The Crawfords team celebrated the opening of the Charing, Kent depot in 2013, having already impressed owners of Fendt tractors in the county since 2005 despite having to provide backup from a long distance away, with most engineers working from the dealer’s Essex base.
Crawfords had been trading since the 1980s, and in 2000 the dealer was appointed to represent Massey Ferguson in Essex. The move proved successful, and in 2005, the AGCO Fendt and Challenger brands were taken on for Essex and for Kent. Operating from a single depot at South Woodham Ferrers in Essex, the dealer’s sales and service teams looked after customers in both counties. Despite the engineers often travelling long distances to reach Kent customers, the dealer’s reputation for excellent customer care grew. Sales of Fendt and Challenger tractors increased as a result, and within just a few years, the hunt had started for premises at a suitable location from which to look after customers in the county.
The Charing depot was purpose-built on a greenfield site. Within a year of its opening, the dealer was representing Isuzu too, and in 2015 the AGCO Valtra franchise joined Fendt and Challenger. The original building included a two-bay workshop, parts stores, sales offices and a showroom, but in 2016 the opening of a second phase was celebrated – which included an additional five-bay workshop with adjacent offices to accommodate the agricultural service team.
Now, more than 30 people are based at the Charing depot, representing premium brands, including Fendt, Valtra, Isuzu, Manitou, Amazone, Can-Am and Ktwo.
Meet the team
Service Manager Scott Clark joined Crawfords three years ago, after previously working as an agricultural engineer and then as a lecturer in agricultural engineering at Writtle College in Essex and then as Head of Faculty at Hadlow College. Scott oversees agricultural servicing and manages the workshop and service office teams, every day is different. “Our office team includes Steph Nuff, Derek Johnson and Dana Lloyd, and we all get on well. Each day brings different challenges, and I obtain huge satisfaction from problem-solving while working with agricultural machinery and communicating with our diverse range of customers. It’s a great industry to work in, and I enjoy keeping my finger on the pulse of what’s happening.”
Isuzu Salesman and Can-Am Brand Specialist Nick Axford have worked at the depot for four years, but he has 30 years of experience in the motor industry. Isuzu is a great brand to offer. The D-Max is excellent value for money – a top-quality pick-up at a reasonable price, so we enjoy great customer loyalty with lots of repeat business. “I share an office with Isuzu Service Manager Michael Maynard. It works well, it’s a brilliant atmosphere, and between us, we provide a seamless customer experience.”
Nick said that looking after the Can-Am range was his first experience with ATVs. “I had to learn quickly, but it was immediately obvious that these machines had what was needed to compete with competitor brands.
Michael Maynard is the Isuzu and Can-Am Service Manager
“I run the service department, manage the workload and spend a lot of time communicating with customers,” he explained. “I’ve been here for almost a year, and the big difference between working here and at dealers I was at previously is the close relationship with so many customers, which I enjoy. I do my best to be helpful, and I’m always happy to discuss issues or work carried out with the owners. I enjoy it here. Wes Crawford chats with everyone, so members of the team feel valued. Things are kept simple, and the investment is usually approved very quickly when I need new special tools for the workshop.”
Workshop Apprentice Tom Wood joined Crawfords just over a year ago. Most of the time, he works on Fendt products, and his speciality is sprayers. “I’m from an agricultural background, and I went to Hadlow College when I was 16 as I have always had a passion for tractors,” he said. “The Crawfords apprentice programme was recommended to me by Sam Pollard, now a qualified technician, but I knew him when he was an apprentice. I quickly became part of a friendly team, the workshop is modern and well-equipped, and my mentor, Sean Burgess, encourages me to stretch myself – I’ve learned so much from him. I also attend AGCO training in four-week blocks every two to three months.”
Tom said that when he discusses his training experience with apprentices based at other dealers, it is evident that the size of Crawfords operation is an advantage. “I have so many more opportunities to learn on a wider range of products, and as well as the Fendt Rogator models, I’m gaining experience on Amazone sprayers and spreaders too.”
Service Technician James Starling completed a Land-based Technology course at Hadlow College before joining the Crawfords team five years ago. His introduction to engineering was through a commercial fishing trawler owned by his family, but when he made friends who were involved in farming through shooting in his spare time, he started working on local farms, which led to his studies at Hadlow.
“I attended a Crawfords open day and met Wes and Bob Crawford,” he explained. “They were enthusiastic and welcoming and explained what they could offer. The job and the prospects appealed, so I joined the team.”
Jake specialises in crawler tractors, working initially on Challengers, and then on Fendt when the Challenger brand was replaced. “I get on well with customers and enjoy working on Fendt tractors. Market-leading innovations such as the VarioDrive transmission are extremely clever and offer significant efficiency and performance advantages for users.
