June 15, 2024

Animal bedding firm branches out on road to success and gives staff £1,000 Covid bonus

Platts Animal Bedding Specialists, Llay Wrexham Three Generations of the Platts family continue to inovate and win awards Christine and Robert Platt (centre) pictured with daughter Caroline Platt and grandson Chris Whittaker

An animal bedding company that champions the mental health and wellbeing of its staff has given every member of the team a £1,000 Covid bonus.

Family firm Platts Agriculture says it’s a way of saying thank you to the workforce for their “incredible help” in navigating the problems thrown up by the pandemic.

The Wrexham-based company overcame a whole host of difficulties to achieve a 6.5 per cent hike in turnover, with the number of staff rising from 54 to 62.

It has also set up two new stand-alone sister companies, haulage operation Platts Transport and Platts Commercial Services which is an authorised testing centre for HGVs that’s now also used by other transport businesses.

At the same time, the firm has introduced a raft of green initiatives to make the operation more environmentally friendly.

Investing £1 million in two new baling lines has led to a 30 tonne a year reduction in the use of polythene and more  recycled material being used in packaging, along with an increase in the number of bales stacked on each pallet which means more can be delivered per lorry load.

Five new Mercedes trucks are on order which will make the fleet 20 per cent more fuel efficient and reduce carbon emissions.

The impressive performance has led to Platts being shortlisted in two categories at the prestigious Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Awards for Wales – for the Family Business of the Year and the Environment awards.

The recognition comes as the company prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year with a third generation of the family joining the management team.

The headquarters on Llay Industrial Estate is called Parkleigh after the pig farm where it all started with founders Robert Platt and his wife, Christine.

The now retired couple were offered a load of wood shavings from a joinery factory in Merseyside but it was a lot more than they needed for their own livestock, so they started bagging the rest and selling it to neighbouring farms.

The company is now run by their daughter, Caroline Platt, and her son, Christopher Whittaker, is a third generation member of the team who is heading up Platts Transport which he set up.

Robert said: “We’re incredibly proud of Caroline and how she’s taken the company to the next level and it’s great to see that Christopher has come in as well.

“It’s always been our wish that they carry it on which is lovely to see and it’s great that they’re making such a super job of it.”

According to Caroline, Platts’ family ethos and being as environmentally sustainable as possible are the golden threads running through everything they do.

She said: “I’m particularly proud that we did not make any redundancies during the pandemic – we kept everybody and actually increased the number of people we employ to 62.

“Because manufacturing came to a grinding halt the supplies of wood residues dried up although we did manage to get some from the contractors building the Nightingale Hospitals.

“Out of the 25 drivers, only five were on the road so we used the difficulty and created another business because companies were crying out for haulage services.

“Chris did all of that, he brokered the deals because we had trucks and drivers and, as a result, Platts Transport is going from strength to strength.

She added:  “We’ve also introduced flexible shift patterns to suit the needs of the staff

“Many of the staff have been working from home and that has changed our understanding of work life balances.

“Creating the family ethos is incredibly important to us and we have also focused on the mental health and the wellbeing of our staff which is something that has worked on all levels.

“We are committed to promoting a  healthy work-life balance and two members of staff have undergone mental health first aid training to support the team.”

“What gives me more pleasure than anything is seeing the workforce have an improved standard of living, go on lovely holidays and have nice cars and have an improved work-life balance. That gives me a real buzz.”

Son Chris was always destined to join the team at some point but his arrival was hastened by the pandemic when it was all hands to the pump.

A talented all-round sportsman, he played football for Wales at under 18 and 19 levels, alongside the likes of current internationals Harry Wilson and Joe Morrell, as well as Eddie Speed the son of the late and much-lamented Wales manager, Gary Speed.

His entrepreneurial flair also came to the fore at an early age when he established his own company at the age of 16, selling briquettes .

The profits helped pay his way through university in Chester where he gained a degree in business management, which led to him setting up his own marketing company.

Since joining family firm he has had experience working in every department and is now running Platts Transport and deploying his marketing skills to help promote the business.

He said: “Looking at ways of making the company more environmentally sustainable is like a golden thread running through everything that we do. We’re always looking at ways to look after the planet.

“We’ll pay extra for trucks with lower engine emissions, not just because you get more miles to the gallon but also because there’s a lower environmental impact.

“I’m ambitious for the company to build on our success so that everybody who works here can benefit.

“Everyone spends a lot of their life at work so it’s important they enjoy it while they are here.

“Despite all the problems caused by the pandemic, we had our best ever year in 2020/21 so staff at every level were recognised with £1,000 to say a heartfelt thank you for their efforts.

“The fact we have been shortlisted for two major awards is credit to them and, whatever the outcome, that’s a great achievement.”