Oliver Hazell, chief executive of waste management company GD Environmental, tells Karl West how he plans to double turnover, lead the South Wales market and expand beyond it.
Oliver Hazell held the cold pint glass to his mouth as the mobile phone on the bar in front of him began to buzz. It was January 2015, and the young oil and gas engineer was in Dubai, enjoying a post-work drink with a friend from the UK who was in town. The call was from an old family friend who informed Hazell that GD Environmental, the waste management company based in Newport, was up for sale.
Hazell, now chief executive of GD Environmental, is from Newport, and knew the business had a good reputation under its previous owner, James Norvill.
“I got in touch to register our interest,” says the 27-year-old. “It all happened really quickly. Within a few months, I had given my notice in Dubai and left.”
Along with his father, Mark Hazell, and investor Ian Lynass, former chief executive of BIS Industries, the Australian mining and metals group, they snapped up the rubbish collector and scrap recycler. Hazell senior and Lynass are both directors of GD, which provides waste collection and recycling services for commercial and domestic customers, including skip hire, blocked drains and asbestos disposal. It has 95 full-time employees and 30 to 40 agency staff, working on six sites across South Wales.
“We were on site to have a look around the business by May or June and we took over GD in October 2015,” Hazell says.
The move back to South Wales may not have been planned, but Hazell says he would probably have returned home at some point: “In the grand scheme I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny. It wasn’t an urge to come back, although I thought I might come back to Wales eventually.”
The young executive has taken a firm grip since returning to Newport. Under his guidance, GD has bought Fred Lloyd & Sons, a scrap metal business in Pontypool. It has also invested in new picking lines, a plastics recycling operation and has put more trucks on the road.
GD’s turnover rose 27 per cent in the first year following the takeover, and Hazell reckons it is on course to double turnover in the two years since the buyout. “It was already a great business and we’ve put some horse-power behind it,” he says. “We’ve just focused on improving the service we can offer to our customers.”
Part of the growth has been down to a focus on bigger and longer contracts with factories and local councils. Hazell aims to attract trade with the breadth of GD’s offering, spanning wet and dry waste, scrap and hazardous materials disposal.
“Commercial customers, particularly, like one company dealing with all their waste,” he says. “We do everything a national operator does, and customers have the added benefit of being able to pick up the phone and deal with me.”
GD has an even spread of business between domestic and commercial customers. But the commercial arm is growing more quickly. Hazell believes going after bigger deals with councils and large industrial players could reap handsome rewards for GD. “There are a lot of new tenders coming out at the moment and we’d like to get into some of these longer term contracts,” he says.