BEING able to say that you are a successful businessperson by the age of 40 would be a dream come true for many of us, and that is the reality for Garry (37) and Tanya (33) Russell, the power couple behind GTR Contracts Ltd, based at Terraughtie Farm, Dumfries.

Now in business for more than 10 years, the couple has spent that time building, and adding to, the services they offer, which was, initially, agricultural contracting, and construction work.

Having recently taken over a quarry, there is no sign of the pair stepping down - their dedication to their business is a clear indicator of why it is such a success. 

We visited them, and their two children, Harvey (9) and Maisie (4), to find out what it takes to make a company like GTR.

All questions were answered by Garry, with input from Tanya.

How did you establish the business?
GTR was established 12 years ago. We got married in August 2006, and then started GTR that October. 
At that time, Tanya worked full-time elsewhere, and then when Harvey was born in 2008, she started to work full-time for GTR. Having implemented many policies and procedures, and having got us through our first framework contracts, all whilst on maternity leave, it was a necessity for Tanya to be fully focused on our business. 
In the beginning, we worked from an office in the house, then we moved into the yard and the offices here in 2010.

What made you get into the contracting business?
I was brought up on farms and had a keen interest in contracting from a young age. After leaving school, I worked on a few farms, before becoming self-employed. I did some tractor driving and relief milking, and I also worked for local agricultural contractors, and then in 2002, I started doing a bit of forestry work.
When I secured the contract with the forestry work, I trained on a motor grader, and I did grader work for several years, while also continuing with agricultural work.
When legislation changes came into play for self-employed people, things became a lot more restrictive, and so that’s when I decided to start my own business, 

What were things like in the early days?
At that time, graders were few and far between, and I had gained a lot of experience on them, having done work up and down the country for several years.
When I left the grader job, that I had been doing on a self-employed basis, to start up GTR, I was hired back in by the company. We initially managed to secure a one-year contract for the road maintenance work (with the grader), and then, the following year, we secured a four-year contract, and that was an excellent start to our business.
We didn’t have any machinery when we first started, we just hired it in, and then once we were awarded the grading contract, which was security for us, we were able to start purchasing machinery; a Deutz tractor, in March 2007, and a Champion grader, in November 2007. 
I also kept busy with as much agricultural work as possible, and the workload quickly increased, and our business grew phenomenally in the first couple of years - it really was a whirlwind.

Did you face any challenges?
The biggest challenges we faced were: starting a business during a recession; neither of us having any family history of running a business; and both of us being so young, but having a good work ethic, industry experience, and many contacts, as well as Tanya’s degree in business information technology and management, and her management experience, really helped us, and the fact that our skills lay in very different areas meant that we were the perfect team, and that continues to be the case today. 
In order for the business to succeed, it needs both of us to be involved, and we never underestimate the amount of passion and dedication that is required of both of us for it to be successful.
The kids coming along was another challenge - learning to manage our time between them and the business, ensuring it was well balanced, was difficult, but both Harvey and Maisie are very much a part of the business, and GTR is a way of life for us all. 
Meeting customer demand was another challenge, however, this gave us the opportunity to diversify into other aspects of work, and grow our business by purchasing more machinery, and recruiting more staff, from the local area.

How did you market the business?
Luckily, a lot of work comes to us via word-of-mouth. 
We also advertise in the local farming review, and do the odd trade stand, but we do not heavily advertise. 
We also try to appeal to our customer base as much as possible, offering new services to meet their ever-growing needs. For example, in 2015, we bought our first chopper, and we were able to start offering farmers the full silage package.
We focus on creating long-lasting relationships, and are fortunate that we have many loyal customers. 
What is the main bulk of work that you do?
The largest workload we have comes from the construction side of things - general plant hire, construction of new forestry and windfarm roads, maintaining forestry and windfarm roads, construction of slurry lagoons, etc. 
Our agricultural team carry out silage, slurry, fertiliser spreading, dung-spreading, heavy disking, ploughing, hedge-cutting, direct drilling and lime-spreading, etc.
All of our operators are full-time, not seasonal, and are fully-trained and certified. 
We have just recently taken over Bargatton Quarry, which allows us to offer a range of sand and gravel products. We already had crushing equipment, and we have invested in a new four-way screener to maximise the product range at the quarry.
The takeover of the quarry enables us to supply materials to our clients, which is a great way of meeting their needs.
In general, we offer a range of services, creating a one-stop shop, which is a convenient choice for our clients.

Do you do any winter gritting work?
Yes, we have eight snowploughs and gritters, and a snow blower. We have contracts with many organisations, and also clear access routes to our own contract work to keep our jobs on-schedule, and our employees working, during the adverse weather.

What kind of hours do you work?
Our days can be up to 12 hours long – we just have to keep going until the work is done, and weather can have a big affect on this. 

Do you sponsor any causes?
We support many local causes including, Dumfries Saints Rugby Club, Stewartry Rugby Club, Queen of the South Football Club, curling and gymnastics. We have also donated some money towards the local playpark, and we support the Cash for Kids charity. We try to support local organisations and projects as much as we can. 

How many members of staff do you employ?
In all, we employ 80 members of staff, including office staff, with the majority being employed on a full-time basis, with a few on a part-time and self-employed basis, who we can use during busier times. 

Dealerships used?
We use a lot of different companies because it means we are not always relying on one business when we need technical support.
We use Llyods at Dumfries, Gordons at Dumfries, CAM Engineering at Castle Douglas, and Scot JCB, for agricultural machinery.
We are also a member of the machinery ring.

Thoughts on 2017’s weather?
The weather was a disaster in every aspect for the business, and it made things difficult. 
We secured many new contracts at the tail-end of 2017 which was a great start to the new year, however, the weather in the remote locations we work in caused major health and safety risks, preventing us from progressing with work for several weeks into 2018. 
Thankfully, the spring and summer of this year has been tremendous - the best we have had. 

What is your annual business turnover?
Our turnover for 2017 was £5.8 million. 

Future plans?
Ultimately, we hope to keep going as we are, and continue to get smarter. 
Over the last year or two, we have made a few internal changes, streamlined the business, moved forward with technology, and we have seen massive advantages as a result of these changes.
Things are good for us at the moment, and we have a few business ideas to explore over the coming months. 
We don’t like to sit still.