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Growth snowballs for gritting business

Loughborough-based gritting business Weatherwise Services has seen a whopping 157% increase in turnover in the last four years of trading. It started in 2017 with just two vehicles covering 36 sites and now has 14 vehicles over 250 sites. You could say that growth has been rapid for directors, Tim Grainger and Andrew Martin. As it reaches its fifth anniversary the business is transforming both digitally and operationally to combat rising costs, improve efficiency and continue growing.

Tim hadn’t set out to run his own business. Originally from a sales and recruitment background, a chance meeting in a pub introduced him to the gritting business. He decided to become a driver at the same time as having a full-time job in facilities. Then in July 2017, Tim officially took over the business and set up Weatherwise Services with his partner Andrew.

Weatherwise provide a personalised winter gritting and snow clearance service to private customers. It works with partners to cover sites for the likes of PepsiCo and DHL, as well as independently for Leicester City Football Club, The Langdale Group and many others. During the winter months, Tim gets surface temperature forecasts, by postcode, from the Met Office. This is emailed out to clients and if the site reaches its trigger point for that night, they go out and grit.

Geographically the business covers sites from Sheffield down to Northampton with a focus on the Midlands. During the season Tim and Andrew are available 24/7 managing a team of 18 contractors with vehicles holding loads from 3,500 to 26,000 tonnes. Tim is in the office now managing sales, finance and marketing while Andrew looks after operations including organising the vehicles, drivers, loading and dealing with breakdowns.

Tim was introduced to the Business Gateway Growth Hub and Adviser Joanna Moore following a networking event. He explains: “I needed support on how to manage the growth and stop pulling my hair out! Time is the biggest thing I didn’t have. A lot of this was down to software. Computerisation was a big issue for me, but just talking to Jo and going through things helped; it’s one area I’ve worked on this year. We’ve now got a new CRM that integrates with our website, email and enquiries and this has made life easier.

“We’re also nearly there with a new operating system which allows us to schedule daily. Scheduling driver routes normally takes me about three hours a day but with the new system, it will take about ten minutes. I’ve been looking at this before, but it was all down to Jo that we identified this area would create more time.”

When the season ends things don’t stop for the business. Tim is still working 7 days a week, apart from a few weeks off for family holidays. Summer is a time for developing new clients, overhauling equipment, replacing wagons and refurbishing.

This year Tim has been working on digital marketing to communicate with new and existing customers. He’s also switched from a manual to an online accounting package. He continued: “I’d say one of our greatest strengths is communication and keeping in touch with our clients. But as our portfolio expands, I’m not convinced I’ll have the same amount of time to do that or develop new clients. These are some of my drivers for going digital. Getting it out of my head and off bits of paper so anyone could do it was what I need.”

Weatherwise had a difficult 21/22 season with fuel prices soaring and the price of salt going from £56/tonne to £99/tonne mid-season. So, time management, becoming more efficient and going digital has been key to their future success. And despite the challenges, it was their best year yet!

Tim continues: “The support from the Business Gateway has allowed me to see a broader picture and understand what I need to do to control the issues concerning me. The biggest thing is clarity, which has been invaluable – clarity of thought and action. I’ve never had a business plan since we started, we have one now and that’s down to support from Jo. She’s been incredibly helpful.”

Business Adviser, Joanna Moore commented: “When growth comes rapidly to a business it’s great news but without the right systems, tools or knowledge it can also lead to all sorts of operational and people issues.

“I’ve been able to signpost Tim to many relevant workshops and he has put together a growth strategy so he knows where the business is and where it wants to be. Our 1-to-1 meetings have covered many areas including recruitment, improving processes, marketing, building digital knowledge and more. It’s been a pleasure supporting him and I wish Weatherwise more success going forward.”

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Image: top right: l-r Weatherwise directors Andy Martin, Tim Grainger with Business Adviser, Joanna Moore and one of their 26,000-tonne gritting vehicles.

Pic 2: Let’s hit the road: l-r Andy Martin, Tim Grainger, Joanna Moore at the Weatherwise yard.

three people with gritting truck

Pic 3: Getting ready for winter: Weatherwise Services directors l-r Tim Grainer and Andy Martin

Image of two men in front of gritting truck