Essex Depot Profile – When RW Crawford Ltd opened its Writtle, Chelmsford depot in 2018, the event allowed the dealer’s Essex-based sales and workshop teams to provide an even better service for their customers.
As well as serving customers in the county, the Essex depot is also the Crawfords group head office. The staff there provide administration services and support for the Crawfords teams at the Charing–Kent, Billingshurst–West Sussex, and Ropley–Hants depots, along with the recently acquired Agwoods Linton and Swingfield–Kent, and Godstone–Surrey locations.
The Writtle depot was built on a green field site and replaced the previous South Woodham Ferrers base, where Chairman Bob Crawford started his agricultural machinery business in 1980. Reasons for investing in the new depot included gaining much-needed additional space for all the departments within one modern, practical building and to accommodate growing stocks of machines which were a consequence of increasing numbers of Essex-based farmers and contractors trusting Crawfords to supply and look after their fleets. The previous location had long since been outgrown, and finding space for larger machines in the workshop usually meant moving out anything that wasn’t being worked on at the same time.
Wes Crawford – Managing Director
The Writtle location was ideal – central within the trading area and close to major roads for convenient access from anywhere in the county. Selecting a green-field site rather than existing buildings allowed the premises to be designed specifically for the purpose. There is plenty of customer parking space close to the main entrance, and large yards at the front and rear of the depot are used to display machinery and for storage.
The large, state-of-the-art workshop has six bays – each big enough to accommodate the largest AGCO machines, and it provides a clean, comfortable, and well-lit working environment for the service team.
An attractive and well-stocked showroom allows visitors to view parts, sundries, branded clothing, toys, and tools. The parts counter, and stores are at the rear of the showroom – with direct access to the workshop behind. Administration and sales offices are next to the showroom, and, on the first floor, there is a large meeting and training room and additional offices for the sales, administration, and finance teams.
Altogether 50 staff are based at the depot.
As well as the main Massey Ferguson, Fendt and Valtra franchises, carefully selected complementary brands are also represented. These include Manitou, Amazone, Isuzu, Spearhead, HM Trailers, Ktwo trailers and spreaders, and Can-Am ATVs and UTVs.
The Crawfords business was built on providing the very best customer and product support, and continued investment in training and equipment means that customers receive the very best advice to help them select the right machines, and to help them get the most from their investment when the equipment arrives on their farms.
“We’ve always recognised that our customers have a choice of brand and dealer,” commented Bob Crawford’s son, Wes Crawford, who took over as Managing Director in 2018. “Our role is to help them in every way we can. The brands we offer are the very best in the industry, and our sales teams have the knowledge and experience to help customers select the right model and specification, and our after-sales department is there to provide routine servicing and to quickly diagnose faults and carry out repairs if things go wrong”.
“However, many of the latest machines come with advanced new features to boost efficiency and productivity, so we have also invested in specialists who are there to provide optimisation training in the months after new machines are delivered.”
Often the first point of contact for customers phoning or visiting the dealer is Group Sales Administrator Beth Hogg and Sales & Marketing Administrator Georgia Rowe. Beth and Georgia share an office adjacent to the showroom beside the main entrance.
Group Sales Administrator Beth Hogg and Sales & Marketing Administrator Georgia Rowe
“It’s a very friendly environment,” explained Beth, who has worked at the depot for the past three years. “Most calls are from farmers and contractors, but we deal with enquiries from other industries and the public too – particularly in relation to Isuzu pick-ups and Can-Am ATVs.”
Georgia joined the Writtle-based team this spring. “I was made to feel welcome and quickly settled in,” she commented. “Beth and I place orders for the tractors and other machinery and work closely with the brand managers. It’s very much a sales support role.”
Essex-based parts supervisor Elliot Bickmore looks after parts for all the brands. “I’ve been employed by Crawfords for nearly 11 years and have seen huge business growth in that time. When I joined the South Woodham Ferrers team, there were only 25 people, but now there are four Crawfords depots employing more than 100 staff”, he explained.
