Shorts Group Interview – “Inspired everyday to make sure the next day is better.”
Bryony Short is a third generation member of Shorts Group, an independent family business based in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and surrounding counties, which offers a hugely diverse range of services, including Skip & Plant Hire, DIY & Trade Shops, Demolition, Trade Waste Collections, Road Sweeping, Agricultural Contracting and Farm Waste Recycling to name but a few. With business in her blood from a very early age, and following a company ethos that has stood the test of time, we find out more about what makes Shorts Group so resilient and why her Grandad always taught her that 2+2=7!
Tell us about your business.
Shorts Group was set up in 1957 known then as Shorts Timber Services Datchet Limited.
The business was started by David Short (my Grandad) after he returned from his Army National Service where he was stationed in Egypt. From a very young age he was always buying and selling and even skipping school to go to auctions to buy trucks! He started out buying equipment for cutting logs and felling trees which quickly won him jobs to clear areas of Kent for the new M2 and then the M4 motorways. The company moved from Datchet to Ascot where David bought a sawmill and area of land. As the business grew, work naturally progressed into Demolition and with owning the equipment he then began to hire it out. Off the back of the Demolition and site clearance Waste Disposal became a part of our business and it has evolved from there.
In the 1980’s Gary Short (my father) who had grown up in the business, but with a keen love of farming started Shorts Agricultural Contracting Services Ltd as a separate entity focusing on Agricultural Contracting, which to this day sits as a separate entity but very much a sister company to Shorts Group. In the 1990’s legislation was passed which introduced a land fill tax and so this encouraged recycling activities which we got heavily involved with. Then in 1995 Gary became Managing Director of Shorts Group and David moved to chairman.
In the 2000’s our business expanded, and we were proud to win awards such as the South East’s Agricultural Business Contractor of the Year. We purchased 4 small skip hire businesses and brought skip hire services into the fold. In 2006 we were proud to win Business of the Year in the Windsor & Maidenhead Business Excellence awards and then we were super proud to attain our Royal Warrant for our Agricultural Services business. An accolade we are still so very proud of.
What does Shorts Group do?
Our business offers a very diverse selection of services. Within Waste we offer Skip Hire as well as Grab and Tipper Lorry services. We have two Plant & Tool Hire depots which has a modern fleet of excavators, dumpers, telehandlers, access equipment as well as the rest in between to suit our customer base of small to medium sized builders and domestic customers. Alongside this we also have a portable toilet and towable welfare unit fleet. Then we have our Demolition which has equipment to tackle projects of all sizes from a 13 tonne for smaller houses to a 55-tonne high reach for high rise buildings. Our Agricultural company specialises in Amenity, Earthworks and Contracting as well as offering a Farm Waste Recycling service from Farm Recycling to Green Waste Disposal where we produce a range of high quality Material Supplies such as Compost, Soil and Aggregate product.
Tell us about your background and how you got involved?
I have been around the business my entire life, I would spend my Saturday mornings in the office or sat on the weighbridge. After university it was next natural step to join the business and I began in the Plant Hire department working out of a recently acquired depot. From there I have grown into my Operations Manager role which oversees Marketing, Compliance, Plant Hire and our Greenwaste Recycling Facility – as well as many other bits in between.
Who are your customers?
Our main customer base is the small to medium sized local and regional builders, along with a strong base of domestic customers and our local farming community, who we support through our Agricultural business. Our day-to-day projects involve demolishing and clearing all sorts of old buildings and sites for new developments, to so our client base for these projects range from building contractors to supermarkets, local authorities and industrial companies.
We are proud that many of our customers use multiple services at the same time from us, while they work on various projects, for example loo hire, as well as machinery and plant hire for the same job. We aim to offer an all under one roof strategy to help our customers no matter how big or small, get all the equipment and services they need with the best packaged service and price.
What is your company ethos?
As a business we pride ourselves on delivering outstanding service. In such competitive industries it is one thing that can truly put us aside from everyone else. Every job is looked at with the same view, how can we make this the best experience for our customers and exceed expectations. This we believe is how we have built such a strong, loyal customer base.
What has made our business grow over the past 10 years has been looking at what other services we can offer our customers to become that one stop shop for all their needs from start to finish on a project. This has seen the addition of our portable toilets and welfare and road sweeper fleet. As a business we are not afraid of trying something new.
How has the last year or so impacted your business?
Supply chain has been the biggest issue within our business since the pandemic. Not knowing when the items you order are going to arrive and how much they are going to cost has been tricky when going through investment plans. The red to white diesel change last year was particularly painful especially with fuel prices the way they are.
I am sure like most businesses today we are finding recruiting and retaining people a challenge, finding the right people with the right skills can be difficult, and of course the constantly rising costs. Trying to control costs, continue to operate and deliver a stellar service whilst winning work!
However, with the doom and gloom post pandemic we have remained busy, continued with our investment plans, and worked smarter!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Usually, my 2 year old! But on the mornings that he decides to have a lie in, it is the excitement of the opportunities that are going to arise that day. I have always said I am very fortunate to love what I do, and so why would I not want to get up and out see what the day holds!
From a very young age my Grandad used to always tell me that 2+2=7 otherwise you are working for nothing, so I carry that in the back of my mind every day! As he was the founder of our business and knowing he built this from nothing it inspires me every day to make sure the next day is better than the previous. My Father has shown me what a true leader looks like, how to conduct business, rally the team and has grown the business from a combined revenue of £1m to £25m in a relatively short space of time.
I am still so fresh into the business that there is nothing I would look back on and say we could have done that differently. Yes, there has been learning curves, I endeavour to learn something new every day. We are all humans and mistakes happen. We very much say we would rather someone make a bad choice than not make a choice at all.
What has been your proudest moment?
As a business across the years, we have had some very proud moments, from being awarded our Royal Warrant for Services to Her Majesty at Windsor Park, to winning awards. We are honoured to have recently won the The Business Magazine’s Thames Valley SME Growth 100’s Resilience Award. Our business alike many others have faced challenges over the past few years, the biggest being the pandemic and the impact this has had on not only the economy but supply chains alike. As a business we pride ourselves on being diverse and touching many different types of customers across various sectors.
We are extremely proud to be awarded for our resilience during these difficult times, it is a huge credit to all those that work with us, across the Group who dug right in when the world was faced with the pandemic and economic uncertainty. I also have moments of pride daily when I see our trucks drive down the road, or see one of our skips, diggers, or toilets on a site!
What are your plans for future?
For the future we will continue to grow, take every opportunity which comes our way and continue to diversify where we see the needs from our customers. We have just introduced a new bagged material delivery service; this is going to allow us to deliver bags of material directly to our customers. Where previously we have struggled with the logistics, we have invested in the kit to make this possible. This will allow us to service customers who want a few tonnes of various materials instead of a tipper load full. It also gives us a more direct route to the domestic market.
When and how did you begin working with Witham Group?
We got to know Nigel through the Royal Warrant Holders Association, and the relationship was built off the back of this. It was during the pandemic that we first met (in the rain outside on one of the farms) to discuss our requirements and then we went from there.
We use Witham to supply all our oils and grease across our Group. We run our own workshops for our vehicles, as well as for the maintenance of our own equipment. The knowledge and technical support we have had has been first class. From the initial days it was made apparent to us that we were stocking far too many oils, and that we could consolidate this down, and this has saved us a lot of money and space!
For us its so important to have a strong working relationship, in our business, our supplier relationship is key, as we need to build up trust and know that when we are in urgent need of support they will be there. Working with Witham is so easy, the team are on hand and have so much knowledge at their disposal, nothing is hard work.