Monument Fuels – a monumental undertaking

Last summer, a new distributor emerged in the south west – Monument Fuels. Several months on, FON spoke to co-owner, Trevor Rolph, to find out more about the company and the trials and tribulations of setting up a new business 

Named after the Wellington Monument, erected to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo, Monument Fuels is based in Wellington, Somerset, from where it covers a 25-mile radius.

Trevor and co-owner, Andrew Hewitt, both have a wealth of industry experience, meeting at Pace Fuelcare in 2006. Prior to that Andrew worked at Hawkes Oils, County Oils, British Benzol and Total Butler, whilst Trevor’s career with Q8 Petroleum and then Pace Fuelcare included roles at distributors, head office and the Q8 lubricants division.

Now or never 

When asked why they decided to go it alone, Trevor explained: ”We wanted to be in control of our own destinies. We’d already made the decision to set up a new business before the GB Oils takeover was announced at Pace, but once it was made public, it certainly didn’t hold us back! I figured at the age of 42, if I didn’t do it now, I never would. I was at the stage of my career where I had sufficient experience to make the move, but was realistic enough to know that in four or five years my enthusiasm to do it would probably peter out.”

Getting ready

Trevor and Andrew finished at Pace Fuelcare in June 2011 and, armed with a cash injection from family inheritance, building work on the new depot started almost immediately.  Not frightened of getting their hands dirty, and in order to reduce outgoings, the pair offered their services as labourers and played a hands-on role in creating their dream depot. Once tanks from Oil Tank Supplies and a bottom loading skid from Alpeco were in place and two second-hand tankers  – a baby tanker supplied by Road Tankers Northern and a four-wheeler – had been delivered, Monument was able to make its first delivery of kerosene in September 2011. By the beginning of November the company was also delivering gas oil.

The Wellington-based site currently houses 100,000 litres of kerosene storage and 30,000 litres of gas oil storage, and has potential for an additional 170,000 litres.

Other than Trevor’s wife, who assists with book-keeping, Monument does not currently have any other full-time employees. In addition to having LGV and ADR licences, Trevor and Andrew have worked in most areas of the distribution business so they are happy to do everything themselves thus keeping overheads to a minimum.  However, with their plan to keep resources elastic, they do have two experienced drivers to call on in busy periods.

Learning curve

“How long have you got?” joked Trevor when asked what lessons they had learned, whilst setting up the company.

“Do your research, sound the idea off on as many people as possible and be realistic with your aspirations,” he advised. “We’re not looking to take anything from the business for 12 months. Also be honest with numbers and figures. Our build costs and other purchases came in more or less within budget, but then again we’ve got the experience and have a good idea about how much things should cost.”

“The mild start to the winter gave us a few palpitations,” said Trevor, echoing similar views across the country. “If it had been colder, our first few months would have been a very different animal.  However we’re extremely conscious of keeping overheads down and, whilst we were able to cope with the quieter period by making the deliveries ourselves, now it’s turned colder we’re running both trucks flat out, and already thinking of a third truck for next winter.

“Customers like our local touch; just today a customer rang to say that he was low on oil and asked whether we’d be able to deliver that afternoon. Of course we were able to, and pride ourselves on another satisfied customer. Being able to react quickly to such requests, we’ve already been helping out other companies in the industry.  Everything has come together as we’d hoped and it looks exactly as we’d planned.”

World domination

Looking ahead?  “Monument is aiming for world domination,” laughed Trevor.  “Our aim is to offer a high level of customer service with quick delivery.”   Realistically, Trevor and Andrew hope to organically grow the business and offer good service at a competitive price.