Hinton St Mary, Dorset
Bartlett Contractors has a rich history in the world of agricultural contracting that stretches back well over 50 years.
The business was started by Roger Bartlett in 1959. He began offering basic green harvest services and, during quieter times, ditching and drainage. Remarkably, the business has kept many of the same customers, which is testament to the quality of the team’s work.
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It remains a family firm, with Rob and Tina Bartlett taking on their father’s legacy. Three generations are now involved in some capacity and the business has continued to grow, despite the intense competition in the South West.
- Size of agricultural business – 75 customers
- Operations – Forage harvesting grass, wholecrop and maize, mowing, baling and wrapping, muck and slurry spreading, cultivations, drilling, spraying, land drainage, straw supplies
- Staff – 28 full-time
“We operate in a competitive area where there are 20 different contractors within a 15-mile radius, but we’re still picking up customers,” says managing director Rob Bartlett.
“While there’s no doubt some of our rivals can match us on speed, we take a long-term view and so the standard of workmanship is our primary focus and it’s paying off.
“Our livestock customers are becoming more switched on to grass quality, so we have to deliver what they want.”
Just like its long-running customer relationships, the company has also retained several of its original staff, some of which have been working for over 40 years. It doesn’t go unnoticed by customers.
“Regular clients like to see the same faces and most of our drivers know the fields they work in as well as the farmers that own them – it helps speed up the job, reduce the risk of accidents and provides a better service to the customer,” says Rob.
- Close-knit team
- Strong customer relationships
- Well-balanced cashflow
- Diverse range of businesses
- Open-minded to new opportunities
The company runs a fleet of new Fendt tractors. Most have a front-loader, which helps get more value for money from them.
Because of the quantity of work they get through, Bartletts has a steady machinery rotation policy that sees the core kit replaced every four years.
By then the hard-worked 724s will have clocked-up close to 10,000 hours while the 900-series heavy horses rack-up about 1,800 hours annually.
The civil engineering side of the business helps balance the books. Mid-sized tractors are used for pipeline work during the quieter seasons, which keeps both tractors and men busy.
The company has never shirked any types of new work, and that willingness to adapt has steadily increased their workload.
Ditching and drainage have been core parts of the business since the start, but Bartlett has also supplied men for milking, feeding cows and even TB testing.
Work even extends to small jobs that might not turn an immediate profit – awkward 4ha fields are abundant in Dorset and Somerset.
“You never know where that small bit of work to help out a neighbour might lead,” says Rob.
“You have to be ahead of the game to keep the business growing,” he adds.
Russell and Lorraine Gaw
RG Contracting, Wigtownshire
The can-do attitude of Russell and Lorraine Gaw has seen their business grow from a single Case-IH 885XL and JF forager back in 1994 to the current 12-strong tractor fleet, despite the challenges of being based on a remote Scottish peninsula.
Spring Farm Partnership, Felthorpe, Norfolk
Oliver Arnold runs a contracting operation that serves 350 clients across Norfolk and Suffolk. It requires careful book-balancing to keep the enormous machinery fleet up to date and Oliver is also a keen adopter of new technology.
“The finalists all successfully balance their machinery fleets and staff workloads to grow their contracting operations, making this perhaps the most closely fought Contractor of the Year we have ever seen”
Richard Foxley, JCB marketing manager