The Entrepreneur: Simon Crowther, Flood Protection Solutions Group

Flooding is the biggest threat to the UK as a result of climate change - the Flood Protection Solutions Group work with communities across the UK helping them become more resilient to flooding, building flood defences like water-gates.

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Founder: Simon Crowther
Company: Flood Protection Solutions Group

Flood Protection Solutions Group (FPSG) helps customers in danger of flooding mitigate the risks. The company has grown from solely distributing Water-Gate barriers, to making quality water pumps to help homes across the country protect themselves from the disruption and damage caused by flooding.

Simon Crowther, founder and CEO of FPSG, speaks to Startups about business achievements, the cutthroat nature of the flooding defence industry, and his hopes and aspirations for the future of FPSG and its environmental consultancy, FPS Environmental Ltd.

The Business

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

The FPS Group comprises Flood Protection Solutions Ltd and FPS Environmental Ltd.

I founded Flood Protection Solutions Ltd in 2012, which has since grown into one of the UK’s leading flood defence companies. Within five years, the company turnover reached two million pounds.

Flooding causes devastating damage, and I know all too well what this is like, having suffered extensive flooding to my family home in the summer floods of 2007 before we had a Water-Gate barrier. Whilst remedial works were undertaken my family and I were in temporary accommodation for nine months. Although we were lucky and had insurance, this was still huge stress and disruption to our lives. I have since made it our mission to help reduce flood risk across the UK.

The combination of both my own flooding experience and my qualifications as a Civil Engineer and Chartered Water & Environmental Manager has made the business proposition unique.

The company has grown year on year since 2012. Initially, we started solely as the UK distributors for the Water-Gate barrier, however, we expanded our product range and services, allowing us to offer some of the best advice currently available for flooding in the UK.

In 2017 was launched by Flood Protection Solutions Ltd to make quality water pumps more accessible with next day delivery, and to help reduce pump jargon. With both practical and theoretical knowledge on flooding, our expertise is unrivalled, and after visiting homes and businesses around the country we decided too many individuals had the wrong water pump. The site was launched to help change this, and this year we are on target for a turnover of one million pounds.

Our services also expanded, as we were offering consultancy services for flooding and firewater runoff, along with flood risk assessments for planning. FPS Environmental Ltd was recently launched to allow a stronger focus on the consulting division within the business.

Everything we do is tailored around helping the customer with the problem at hand. We have a strong code of ethics and are passionate about delivering the best advice or solution available.

Being flooded is horrible. Filthy brown water devastates the ground floor of your house, and insurance claims run into tens of thousands of pounds. You are likely to be out of the house for around nine months whilst it is repaired. By planning ahead, you can minimise the risk of this happening to your home.

Flooding is the biggest threat to the UK as a result of climate change, and we’re on a mission to raise awareness and education in the sector. I have been fortunate enough to be included on the Forbes Under 30 list for my work in industry, feature on Channel 4’s climate change series, and I’m regularly asked to speak at both national and international conferences raising the profile of flooding. As a result, we now work with communities across the UK helping them become more resilient to flooding. We’re passionate about what we do and are incredibly proud of our work.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

The word ‘achievement’ can mean different things to different people, to some it may be defined by financial success or winning a large contract, and to others, it may mean something such as achieving a great work-life balance. Whilst having founded and run a successful business over the last nine years, my greatest sense of achievement is always when I hear from customers who would have been flooded without either our advice or equipment.

There is one key moment I remember feeling both proud and emotional. As part of a DEFRA Pathfinder scheme to look at different mitigation options, Flood Protection Solutions Ltd was asked to supply a Water-Gate barrier to a community in Devon. The barrier was delivered, and just three weeks later the village was unfortunate enough to be flooded again, however, our barrier saved a community of twelve homes. When I think of the disruption and trauma that flooding causes, this provided me with a great sense of achievement. My heart and soul are embedded within the flood risk sector.

How did you fund your business?

I was fortunate enough to be able to bootstrap the business and have never taken on external investment.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

I’m very much a numbers person, having a background in engineering and a love of maths. I tend to review our sales figures most days, keeping a firm eye on how the business is doing.

I also take time to look at the statistics from review sites (such as Trustpilot), to ensure we are offering excellent customer service and that feedback is actioned on.

To what extent does your business trade internationally?

Flood Protection Solutions Ltd has imported and exported goods globally, with flood barriers being supplied to locations such as Malta and Barbados. We have also provided remote assistance to a large financial services company in Hong Kong. The Water-Gate barrier is imported from Canada.

