From its indisputably beautiful location in Blairgowrie,Perthshire, Castle Water has gone from a start-up in 2014 to becoming the UK’s second largest business watercompany.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” says John Reynolds, founder and chief executive officer of what is now the UK’s second largest independent water retailer.
John, who had advised the English regional electricity companies on the deregulation of the electricity market at the start of his career, had a long-term plan in mind for Castle Water from the beginning.
“We recognised that deregulation would bring an opportunity to do things differently, to separate retail and wholesale operations, and we’ve worked hard to be able to support those customers.” Finance, account management and operations across the UK are all managed from Blairgowrie, where around 90% of the 300 employees work, with local teams in Ayr, Glasgow, Leeds, Portsmouth and London, to give clients local advice.
“It’s been a non-stop sprint,” John adds. “Four furiously fast-paced years – which have seen us expand our client base to a point where we now supply more than 330,000 business customers.
“We used Scotland to develop our business model, as the market here has been deregulated for ten years. We knew that deregulation in England was coming, but there are substantially bigger buyers there, bringing a different dynamic to that market.” Castle Water acquired its first business customers in England in January 2016, from Portsmouth Water, and then added the business portfolio for Thames Water later the same year. “That deal shocked the market,” says John. “We grew tenfold in an instant.”
The deal with Thames Water worked well for both companies. “London is a complex market that responds well to the added service we offer as an independent retailer, providing advice and support, as well as a low-cost service. The change of use of premises in London is rapid, with shorter occupancy periods, so business customers need a more intensive service. That was off-putting to established retailers, but we saw the opportunity to add value. While we focus on the customer base, Thames can now focus on its wholesale network.”
The rapid growth raised some natural questions. “As we grew, we did review the best location to centralise operations, but it was clear to us that Blairgowrie had many advantages.”
“Perthshire has access to an employment pool that meets the needs of existing FTSE 100 companies. Stagecoach has grown from its Perth-base to become an international operator, and SSE is also based in Perth, only fifteen miles away. There are a lot of highly skilled people in this area, with a background in customer service and utilities.
“We’ve drawn on these highly-skilled people, and we’ve invested heavily in our own training and development.
Half a million people live within a 30 minute drive of Blairgowrie, so we know we can continue to grow here. We see a mix of people and the skills we need, and the local authority support has also been very helpful.
“When recruiting, we find the area’s quality of life and superb work/life balance sells itself. The Cairngorms National Park is right on our doorstep and Blairgowrie is perfectly placed for golf, mountain-biking, hill-walking
and a whole range of leisure activities.
To drive its growth, the company has attracted a team of highly experienced managers, enticed by the joint appeal of the ambitious business strategy, and the unsurpassed quality of life in Perthshire. “We’ve spent the last year actively growing, and now we’re looking to add volume to our customer base,” says John. “We’ll continue to recruit locally as we expand, and attract top talent selectively.
“The features in this area that make us successful apply equally to other businesses. Communications here are good, there is an excellent local talent pool, the cost base is very attractive, and Perthshire delivers a very desirable work-life balance.”
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