Workshop Manager Steph Nuth joined Crawfords 18 months ago when she returned to the UK after running a mixed farm in France with her husband. “Before moving abroad, I was a member of the Kent Young Farmers Club, and I remained passionate about farming and was keen to get back into it,” she said. “My husband’s family have their own business, and the fact that Crawfords is also a family business appealed. After joining the company, I quickly realised that there is even more family involvement than I’d expected. It’s always easy to talk with Wes or Bob, and customers find the same.”
Steph said that her agricultural experience means she understands why customers need machines working again quickly when they call with problems. “I genuinely care about finding solutions, and I think our customers appreciate that. We have a fantastic team here who are really good at what they do, when anyone is under pressure, other team members are always willing to help too.”
Parts supervisor Michael Elford moved to the Charing depot six years ago from another dealer. “It was a new challenge, and Crawfords was new in the area at that time, but someone who was already employed there suggested that I should make the move, and I haven’t looked back.
“I already had experience with Fendt, and the biggest difference I found after moving to Crawfords was the closer relationship with customers. Wes and Bob encourage us to learn about and understand our customers’ businesses, which helps us provide a much better service. Dealing with parts means that most of my customer contact is by phone, so when we meet face-to-face at open days or shows, it’s always an enjoyable experience.”
Kent Territory Sales Manager Ashley Baldry joined Crawfords almost a year ago after working previously for a Land Rover main dealer. The team in Kent includes two other Territory Sales Managers, Warren Payne and Nigel Morris. Ashley’s trading area includes a range of farm types and sizes, including dairy, grassland, arable, mixed and traditional estates, so there is plenty of demand for the full range of machinery the dealer offers.
“We represent industry-leading brands, including Fendt, Valtra and Manitou, and new products due early next year are already creating excitement. In particular, the Fendt 700 Vario (7th Gen) and the Valtra Q-series tractors will have wide appeal, and we are already busy with enquiries and taking requests for demonstrations.”
Ashley said that Fendt grassland products have been well received by users – especially round balers and tedders, which are based on the previous Lely-branded designs and that Fendt Ideal combines and Rogator sprayers are also popular. Manitou handlers are in strong demand with exclusive features for the agricultural industry, and the Amazone line-up – especially drills and spreaders is chosen by professional users who want accurate, reliable performance.
“We offer our customers a wide selection of machinery from the most respected brands – all of which can compete with anything else available in this competitive market,” he confirmed.
Depot Administrator Charlie Goodhew worked in a full-time office role before joining Crawfords. “I grew up on a fruit farm, and when someone who worked at Crawfords suggested I apply for this role, I jumped at the chance.
“The Crawford family make everyone feel appreciated, the buildings are modern and comfortable, and we are always busy, so it’s a very positive atmosphere.”
Charlie’s role involves the preparation of paperwork for machine handovers and calling customers after delivery to check that they are completely happy with their new products. “I note all feedback and pass this on to our teams for follow-up when needed,” she explained. “I love meeting different people and always enjoy coming to work.”
Product Support Specialist and Demonstrator Ben Marsh has been based at the Charing depot since it opened and previously worked for a local fruit grower. “I love farm machinery and always wanted to be a demonstrator,” he explained. “Working with leading brands like Fendt, Valtra, Manitou, and Amazone will always be rewarding, and I love being so involved with new innovations around GPS guidance and other precision farming technology.
“AgcoConnect telematics offers real advantages for customers and machine users, but many don’t realise the many ways it can help until we explain.
“2023 will be busy, with significant new products to demonstrate to customers. It’s going to be a good year.”
Graeme Thow joined Crawfords as the Charing Depot Manager nearly three years ago, having previously been employed by a local agricultural dealer.
“My father and grandfather farmed, so I’m from a family farming background,” he explained. “The dealer I worked for previously had been taken over, and when I saw this job advertised, it immediately appealed. I met Wes, and we got on well, and we continue to enjoy a great relationship. I think that the accessibility of Bob and Wes Crawford to our customers and staff is one of our biggest strengths as a dealer, and they are both hands-on and aware of everything that is happening.”
Graeme said that the company ethos centres around delivering the right results for customers. “We listen to them, act on what they tell us, and make sure we communicate,” he stressed. “When we get it right, then they tell everyone else.”
As well as looking after the agricultural machinery brands, Graeme also works with the Isuzu team.
“We offer premium brands that people aspire to own, and our job is to help customers choose the right products and then provide the best possible support once they own them. We have 30 staff here looking after more than 1,000 regular customers – many of who we know by their first names.
“There is a shortage of people wanting to work in agriculture, but the Crawfords are successfully attracting the right people to ensure the business continues to thrive. We have a long-term succession plan through our agricultural apprentices, and we have our first vehicle apprentice joining the Isuzu team shortly. He will be supported and supervised by our experienced engineers.”