This Business Briefing is the first in a series of interviews with key people in our organisation. It is designed to find out more about them and for them to air their thoughts on Seed Environmental, the market and business in general. Here we talk to Andrew Matley, Joint Founder and Director.
Andrew has managed hundreds of pollution incidents over the past 10 years from large oil and agricultural losses into surface water bodies to oil losses within buildings.
He is a specialist in managing building remediation projects as he has significant knowledge of building construction and how liquid and gas contaminants migrate through, in and around structures.
On that specific subject Andrew has the following advice: “it is important to understand not just the contaminant but how it moves and interacts with the built environment. Mobile liquid contaminants can have devastating impact on buildings and it is imperative that investigation and remediation is completed in a thorough manner to protect the building and its occupants now and in the future”.
Andrew, what prompted you to set up Seed Environmental?
My now business partner, Matthew Watts, and I were working as principal consultants in a competitive business and we felt that we would do it better if we went out on our own. At the beginning of your business journey you don’t know what you don’t know so we had no fear really.
We met a few prospective clients and discussed what services they liked and those that they didn’t that were offered in the market at that time. We used this feedback to hone a transparent, pragmatic service that made sure there were no nasty surprises for the client when invoices were submitted at the end of a project.
One early meeting provided a real moment of clarity for me. Having discussed our proposed service the client commented that if we did just what we said we were going to do, we would be successful. The advice was so simple yet it has driven the thought processes in our business all the time.
What is the biggest challenge you have seen and overcome?
Maintaining operational excellence during a continued period of rapid growth. We have always insisted on employing the most experienced and highly regarded individuals who deliver excellence daily and we have found the availability of good staff within the industry has significantly dropped following the financial crisis of 2008.
As a result, we have had to work hard to cherry pick the most experienced, rated, successful individuals not just to manage and complete projects but to train up the next generation of our staff. The best people are at an absolute premium, so we have worked hard to create and maintain an environment that the they want to be part of. We have also found that it is about much more than money – a positive and ambitious culture is vital. Our senior people provide leadership and ongoing development for our staff and we are rewarded by their continued output of accurate, safe, effective results. As we continue to expand we are reliant on and proud of our growing work force.
What are your ambitions for the business?
We have a clear strategy in place which builds on what we do now and allows for natural extensions to the business over the next few years. However, in the short term our focus is on the continued growth of the company to provide a national service with a rapid response to any pollution incident anywhere, anytime within the UK. We are very driven by ensuring that we maintain focus on the provision of our core services for our clients.
As we grow we aim to exploit our market position and the skills and experience of our work force to identify and infiltrate analogous/similar markets. Our sister companies, like Seed Asbestos Services and Seed Drilling Services, are now operational and are successful in a number of associated markets offering services like site monitoring and investigation, commercial remediation, asbestos surveying and removal, construction projects including refurbishment, maintenance, OFTEC servicing and installation and general construction.
Where has the business got to in its development?
We left the “start-up” phase behind long ago, but we aren’t yet a “mature” business as we are still learning new things and facing new challenges associated with growth. Our support functions like Finance, IT, HR and Marketing are now all run by experienced people who know way more than Matt and I do and that is exciting because it means we have a team of senior people in the business who we trust.
We have been sensible about managing cash flow and not over extending ourselves but at the same time we have been ambitious and the investment we made (and continue to make) in our people is really paying off.
What do you think makes the big difference at Seed Environmental?
Without doubt it is our people who operate at all levels across our company. No one role is more or less important than another. We need everyone in the company to ensure we are able to offer the complete service that we do.
Our consultants play an important role in delivering the technical knowledge required to plan, organise and successfully deliver projects in continually evolving environments. At the same time, they have to communicate with all parties, be they loss adjusters, property owners, regulators or any number of contractors. Our site staff are absolutely fundamental to our operations. They are the face of the company for much of a project and we rely on them, not just to deliver our projects in an expert manner, but to do so with a positive can-do attitude. We employ a wide range of people in groundworks, civils construction, remediation systems, finishing, OFTEC and much more. I value all our team very highly and feel lucky that they are with us, delivering high standards every day.
The people on our Board have a huge wealth of experience gained from different businesses and we see this as vital to us being a rounded organisation. Jon Axisa combines his experience with one of our competitors and being a former loss adjuster. Simon Lee, our operations director, has years of experience in property and construction (even having a spell running zoos!) which has enabled him to streamline our operations and become a lot more efficient. Adrian Bhreathnach is second to none in his knowledge of designing and constructing remediation programmes, having earned his spurs with ARCADIS (he has an MBA too!). Roger McKerlie, who heads up business development and marketing is another MBA who has run and successfully sold his own business. The experience we have round the Boardroom table is amazing. Karen Rusk heads up HR for the business and is a fully qualified HR practitioner holding the postgraduate CIPD PDS. She started her career with Pipex Internet as an HR Advisor where she studied for her CIPD qualifications, before moving on to TUI UK & I where she gained invaluable experience working across a number of different business areas.