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Family-focused approach fires growth for metal finishing firm

You’d be forgiven for not instantly recognising The Almit Group as one of the region’s industrial dynamos.

Modest and unassuming by nature, the Darlington-based family-run metal finishing business has gone from strength to strength since it was established in 1981. The company has just been listed in Ward Hadaway’s 2021 North East Fastest 50.

“Our very first employee, who joined in 1982, is still with us now – she’s our health and safety manager,” says Mark, who runs the business alongside his two brothers, technical director Stephen Mitchell and financial director Allan Mitchell. “Many of our team have been here for 15 to 20 years – a reflection, I think, of the traditional values and ethos Almit was built upon.”

Allan Mitchell Senior, Mark’s dad, started the business 40 years ago. Back then, it was a small metal finishing plant in Aycliffe. As his dad got busier, Almit’s services grew, and they entered the wet spray paint and powder coating sectors. In 1995, the Mitchell brothers joined the business, taking on a joint leadership role as Mitchell Senior stepped back.

“I remember when we were little, my dad used to go down to the plant all day, come home, enjoy his tea with us and go back there until the small hours,” explains Mark. “If anyone personified what it takes to run a successful business, it’s our dad. He has strong family values that he’s instilled within each of us and he carried them into the business too. If you want something, you need to put the hours in, graft, but, most importantly, treat everyone – whether that’s your staff, customers, your supply partners or competitors – how you wish to be treated. Respect them. Try to help them.”

And, living by that rule, The Almit Group is clearly doing something right. By 2013, the business had three different sites. The original one in Aycliffe, which was extended in 1999, a specialist coatings facility in Shildon, established in 2005 and a wet paint spraying plant that was added two years later.

It was 2013 when the business reached a pivotal moment in its growth trajectory. It opened a 200,000 square foot state-of-the art facility in Darlington, where existing sites were merged into one. The Group also built an inhouse anodising plant due to growing demand for anodising services from long-serving customers.

“After we purchased the site, it took another four years to completely move in,” says Mark. “We renovated it and upgraded a lot of our machinery too. It’s been a game changer for us in terms of production and how much we can deliver at scale and quickly. The best thing about it all though is that most of our customers have been with us since the beginning, they’ve grown as we have. We’re a team. Most of our business comes from repeat customers and they stay with us for the duration. To us, that means more than any profit margins or turnover increase.”

Customer liaison director Mark Mitchell of The Almit Group meets Stephen McNicol, Client Services Partner at Ward Hadaway

The Almit Group now employs around 100 people with 65% of its business focused on powder coat finishing. The other 35% comprises wet paint spraying, anodising and electro-plating. Retention of people and customers is high and there’s a resolute focus on delivering high quality products, at speed, with the kind of bespoke care that industrial manufacturing is rarely known for.

Stephen McNicol, Client Services Partner at Ward Hadaway, said: “The Mitchell family have built a great business, with a solid strategy and strong moral compass, and I am delighted to see this reflected in their results in our Fastest 50. Even with their rapid growth and huge success they have steadfastly retained and promoted the qualities that their people, customers and suppliers know them for – excellence, empathy and experience – all of which are evident from the first time you walk through the door and meet the team.”

In the last five years, the business has grown steadily by 10% each year, attracting new customers and gradually growing its highly skilled team of workers.

Mark said: “My dad has always said, be genuine and be fair and that’s exactly how we run the business. We’re not driven by making money on every job. We don’t have a marketing team or even a sales pitch. We don’t need one. We simply want to support local people and local businesses by providing the best service we can, delivering the products they want. Fairness in everything we do is what matters. That and helping people out when they need it the most.”

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