couple of years,” he said.
“I saw the demand for apprenticeships a couple of years ago and focused on that. I look where there’s demand in the market and listen to our customers and we move into new areas. I want to be turning over £100m by 2015.”
The 31-year-old says he expects sales to grow by £6m this year and has acquisitions in his sights and is talking to City financiers about raising the money he needs for the next stage of growth.
The company no longer concentrates solely on apprenticeships, although it has won national contracts with the public sector and big names including Argos, DHL and Harrods for training staff.
Harper is looking to continue to capitalise on its success and is developing courses for staff which focus on environmentally friendly practises which are increasingly popular with many large companies.
Last year he bought Hemel Hempstead firm Vetting Solutions Centre and began a joint venture with a Glasgow software firm to create a system he says dramatically decreases the time it takes for public sector organisations and companies to vet potential staff.
This business already has a multi-million pound turnover and national customer base.
His Hebburn-based group also contains a consultancy which delivers a leadership programme headed by Clive Alderson, which is winning business nationwide.
And he is currently looking at a headhunting business which he says will be built out of his strong relationships with large businesses nationwide.