With a substantial career in the energy market, Neil Holland is now leading Y Pellets as they grow across the UK and beyond. He tells us of his childhood career aspirations, and how he overcomes challenges.
What is it the company does?
“Y Pellets is one of the UK’s fastest growing, independent, wood pellet suppliers delivering premium quality, bulk-blown, EN Plus wood pellets to homes and businesses nationwide. The company is part of a larger, international organisation which operates an advanced wood processing and pellet manufacturing plant in Austria and transports thousands of tonnes of sustainable wood pellets direct to our dedicated storage facility at the Port of Goole.
“We are currently rolling out an ambitious commercial growth strategy nationally supplying private homeowners and businesses including local authorities, hotel venues, care homes, schools and manufacturers, especially across Yorkshire, the Midlands, the North East and North West, with a premium quality, sustainably-sourced product. In the very near future, our distribution capability will extend to southern areas of England and north of the border into Scotland, and new investment will further strengthen and reaffirm our position as a leading player within the UK’s biomass fuel and energy market.”
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
“As well as directing operations, my role is to oversee the ambitious growth strategy that Y Pellets has mapped out in terms of sales and future expansion both here in the UK and Europe and to ensure that the company’s core values remain at the heart of what we do going forward. Through past experience of the renewables sector and careful analysis of current market activities, our ethos is to not only deliver the very best wood pellet product available in terms of quality, consistency and fuel efficiency, but to also provide clients with the correct technical advice, a superior level of customer support and continuous investment in the right equipment and vehicles in order to maintain a highly efficient and professional delivery network.”
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
“My career in the energy market began at Firmus Energy, a subsidiary of BGE, the 2nd largest energy business in Ireland supplying natural gas & electricity to over 20,000 homes in Northern Ireland. I became Head of Sales and Marketing with the task of firstly introducing natural gas to areas of Northern Ireland primarily using heating oil, and then to open up competition in the Greater Belfast market.
From there, I moved to Balcas, one of the UK and Ireland’s largest wood pellet manufacturers supplying over 165,000 tonnes annually across the region. As Sales & Marketing Director for Brites, the company’s own brand of biomass wood pellets, my team drove sales to circa 50% of the UK market and built a reputable and high-profile brand within a newly emerging yet competitive industry.
The introduction and continued success of renewable heat incentives (RHI) created a surge in demand for biomass heating systems as an alternative to traditional energy supplies and brought about a fantastic opportunity with Y Pellets. Being part of a fast-growing and a globally changing marketplace that is changing the way we live is both challenging and rewarding and one that has allowed me to establish a company that can really make a difference on a national scale.”
What do you believe makes a great leader?
“The great leaders that I have worked for have had the shared ability to create and communicate a clear vision for the business. When people have a clear understanding of where the company is going and their own role within that process, they work better as a team to deliver the goal.”
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
“Apart from the usual operational challenges faced by any start-up, the biggest challenge is always finding and recruiting the best individuals who can not only meet the current issues but also grow with the company and continue to develop themselves. So far, my team has demonstrated both on a daily basis.”
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
“I try to remain focused on the issues which I can have an influence upon and not on things that I don’t like Brexit or policy changes, plus I walk the dog a lot!”
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
“A Formula One driver (…I still haven’t fully given up on that one if anyone from Mercedes is reading this!)”
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
“I like to think that Y Pellets operates a workplace which people enjoy coming to and aren’t afraid of asking questions or making a mistake. Places where people are too afraid of repercussions to make decisions in case it’s the wrong one, aren’t great places to work.”
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
“I see Y Pellets as a market leader and the go-to supplier for premium wood pellets both here in the UK and abroad. We have an ambitious yet realistic growth plan in place in line with industry developments and new emerging markets and that should see the company make a real contribution to the biomass energy sector.”
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
“Travel and experience as many different cultures as possible, plus always put yourself in the shoes of those you are leading.”
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
“That you don’t need to have all the answers in every situation. If you surround yourself with good people and trust them to do their job, they will usually do it and surprise you with more.”
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