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Interview: Waste Source founder Chris Holland on attracting talent and plans for growth

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Written by: Admin | Posted 08 December 2017 11:52

Interview: Waste Source founder Chris Holland on attracting talent and plans for growth

Bristol-based waste management and recycling company Waste Source was founded in 2010 by Chris Holland. The company has since grown to 12 employees and achieved record turnover of £3.5m in 2017. Here, Chris talks about attracting talent, business lessons learnt and plans for expansion

I founded the company while working at Pieminister. The first thing I looked at was their waste expenditure and I identified there was an opportunity to apply the waste broker model to businesses.

I had the security of a full-time job to get Waste Source off the ground, fully supported by the founders of Pieminister. Within two years, I had teamed up with IT expert Jon Free and we were both running the business full time.

Bristol is an amazing city to live and work in. Its diversity, both in terms of the people and business. You have companies from a wider variety of sectors than many other cities, and there is a strong culture of collaboration. It’s also a good place to learn and many businesses born in the city have gone on to become major players in their respective sectors.

Starting a business in a recession was tough but the biggest challenges we have are around recruitment. When people join us, they love it and they stay. But, it can be difficult to attract the skills we need sometimes.

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Being open and honest with staff helps with retention. We don’t believe in a top-down old-fashioned structure. Instead, we share our vision openly with the team and celebrate each milestone and discuss every challenge. We also give our staff clear goals and an idea of a career path they can take. We also work in an open-plan office that is fun and energised.

My proudest moment was moving to our new office in 2016. Whilst we have many financial targets, another is to have a vibrant office that our staff enjoy working in. We are still improving it, but the team and I love it already.

When seeking advice I believe that it’s important to look to people who have been very successful in their own fields and have actually grown a business. There are too many business consultants who have never actually run a business and don’t understand the pressure it entails. I’m lucky to have a good business partner in Jon Free. We talk a lot about business and this is a good source of guidance and advice.

I’ve learnt a lot about employment and how different drivers motivate different people. I’ve also learnt the importance of relationships, not just with customers but also suppliers. I also know now that hard work and taking risks will get you so far but you also need to implement a strategy for the business and have a clear five, 10 and 15-year plan. I also know now that it’s OK to make mistakes, sometimes!

Read more: South West business leader appointed chair of national charity

In 2017 we achieved a record turnover of £3.5m a couple of months early, which is great news. For 2018 we have an ambitious target to hit £5.5m and to remain a profitable business.  This will mean developing current business relationships but also winning new customers in our core sectors – construction, retail, hospitality and leisure.

The next five years is all about exponential growth and this will mean new offices and potentially new markets. Innovation is key to our business too as we have built our own in-house CRM and software system that has been crucial to our success.

It’s always easy for business owners to blame government but at the end of the day it’s up to entrepreneurs to just get on with it. Work hard, innovate and keep going. Having said that, it would be good for the government’s tone towards businesses to be more supportive. They could also create a tax infrastructure that incentivises people to set up a business and employ people.

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