Where would you like your business to be in five years?

I would like Flood Protection Solutions Ltd to continue on its trajectory of being an industry leader within the sector, offering the best advice, products, and services available.

The launch of FPS Environmental Ltd is highly exciting as it allows us to bring focus to our consulting division, which I am determined to grow to be one of the leaders within both flood risk and environmental consulting. Historically, there has been a lack of availability of good advice within the sector. I have personally witnessed some projects which were not just unlikely to provide the level of flood protection expected, but also dangerous. I am passionate about raising the awareness of flood risk and believe our consulting division will not just raise awareness, but also help residents and businesses better assess and understand their risk. In five years’ time, I would like to see the company well established with multiple offices around the UK.

Flooding will only become more prevalent with climate change, and we need to be better prepared for it. Currently, 67% of people do not know their flood risk, I would like to change this and ensure flood risk is given the attention it deserves.

I am very conscious of the importance of investment (both in time and financially) in our future and would like the group to be in a strong position to help give back and promote investment and interest within the STEM sectors. I am currently an Arkwright Scholarship Ambassador, however as the group grows, I would love to help further – perhaps even through a series looking back at engineering feats and promoting this to the next generation.

(An Arkwright Engineering Scholarship is the most esteemed scholarship of its type in the UK, designed to inspire students to pursue their dreams and change the world as a future leader in engineering.)

What software or technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Microsoft Teams has been excellent as it allows us to have team members based in various locations around the UK who can communicate easily. This has meant we can have flood risk specialists in different areas – not just allowing us to reduce the cost to our customers (by reducing travel and accommodation requirements) but also reduce our carbon footprint.

Growth Challenges

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in business?

Aside from some difficulties I initially had with my age (I formed the business aged eighteen and it proved difficult to obtain some insurances etc), the biggest challenge has by far been the feast & famine nature of the flood industry. Interest spikes when flooding occurs and then dwindles afterwards.

In 2018 we saw four businesses within the flood protection sector sadly close – through a combination of a relatively dry couple of years and a ‘race to the bottom’ on pricing. We were fortunate to weather the storm and adapted to establish multiple income streams into the business, however, the nature of the industry is still difficult to manage and unpredictable.

When flooding occurs and is in the media, we could easily have a team ten times our current size, just to keep up with the phone calls, enquiries, and orders, however when the flooding is gone, this level of employment would not be sustainable. It is therefore a constant juggling situation between customer service, the unpredictable weather, and our expenditures.

What was your biggest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

I work incredibly hard, with my mind constantly wondering how we could improve, which has led to times where I have suffered from burnout. I have learnt that it is important to take time off to rest, relax and reset.

What one thing do you wish someone had told you when you started on your business journey?

Do what you do best and outsource the rest. It is important to understand that you can’t do everything, and that is absolutely okay. It is a sign of intelligence to know one’s weaknesses.

How has the pandemic affected the market you operate in?

I feel that the COVID pandemic has made people consider risk more seriously, with companies now looking more into future risks and how to mitigate them. Flooding is the biggest threat the UK faces as a result of climate change and as a country we need to be better prepared for it.

Personal Growth

Did you study business or learn on the job?

I studied Civil Engineering, which has been invaluable to business growth as it has enabled us to offer high level advice and ensure our credibility within the sector. My business skills were learnt through research, connections, and courses. One of my favourite courses was a one-day session led by Alison Edgar MBE – I was taught how to understand and adapt to customer behaviour, allowing me to offer better customer service and increase sales. Alison subsequently visited and trained my team.

How have you developed and grown as an entrepreneur since featuring as a Startups Young Gun?

I have developed to consider strategy and to plan for the future much more. Alongside this, my business confidence and negotiation skills have developed.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without?

I couldn’t run my business without Linkedin. It has been fantastic to build connections and a strong network.

Spotify is probably my most used app on my iPhone. I love listening to various podcasts and music – ranging from 80s classics to the current charts and everything in between.

A business book or podcast that you think is great:

I really enjoyed reading Karren Brady’s book ‘Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting to the Top’. I met Karren very early on in my business career and found her book fascinating as she has challenged the norm, challenged stereotypes and has broken down barriers on her business journey. As a Young Entrepreneur, I felt a correlation between our journeys.

Finally, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting a business?

Follow your passion. You’re likely to be very good at what you’re interested in, and the money will follow.

Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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