LDC Top 50 2023
After getting his pilot’s licence, Mark Copley considered a career in aviation, but his father convinced him to join Copley Scientific, the family business founded in 1946 and now the world’s leading manufacturer of inhaler test equipment. He started out as a technical sales manager then rose up the ranks to become CEO.
Under his watch, the business has pivoted from retailing low-margin laboratory products in the UK to producing niche inhaler testing equipment for pharmas in 100 countries. “It isn’t money that motivates me, it’s developing pioneering products that help improve people’s lives. If something has our family name on it, I want to be proud of it,” Copley says.
Developing pioneering products that help improve people’s lives is what motivates me. If something has our family name on it, I want to be proud of it.”
What sets your business apart?
We have a 16,000 sq. ft premises in Nottingham where we assemble and quality-control all our products. We only employ 35 people. That’s the beauty of manufacturing specialised, high-value, low-volume products: our average gross profit margin is 55 per cent. We supply about 1,200 customers and more than 90 per cent of sales are outside the UK.
What’s the toughest part about running a family business?
My father is 75 and he has been a great mentor to me but we used to argue a lot about the business. There came a point a couple of years ago when I had overtaken him and he needed to step back. We had a frank, emotional conversation and it felt like the end of an era. He still has his own office though!
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a business leader?
I joined Copley Scientific when I was 22 and it has been a labour of love for more than two decades. I suffered from burnout recently and it was a real eye-opener. It taught me that I don’t need to be involved in the day-to-day business decisions; we have a great team and my value comes from focussing on strategy and succession. I hired an MD earlier this year and a big part of my role now is making sure the business is resilient without me.