It’s fair to say 2017 was a good year for Hartlepool-based energy consultancy Utility Alliance.
The company moved into new premises in the first week of January, they’ve taken on more than 100 new staff, they’ve expanded the operation elsewhere in the UK and they’ve picked up regional and national honours along the way.
As success stories go, this isn’t a bad one. But don’t expect the directors at the firm to rest on their laurels as we go into the New Year.
With their financial year ending in February, the Utility Alliance number crunchers predict that last year’s £6m turnover will at least treble to a staggering £18m, and plans are already in place to open up another office in the south to add to the branch which opened in Sheffield in September.
It’s been an exciting time for everyone connected with the business, as PR and Marketing Manager Ian Willis explains.
“It’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to describing how 2017 has been for Utility Alliance as a company,” he said.
“I joined the firm in the first week of January, on the day they officially moved into the new building. I sensed a real buzz about the place, and as we all got settled in to the new surroundings, that buzz continued.
“You would have expected the novelty to wear off as the weeks wore on, but hand on heart there is still a real sense of excitement around the place as we approach the end of the year. It’s a target driven operation, people know what is expected of them on a weekly and monthly basis, and there is a determination to end the year on a high and go into 2018 looking to keep that growth going.”
Led by directors Bob Moore, Darren Sutherland and Phill Moore, the Hartlepool workforce now stands at 276. The Sheffield operation currently has a 40-strong team in place, and an ongoing recruitment drive will see that rise to 150 in the first quarter of 2018.
Negotiations are underway to open a third office, while field sales teams are also growing to spread the word across the nation.
Willis added: “We’re in the business of sales, and if people don’t know who you are then they are unlikely to buy from you. For that reason, when I was brought in I was effectively given a free reign by the directors other than the instruction to raise brand awareness.
“I’ve used various tactics to do that, and to be fair to the bosses they’ve backed pretty much everything I’ve suggested. I got them into negotiations to sponsor Hartlepool United after the club had been relegated from the Football League.
“I think they thought I’d lost my marbles at first, but they eventually went for it and we got a lot of good PR from the deal from the local community for backing the club when others were walking away.
“The media coverage from that led to Burnley Football Club contacting us, they’re in the Premier League and before we knew it we had struck a deal where we had our logo on their kit and advertising boards around the stadium which were popping up on Match of the Day and Sky Sports every weekend.
“But the good thing about how we operate is it’s not just about throwing money about to get our logo out there. We do a deal where we will provide the utilities, and from the money we make on that deal, there is a pot of money created from which we can pump back in through a commercial deal.
“It’s not just football clubs, we deal with all businesses. We could provide utilities for a school, and from that profit we could put a slice back in to buy books or to pay for equipment. All businesses look at the bottom line on their accounts, regardless of how big they are.
“If we can get their contract and they are going to get something back at the same time, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
The senior management team has continued to grow throughout the year, with key appointments in HR, finance, recruitment, IT and training as well as to the overall sales team.
“It’s been a bit like a runaway train to be truthful, but it’s nice when our sales team ring up a business and they’ve heard about us, they know who we are,” said Willis.
“We still have a long way to go, but the campaigns throughout 2017 have been successful and we will be looking at more target specific campaigns in the new year.
“This year has been about putting the foundations in place, now we have to build on them. There’s no limit to how far we can grow as a business, but the directors are still working on the business plan they created when they set the firm up just under three years ago.
“They’re fully aware of developments that are taking place within the sector – electric vehicles are going to be a big player sooner rather than later – and they are constantly looking at how to get involved.
“As I said earlier it’s important that businesses know who we are when we’re trying to get contracts in place to provide their utilities. The same goes for when we’re trying to team up with businesses in partnerships. If they do their due diligence on us, we want them to be impressed enough to get us round the table.
“We’ve had a lot to shout about in 2017 – and I’m confident you will be hearing a lot more about Utility Alliance next year.”
UTILITY ALLIANCE – 2017 TIMELINE
January – Utility Alliance moves into Tranquility House on Hartlepool Marina having previously occupied office space at Queens Meadow Business Park in the town.
March – Shortlisted in the prestigious North East Business of the Year Awards in the Most Promising Newcomer category.
April – An ongoing recruitment drive sees the workforce grow to 170. Talks start with a view to opening a new office in Sheffield.
May – A successful night at the Hartlepool Business Awards sees Utility Alliance win Most Promising New Business, Service Sector Business of the Year and the overall Hartlepool Business of the Year.
June – Agreed a £240,000 three-year sponsorship deal with Hartlepool United which sees the company logo added to the team kit. The firm also bought the naming rights to the club’s stadium, but opted to revert to the original name of Victoria Park as a gesture of goodwill to the fanbase.
July – Another football sponsorship deal, this time with Burnley FC’s community section. This results in national and international exposure for the UA brand through TV coverage of the Premier League.
August – Highly Commended in the annual Energy Efficiency Awards event at the NEC in Birmingham.
September – Named as Best UK Consultancy of the Year in the Corporate Livewire awards. Doors open at the new office in Sheffield, initially creating 30 jobs in the first week. More than 20 staff – including Chief Operating office Phill Moore – show their caring side by taking part in a 200ft bungee jump to raise funds for a local girl who needs an operation to help her walk.
December – Shortlisted in the annual UK Energy Awards in Park Lane, London.