A company boss is hoping to take his firm to new heights after bouncing back from serious health problems to return to the hot seat.
Bill Abbott set up Hydrochem back in 1987 having spent many years working as a chemical engineer across the Middle East.
Having worked in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Libya as well as Russia, Bill moved into a manager role with a UK water company in Saudi Arabia where he played a key role in helping raise turnover from £100,000 with just two staff on board to an £8m business with a 30-strong team inside two years.
Armed with a wealth of experience, North East-born Bill returned home in 1987 to set up Hydrochem, firstly into a British Steel-owned workshop and then into the firm’s current base in Graythorp Industrial Estate, Hartlepool, which lies just a stone’s throw from Teesside’s industrial heartland.
The business, which specialises in water treatment and boasts the likes of Bannatyne’s, Bourne Leisure and Marriott Hotels on its client list, has had an impressive year so far and has been forced to increase the workforce to reflect a busy order book.
Bill is delighted to see the business progressing so well, not least after facing a personal fight of his own after he was struck down with bowel cancer two years ago.
“It puts things into perspective when the doctor tells you that you have cancer,” said Bill, who is married to Terri and dad to Clare and Paul.
“I hadn’t felt well for a while, and people were telling me to go to the doctor’s. Terri is a nurse, and she was very concerned.
“I went in eventually, and was admitted immediately to hospital. They rattled through the tests and did everything they needed to do, the results came back and then they told me the news.
“It certainly makes you see things differently when you get news like that. I’d worked all my life, we had our problems with the business as all businesses do, but we had come through it and everything was all very positive.
“Then you get a bombshell like that, it’s hard to describe. I was probably close to selling the business, but you think about the people that work there and what would happen to them, you go through all the emotions.
“We had a business plan, things were in place for the next few months. But cancer wasn’t on that plan.
“The priority had to be getting through the operation. When you’re lying in that hospital bed prior to having the operation and you hear the experts telling you that there’s a 50/50 chance of coming out the other side, you just have to put your faith in people.”
Thankfully, Bill came through the operation and two years down the line his specialists are happy with his progress.
He has gradually eased his way back into work over the last few months, and is determined to look forward rather than back as he aims to take Hydrochem to the next level.
“It’s a tough industry to be in, but everywhere you look there is water. We look after leisure centres, hotels, schools, basically anywhere with a heating or water system.
“We have to stay ahead of the field, there is a lot of competition and when it comes to diagnosing problems with things like boilers, heaters, air conditioning units and the likes, there is no room for error with things like Legionnaire’s Disease.”
While the majority of businessmen like to wind down with a game of golf, Bill adopts the same philosophy away from the desk by setting his sights high.
“I’ve got my pilot’s licence, and I have a part share in a light aircraft with some friends,” he added.
“I fly all over the place when I get the chance. It’s a four-seater plane so sometimes I have Terri with me, other times I’m on my own.
“I started off with a flying lesson which I was given as a present, then I took more advanced lessons with an instructor.
“I passed seven exams in areas ranging from from air law to navigation to radio, and once you have those qualifications under your belt you are qualified to fly yourself and passengers,.
“We’ve had a couple of bumpy rides, I must admit, but that was more to do with the weather than my ability behind the controls!
“You literally can get away from everything up there. Early on weekend mornings before breakfast I sometimes fly frfom Teesside airport across the Pennines, over the Lake District, up over Carlisle and then back down over Holy Island down the Northumberland coastline before seeing Hartlepool waking up.
“You’re up there for three or four hours at a time, I absolutely love it and there’s no better way to escape from the daily grind. It certainly beats golf!”