Spotlight on Darrell Taylor - Planting change
At Spotlight, we had the opportunity to talk to Darrell Taylor, owner of Co-Treetment Ltd, who told us about turning his dream for change into a reality.
Realising a dream for change
My early career after university was in Sales, but my passion has always been in motorcycling. Since my early teens, I have been an avid motorcyclist, and my dream job came to reality in 2006 when I was offered a position with Yamaha Motor Europe. In this role, I had the opportunity to work in different countries around Europe including the Netherlands and Italy, finally moving back to England working for Triumph Motorcycles in Leicestershire.
Ultimately on a press launch, I was caught up in another rider's accident resulting in a broken C6 vertebra, and it became apparent that it wasn’t possible to continue riding for the foreseeable future. Which led me to reflect on my experiences in the motorcycle industry and the impact that I have had on people and the world around me.
In this case, although motorcycling is fantastic, I realized that it caused heartache for many people around me too. The same applies to my career in the oil industry. I personally had a wonderful time working in the lubricant additives industry and while the industry is taking huge strides to become cleaner and reduce its impact on the environment, I could not ignore that I played a small part in an industry whose net output is largely responsible for climate change too. I decided that I wanted to do something positive.
I wanted to put my focus and energy into a project that helped the environment and people too. I knew that it had to run without any obvious negative impacts. The pieces began to fall into place in my mind as I began to think about a business that would plant trees for companies and organizations who would like to operate in a sustainable manner, reduce their Carbon footprint and make a real impact with their CSR statements.
As someone new to starting a business I needed a lot of support, in terms of setting up, bank accounts, setting up a website, social media, e-commerce, etc… I discussed my idea with a friend who runs his own business based in Derby called Bloc Digital, and with the help and support of Keith and Chris from bloc digital I received the mentoring and guidance needed to set-up Co-Treetment Ltd. Co-Treetment Ltd was an idea that I had in early 2019, but to be honest, I’ve had a dream to do something positive for myself for a long-long time.
To plant trees, you fundamentally need 2 things. Trees and land, and I started out with neither. I researched trees, suppliers, planting strategies, trialling different planting methods in my garden. I created a business plan and procedure for getting trees into the soil efficiently and effectively, but I was still missing the land.
There was an urgency to secure land quickly as the planting season is November to April, so our 2020 plans hinged on securing land and being able to preemptively plant some trees to have a ‘product’ to showcase, promote and sell.
I was approached by a mutual friend who had a similar outlook to mine and wanted to invest in a project that did some good for the earth too, so with some more help and support, I was able to secure the land needed.
Starting a business was a rollercoaster journey, very little went to plan but with the right help, support, people and attitude most problems can be overcome.
Even when it came to planting, we were heading into the first Covid-19 lockdown and although I had many offers of help, the first 400 trees were planted by myself in a single day, by hard, in ‘far less than ideal’ soil. My wife and children helped plant another 400 trees and Keith Cox and his family helped plant the remaining 450 trees while socially distancing in separate corners of the field.
We had sufficient rain for the trees to take to the soil for a couple of months, then we had a dry-spell which is dire for newly-planted trees. For me, the key thing in order to succeed is determination, coupled with the ability to not mind if people think you look silly, or if you fail. There are lots of highs and lows but we rarely take time to celebrate the high-points, and we all dwell on the low points and feel the pressure of other people's judgements.
I have found that people are supportive and helpful, friends want friends to succeed and if people doubt you or judge you poorly then they probably aren’t the people you should surround yourself with.
Advice for other people
Starting a new company or career is a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re on your own. Surround yourself with people more knowledgeable than you are, network, do not expect your hourly-rate to be a fair reflection. Roll with the punches and don’t worry or be disheartened when things don’t go to plan. Success is born from failure and mistakes.
I think the characteristics you need are determination, initiative, very thick skin and a real passion. I can’t imagine there is a single recipe or route to success, everyone’s story will be different, but these character traits will certainly help.
In a larger business or corporation success is often driven through loyalty and having a ‘sponsor’ or ‘champion’ who has influence at senior levels and will recommend you. Often the person who employs you will ‘champion’ you because your success is a reflection on their judgement and if they rise then you will rise, if they leave then you need to find another ‘champion’ to help you progress.
If you manage people then listen to your team and provide them with room to do their job. If you micro-manage people then they work at your pace, in your style, which won’t be the most effective approach for them. Actively encourage people to find their individual best solution to their challenges and their jobs, utilising their creativity.
2020 started horrifically and has delivered a series of blows from January to December, 2021 hasn't started any better. 2020 was a year to endure, learn and plan the seeds for future success, we shouldn't forget that there were some real highlights too. For Co-Treetment Ltd, we have established our roots and started our journey of growth, through 2021 and beyond I hope that we can attract more clients, plant more trees, complete our woodland and start planting another too.
The dream is to create lots of small woodlands around the East Midlands and contribute in a small way to minimizing the impact of Climate Change.