Hello, Barry. I understand you started out selling office equipment. What inspired the sudden career change?
I had an office equipment firm in the 1980s but the writing was on the wall for it because people were increasingly buying from retailers rather than businesses like ours. So I started to look for something different. And I believe that to be successful you have to believe in what you are doing. You are at work for half your life – you should aspire to feeling happy about it.
Well I’m not in journalism for the money, that’s for sure. So why waste management?
I’ve been into science fiction since I was a kid, reading Arthur C Clarke and watching Star Trek and Red Dwarf. I’ve always been fascinated by the future and the opportunity to affect the planet. Climate change is a reality now and good waste management became a legal requirement after the Environmental Protection Act was passed in 1990. So I saw an opportunity in the market and founded Advanced Compaction Machines with Andy Jacobs in 1991.
As the full name suggests, ACM started as a machinery supplier. How did you come to be a waste management company?
We began by making leak-proof compactors for waste producers to fulfil their legal obligations and reduce their collection needs. But waste carriers base their business on frequency of collection, so they have no incentive to make fewer visits to a site. We had several cases where a few months after we had supplied a compactor, the waste carrier was back to collecting three times a week even though this wasn’t needed any more. We were also helping producers to separate their waste, but they didn’t know what to do with the recyclable material. So in all these cases we ended up recommending service providers. And in the end we decided we might as well take responsibility, so in 1996 we set up our own waste management division to fulfil our customers’ needs.
So that company is eight years old now. But 2003 was the big success story. Where did it all go right?
The waste management company was successful immediately because we had a ready-made client base. But 2003 was when we really got our act together. We reported net sales of £4.3 million and were listed as the 14th fastest growing company in the UK. I think we made it easy to do business with us, and I also don’t see anyone providing a similar service. We provide a one-stop shop for waste producers. They have one number they can call with any queries they have about waste and recycling, from a problem with a collection to a question on something they heard on the radio. We have a nationwide network of approved subcontractors and we are the last to be let down as we have the most clout.
It’s certainly worked so far. What does 2005 hold in store?
I am very excited about 2005. It will be the year when we see waste management become a priority for UK businesses. So far this has just been talked about in the press and the waste management industry. But next year it will become reality – primarily due to the £3-per-tonne hike in landfill tax. Waste disposal costs will double for some companies in 2005. That will finally make people sit up and take notice. It provides great opportunities.
I guarantee that ACM can save people money on their rubbish. It is a win-win-win situation. We help firms clean up their oper