Well grounded in the attic and hoping to climb higher

Climbing to the top is what business is all about for the Attic Group. For 37 years, the attic ladder and storage business has forged its way as a family-owned and operated company.

Climbing to the top is what business is all about for the Attic Group. For 37 years, the attic ladder and storage business has forged its way as a family-owned and operated company.

But that all changed last year when founder John Stewart told his management board he would be going into semi-retirement. The board, which includes John's son Robert, began looking for a general manager.

Enter Andrew Strachan, a 37-year-old wood machinist by trade, who came across the role through a recruitment agency and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The Attic Group had a succession plan and Mr Strachan was interviewed for the role of general manager on the premise he might ultimately fill the role of chief executive.

"John has nine grandchildren and doesn't want to come into work every day any more," Mr Strachan said. "He's built a very successful business and he's done an incredibly good job."

Robert Stewart, who was part of Mr Strachan's interview panel, is the company's Victorian manager and his daughter Rebecca co-ordinates the company's home shows.

Mr Strachan said it was daunting coming into the top level of a family business.

"In some ways, John's children report to me," he said. "Robert's first words to me when I joined the business were 'I support you 500 per cent'.

"It's not easy to bring in change, new ways of doing things and try to open people's eyes to new markets. So yes, it has been tough ... But it's rewarding overcoming some of the hurdles and tackling roadblocks."

Mr Strachan was appointed last July. He previously worked as the business development manager at Australian Portable Homes and sales manager at Clarendon Homes while studying for a degree in building. He then went to Royal Wolf shipping containers, where he was part of a team that devised the company's initial public offering. In a hugely successful debut, the 2011 float generated $91.5 million for the container group.

Mr Strachan plans to carry that business know-how over to the Attic Group.

"Our business has been very much focused on the mum and dad market, the traditional home owners and what I want to do is take it into a higher-volume market by bringing it to the builders," he said.

Mr Strachan said John Stewart had tried upgrading the business, but with limited success.

"So what I'm bringing to the table is a new level of business with the help of contacts I've worked with in the past," he said.

Founded in Sydney, the Attic Group has branches in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. It employs 50 staff and more than 30 full-time contractors.

The company's most common job is installing the basic attic ladder and providing attic storage areas for an average $2500.