Crawfords Group facility

How Crawfords Group is building on its successful legacy while encouraging the next generation 

With five depots across the South and South East of England, Crawfords Group is a leading dealer and retailer of new and used agricultural machinery, servicing, and parts. The company stocks a wide range of leading agricultural brands under the AGCO umbrella, which includes Massey Ferguson, Fendt, Valtra, along with additional brands such as Manitou and Isuzu pick-up trucks. 

Founded by Bob Crawford in 1980 as R W Crawford Agricultural Machinery, the business initially focused on the buying and selling of high-quality, used farm

Wes Crawford, Managing Director
Wes Crawford, Managing Director

machinery. In 2001, the organization became a Massy Ferguson dealer, marking the beginning of a fruitful and longstanding partnership with AGCO. 

Crawfords has since evolved to provide an extensive range of products and services that meet a variety of automotive and land-based sector needs, with particularly impressive growth over the last ten years. The business took on an Isuzu franchise focused on pick-up trucks in 2014, and more recently, it added telehandlers and forklifts from materials handling business, Manitou, to its portfolio. 

In terms of facilities, Crawfords invested more than £3 million in a state-of-the-art depot and headquarters in Chelmsford, England, which opened in 2018. Today, the business operates five depots in Writtle, Charing, Swingfield, Billingshurst, and Ropley, to service customers across Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, West Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire.  

Customer commitment 

To learn more about the company’s evolution, we sit down with Wes Crawford, Managing Director. “As we’ve grown, and particularly after acquiring Agwood, an agricultural machinery dealer in Kent, Sussex, and Surrey in 2022, we’ve recognized the need to define our business divisions,” Wes opens. “We had also grown to be one of the largest dealers of Isuzu pick-up trucks in the UK, and our structure naturally became more of a group. So, what started off with Bob Crawford selling used machinery has grown into a group operation with three divisions: Crawfords, Agwood, and Crawfords Automotive. 

“We have over 50 mobile technicians based at our depots across the group, who are on-hand to provide much-needed backup to our customers. We also have a dedicated service team to coordinate emergency assistance, as well as conduct servicing or repairs at our well-equipped workshops. Our parts team assists customers with providing a range of parts and consumables over the counter or through our workshops. Our sales territory managers cover our area of responsibility in the field and from our depots.” 

The group’s latest venture has taken operations in a rather different direction. “Businesses need multiple, diverse activities to thrive, and as vineyards, wineries, and fruit growing are huge markets across the South and South East, this aligns with our future strategy,” Wes explains. “We’ve recruited an experienced professional, Dan Turner, to head up this division, and he’s currently supporting our sales team by opening new doors with prospective customers.” 

During our conversation, it is apparent that customer service is engrained in the company’s operations and a critical element to its success. “Our business is centered around providing excellent customer service,” Wes states. “With an expert aftersales department, we offer an end-to-end service, with a consultative sales approach. We work closely with the customer to identify their specific requirements, allowing us to propose a solution to suit their needs.  

two red tractorsChampioning training 

“This approach is particularly important considering the current economic climate for the farming community. Cost is a huge issue for many farmers, and we want to do everything we can to help farmers make effective and cost-efficient decisions. We also offer bespoke and tailored service and warranty packages, for instance, which enables farmers to better forecast their costs. 

“We operate a ‘farmer first’ customer policy to reflect our core values,” he continues. “It’s no secret that many farming operations rely on the weather, and considering the seasonality in the UK, we must ensure our customers are ‘ready to go’ when the weather window is appropriate. We’re investing in continuous training for our mobile technicians, so that we can provide efficient backup at important times throughout the farming calendar. 

“From a wellbeing perspective, we work closely with local farmers to address industry issues. For instance, we run a partnership with Essex Fire and Rescue where one of our tractors has had stickers installed to look like a fire engine. The tractor accompanies Essex Fire and Rescue’s rural team on community visits with the aim of educating people about fire safety on farms. This partnership stemmed from us recognizing the need to raise awareness of fire safety following field fires in the UK in 2022.” 

On the topic of partnerships, Wes adds: “We’re passionate about supporting the next generation, and we take a ‘grow our own’ approach, which means we have a constant cycle of apprentices across the business. We’ve recently partnered with Plumpton College in East Sussex to provide them with at least three tractors, for the next three years, which will enable students to gain practical experience and training on modern tractors with the latest technology.” 

In a recent press release on the partnership, Plumpton College Principal, Jeremy Kerswell, commented: “This is what a college and industry partnership should look like. Regular access to the latest machinery means that out students will be ‘current’, equipped with skills at the forefront of these technical advances, and making them more attractive to modern farming operations and dealers.” 

With a dedication to its customers and several industry partnerships underway, Crawfords Group is sure to continue experiencing growth and success. “We’re looking to continue our strategy for diversification and we’re constantly reviewing other opportunities to grow in line with our vision,” Wes concludes.