I-MAGAZINE Spends An Evening With Eddie Black, Managing Director and Founder of Eco Group

Tell us about how you came to establish your business, and how it has evolved over the past decade.

Eco solves problems for businesses. We started out about 12 years ago offering dry ice blasting services, and have evolved over the years into a multifaceted firm operating in different sectors across the UK.

The key to our success has been our ability to innovate and change according to the needs of our clients, and also being unafraid to take risks and seize on opportunities in the market.

In the early days of the company, I was taking phone calls at 2am from clients asking if I knew anyone who could help them with a problem and I would put them in touch with someone who could solve it for them.

After a while I realised that we could service that need ourselves which led to us offering bespoke solutions to some major international companies.

Today our services include emergency response solutions; bespoke training systems; design, build and fit out; process solutions; IT and communications; and creative design and marketing. Dry ice blasting services, which is the original part of the business, remains an important part of Eco Group, with clients including multinational companies across the UK.

How has your previous career as a deep sea fisherman influenced your approach to business?

Before setting up the business, I was a deep sea fisherman for nearly 20 years, skippering boats out of ports in the UK and Europe. It was an interesting career and I loved it but it’s a harsh working environment which involves spending long periods of time away from your family, and it wasn’t something I wanted to continue doing into my 40s.

My time at sea has definitely shaped the way I operate in business.

For me no business decision now is ever as hard as it was when I was at sea. If you have a problem at sea, like an engine failure in the middle of a storm, your decisions in that moment are a matter of life and death, not just for you, but for your crew. And the longer you wait to make a decision, the more dangerous a situation can become.

Fishing taught me to make decisions quickly and not to put them off, the value of having a good team around you, and the ability to be flexible and adapt to changing situations. When you’re out at sea, you have to rely on yourself and your team to cope with whatever situation is thrown at you. If a piece of machinery is broken, then you have to find ways to fix it yourself. No-one is going to come and do it for you.

What do you think have been the essential elements to Eco’s success?

Having a great team who are all passionate about what they do has been crucial to Eco’s success.

We have really great people at Eco who have a brilliant attitude and want to give back to the business and to the community.

Everyone does everything they can to make a positive difference, and I think the pandemic showed what can be achieved when you pull together as a team.

As a business, we continually invest in our team, providing bespoke training to ensure professional and personal development, and we’re implementing a Fair Work policy which will ensure security, fulfillment and a voice for everyone. 

There’s no luck involved in being in a strong position as a business. We have fought to get to where we are today and, although I’m the Managing Director, the success of Eco is down to everyone’s hard work.

About eight years ago, when the business was in its infancy, I made a promise to the team that I would build them a suitable building more fitting of the business we were becoming. We were in old makeshift buildings at the time and had recently won two big contracts and they were as invested in making the business a success as me.

The pandemic hit while the construction was underway, and our own team worked on the build when restrictions allowed, literally building every wall and laying every pipe, services and wire. It’s a building of which the whole Eco team can be very proud.

When we moved into the new HQ last year, it was the fulfillment of that promise to the team.

What is the ethos behind Eco?

We never stand still. Being unafraid to take risks and accepting that failure is a part of life gives us the flexibility to drive the business forward, taking it in new and exciting directions. We encourage debate, embrace differences and champion collaboration which allows us to innovate and lead from the front. We’re never short of new ideas, just the time to implement them!

What was your coping strategy for the business during the pandemic?

I remember driving out of work on the day that the first lockdown was announced and thinking to myself: “Where do we go from here?” We had recently started work on the HQ and I was responsible for the employment of 50 people.

After getting over the initial shock, my fisherman mentality kicked in and I started looking for solutions rather than problems.

We immediately made use of our resources and contacts to support the health sector, and by April we were supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) to hundreds of care homes throughout the UK.

We also supported the community by donating sanitiser to care homes, 250 visors to a local hospice, and equipment to schoolchildren.

I was determined to turn the challenges posed by the pandemic into opportunities and, over the past two years, I have bought new businesses, taken on more staff and launched new products and services.

After working so hard to build up the business, I wasn’t going to let my team or my clients down so I did everything possible to get us through the difficult times and leave us in a solid position for when better times came.

What is the best thing about running your own company?

You are in control of your own destiny and are able to make a positive difference, however large or small, to the lives of your family, employees, suppliers and clients.

Being my own boss gives me the freedom to see opportunities and go for them, with the knowledge that I have a fantastic team beside me to deliver it.

My pet hate is too much talking and not enough doing. Once a decision is made, we implement it immediately.

Running your own company is a continuous learning curve which has positive and negative outcomes. I’m still learning every day through conversations with my team, our clients and the business community as well as sources such as podcasts and social media about new innovations and ways of working.

Knowledge is a powerful thing and, if you want to succeed, then you need to be willing to put in the hours to learn and grow.

The rest of this editorial will be published at a later date.