Elliot Bickmore (centre) – Brands Parts Supervisor
“I feel that the success and growth have resulted from doing things differently from other dealers. Here, we all work as one big team and support each other – rather than regarding ourselves as being in separate departments. We support premium brands, and everyone goes the extra mile to ensure we exceed the highest expectations.”
Service technician Jonathan Lodge specialises in Fendt products. “I worked for a previous AGCO dealer until 2013, looking after Massey Ferguson machines,” he explained. “I was the 2010 Massey Ferguson Technician of the Year, and now the other engineers often ask my advice when dealing with complex issues on older models.
Jonathan Lodge – Fendt Products Specialist
“There is definitely a very good relationship between this dealer and its customers. What I like about the job is that we get to know the customers so well – business owners, machinery operators, and their farms. It’s a great industry to work in, and this is a very good dealer to work for, and I’m certain that the Crawfords strategy of training new engineers as apprentices is the right way forward.”
Lucy Beale has a combined product support and trainee sales role. She recently joined the Writtle-based team and works with Product Support Specialists Dean Chaplin and James Sharp.
Lucy Beale – product support and trainee sales
“I’m keen to pursue a career in agriculture, and particularly agricultural mechanisation,” she explained. “When I saw the role advertised, I asked my father’s advice. He’s a farm manager, and he confirmed that Crawfords has an excellent reputation in the industry, so I applied.
“Three weeks in; I’m already very much part of the team and learning fast. I will be gaining experience in each department within the new Crawfords Academy, which will allow me to find which product area and role suits me best.”
Russell Oliver is the Group Finance Controller. The finance team of seven people based at Writtle looks after accounts for all the depots. “We handle payments to suppliers as well as payments from customers,” he explained. “No one likes paying bills, but we have a strong credit control function with few long-standing debts, and that demonstrates that there is strong customer satisfaction in terms of the goods and services we have supplied.
“We have a very good mix of people within the group, and everyone shares a passion for what we do.”
Ryan Murton is one of two Isuzu and Can-Am specialist engineers at Writtle. “I worked with many other vehicle brands for main dealers before starting at Crawfords three years ago,” he explained. “I can’t fault Crawfords in terms of investment in its brands to ensure customers receive the best service, and this is the first place I have worked where servicing and repairs are genuinely regarded as more important than sales. There is a close relationship between the dealer team and customers – which helps when breakdowns or faults occur as owners remain far more relaxed. They know that everything will be done to find a solution as quickly as possible.”
Still Built on Service
Service Director Malcolm Baker joined Bob Crawford in his machinery sales venture only six months after the business started in 1980. He remains responsible for the service departments at all the depots. “The business is only ever as good as its staff,” he stressed. “We are very lucky holding franchises for the best brands in the industry, and that’s due to our customers and the Crawfords teams who look after them so well. The family feeling has been retained while building this successful business which means team members feel valued and involved.
“The agricultural industry is still about people dealing with people, and I’m pleased that the Crawfords apprentice scheme is doing so well. Providing excellent training while at the same time instilling the Crawford values of going the extra mile, building relationships and looking after the customers will ensure business growth and success continues.”
Amy Phythian – Warranty Claims
Amy Phythian looks after warranty claims for all the brands and from all the Crawfords depots, which involves working closely with the workshop teams as well as suppliers.
“I’m busy throughout the year, but because most warranty repairs are carried out when farms and our workshop teams are at their busiest – I tend to receive claims for processing in large batches later when technicians have the time to catch up. The priority is always solving the problem and getting the machine working first.”
Service Manager Shaun Baker joined the Crawfords team when he left school – 22 years ago. He started in the workshop, specialising in Massey Ferguson, and progressed to his current role seven years ago. “Our priority is always keeping machines working – that is what we are here for,” he explained. “We have an honest and hard-working team of engineers, and they all get on well with our customers. We enjoy great customer loyalty, and many calls that I take are from farmers who I visited in my service van many years ago.
