Back in 2006, Jimmy Buchan and his trawler Amity 2 were the stars of BBC One’s Trawlermen, traversing the Devil’s Hole, one of the most hazardous areas of the North Sea. He’s now got his feet back on shore as founder of the Amity Fish Company, and he tells us what his life is like now.
What is it the company does?
Amity Fish Co Limited is a Peterhead-based business operating since 2010. We procure fresh and frozen fish for the food service sector.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is to ensure we are purchasing fish from sustainable sources from accredited fish processors and then organise the logistics for delivery.
This could be several tonnes of fish, or a few kilograms of fish depending on the customer.
As well as following the supply chain beginning to end, I also have to manage the administration and daily office work of a growing business. New product development takes up some of my time as well as managing the onshore operations of my fishing trawler Amity.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I left school aged 16 to embark on a career at sea. Some 10 years later I bought my first trawler named ‘Amity’ and aged 26, and set out into the business world.
In that period, the fishing industry had endured some very difficult seasons with fishing quotas being heavily regulated, however adapting to change and seeking new opportunities has made me stronger and a smarter business man.
In 2006, myself, my crew and Amity took part in the popular BBC documentary series, Trawlermen. This showed the public just how tough life at sea was and I was proud to help spread that message.
Aged 50, I decided to go back to college and further my skill set by enrolling in a two-year course in business management. This would prepare me for my change from the wheelhouse to a life at a desk.
Marketing has been a key component in building my Amity brand supply chain and has benefitted the business hugely.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
A great leader is someone that can command your attention as a speaker whilst taking you in the direction that he believes will benefit you. A leader provides a package – he/she is well presented and makes you believe in their direction of travel. They have to encompass an all-consuming vision of where they want to be and where they want their team to be.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge for me is managing the cash flow. Pertinent to that is keeping creditors on a strict 30 day account so that there is cash flowing through the business to pay debtors.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Sometimes taking the dog for a walk and thinking things over can help, but we are human and therefore stress is part of our daily routine. Perhaps it is there all the time but it is being managed in a way that I’m not noticing – I’m subconsciously alleviating stress!
I’m a very positive person and I can’t complain as when I was fishing out at sea for days, I was responsible for my life and my crews on a daily basis. Now being based shore-side, armed with wisdom, I can manage my stress more effectively.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A fisherman, of course… all day, every day. I never doubted for one moment that I could not achieve that dream and I am humbled to say that I have reached my goal. I just strive to continue to progress and further myself.
Any pet hates in the workplace?
What do you do about them? My main pet hate is ungrateful people. Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself is my motto; lead by example and never ask anyone to do what you’re not prepared to do yourself. This ethos has served me well over the years.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Hopefully as a well-known seafood supplier employing people and contributing to the local economy. Amity Food Company is already known as a brand of quality but pivotal to continuing to progressing this in the minds of the consumer is ensuring that the product is superior.
My commitment to sustainability and provenance has never faltered and I want to continue to be a voice for the industry and promote the very best of Scottish produce. Our Amity single whole tail Scottish breaded langoustine tails are up for the ‘Best New Foodservice Product’ award at the North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards this week. Being nominated for awards such as this help build our brand and reputation.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling and take that chance to introduce yourself to new and exciting opportunities. Don’t be afraid.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out? To go beyond my comfort zone and don’t be afraid to take risks. In fishing we have a saying: ‘Fortune favours the brave’, or in other words, those that take biggest risks usually reap better rewards.