For Paul West and Peter Coy, co-operation with a rival was the only way to get their business off the ground. The pair founded Westco, an air-conditioning contractor, in 1995 with only £400 after their previous employer went bust. They did not have the cash to set up their own manufacturing facilities so they approached a cash-rich competitor, FCS. ‘I had the contacts and sales drive and they had the finances. So we put our services together and split the profits 50-50,’ says West. Westco, which now has its own factory in Milton Keynes, designs, manufactures and installs large air-conditioning systems for the likes of Canary Wharf and ABN Amro. It claims it can complete complex projects quickly and within budget. Sales grew 157% a year from £413,000 in 1997 to £7m in 2000, when it had 100 staff.
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