Advances in technology over the last two decades have undoubtedly changed the way that businesses provide services to their customers. Take the rise of taxi service Uber, for example, which, despite transporting hundreds of thousands of customers from ‘a’ to ‘b’ each day owns no fleet of vehicles.
This might be an example of a smart use of technology for a business in a particular field, but it serves as a reminder that traditional business models are increasingly being challenged. In the waste management industry – which has always centred on the physical collection and removal of material – it might seem that a business with no collection vehicles, not operating a sorting facility or even without a landfill site is an odd proposition.
However, Chris Giscombe and Garry Johnson, founders and directors of the waste management brokerage firm UK Waste Solutions Limited (UK WSL) believe this business model has the potential to make them one of the leading players in the market.
The pair, who worked together at national waste management and recycling firm Biffa founded UK WSL in 2003. The company unveiled new corporate branding and outlined its long-term strategy to staff and clients at an event in Newark last month. The pair believe that UK WSL and its associated group of businesses, which operate in the energy efficiency and hygiene and cleaning markets have the potential to achieve a turnover of around £65 million within the next five years – from its current level of around £13 million.
“We try to be a different kind of corporate, that is our strategy to set us apart from the traditional type of business and offer something a bit more bespoke to customers,” Mr Johnson explains.
“We have a local feel but as a national company,” his business partner chimes in. “Depending on where in the country you are we are able to provide a service and use specialists in the field to do that. We cover the major cities in the UK and we have a number of partners who we will work with.“
The company’s ‘flexibility’ and national coverage has seen it work with clients including Network Rail and motorway service station caterer Roadchef. UK WSL also handles all of the waste from the 61 prisons in Wales, the Midlands and the North of England – work it has secured through contractor Amey.
Many of its clients are nationally recognized organisations operating from multiple sites. In order to meet the needs of its clients, UK WSL works with a network of regionally-based waste and recycling firms to collect and manage waste from these sites.
“The big boys can often beat us on price, but we’ll be at the table with them when it comes down to the final few when it comes down to these major tenders.” Mr Giscombe admits. “But we want people to understand that it isn’t always just about the price. There are a lot of ways that we can reduce a company’s spend over the term of the contract and that’s where we look to add best value.”
Speaking to letsrecycle.com UK WSL’s director of corporate affairs Max Kanda, another Biffa veteran, concedes that there is a great deal of skepticism from within the waste management industry about the value offered through brokerages.
However, he claims that an increasing number of industries are moving towards this model, and waste handling should be no different.
“In terms of the brokerage model, some of the national companies don’t like brokers because they don’t see that we add value, but ask any of our customers where we add value.
“We feel that it’s the right solution for our customer base and the way people buy these days, look at insurance for example, many of these are done through brokerages because they find the best deals and they are offering lots of added value.”
Technology has also been embraced by the company, which officially launched its online tool ‘The Hub’ at the event last month. The Hub is an online information platform which provides UK WSL clients with live data on waste tonnages, collections and costs. The company also has plans to launch a waste comparison service, Skip Compare, as well as offering training and education schemes through its contracts.
Whether it is likely that brokerages will displace some of the traditional national waste firms as the major players in the industry remains to be seen – but UK WSL certainly believe that there is reason to think that the traditional model is in line for a shake-up.