A 40-Year Reflection: An Interview with Richard Fletcher

A 40-Year Reflection: An Interview with Richard Fletcher

In 1982, Richard Fletcher officially launched his business, Fletchers Waste Management. What started 40 years ago as a scrap metal company has now grown into a leading waste management company, serving clients all over the country with needs such as skip hire and soil analysis services.

To celebrate this milestone, Richard Fletcher (Founder + current Chairman) has answered a few questions to reflect on the last 40 years - how it all started, how it has evolved, and some of his favourite memories so far.

What made you start Fletchers, and did you expect it to expand so rapidly into what it is today?

The reason for starting the business is quite simple. I wanted to provide a better life for my family and, in particular, try and give any children I had a better standard of living than I had - not that it was that bad. But did I expect it to be where it is today, employing over 100 people? No. Although hiring over 100 people in 40 years may not seem like a rapid increase over time, I still never expected it to be at this size in 40 years. 

What do you see as the biggest accomplishment the business has made in the 40 years?

I’d say the number of jobs and opportunities the business has created for people.

What are your thoughts on how the business has evolved with its strong focus on corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability?

When I started out, it was, as I said, a means to an end to give my family and myself a good standard of living. But the way things have evolved in the direction of sustainability is something I’ve become more proud of as the years have gone by. I’ve always taken social responsibility very seriously because when you employ people, you are responsible not just to them but also to all their families. After all, without jobs, people cannot provide for their families.

What are two of your favourite memories of working and running the company?

Very difficult to answer this one as there are so many. I think in the early years when I was a lot closer to all of the lads I worked with. That time provided me with many great comical moments. Maybe just how the company has evolved into a professional company from its very rough beginnings. If you asked me to pick two, one would be getting my first crane after spending 18 months of having to load and handle everything by hand myself. My second would be moving into our current offices. I remember the early days all too well of only being able to afford an old caravan as an office; there was only a drum of water to wash in! Purchasing my first skip lorry was also a favourite memory and something I was very proud of achieving.

What are your hopes for the future, and how do you see the business growth for the next 40 years?

I would just like the company to continue to grow. If you stand still, you always end up going backwards. It would be nice to see the business have other depots and increase the materials we can recycle at our facility. I’d also like to see the brokerage business grow and create more jobs for people without losing the personal connection between directors, management and the rest of the staff. It’s important to me that every member of staff is valued and respected no matter what job they do within the company and no matter how big the company grows.

Do you have a funny memory of something that has happened over the years you can share with us?

Many, but not all of them can be shared, I’m afraid, for numerous different reasons! Very early on in the business, there were a couple that gave an example of how different things were 40 years ago and how little the company started with. When a telephone engineer came to install our first ever telephone, before mobiles, I pointed out I wanted it in the old caravan in the corner. He went in and said, “Where do you want it?” I replied, “On the door.” He told me that they don’t put phones on doors, I then pointed out that the door I wanted it on was my desk made up of two old chests of draws with doors thrown across the top of them.

Another time we had a visit from health and safety, who, after telling us to get our act together on various issues, asked me where our washing and toilet facilities were. Thinking on my feet, I said, “Follow me!” Leading him out of our gate down the lane, I took him into the old working men’s club next to the yard and into their toilets. He said, “Do you own these premisses, Mr Fletcher?” To which I said, “No, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use the sink or toilet.” He said, “This is very irregular. I’ll have to investigate this.” Fortunately, I never heard another thing. I don’t think you would get away with that nowadays!

Those definitely are not the funniest things that have happened over the 40 years, but as I said, I just can’t share! One thing I will tell you is that the old days involved a lot of very hard work both physically and mentally, and I’ve had some bad times, but the good ones and the laughs along the way far outweigh all of those.