ON Bill Scott’s first day as an apprentice plater, there was no induction, no health and safety instruction – just a rather blunt introduction to his working life.

“If you think you’ve come here to be trained, you’re wrong, you’re here to make us money, work hard and play hard, but don’t play here” he was told.

In the manufacturing processes that Middlesbrough-born Bill has repeated every day of his working life, he would study the process and then time himself until he could complete the task more efficiently using smart thinking.

“I did make them money,” he recalls. “When I was 18, the owner of the company told me I would end up as managing director. He saw something in me, and to be told that as a teenager was something to aspire to.”

Bill has an infectious blend of enthusiasm and competitiveness combined with a desire to do the best job possible.

Those same principles remain with him as CEO of Wilton Universal Group, a multi-discipline engineering services provider operating from a 54 acre site by the side of the Tees at Port Clarence – in the shadow of the iconic Tees Transporter Bridge.

Aged 18, he vowed he would one day set up his own company and set about learning every aspect of the job. Following his apprenticeship, he was head-hunted three times by various engineering firms, each time gaining valuable experience on high profile projects in a number of senior production, quality and offshore installation positions, finally ending up as works manager.

He was 32 when he teamed up with business partner Steve Glenn to set up Wilton Engineering.

“I had a young family at the time, but I knew I had all the attributes to succeed.”

He was told by three major banks that his business plan was over-ambitious but eventually secured an overdraft, but both he and Steve had to put their homes up as collateral. However, with typical enthusiasm and confidence, Bill said: “Our wives just signed the papers and we cracked on with it.” They founded what is now Wilton Universal Group.

Wilton Engineering was established in 1994, followed in 1999 by Universal Coatings and Wilton Marine Services in 2000. In 2006 then took a huge leap of faith buying the former 54 acre Swan Hunter facility, in 2008 the group acquired PD & MS in Aberdeen.

The group, which specialised in the oil and gas industry, was going from strength to strength and, with a workforce of 870 and a turnover of £84m, achieved the feat of being the North-East’s fastest growing company two years running in 2011 and 2012.

However, in 2014 Wilton was badly hit when oil prices slumped from $140 a barrel to $30 and over the next four years work dried up.

This led to a major reorganisation and change in direction. Undaunted, Bill led the diversification into the renewable energy sector – taking up the challenge to break into the fledgling offshore wind industry.

However, the group has quickly developed a reputation for delivering quality products on time and on budget and is now a key player in the offshore wind energy supply chain.

Earlier this summer, Wilton Engineering successfully completed 21 transition pieces, each weighing 430 tonnes, for Orsted’s Hornsea Project One windfarm site off the Yorkshire coast.

The group, which currently employs about 200 people, is currently bidding for a number of offshore projects.

He is particularly proud of his Teesside roots and of the wider North-East and devotes much time to giving something back to the community, having raised many thousands of pounds for charity and working closely with schools and youngsters with learning difficulties. He received a Teesside Hero award and a community award for community work.

Bill is also a patron of Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation which he is very proud to be associated with. They have raised £3m and spent £2.5m which has gone directly in to support the community of Teesside.

Bill’s achievements include; North-East Business Executive of the Year, Entrepreneurs Forum and Ernst Young Entrepreneur of the Year, IOD NE Director of the Year, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Teesside University and more recently received an OBE in the 2019 New Year Honours. Bill also finds the time to mentor local start-up businesses.

“I’ve never had a bad day at work in 41 years as I just go to work and enjoy every day with a smile. When I look back and think about the journey, not just for me but for the whole team around me, I’m truly amazed.

“There are much bigger companies with much bigger achievements but that doesn’t bother me. You can only be the best you can be.”

Five minutes with... Bill Scott

Favourite North-East building and why?

Mine has got to be more of an iconic statement piece, so therefore it’s got to be the Transporter Bridge because it’s the status symbol of Teesside and when I see it, I’m home.


What was your first job and how much did you get paid?

I was a paperboy at 13 and was paid 87p a week for seven days a week … my first ever negotiation was to increase it by 15% per cent to £1 with a free Mars Bar and a can of coke every day I worked. Bizarrely my first real job was as an apprentice where I earned 87p an hour and I remember thinking I was rich!

Worst job you’ve had?

I’ve very fortunate, I’ve never had a bad job always enjoyed it and the more challenging it is, the more I enjoy it.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner?

I love cooking so you could basically place an order for anything that takes your fancy but if I had to choose it would probably involve fish.

What would your superpower be?

Create world peace and harmony, cure all terminal illnesses, stop famine, obliterate plastics, solve global warming, have Middlesbrough win the European Cup and sort Brexit out!

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party.

That’s a real interesting one as I would absolutely love to have dinner with family members who I loved dearly and were inspirational to me but sadly passed away. They would be my mum, grandma, grandad and my father-in-law Maurice.

Most expensive thing you’ve bought – other than car or house – and how much?

I bought a watch but would be too embarrassed to say how much it was.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?

Difficult to single one out, I just like the short sharp punchiness of Twitter.

Favourite book?

Born to Run by Christopher McDougal, it’s about a hidden tribe of super athletes and a good one to read if you want inspiration before running a marathon.

When did you last cry?

The last time I really cried was four years ago, five years after I had lost my mum, apparently I’d jumped straight back into work and had hidden my grief deep inside, then a business coach unleashed that grief.

What is your greatest achievement?

It’s got to be being a father to two amazing girls.

What’s the best piece of advice in business you’ve ever been given?

“Cash is king”, always has been and always will be.

Favourite animal and why.

I guess it’s a dog because of the unconditional love between dog and owner. My dog would sit at the front door for more than an hour waiting for me to come home.

Most famous person on your mobile phone.

Sir Michael Fallon, he’s been hugely supportive in gaining traction over improving the Offshore Wind Sector.

Last band you saw live?

That would be Madness when they played at Hardwick Hall.

Describe your perfect night in.

Having a small group of close friends round for a curry and a beer.

In another life I would be ...

Do you know I wouldn’t change a thing.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

Michael Jackson, complete with glove – we had the same haircut when I was 18 and he wasn’t a bad dancer either.

What irritates you?

People who drive slowly in the outside lane of a dual carriageway or motorway, totally oblivious to what they are doing and I think texting while driving should be an instant three month ban.

What’s your secret talent?

I’m a “nifty” Northern Soul dancer.