30 years on – life at Lanes is still exciting and rewarding for Louise

When Louise Wallis started working at Lanes Group plc, less than five months after the company was founded, she was one of just 14 employees.

Now, 30 years on, she is still at the forefront of exciting plans to continue to  expand a business that delivers a myriad of services across the UK and Ireland – with more than 4,000 employees.

Louise, the Training and Systems Manager at Lanes, is the company’s longest continuously-serving employee, having joined the business on September 1st, 1992.

Lanes had only been created as a business by Allan Earnshaw and Graham Tattersall when they bought a single depot drainage company in Leeds, West Yorkshire, on April 21st that same year.

Louise says: “I’d worked for Graham before. He asked me to come over and join Lanes to run the office. I still remember my first day – arriving at a breeze-block building on an old industrial estate. There was certainly no glamour in the job.

“I also had to hit the ground running. The team was still tiny. In terms of the office, it was a team of one! I did everything, including payroll, purchase ledger, invoicing, VAT returns, and  administration.

“But it was very exciting and you could feel the energy at Lanes right from the start. Allan and Graham weren’t wasting time expanding the business, which gave all of us new challenges almost every day.

“I’d take my computer home to work some evenings. That wasn’t putting a laptop in a bag. It was unplugging a suitcase-sized box, and a giant screen, putting them in the boot of my car, and working in my living room using telephone dial-up.

“My mum used to complain she couldn’t contact me because the telephone line was always plugged into the internet, or whatever it was called then. Also, we used CB radios, not mobile phones, to contact drainage teams. I never did get used to all that rubber duck lingo.”

Wayne Earnshaw, Allan Earnshaw’s son, and Chief Executive of Lanes, praised Louise for her long service and her continued contribution to the company’s success.

He says: “Louise is Lanes through and through. She’s a phenomenal colleague and is showing the same dedication to our success now as she did from the moment she joined the business.

“That’s helping us to deliver services valued by our clients and relied upon by millions of people across the UK, as well thousands of people who work in our supply chain, and their families.”

Louise built up invaluable experience and expertise across all aspects of the Lanes business, as it grew rapidly from one depot to five, 15, 20 of them, with specialist utility, sewer rehabilitation, and rail hubs sprouting up across the UK as well.

It also became a team effort. Allan Wallis joined the business as a director in March 1993 and they later married. While Allan went on to become Group Operations Director, Louise worked part time to give more time to looking after their young children.

But she later went back to work full-time, and focused on developing Lanes’ IT and mobile communication systems (CB radios long gone), as well as delivering IT training across the group.

She is now playing a key role in a senior team that is working to take Lanes’ business systems to the next level, where integration of IT using the latest enterprise planning software will be critical.

“It’s been a privilege to join Lanes almost at the start of its journey and to still be here, involved in the next big stage of its development,” she says.  “I still have a lot to give, I think, and that’s because I have a broad view of how the company works. It’s very exciting.”

Louise says Lanes still retains the dynamism that drove the business in those early months and years. In part, because it is still a family-run business with a lot of long-serving people.

She explains: “There are a lot of people who have done 10, 15, and 20 years at Lanes. That creates strong cohesion. We’re also welcoming new young talent into the business. It’s making for a good mix of skills and experiences.

“My biggest thrill is still working with people. Helping them through training gives me a real sense of achievement. And when system implementation goes well, and colleagues see the benefits, all the hard work is worthwhile.”

In a business that has seen such massive change, with technology transformed almost annually and health and safety standards also improved beyond measure, it is little surprise that a key lesson Louise has learned from life at Lanes is to persevere.

She says: “In any workplace, you have to have a little of what people now call grit. The good thing at Lanes is that there are a lot of good people who are willing to support you along the way.

“Working at Lanes has been challenging. It’s also been rewarding and exciting. All three still apply. That’s what makes any job interesting. And at Lanes, you don’t just have a job.

“It can be a career, with opportunities to develop in many different directions. And, with the way Lanes is growing, those opportunities will only also grow over the next 30 years.”

Comments are closed.