SO did Josh Gill make the right decision when he decided the only way to do things right was to set up his own company?

Having free rein to innovate and implement sounds like a dream job - if you have done your research and know that you are the sort of person who can lead a new business.

Well, to be fair, it’s so far so good for the Everflow Group, which comprises non-household water retailer Everflow Water, and utilities software provider Everflow Tech, with a 35 per cent growth in turnover to more than £75 million since the start of last year.

The company was ranked third in the 2021 FT1000, a list of the fastest growing companies in Europe and took awards at the UK Business Awards, Great British Entrepreneur Awards and Growing Business Awards for leadership, product development and customer service.

Read more: Everflow boss among 50 best business leaders in UK

And, very close to Josh’s heart, Everflow was also named a ‘Great Place to Work’ and the man himself was selected as a Top 50 business leader and Top 32 ESG Pioneer.

Talking of Josh Gill’s heart, it has been stolen recently by a new arrival - baby daughter Jemima, so there is a lot going on for this 34-year old from Morpeth who can’t wait to get back to the North East each time he has to leave it. For him, the chance to provide jobs and help people build careers here is the best reason to have started Everflow.

“Loads of people love travelling. I don’t - I love coming back home more than anything, so my ideal holiday would be a week just at home seeing friends and family,” he tells me.

“So the fact that Everflow is growing in this part of the country and creating North East jobs is really important for me.

“What is happening across the region is absolutely phenomenal. I’m loving it at the moment with so many big companies looking to bring headquarters here along with the redevelopment of the steelworks. Just incredible, and it attracts high-calibre people to invest in jobs and come to live here and that can only be a good thing.”

His company was launched after Josh saw a gap in the market for an ethical water retailer to use groundbreaking tech to work with SMEs - often seen by other suppliers as a low-return option.

Everflow Tech was created as a standalone business in 2018 as a retail sales, billing and customer management platform and its technology is now used in some form by about the half the market.

The journey began when a contact he made while at university in Newcastle offered a job with his small consultancy firm which did both engineering and cost consultancy.

Josh admits: “I very quickly realised that despite graduating as an engineer, I’m not an engineer at all. I have no love for the detail, so it was terrible from a long-term perspective, but really good for making contacts and things like that.

“So I ended up being asked to lead the North East division of the organisation and managed to double the turnover within the year. So I think my best work was much more around forging relationships, building business and growing business.

“That’s where my passion came from. My grandad was a serial entrepreneur before he retired and quite a lot of my mum’s side of the family have been. So I guess business was in the blood.”

The genesis of businesses and their leaders always gives a fascinating insight into their future success. They rarely start in a straightforward manner, but there is always a strand of DNA in there from the beginning that will stick around and come to shape the company.

The Northern Echo: Josh in his officeJosh in his office

Josh thought he was an engineer, because the maths and science side of things seemed to be what he was good at. But his grandad has a lot to answer for, because the more entrepreneurial side of his grandson’s character soon came to the fore as Josh used his experience to become the ideas man - a leader, strategist and developer.

When things started clicking into place, he wanted to see things from a big-business viewpoint and add that to his portfolio, so joined Northumbrian Water to help separate its wholesale business from the retail. When the two sides couldn’t see the same way forward, Josh knew he was on the right path, so he proposed a £500,000 investment with a couple of trusted contacts.

“They were willing to take a punt on me which was very, very good of them. I’ve managed to pay them both back many times over, so I’m sure they’re happy with their decision,” he says.

“There was just no one looking at things from our side - everyone was focused on the big corporate sector like the Tescos and trying to make things work there. I could see that coming from all the competitors, wanting a big account management team to service all these customers.

“No one in the market was looking at SMEs because there’s no money to be made. But we said ‘yes, there is you’ve just go to use the technology and move to simplify things for both the customers you are serving and also for your own business. And if you can do that, then you’re on to a winner.

“You need to automate and make it simple for customers because they don’t want to spend any time thinking about the utilities - they don’t even want to spend time on something like energy, let alone water.

“So you just have to make the transaction happen in seconds, and that’s what we set about doing.”

If you get the chance to talk to Josh for any length of time, the conversation will always come round to people - and how his staff’s happiness and sense of fulfilment matter to him personally just as much as their skills matter to his company’s bottom line.

“It’s so important to me that we make really good jobs that people enjoy coming to,” he says.

“I’ve worked in places where that’s not always been the case, but I largely don’t care about the profit now. As long as we’ve got enough to grow, to invest, to create new jobs, then that’s fine. I’m more interested in creating jobs to support the local economy and be able to help people in their individual career paths. That’s much more rewarding than any kind of financial motivation.”

The future looks as bright as the present, with his team firmly behind his philosophy and drive.

“One thing I always say to my managers is that their job is to get the best out of their people and ultimately make their own role redundant,” he says.

“Because the only way we can scale the business and create more jobs is if the teams that they’re building are able to run themselves and be autonomous - otherwise those managers are always going to be the bottleneck.”

His plans, of course, revolve around growing and innovating, with a move into other utilities and an industry-first carbon offset scheme.

He explains: “If businesses want to buy one utility from us then they could be buying several, so we plan to introduce one utility a year over the next three years until we have a basket of four.

“Then there is the technology, which we share with competitors to make buying or billing easier. The plan is to really expand that so that in five to ten years over five million businesses benefit from service on a platform through us or one of those competitors.”

The next tee in the Everflow pipework will be carbon-offsetting every customer’s water supply. That started last Saturday, but is also backdated to the beginning of 2021 meaning that tree planting and ‘enrichment projects’ will be worked out and implemented for each supply.

This all started from someone taking a fresh view of a sector many had given up.

Josh Gill’s idea that the basics could be done better has grown into unique innovations a large part of the sector wishes they had thought of first.


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