Brief History: joined Morton Fraser as a tousled, red-haired “apprentice” in 1976 and became a partner in 1981; created an in-house relocation business in 1987; served as Chief Executive from 1996 to 1999; departed in 2002 on sale of relocation business to Team Relocations; grey-haired Managing Director of Team since 2002 to date. Wow …. that was quick!
It may be tempting to think of a 1970s legal office as something closer to Dickens than to Quartermile, but my overriding memories are actually of very smart Solicitors working damn hard to satisfy demanding clients. I worked for Partners with immense patience and a genuine desire to encourage and develop me. (Note to self: never thanked John [Wightman], Hugh [Henderson] or David [Stewart] sufficiently – sort it, with some decent whisky, in 2012). Even the Assistant Solicitors in 1976 appeared to me to be intellectual giants (actually turned out that they were – Bruce and Leonard, I guess I owe you big time too!).
Above all, I had a great guide, mentor and drinking buddy in George [Clark] – the kindest of men, whose love of Abba was his only noticeable flaw.
Oddly, my biggest debt of gratitude to Morton Fraser is probably the “space” they allowed me to develop my entrepreneurial talents. It may have been the decade of shiny capitalism, but even in the 1980s I can’t think of another law firm which would have allowed a young, high-billing Partner to take several months away from client work to test out an idea for a new business venture. (My partner-in-crime in this venture was so badly scarred by the experience that she opted for a career in HR – sorry Elspeth!).
Fortunately for me (and my partners) the business, which we called Morton Fraser Relocation, turned out to be a success, though I still had to do penance later in the form of stints as Finance Partner and Chief Executive.
So does any of this influence the way I do business today?
The answer is a resounding yes. The starting point has to be an ingrained belief in the importance of honesty and integrity in business. It carries on through an almost boyish enthusiasm for encouraging and developing staff and working in an open and collegiate way with senior colleagues. If this is sounding a bit utopian, Morton Fraser also taught me the “hard stuff”, like understanding the bottom line and managing risk. I also learned the importance of saying “thanks”!
Ultimately, and with all due respect to Morton Fraser, my real business guru remains Woody Allen, who got it spot on when he said “80% of success is turning up”. My cunning plan is to keep “turning up” for a few more years.
Gordon KerrJanuary, 2012
PS My wife, Gill, has just pointed out something else I gained at Morton Fraser.
Erm ……… my wife.