Head of Business Development
Although having spent the last 40 years in Surrey, Simon was born at the old military hospital at Shooters Hill just a couple of miles from our headquarters in Charlton, south east London. Simon’s formative years were spent in south east London, so working out of a Charlton base feels like coming full circle to where it all began.
Simon’s big influences growing up were his older brother and sister, both of who went on to community serving careers – medicine and teaching. Unlike his siblings, Simon liked to tinker with and make things. From an early age Simon liked to build, fix and restore anything he could get his hands on. If something was broken but had promise, Simon would be on top of it and in his element.
By the age of 9 Simon had a reputation in school for being resourceful. At a parents evening, headmaster Leslie Rixon was keen to inform Simon’s mother that “Simon can make something out of nothing”. It was by making something usable out people’s waste that would lead Simon to become the greatest independent recycler in the Surrey area.
Now on the cusp of his 25th year in recycling, an industry where being a second or third generation operator is the norm, Simon is still considered as one of the new innovators, with enlightened ideas and a forward-thinking approach – he’s a breath of fresh air in a congested industry.
Simon’s journey into the recycling industry began in 1989 after being made redundant from a senior position in property development. At the time Simon had young children and a mortgage, so his next move had to be a good one. Simon admits that he isn’t sure how he decided to get into the recycling industry. He recalls approaching many recyclers and environmental groups for an opportunity to prove himself, with each one turning him away. Convinced that this was the industry for him, Simon went into business for himself.
With £5000 left to his name, which he had to split between paying the bills, feeding his family, and starting a business, Simon had a big challenge facing him. With the purchase of an old Ford Transit van, and the use of his garden shed as head office, The Waste Paper Company was born. Whether it was the name of the business, the location of the operation, or the timing of his endeavours, Simon’s waste paper recycling business was a virtual overnight success story.
The nearest competition were miles away, and even though the most profitable work was being cherry-picked by the big operators, there existed a large number of small to medium enterprises needing help with their recycling. This gave Simon a great deal of exposure and opportunity to master his craft. Simon grew the business to a size much bigger than even he anticipated, changing locations twice in one year at one point just to keep up with rising demand.
When asked of his motivations towards continually growing The Waste Paper Company year-on-year to become the biggest independent recycler in Surrey, Simon said:
“Waste paper recycling is an unusual bug to catch, if it gets in your blood stream you are absolutely caught and can’t get away and I found this very early on. I sometimes wonder if I would have had a better life as a night-club pianist or running a wine bar but as I was destined to recycle peoples waste I decided early on I was going to do that as well as I could and would strive to become one of the very best. The more companies we helped, the more I learned, and the more opportunity I saw. I still see great opportunity and promise in improving recycling in the UK”.
One belief of Simon’s has remained unchanged from day one in this industry, and perhaps it’s this belief that has helped to keep his focus:
“Early belief for the business was that our service should help the environment, be utterly reliable, be simple to implement, and ideally cost neutral for the customer or better. These remain the driving forces of the business today”.
Simon met Graeme Coombs at The Independent Waste Paper Processors Association in the 1990s, where both sat on the Industry’s trade council helping to form and progress recycling policy for the UK. After meetings they developed a friendship based on a passion for recycling, sharing views and opinions on how things could be made better and the current accepted best practice could be improved upon. Both were running successful recycling businesses at the time.
Over the years it became clear that there were shared values and visions for their recycling businesses and in 2006 they began discussing a possible joint venture to see if there was a possibility of formalising a way of working closer together to cover a greater area more efficiently. The logical conclusion of this was a merger of the two companies and in 2007 The Waste Paper Company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the TGM Environmental Group.
In 2011 Simon moved out of the day to day running of the The Waste Paper Company depot in Horsley, and as Head of Business Development opened the Groups’ Sales office in Leatherhead. Away from trucks, balers and fork-lifts Simon was able to focus on what mattered to customers and how the TGM group could best meet these demands.
Simon believes that business life in the 21st Century is increasingly tough and that the choices are pretty harsh; “We must ‘evolve or die’ but that doesn’t mean the process can’t be rewarding, satisfying and hopefully enjoyable. Customers’ expectations have risen exponentially and it will be those who strive to meet and shape those challenges that will survive and hopefully flourish”.
Simon lives in the Surrey village of Bookham with his wife Sue and they have three children. (there is also a rabbit somewhere in the house). If there is any spare time Simon still enjoys ‘making something out of nothing’ and has recently renovated a derelict K6 Telephone Kiosk which is now in their garden, and also has restored a small fishing boat. “I think an old classic BMC car might be next in my sights if I can sneak it past Sue” he says.
Simon is passionate about music with an eclectic collection of reel to reel tapes, LPs, cassettes and CDs, and if you ask him nicely he may play something on the piano for you. He brews his own beer and has recently taken up fishing. He loves the outdoors but admits that he is not a sportsman. Simon Returned to University part time in 2005 to undertake a Business Management BSc Honours degree gaining an upper second.
Simon is a resident expert for our TGM blog. See topical posts from Simon and our other in-house specialists – www.tgmenvironmental.co.uk/blog