Tell us about how you got into the freight industry…
For nearly ten years, I ran a company that supplied labour into the manufacturing supply chain, which included drivers and warehouse workers. My clients were continuously short of drivers, either for their own fleet or outsourced owner-drivers. This sparked a new business idea. I researched into the causes around the UK driver shortage to initially support recruitment needs. It was established that although there was a lack in attraction of candidates to drive company vehicles, the owner-driver and haulage sector was thriving. I noticed there was a general utilisation of subcontracting across haulage, however the contractual set up was minimal and performance management of suppliers was non-existent. Combining this, and feedback from prospective clients, I quickly established that there were growing frustrations in the internal and external logistics services being supplied to clients. This included:
- The low standard of drivers combined with the cost of running their own fleet
- The need to utilise multiple companies for their differing logistics requirements
- Requirement to utilise freight forwarders to supplement shipments outside of the UK
- Limitation in vehicles and services being offered if engaged directly with hauliers – this was due to operating license restrictions, number of vehicles, or the company managing the fleet to contract requirements
- Below-standard customer service and administration in supporting client needs
- Growing costs of services
It was very clear there was a demand for a single supply business that offers an all-rounded logistics service.
At Freight Logistics Solutions, we offer services across the entire logistics sector. I was confident in building an extensive supply chain to meet these demands.
The business was 18 months in the making, and we set out our values to provide flexibility, value for money and an exceptional service. To support the business requirements, I appointed two directors: Gavin Clarke, a logistics specialist for both the UK and European market, and Dafydd Rosser an outsourced specialist with experience in mobilisation and managing large-scale projects.
The 2016 timing of this start-up was corner-stoned by both the outcome of Brexit and the increasing national driver shortage. We felt that the time of the business launch could spark instant interest from struggling customers looking for sustainable change to their transport usage due to pending Brexit changes to logistics.
We speculated that if the UK went ahead with Brexit, the need for a new independent logistics supply-chain company with import/export specialities would be magnified ten-fold. The opportunity in the market place was already there, but when the UK made its decision to leave, I decided to hand in my notice a week later at my full-time job.
What’s your background in shipping?
My background in shipping surrounds supply chain mobilisation and management. Gavin Clarke is a former 15-years Logistics Sales Director and Senior Freight Forwarder, and Dafydd Rosser is also from supply chain mobilisation and management. My passion for the logistics sector is fuelled by wanting to provide better services for B2B clients, making significant improvement to their business.
Tell us a little more about your specialisms.
Our specialism is road freight. We have the most experience in this specialism, particularly UK-based. The majority of our work involves UK road, but sea and air shipping is becoming increasingly popular (and important) over the past six months. With our experience in manufacturing and supply chain management, outsourcing contract management is becoming a successful and major element to our business.
Why was it important for you to introduce air and sea services to FLS?
Air and sea have been an easy step forward for us over the past year. We have been delivering to and from ports for quite some time, so we very keen to provide an end-to-end experience. We are very keen to maintain a high-quality service by looking after their goods door-to-door.
What do you think you offer as a company that sets you apart from your competitors?
Huge improvements are being made from the forwarding sector, but we like to think we offer more complete supply chain management solution. We are a data-driven company and pride ourselves on supporting our clients’ operations with excellent insight and reporting. Our service standards are delivered against mutually agreed KPIs so that we have a strong partnership approach to business growth. FLS are transparent with our clients and our staff – we like to understand the DNA of our customers’ business and always ask the questions that really matter so we can make a real contribution to their commercial success. If there’s anything we can do to relieve some of the pressure, we will accommodate their needs.
We have a small fleet of vehicles for emergencies, from pallet clearing for full loads and express breakdowns to missed items and white glove. We feel it’s vital to reassure clients that we have everything covered.
We’ve also created a seminar and training space for up to 80 people at our HQ, where we have client subject seminars (e.g. Brexit) and short training courses (e.g. customs).
We are flexible with the contracts and services we provide, making our approach hold promising value existing and future clients.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The challenge is always getting your people right – we support a “family approach” to our business, meaning that everyone supports one another. The mix of experience, knowledge and skills needs to be right, and achieving this within the first three years has been very satisfying.
How would you define your
I would define it as open and transparent, from freight forwarder to transport planner to finance, staff have clear personal and team goals with clear rewards and progression everyone knows where they stand and what’s going on in the business and our pathway for growth. Quite simply, we are family – do what you say you’re going to do, and do it to the best of your ability.
How do you get the best out of your team?
Our team IS our business, we’ve built an attractive, spacious, well equipped environment for them to work in – the better we invest and look after our talent, the more attractive we are, the better our retention the stronger our client support. We set realistic but challenging targets and make sure the rewards we promised exceed expectations.
We understand that Brexit was an important part of your decision-making process to launch FLS. Tell us more…
We launched our business the day after the referendum result – if the UK hadn’t decided to leave, we probably would have delayed for another year. But we’d agreed, if the result was to leave, we would need to get our show on the road much quicker to ensure the business was in a solid position to support customers leading up to Brexit, such as imports, exports and customs.
Your biggest achievement?
We carefully produced a five-year business plan which included staff and their roles, facilities, potential clients, and, of course, projected turnover and revenue. Watching the business grow and develop above what was an ambitious target has been a huge achievement that I’m immensely proud of.
What’s the most important thing you
are working on right now and how are
you making it happen?
At the moment we are working on upgrading our operations IT system that is a little more hard-Brexit friendly. The program is cloud-based and features a driver smartphone app for bookings, status monitoring and POD submission. This will cater for the next intense five years of Brexit, plus will be an exciting improvement to our operations.
What are some of the common challenges you face?
We all face challenges from time to time, such as the management of price versus the quality, especially in solutions such as groupage. The uncertainty of Brexit’s outcome makes forecasting difficult, especially concerning trends such stockpiling
How do you decide which new business to go after?
FLS have a strong background in manufacturing, especially in automotive, waste, packaging and print. We started locally in South Wales and the South West, expanding from there. We now have three dedicated Client Solutions Managers who work for allocated regions. During the long term, we hope to support each of these with a regional hub, starting in the Midlands.
What are your expansion plans
over the next 12/24 months?
To support our new contract wins, we are taking on four new members on the operations team and two new apprentice roles. We are currently resourcing a Birmingham office which we hope complete and open before the end of the year, as well as second potential regional hub in East London and a third in the north.
As soon as Brexit is put to bed, we will proceed with plans of opening a European office. We have already visited sites in Austria, Poland and Germany.