Drainage Contractor

Features Guest Column U.K. Update
U.K. Update: Return to confidence

June 12, 2021  By Rob Burtonshaw

Nothing drives sales and inquiries quite like rain. I have said it before, but no amount of fancy marketing or sales efforts can compare to more water than usual falling from the sky. So, after two straight winters of above-average rainfall (one being extremely wet), our phones have been ringing off the hook. This is not only true for us, but also many British contractors. 

Pleasingly, it is not only the frequency of the calls but also the type of project too – much bigger jobs than average. We are busy now, and will have to remain exceedingly busy throughout the year to complete the work we already have on the order books for the critical period after harvest. 

A couple of years ago, the amount of work we currently have would have brought with it the realistic worry that we might have taken on too much work. Letting customers down and not getting to them in time is an industry crime – it erodes trust and can destroy a reputation. But having since invested heavily in new machinery, this is less of a worry.

We put pipe in the ground a hell of a lot more quickly now than we ever could even five years ago, and we can only hope to increase speeds again this year. It will be needed – and frankly makes me feel much better about the investments we’ve made up to this point.


Adding to the increasing workload are the jobs we were forced to delay in the last year. Most of our clients’ businesses were fortunately less affected than others by the pandemic. However, some were, and those jobs were postponed or cancelled, and for a company our size, losing even just a couple of good jobs is a kick in the teeth and can be difficult to recover from.

Additionally, some clients were less affected by COVID overall, but still canceled previously ordered projects, preferring to keep the money in the bank in uncertain times. I can understand such a decision, even if it did cause us some problems. 

So much of business is about confidence, and this is especially true in our industry, where the product we install happens to be designed to last for many years (more accurately, upwards of a century).

Ultimately, investment relies on the belief that not only will the money return to you over time, but it will also reward you with a little extra to make the effort worthwhile.

It would seem confidence in the U.K. is higher now than it has been for several years previously. This is hardly surprising; we have had a few headwinds of late that you might have heard about.

Even as uncertainty over infection rates and Brexit have dragged down investment in all sectors, now it seems the cap has been released from the bottle. Things are looking up. The question is: for how long this is likely to be the case?

I, for one, have no idea what is likely to happen in the broader economy. And, if truth be told, I’ve also not much of a clue about the agricultural sector in particular.

As mentioned previously in this column, it’s all change in the U.K. government’s agricultural policies – and who knows what this will all bring?

Regardless, whether the future brings a benign climate or a more hostile one, all we can do now is hope for the best, work hard and make hay while the sun shines.

It seems likely that the drainage industry will have a good year in 2021 and we will all have a chance to earn some good money – a most welcome event for anyone. While I cannot hold up a crystal ball and predict our specific economic future, I can say this with confidence: regardless of the economic climate, if it rains, we are always going to do well.

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