People are the passion at Craggs Energy

Craggs Energy directors

A family affair – Craggs Energy directors (l-r) June and Ralph Thornber and Chris and Heidi Bingham

Individuals and personalities have been the driving force for Craggs Energy in carving out a space for themselves in the oil distribution business, writes Alex Porter

Only in operation since October 2011, the company has focused on the individual and a new approach to serving customers from its picturesque base, sitting comfortably in the Yorkshire hills near Halifax.

“We saw an opportunity to bring a different way of thinking to the industry,” said managing director Chris Bingham, who admits the business started without much market research, but instead relied on a gut instinct.

Chris had no personal experience in oil, but set up Craggs Energy with his father-in-law, Ralph Thornber, who sold his own fuel distribution business to Shell in the late 1980s. The two saw a gap for a small company with a high quality of customer service.

“A significant number of locals kept asking if we would launch a small family run distribution business as many such businesses had been absorbed into larger fuel concerns. By focusing on servicing the local communities, the business has been able to provide higher levels of service.”

He added: “A major focus for the business is building a level of trust with its customers, which means always delivering a good service at a fair price whatever the weather. Someone is on the phone 24 hours a day – it’s occasionally even me! We employ good people with enthusiasm and passion. We give customers guarantees and then we deliver on them.”

Quality promise

There is a strong local focus. The three tankers and Land Rover, supplied by Tasca, have been likened to milk floats by customers thanks to the unique white design with a large image of the local area on the side. The name Craggs was also chosen to reflect their local surroundings. The company sponsors the local Young Farmers’ club rugby shirts, and Chris has been actively involved in fundraising for local causes. He recently completed three marathons in three days for charity, and in September has challenged himself to run ten marathons in ten days in aid of a local child. “I don’t want people to think of me, or the company, as bland and corporate,” he explained.

Land Rover at Craggs Energy

The local landscape makes the Land Rover essential for delivering oil to locations inaccessible to tankers

A new approach

With a background in the technology business, Chris has had a totally different working life to those who were born and bred in oil. The company has been quick to set up an online ordering service, enabling customers to buy 24 hours a day at their convenience.

Additionally, Chris has been unafraid to embrace the renewables sector as part of his business. He said: “Craggs Energy encompasses the energy needs of my customers whether that’s fossil fuels or renewables.”

Craggs Energy is also part of a broader business group which includes the business park, serviced offices, storage and even a children’s swimming pool.

Chris acknowledged it can be very difficult to break into fuel distribution, with large capital expenditure needed and the big players forming a high barrier to new market entrants. Additionally, Craggs also set up in a year when the UK experienced an unseasonably warm winter. “My kids were doing cold weather dances until Christmas,” said Chris. “But then when the cold snap did arrive it was a huge positive watching all the phones light up. It’s fantastic to see that people will buy from you.”

Another plus has been the help received from oil supplier, BWOC. “They walked around the site when it was derelict and they backed us. They’ve also provided expertise we were missing, such as DGSA advice and guidance.”

All the evidence points to a winning approach: The business currently employs 18 staff across the oil and renewable energy divisions. The plan for year one was to supply five million litres of oil, and that target will be comfortably surpassed. Another tanker is on order, and the company has now developed a good customer base across the region, encompassing Halifax and Huddersfield, and is looking to expand further.

The renewables side is growing for both domestic and commercial customers. Customers can receive a Craggs Energy opportunity report to discover simple changes they can make to save up to 30% on bills and improve energy efficiency. In addition, the company offers to install renewable energy solutions including solar PV, solar thermal, biomass, wind, hydro and ground source heat pumps.

Craggs Energy isn’t scared of adapting for the future, but individuals, their personalities and enthusiasm, will always take centre stage.

www.craggsenergy.co.uk

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