Great Blakenham: Global Connections recognition for recycling company Sackers

RECYCLING and waste management company Sackers has been selected as one of the UK’s most forward-thinking and innovative businesses in a national competition. Sheline Clarke spoke to managing director David Dodds about the company’s recognition.

David Dodds says he doesn’t suffer from jet lag when he returns to the UK from business trips abroad, which is just as well.

He has spent the last 10 years travelling to the Far and Middle East developing overseas markets for his product – top quality recycled metal – and has recently returned from an international exchange trip to Dubai, courtesy of HSBC, after the Great Blakenham-based company was named a finalist in its Global Connections initiative.

Global Connections was launched by HSBC to help ambitious businesses achieve export sales and prize money of up to �240,000 for the business judged to be the best.

Sackers was amongst 30 finalists invited to take part in the exchange which aimed to give delegates the opportunity to meet like-minded businesses from around the world and find out about international business opportunities.

“HSBC invited us to take part because I think they recognized us as a fast-developing and growing company and they said to us we have got this global competition and we think you could do well in it,” said David.

“So we put together a business proposal on how we export and where we send and how we send it and how we have developed our customers which saw us through the regional round and before the UK-wide judges.

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“The exchange to Dubai was superb and very informative about how to do business there and the hoops you have to jump through. The speakers and moderators were superb and the hosts were fantastic.

“Dubai continues to build and develop its infrastructure and that gives us huge potential and the trip really gave us a chance to get under the surface and to make new contacts as well as rekindle existing relationships.”

Founded in 1929, Sackers is a family owned, family run business specialising in total waste management. It provides bespoke waste collection, recycling and disposal solutions for large and small business and is committed to recovering value from waste materials using specialist shredding and reclaiming machinery. The company actively promotes recycling options as an alternative to more traditional methods of disposal such as landfill or incineration.

Innovation has been at the core of the company’s development, a fact not overlooked by the HSBC judges.

Four years ago Sackers invested in a new processing plant that meant it could process scrap metal on its own site in Great Blakenham near Ipswich, meaning its end product could be sold directly to customers for use in their foundries and furnaces. Further investment in more specialist plant now means that more of the residual waste can be processed and valuable metals reclaimed.

“The investment is all about improving the quality of the product which is improved by the quality of the machinery. The product that comes out at the end is something our customers can rely on 100% when they put it into their furnaces and it will melt without any fear of contamination or the wrong analysis.

“The new residual processing plant means we can extract 100% value from the raw material which means we can support our suppliers better too, so there is benefit for everyone.”

The trip to Dubai has given the company a valuable boost to its already considerable export activity, which started around 10 years ago.

“Several years ago we recognised that we needed to start to export and look for new markets because the UK requirement for our product was decreasing,” said David.

“With the advent of big containers ships getting metal to potential customers in the Middle East, China, India and the sub-continent was getting easier and I have been travelling for 10 years developing those markets and I think that is one of the things that the judges saw in us, that we were forward thinking and went out and found new customers.”

When Sackers started exporting – with the support and advice of bodies such as UK Trade and Investment and the China-Britain Business Council - it was happy to send two or three containers a month off through the Port of Felxistowe; today the figure is around 60 a month, a staggering increase which is reflected in the company’s turnover which has doubled in the last four years.

David hopes that growth will continue at that pace for the next five years, as it also strives to become the most trusted brand among its peers by ensuring the timely delivery of top quality product.

“Our customers need reliable suppliers and that’s why timely shipments are so important. If I don’t get the material to my customers when they need it, I’ve let them down and you are deemed ‘unreliable’. My customers need a stockpile and they need to know the material will arrive when we say it will.”

Reflecting on the journey so far and looking forward to the next stage of the competition, when Sackers will have to pitch again to the judges, David remains ever positive and says any prize money will be spent on further investment in the infrastructure of his family’s operation.

He also remains adamant that export is the way forward, not just for his own business but for many UK enterprises.

“This has been, without a doubt, very worthwhile. The UK needs to export and I would encourage people to jump on a plane and visit their customers and potential customers – there is business to be done overseas and we are a perfect example of that.

“As well as meeting new UK suppliers on our trip we also gained a better understanding of working with companies in Dubai. We also took the opportunity to visit a customer we have been dealing with for eight or nine years but the business between us had tailed off. As a result of the meeting we realized that there is much more scope for us to work together again and we shook hands on a deal that on its own made the whole trip worth it.

“When it comes to overseas customers you can do Skype and email but it becomes impersonal. There is nothing better that sitting with someone and seeing the whites of their eyes and having a conversation so you get to know them and trust them. They will also respect the fact that you made the effort to visit their office and come to their country.”

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