An insight in to Hortech Ltd by Duncan Jones, Director
Hortech is now in its 30th year of trading and from humble beginnings has grown in to a national grounds maintenance provider with extended service lines, operating predominately in the FM and utility sector.
Way back in 1987 we were a specialist weed control company focusing on quality and safety working directly with the end users and providing a single specialist service line, very niche. Of course this was a time when many clients let contracts direct by service line, clients like Northwest Water (later United Utilities) and ICI Wilton (now Wilton International). However by the late 90’s the world of service contracting was changing as more and more of our clients where outsourcing their noncore activities to FM providers. Bundling service lines and using preferred suppliers. There was little room for a one trick pony, no matter how good that trick was. This did not sit well with us at first, it took us far away from our comfort zone and initially we did not understand the rules of the game. We did know that a single service provider was not what the FM world needed or wanted. But we did see our own worth and the opportunities and the potential. We just needed to get in bed with the FM companies and to understand them and the way they worked. We learnt a new language and a new way of doing business. We have made many mistakes and learnt many valuable lessons along the way. But after plenty of hard work we got on some preferred supplier lists. FM companies are solution driven so if you want to work with them you had better have solutions. And ideally better solutions than your competitors. That can be a challenge for the grounds maintenance sector as the core of what we do can be similar and historical. Hortech have adapted well to the FM world.
One of our first FM partnerships was with W S Atkins working on the MOD estate closely followed by what was then Balfour Beatty FM working on what was then the Crown Castle transmission estate. These two partnerships taught us that a can do attitude is required and saying you can’t do something it not acceptable. New service lines soon appeared, we became skilled at snow clearance, working at height, fencing and first fix. And over the coming years we delivered many service lines that would not normally be associated with grounds maintenance. Up skilling became the watch word and remains so today.
Grounds maintenance like many service lines can go very wrong at the FM bid stage. So we encourage our FM partners to engage with us early as possible when bidding. Grounds information is quite often poor in detail so working with an eyes open attitude is essential. Usually grounds maintenance is a low percentage of the overall FM bid and can therefore be overlooked or left to the last minute. But the impact of grounds maintenance good or bad is nearly always disproportionate to its monetary value. So getting it right at bid stage is vital.
In many people’s eyes grounds maintenance is simple, cut the grass, kill the weeds and prune the shrubs. It is of course much more than that.
First impressions really count if the grounds look unkempt then opinions are formed before anyone has stepped inside an office and usually that opinion is of the FM provider or their client rather than the grounds maintenance contractor. If you want to play this game you need to be at the top of your game. This means keeping the grass neat and tidy but also many other factors come in to play. Innovation (low noise, low impact), sustainability (waste management or peat free plants), corporate social responsibly (community engagement), environmental best practice (herbicide free weed control), apprentices (good for us, good for you), collaborative working (solutions) and aiding FM self -delivery (sometimes the cost effective solution) all need to be considered. In addition to this, working without being seen or heard, taking on liability and proactively managing risk such as trees, invasive weeds, fence line security, gritting / snow clearance, pest control, wildlife protection, sharps waste and increasingly fly tipping.
We have to think as a FM company with a central helpdesk and duty teams, FM focused bid teams and FM focused account managers. While all the time remembering that Hortech is not a FM company and does not aspire to being FM Company, we are at the core a group of passionate horticulturists supporting the FM world. We are a tier two supplier sometimes tier three, small fish in a big pond, but critical to FM success. Communication becomes vital, upstream and down.
Thirty years ago our workforce was semi- skilled low tech operatives, quite often seasonal and we provided a single service line. Now 30 years later we are high tech, IT savvy, innovators, our workforce is multi layered and highly skilled, we are a year round provider of solutions across and ever growing number of service lines.
And we love it.
Hortech is based in Stone, Staffordshire and has a network of depots and offices throughout the UK. For more information visit www.hortech.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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