A REFRIGERATION company has come in out of the cold after a remarkable turnaround. When a major customer pulled out of a maintenance contract after 17 years, it cost Industrial Refrigeration Services, of Bromsgrove, 65 per cent of its business and almost half its workforce. Three years later, in spite of the recession, the company has not only set new sales and profits records but now employs more staff than ever.

IRS was set up by engineer, Mark Parsons, 23 years ago and soon after won an important refrigeration maintenance contract with chocolate maker Cadbury, which quickly became its biggest customer. But 17 years later, the acquisition of Cadbury by food giant Kraft changed everything.

“That was a tough day,” said Mr Parsons. “By the end of it we realised we had lost 65 per cent of our business. We knew it was coming but it still left us in a state of shock.”

Mr Parsons and his partners, Dan Downes and Trevor Owen, had to fight hard to recover from the blow that set them back a decade. The company’s strength in innovative technology and engineering began to win new customers but it realised it needed more help.

At the end of last year, IFS called in Bob Brown, the Worcestershire partner of the business advisory group, CMC Partners. He carried out a detailed review of IRS’s business and then put in place some formal structures and processes, starting with regular monthly board meetings.

The transformation since has been dramatic. IRS has recently won a number of significant new projects including the renewal and extension of a three year contract with a major UK food producer, more than doubling its previous value.

With sales and profits now reaching an all-time high and staff numbers back up to 23, IRS is continuing to innovate and to work with customers to implement more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

“Like so many small businesses, we were just running on gut instinct and had no real strategy,” said Mr Parsons. “We are now in much better shape to respond to these opportunities.”