“We are always looking for new people to join our team, and if they are willing to work hard and are not scared to work outside, then I would encourage them to contact us. Crawfords offers great career opportunities in a relatively stable industry and in roles that most people enjoy.”
A familiar face at all the Crawfords events – Hannah Kelsey is Group Marketing Manager. She joined Crawfords nine years ago after leaving college. “My first role was very general, and none of us knew how it might develop,” she admits. “It was more of a sales administration role – with occasional marketing thrown in. There was no need for a full-time Marketing Manager at that time.” Hannah had been very active within the Essex Young Farmers Clubs organisation, and her experience helped when planning public events for the dealer. ”
Hannah Kelsey – Group Marketing Manager
Bob Crawford was in charge when I joined, and we had only just opened our Kent depot, so things have certainly changed,” she stressed. “We already represented Massey Ferguson, Challenger, and Fendt but have since taken on Valtra, Manitou, Isuzu, and Vaderstad at some of the depots, and we do a lot more grassland kit now too. I’ve had to learn quickly about each business area to ensure that our customer communications are relevant and useful.”
Hannah said that the dealer’s excellent customer service is the easiest thing to sell. “It’s always the priority, and when customers start dealing with us, they quickly realise that,” she added.
“It’s part of the culture and comes so naturally to everyone who works here. The Crawfords family values everyone in the team, and that’s something customers notice and appreciate too.”
“It’s a great place to work, and I enjoy my challenging, busy role. There is no need for ‘hard sell’, and I gain a lot of satisfaction promoting our business through charity and community events, including LEAF open farm Sunday and working with schools throughout our operating area. ”
Nunzio Rio is responsible for sales from all the depots, but he works primarily with the Essex and Kent sales teams. “In theory, I just look after sales, but because we all work together and share similar values, there is inevitably a crossover with servicing, too,” he explained. “I joined Crawfords 21 years ago and can honestly say that there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t wanted to come to work. I wouldn’t swap any of the brands we represent, and as sales teams, I think we are fortunate to be able to recommend and supply equipment that we know is the best in the industry.
Nunzio Rio – Sales and Operations Director
“Our sales team enjoys a close relationship with customers, and qualities we look for when recruiting new members include enthusiasm, positivity, empathy, passion, and trust, as well as the ability to listen to users and understand their needs.
“I love my job – the family culture, the close-knit team, the fact that it doesn’t feel like coming to work, and I also enjoy making sure that we provide the best possible working environment for our staff so that they can grow in their roles and enjoy their work too.”
Dean Chaplin joined Crawfords in 2008 and is based at Writtle, although he also provides demonstration support for other depots. He works with Product Support Demonstrator James Sharp.
“We demonstrate all the brands and work closely with the sales teams,” Dean explained. “We also help customers optimise the performance and efficiency of their new machines by visiting after delivery and explaining advanced features available through the latest smart farming technology, such as FendtONE. It’s enjoyable spending time with operators and explaining how to optimise the performance, and they are often amazed at what the new systems can do. AGCOConnect telematics is a relatively recent addition, and we explain the benefits available and encourage owners to sign up for the service. There is often the potential to improve working efficiencies while allowing our teams to access performance data can help reduce downtime through remote fault diagnostics. There are many benefits.”
Territory Sales Manager
Tom Kerr and Tim Osborne are Territory Sales Managers based at Writtle. They work with Nunzio Rio looking after customers in the Essex trading area.
Tom Kerr – Territory Sales Manager
“We have a vast array of customers each to look after, and our role is keeping in touch and supporting them while providing solutions when new or used machinery is needed,” Tom said.
“Increasingly, farmers want more efficient machinery with lower costs of operation and ownership. We offer premium brands which are known for their quality, and our customers know Bob and Wes Crawford and like the fact that they remain so involved in the business.”
Tom said that having access to precision farming specialists Dean Chaplin and James Sharp is seen as a big advantage by customers. “It’s a very specialised area, and the technology has evolved quickly, so knowing that we have experts available to provide advice by phone or on-site is reassuring. We sell machines knowing that our customers will be looked after well – it’s all about dealing with people.”