10 years of phenomenal growth

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.”

10 years of growth“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.”

Forest firm hires then buys

forest-firmWhen it came time to buy an articulated dump truck to service a growing forestry workload, husband and wife team Garry and Tanya Russell had all the information they needed.

The couple, who run award-winning Dumfries business GTR Contracts Ltd, had already been hiring in Volvos to help satisfy demand and having made the decision to purchase agreed to continue with the same manufacturer and bring on board an A25G.

“Besides utilising our own equipment we have been hiring in a couple of Volvo trucks recently to fulfil our commitments on forestry contracts,” explained Garry. “We felt it was time to make the investment and knowing the over-all reputation of the Volvo product in terms of quality and residual values, we decided to purchase one for ourselves.”

Formed in 2006, GTR specialises in renewable energy projects, agricultural contracting and forest road construction and maintenance. The new A25G has a carrying capacity of 24 tonnes, heaped capacity of 15.6m³ with the optional cantilever tailgate fitted, and runs on low-profile 750/65R25 wheels and tyres.

“Having the truck running on flotation tyres is absolutely critical for working on forest roads since the ultra-low ground bearing pressure prevents damage and rutting and lessens the impact on the environment,” Garry added.

The truck joins a mixed fleet of plant including excavators, agricultural machinery and specialised equipment including three Volvo graders equipped with Trimble 3D laser scanners.

scottish-plantGTR also operates a haulage fleet and provides a hydraulic hose replacement service in the
south. It was voted Outstanding Performing Business at the 2014 Dumfries and Galloway Business awards.

An outstanding business


Aged just 25 and 21, Garry and Tanya Russell made the bold decision to set up their own company, GTR Contracts Ltd, in 2006.

Over the past nine years, the company has experienced substantial growth and now employs 50 members of staff, has a major regional business award to its name and more than 450 clients from national energy providers and forestry bodies to private estates and farms.

Operating from a 26acre site at Terraughtie Farm, Dumfries, GTR offers a diverse range of services construction projects, agricultural services including drainage works, soil aeration/subsoiling, fertiliser/lime, dung and slurry application (tankers and umbilical, with choice of disc injector or dribble bar) 3,500-gallon road tankers, hedge cutting, spraying and, new for this year, a complete silage package as well as small plant and machinery hire, winter maintenance and snow clearance, plant and machinery haulage and onsite maintenance and repairs.

In March 2014, GTR Contracts Ltd was named the Outstanding Performing Business with more than 25 employees at the Dumfries & Galloway Business Awards, judges describing the company as “demonstrating exceptional passion in identifying and growing its markets and customer base”.

They praised the Russells’ “hard work, knowledge and dedication” and their “strong commitment to investing in the skills of their workforce”.

Garry has a background in both farming and construction. On leaving school he worked as a general farm worker and later became increasingly involved in operating machinery. At 19 he became self-employed, getting work from an agricultural contractor, carrying out stock and tractor work as well as milking cows in the evenings and at weekends.

He went on to operate a grader for the Forestry Commission for four years, while still doing farm work, saving hard to get married and buy a house.

On leaving school, Tanya completed a degree in business information technology and management at the University of the West of Scotland in Dumfries and was working as an office manager.

‘We have a relationship with our clients, they know who they’re dealing with. They know we’ll do our best to provide good service’

The couple married in August 2006 and, on returning from their honeymoon, Garry announced he wanted to set up his own contracting business.

“I’d been helping with Garry’s invoicing etc for a while but I was understandably cautious at first as we were starting out in the midst of an economic downturn,” says Tanya. “However I gradually got more and more involved, at nights and weekends.”

Without any form of financial help, Garry hired a tractor and a grader and very quickly built up a steady workload from his existing contacts: “We had to work extremely hard,” says Tanya. “We had no grants or loans to start the business, we had to closely manage our cash flow. We were fortunate to have some really good clients, though we had to prove ourselves to them.”

In November 2006 GTR took on two staff members and Garry says: “Because things moved so quickly we didn’t realise what we had done. It was all a bit of a whirlwind,” Tanya adds.

When the couple’s first child, Harvey, was born six years ago, Tanya took nine months off work during which time she became even more deeply involved with GTR. When it was time to return to her job, she realised GTR would have to employ someone to do what she had been doing so she decided to work for the company exclusively, running the office taking care of tendering, health & safety, accounts…

The couple who had a daughter, Maisie, in 2013 have a perfect combination of practical and business expertise which seems to have been a magic formula for GTR.

“We are very different, our skills lie in completely different areas” admits Garry, “this is only a good thing to drive our business forward we need the combination of the two of us.”

The Russells now have two office staff Sara Reay and Gail Goldie as well as a plant manager, John Reid.

‘This business has become a way of life for us and our young family’

After the early days running GTR from a rented shed at Shawhead, Garry and Tanya came upon the perfect base for their growing business, Terraughtie Farm, in 2010. “We’d been looking for somewhere with a couple of acres and when this place came up it was much more than what we’d originally wanted but we both fell in love with it,” Tanya says. “It’s close to the town but near the A75 too and had the cottage, which is now the office, outbuildings, a large shed for a workshop and a family home for us.” Since moving to Terraughtie, GTR has doubled in size.

While still specialising in making and reinstating rock roads, with clients including forestry organisations and several new and operational wind farms, the company has gradually built up and expanded its agricultural services and, this year, is introducing a forage harvester to offer the complete silage operation. Garry will also be offering a Silapactor to aid compaction in the silage pit.

Although most of the company’s work is in Dumfries & Galloway and Ayrshire, GTR works nationally and has had contracts on Arran, Mull and in Wales.

“We provide a good service,” says Tanya. “We have a relationship with our clients, they know who they’re dealing with, and we don’t let them down. They know they can get us at any time and we’ll do our best to provide a good service.”

That philosophy was one of the qualities admired by the judges for the 2014 Dumfries & Galloway Business Awards.

“We didn’t think for one minute that we’d win that award,” says Tanya. “But it was so nice for us to receive that recognition because this business has become a way of life for us and our young family.”