I launched Flood Protection Solutions Ltd in 2012, aged 18, alongside studying for a degree in Civil Engineering. The company became the sole UK importer of the Water-Gate barrier from Megasecur. The business has grown over the past 5 years into one of the UK’s leading flood defence companies. It now has a turnover of almost £2million, with clients including Thames Water, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency.
I’m always asked ‘why flood defence? That’s an odd business to set up!’
My parents’ house was flooded in 2007 and we were out of the house for nearly a year whilst it was repaired. The upheaval, expense and stress caused was great, and we never wanted to go through the experience again. We scoured the market looking for flood defences and the products available seemed either slow to use or expensive, we then came across a unique Canadian product called the Water-Gate barrier, and ordered one.
In the intervening years everything was pretty quiet until July of 2012. Once again rain the like of which would normally be seen in the tropics hit our village. The Main Street became like a brown fast flowing river. We rolled out the Water-Gate barrier and it saved the house from flooding.
Local residents and the Environment Agency were amazed by how easy to use and effective the barrier was. I researched the product and discovered it was available in 25 Countries around the world, but not the UK… I contacted the manufacturer, and following a meeting in Paris, I became the Sole UK Distributor of the Water-Gate barrier.
The business has grown year on year, but it as with all businesses there have been definite challenges and ‘barriers in business’ to overcome. Most notably:
In the U.K, it seemed that sandbags were always the ‘go-to’ flood defence product, and even today they are still favoured by some Councils.
Our tactic here was to educate, and disrupt thought processes. We used Environment Agency and Council data to create a cost comparison with sandbagging. Not only was the Water-Gate cheaper to buy (for the same height/length of defence) but also, as it is reusable, the cost savings became apparent for agencies. We now push whole-life cycle costing, which seemed to previously be overlooked by the industry.
This was key to the business success.
Within any industry, credibility is key success. In flood defence, credibility is essential because flooding is unpredictable and very hard to manage. As a Young Entrepreneur, getting the credibility and respect required is very difficult. I was lucky enough to be studying for a degree in Civil Engineering at The University of Nottingham, and I graduated in 2015. I am passionate about water and the environment, and prior to this had represented the U.K in the World Water Week, Stockholm. This, along with PR and social media campaigns has helped us with our credibility. We still have a strong focus on pushing our credibility which helps us distinguish ourselves in the industry. I recently visited the Megasecur factory in Canada to learn more, and help develop the Water-Gate along with supply chain improvements. I would urge entrepreneurs to focus on their credibility.
The Water-Gate is very simple to use and requires limited training. As the company grew, we were selling more and more barriers, which meant we had more customers asking for training. The training was not factored in to quotes, and as we cover the whole of the U.K, it was a large cost to the business – in time, travel, staffing costs and accommodation. We’re very passionate about helping as many people as possible, and have great case studies of our work. We know training is important, and wanted a way to make this accessible. We have heavily invested in creating an eLearning portal, so that all our customers are confident with the product deployment. The portal means training can be ‘on-demand’ and revisited as often as required. Adam Bayliss, Team Member at the Environment Agency recently explained that:
An E-Learning package is a really good tool to supplement the training scenarios that we run. It will ensure our teams have access to the best possible training to effectively install temporary flood defences to protect people and property. The ‘knowledge check’ and interactive element of the package is a real plus point, it ensures that the training is re-enforced and understood.
This decision was taken to help secure the company’s future and we’re really hopeful that this will help us protect more people across the U.K from flooding.
These are just a snapshot of some ‘barriers in business’ we have faced. Every business owner will have experienced these, and you can feel very isolated. It is important to establish a great network of contacts, so you can help support each other. I would recommend joining the Facebook Group ‘The Entrepreneur’s Can Clan’ for a network of over 1600 like- minded members. I have learnt an incredible amount over the last five years, and was lucky enough to win Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards last year. I’m excited for what the future will hold and am keen to see how our new developments will progress.
Simon Crowther set up his company – Flood Protection Solutions Ltd – 5 years ago whilst at University and now oversees a multi-million-pound operation. Flood Protection Solutions has grown into one of UK’s leading flood defence companies. Crowther has enjoyed his most successful year to date including recently securing large contracts to supply Water Companies with the Water-Gate temporary flood barrier. Simon was voted a Top 100 Real Leader in the World in 2016 by real-leaders.com and won Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.@SCcrowther