Focus Environmental Consultants

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Focus Environmental Consultants is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

focusenvironmentalconsultants.com

1FOCUS ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANTS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2020
Founders Graham Davison and
Fern Fellowes-Day
The barn owl has special
protection in UK law
Led by founders Graham Davison and Fern Fellowes-Day, Focus
Environmental Consultants delivers environmental solutions
across a wide range of projects. This includes ecological
consultancy – where Graham and Fern say they aspire to be
“market leaders” – as well as habitat management and tree
surveys. Graham tells
The Parliamentary Review
more about Focus’s
diverse project portfolio, which ranges from major infrastructure
contracts to smaller private projects, and how their flexible
approach allows them to adapt to clients’ individual requirements.
Focus Environmental Consultants is an award-winning environmental consultancy.
Our forte is finding solutions to problems. We are a genuine start-up business with
very modest beginnings, so how did we get to where we are now?
The company was incorporated following an “entrepreneurial seizure”. This occurs
when after years of working for someone else, you suddenly think you know best.
In this case, two people thought that they knew best at the same time, so they set
up an ecological consultancy.
A what? What the dickens is one of those and why would anyone want one?
That depends who you ask. A hard-nosed developer might utter a few expletives and
even express a personal hatred of newts and bats. If you are lucky enough to still be
attending primary school, then we are saving the world, in general, and polar bears,
specifically. It was brutally apparent after a brief spell in the industry, that 99 per cent
of our clients don’t really want an ecological consultant at all. They need one for
a specific aim. Our day-to-day role is to complete arboricultural and ecological
surveys to allow clients and statutory authorities to make informed decisions.
FACTS ABOUT
FOCUS ENVIRONMENTAL
CONSULTANTS
»Founders: Graham Davison
and Fern Fellowes-Day
»Founded in 2010
»Based in Worcester
»Services: Ecological
consultancy, arboricultural
consultancy and habitat
management
»No. of employees: 10
Focus Environmental
Consultants
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| FOCUS ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANTS
Where we are today
Focus Environmental Consultants
has changed beyond recognition.
In 2010, there were two directors
and staff, namely Fern and I. The
office was my attic. Our fundamental
aspirations were to cover our respective
mortgages, have some fun and not be
told what to do any more. A truckload
of optimism and naivety can take you a
long way. We are now a multidisciplinary
consultancy with a team of ten. In year
one, turnover was £83,151 and a good
month was £19,396. By 2018, turnover
was £636,057 and our best month was
£109,436.
As a new business owner, the scale
of your ignorance is vast. We could
do chargeable surveys but there were
fundamental pieces of the jigsaw
missing. We knew how to follow
someone else’s rules and systems –
someone else’s recipe. But the whole
reason we started our company was
that we didn’t like the old recipe any
more.
Challenges and solutions
For 12 months things went pretty
well. We didn’t go bust, we paid our
mortgages, we had ample work and
clients liked us. We were directors,
ecologists, HR, marketing, quotes,
finance, IT and we made the tea.
We were company dogsbodies. The
reality of running our own business
was coming into increasingly sharp
focus. Independence comes at a cost in
stress, labour and long hours.
Luckily Fern and I made a great
team. By year two the company was
really flying. By year three we had so
much work we couldn’t deal with
it. It was time for a major challenge.
Employment. First through the door in
2012 was Cassie.
Soon the attic was too small, so
we rented an office. Our first major
overhead. We quickly outgrew
our new HQ and now reside in a
rural office and with lots of scope
forgrowth.
There remain plenty of challenges.
A purely ecological UK consultancy
will always have the challenge of
seasonality. We have sharply defined
seasons, which reflect the activities,
or lack thereof, of the fauna and flora
that we survey. This has an obvious
impact on cashflow. Winter months
are hard, but the summer brings a
deluge of potential work; more than a
small in-house team can manage.
We found solutions:
»Offer additional, non-seasonal
disciplines to even out cashflow.
»Use sub-consultants to maximise
peak season opportunities.
»Market consistently hard all year
round.
Other major challenges have included:
»HR. We now employ people
on personality over technical
Veteran trees can
support a wealth
of vertebrate and
invertebrate fauna
Our
fundamental
aspirations
were to cover
our respective
mortgages,
have some fun
and not be
told what to
do any more
3FOCUS ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANTS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2020
skillset. Skills can be acquired, but
personalities tend not to change.
»Marketing. This remains a
swearword in the office. We were
encouraged (forced) to adopt a
marketing ploy that inexplicably
delivers over £70 for every £1 spent.
That’s all I am prepared to say about
the strategy; not because it’s jaw-
droppingly brilliant, but because it’s
gobsmackingly cheesy.
We are not the cheapest firm any
more. Our success is anchored in
speed, service and, crucially, outcomes.
We tell clients what they need to hear,
which isn’t always what they want
to hear. Positivity, conscientiousness,
honesty and proactivity are core Focus
ingredients.
Politics and legislation
Focus Environmental Consultants was
established in the death throes of
the “Great Recession” (it wasn’t that
great) and credit crunch of the late
2000s. Arguably a dangerous time
to incorporate a business. However,
starting in a financial crisis has given
us the confidence that comes through
success in adversity.
Most of our work is founded in
legislation. People don’t generally
commission environmental surveys
for fun but through necessity. The
environmental consultant is expected
to be an expert in their field as well as
a part-time lawyer, planner, negotiator
and general problem-solver. The
need to protect biological resources
will always conflict with the pressure
for development. Finding equitable,
lawful and sustainable environmental
solutions is therefore more important
than ever. While the challenges posed
by climate change and development
may seem daunting, this is a
playground for those that thrive on
solving problems.
Future
The UK has one of the best systems of
environmental protection in the world.
However, there are open holes that
need to be patched.
There is little guarantee that even
the recommendations of a perfect
environmental report will ever be
implemented. Without consistent
planning enforcement, environmental
benefits from development will be lost
in the rush to cut costs and corners.
Is the UK really over-developed? The
UK National Ecosystem Assessment
estimates that less than one per cent of
the country is built on. There are vast
deserts of land covered by intensive
agriculture and forestry. How we
manage our countryside will determine
the biodiversity benefits arising from
even small percentage changes in land
cover. There are hard decisions to be
made about the trade-off between
food production, biodiversity and
custodianship of the countryside. These
are not insurmountable challenges
and win-win solutions are waiting to
befound.
While the
challenges
posed by
climate
change and
development
may seem
daunting, this
is a
playground
for those that
thrive on
solving
problems
Grass snakes are
harmless and protected
by law

focusenvironmentalconsultants.com

This article was sponsored by Focus Environmental Consultants. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.