In conversation with Keith Gallacher from our South West and East Scotland team
Keith Gallacher runs our South West and East Scotland region. The large team delivers services to a diverse range of clients from local authorities to golf courses and construction companies. The highly skilled team combine their knowledge with state-of-the-art technology and bespoke machinery to deliver top-quality service. Accredited with Amenity Assured standards, they are fully trained in pesticide safety, hold CSCS cards and operate under a National Highway Sector Scheme 18 Quality Management System.
We spoke to Keith about his early days in the business, what drives him and his plans for the future:
Where do you get your strong work ethic from?
Keith: “When I was at school, the French department were organising a trip to Disneyland Paris and I so desperately wanted to go. So, I went to my Dad with my hand out asking for £200 and he said: “No! Go and get a job”, so I did. I got a job on a farm working weekends and any days off school. I was paid £10 a day for a 16hr shift and funded the Paris trip myself. My Dad offered to match my earnings but I didn’t accept it. It was a great holiday and an even better lesson; it instilled in me a deep understanding of the value of hard work, self-sufficiency and the rewards that come from putting in the necessary effort.
“I have carried this work ethic with me throughout my life, recognising that success is born out of dedication, determination and the willingness to go the extra mile.”
How it all started
Keith: “One year into studying electronics and software engineering at Edinburgh University, I knew I wasn’t really enjoying it and I missed home. At the same time my Dad had seen an article advertising for franchisees in the newspaper and cut it out to pass it to me.
“I was only 18 when I took on the franchise and at the time and I think there were some reservations because of my age. I was determined, although I wasn’t experienced, and I think they saw my drive. That was back in 2006 and I was fortunate to have Ian Graham appointed as a mentor. I was unfamiliar with both business and the industry, I’d previously worked weekends on a farm, but this was new, and that support helped my business no end. It was pivotal really and the knowledge and experience I received was instrumental.
“I’d always wanted my own business; my goals were to have a family and run my own business. When I came across the newspaper cut-out, I was surprised to discover a business centred around weed control—I had never considered it as a viable option before. I started to look through the list of sectors they were servicing and thought this could actually be a promising venture.”
How much support did you get from the national organisation?
Keith: “I remember attending the regional meeting wearing a shirt and tie and being introduced to a group of guys in polo shirts. I realised very quickly that the business was made up of hard working, honest people who were driven by doing a great job and sharing best practice. They were setting standards that everyone bought into and still do so today. Head office invest heavily in research and drive best practice for the sector as a whole, it’s great to be part of that and have access to that support.
“At the start, the help with how to do the jobs, or even price them, alongside the general business support, was so valuable. These guys had done it and I had the benefit of learning from them. In the early days I was pitching for a job with a huge college contractor and Ian even helped me write letters. Ian and Alan Abel had a huge influence, they helped me pick up work. I remember Alan knocking on a door on an industrial estate and winning a contract for me, just like that, in a way that only Alan can.
“Ian’s expertise in invasives helped massively and allowed us to win work in specialist areas. The business is involved in the world’s largest and longest running knotweed trials and being able to draw on the learnings and have the science connected to my business is helpful.”
What are the added benefits of the network?
Keith: “The support goes far beyond the obvious support from head office. One of the key advantages is the ability to tap into a broader network of fellow franchisees. This has proven invaluable, especially during times when I didn't have a large workforce at my disposal. By leveraging the resources of neighbouring franchisees, we were able to operate as a larger collective, sharing our resources and knowledge.
“For instance, I had the privilege of collaborating with Steve, the Glasgow franchisee at the time, who ran a thriving business with a team of 14 staff members. Steve's primary focus was on a particular customer, and whenever an enquiry came his way that wasn't aligned with his current workload, he would refer it to me instead of turning the potential customer away. We both benefited, I gained access to new customers through his solid reputation, while he could provide a solution to enquiries that were not within his scope.
“I regularly speak to other franchisees to ask advice as well as offering it back. We operate a network of the most experienced practitioners within the sector, without any competition. We can openly share resources, equipment and knowledge, free from any sense of competition. It truly is a valuable resource.
“I learnt a lot from my colleagues, particularly the way they conduct themselves and their willingness to go the extra mile for the customers. As a result, I have built strong relationships with many repeat customers, some of whom have progressed in their own careers and have continued to engage our services. I am proud to say that I still work with my very first customer. This reputation and the high standards are upheld by head office and is evident throughout the entire network.”
What were your aspirations back in 2006 when you set up?
Keith: “When I set up my business back in 2006, my aspirations were primarily driven by a desire to make money, however, I have never been motivated by greed. I have worked hard and reinvested in the growth of my business.
“Seeing the tangible results of my efforts makes me proud. There's something satisfying about driving into the premises on a weekend and witnessing the array of machinery and recognising what I have accomplished.
“I’m ok with taking a risks, albeit calculated ones. I have invested in equipment and then been driven to actively seeking out work opportunities to make the most of those investments, and it has paid off, which is great because I do like the kit! I’ve never been afraid to push forward and be prepared for the next step. We recently acquired a Merlo Roto 50.26 S-Plus and it’s already generating new business for us.
“My business is successful, and I genuinely enjoy what I do. Looking ahead, my focus for the next couple of years is to continue improving and refining operations. While growth is certainly a positive trajectory, my emphasis lies in achieving greater efficiency rather than merely expanding in size.
“Like other sectors, the skills shortage is going to have an impact. The industry is often overlooked as a viable career path, despite its potential. We are offering good financial packages and need to get better at profiling the career opportunities within the industry.”
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