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Client Profile - GMS (Recordings) Ltd

09 January 2012

GMS (Recordings) Limited is a third-generation family business in Falkirk, run by the McRae family, whose discovery of the power of music and advertising in the retail setting, has led to one of the country’s entrepreneurial success stories.

GMS is the UK's longest-standing provider of original artist music and associated media services. Clients include Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Co-op supermarkets and banks, Moss Bros, Trespass, Magnet, Bradford & Bingley, Esporta Health Clubs, Planet Ice, Manchester United, Holiday Inn, Hilton, and Gleneagles Hotel.

In its current form, the company was founded in 1976, by Managing Director Finlay McRae and his father, Malcolm.  They were joined in 1979, by Finlay’s brother Alistair, and since then Finlay and Alistair’s wives have both joined the business and so has Finlay’s daughter, Heather. However, its origins date back to a decade earlier when a botched marzipan order by Malcolm, who owned a supermarket in Graham’s Road in Falkirk, provided the inspiration for GMS.

GMS Sales and Marketing Director, Heather McRae explains: “Every year my grandfather would place his usual Christmas order for marzipan, which in those days was a gross (144 units), but on one occasion he accidentally ordered a gross of a gross, which was the equivalent of 144 years’ worth of marzipan! My grandmother was a very well-spoken lady, and in a moment of inspiration and desperation, they made a tape-recording with music interspersed with Grandma informing shoppers that marzipan wasn’t just for Christmas, and recommending some baking suggestions. The marzipan sold out within a few weeks, and seeing how successful the idea had been, my grandfather offered to make recordings for other retailers.”

The McRae family have had to continuously upgrade their products and services throughout the last four decades, constantly keeping pace with the dramatic changes in the music business.  CDs replaced tapes, programmable multi-play systems have replaced long play, and more recently hard-disk solutions and Internet downloads have replaced CDs.

“We are always adjusting our services to keep pace with the latest innovations, the most recent alteration being the addition of music video playback, alongside the previously available video-based advertising, enabling clients to essentially display a customised “music TV” channel.  Another development involved teaming up with Orange to deliver mobile broadband, so that clients who don’t have open Internet facilities for security reasons, such as banks, could still have full access to our services.”

Just as the technology has evolved, the family dynamics have also evolved to meet the changing needs of the business. Heather McRae (29) who has a business degree from Lancaster University left a position at BAE Systems to oversee the design and implementation of Internet-based technology on behalf of GMS. “My father is very entrepreneurial but he needed someone who understood the Internet and the possibilities that offered our business. I grew up with the family business and I always felt extremely privileged that he chose to discuss it with me so I had a good understanding of the issues and I am delighted that I am now able to contribute to the next stage of its development.”

Heather’s sister, Kirsty (27) has no desire to enter the family business. She played tennis at Wimbledon and is the Scottish Lawn Tennis Association’s North of Scotland Development Officer, based in Stirling. Heather’s younger brother Calum (20), however, is studying Economics at St Andrews University and is very keen to join the family business.  “Calum is very driven and commercially-minded and there is a strong possibility that he will take over the running of the business from my father. I would be very comfortable with that, because what matters is what’s best for the business.  I would then work alongside him, concentrating on the marketing side.”

“The younger generation have always been involved in the business, and we gradually take on new roles as the time becomes right for the business and the family.  Springfords are very proactive in raising potential issues, and looking at new areas of opportunity for us, and we gain particular value out of the client workshops that they run on a variety of subjects, including the one on family business, earlier this year.  We don’t have any succession plans written down, but are aware of the need to be constantly considering the next steps, and have plenty of support, not least from Springfords, to enable us to do this in a balanced manner.”

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