Starting any business from scratch is never easy, especially when you are in your early 20’s and the economy is amidst a financial recession, which makes what Garry Russell and his wife Tanya have achieved in the last 10 years especially impressive.
From a young age, Garry has always been determined to work for himself and became self-employed at 18, doing everything from working on farms to driving a grader for the Forestry Commission. But it was in 2006 aged 25 and having just returned from honeymoon, that Garry announced that he was going to set-up his own company.
Starting out with a hired grader, tractor and roller, 10 years later GTR Contracts Ltd now employs 75 people and has a fleet of 100-plus machines. Based on the outskirts of Dumfries the business provides plant and construction services to national energy and forestry companies throughout the UK, in addition to agricultural contract work for local farmers – which accounts for 30% of the company’s turnover.
“I was brought up on a farm and always wanted to be in the farming industry while having the ambition to work for myself,” says Garry, who looks after the day to day running of the company. Tanya, who has a business degree, manages the office including the financial management, human resources and health and safety for the company.
A core part of GTR’s work is building forestry roads and access roads for wind farms but with Garry’s background in agriculture this has always played a part in the business, with services such as fertiliser, muck or slurry spreading, drainage, spraying, hedgecutting or even just labour to feed stock or provide holiday cover.
Last year the agricultural side of the business was expanded considerably with the addition of a new forage harvesting team, based around a JAGUAR 850. This is supported by a set of DISCO 8400 triple and DISCO 3200 front and rear mowers, VOLTO 1100 and 800 tedders and LINER 2900 rake. Everything was bought through local CLAAS dealer Gordons, who have also supplied the business with three ARION tractors (two 620s and a 650) and most recently an AXION 920.
“I was approached by an existing customer who had around 1,000ha to harvest and was looking for a new silage contractor. I was initially reluctant, but we already had the front and rear mowers and trailers, so I eventually agreed. It was an excellent opportunity for GTR to expand,” says Garry. “Having bought the JAGUAR, a couple of other customers who had run their own forager then asked us to do theirs and by the end of the season we eventually cleared about just over 2,000ha. Last year was not an easy season due to the weather, but we proved ourselves to our customers by providing a reliable and quality service.”
The latest addition to the fleet is a new 320hp AXION 920, which will mainly be used to power a Kirpy stone crusher, which is another example of Garry making the most of an opportunity. “We were on a wind farm site last year where the stone was too big for grading, so I suggested we crush it. However, at the time I didn’t have a crusher and nobody in the UK had one in stock. I eventually sourced and bought one in France. With 3km of road needing crushing, Tanya was not convinced that it could be justified, but I was sure it could be. It has proved to be a good investment having since secured over 12km of roads for crushing.”
“Although we are mainly involved in plant and construction, agriculture fits in very well. The benefit for the farmer is that a lot of our drivers have come from farms, so are experienced but they all go through CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) training, are well trained in all the machinery they use, are fully insured and we provide all our customers with a full safety document including risk assessment and method statements for their insurance.”
“Service is important to us and that is the reason I use Gordons. Their branches cover our area well and I know that if we have a problem it will be sorted. Good back-up is essential and Gordons will always stand by you, work with you and tell you as it is.”