I was told of a job as a translator while working in a restaurant by one of my friends who asked if I would be interested, to which I said: Yes, of course!
I always wanted to work in an office, so I was quite excited at the prospect. When I turned up for the interview, I was interviewed by my then first boss Mr. Tony Ball, who was, in fact, one of my regular customers at the time of my employment at a local Wimpy bar. Suddenly, my nerves settled, when I saw a friendly face shouting across ‘quarter pounder and chips please!!’. During the interview, he did however, ask me to name all border crossings (pro EU) from England all the way to Turkey. I answered them all correctly, one by one, which impressed Tony so much, he gave me the job immediately. Surprised at how I knew all the crossings’ names, I explained about how I only travelled across to Turkey in a car less than 6 months ago. Other than that, I had no knowledge of how things were carried from one end to the other. The job turned out to be an office junior post in a forwarding office, and not translators. I fell in love with the job straight away. One of the best parts was seeing Turkish drivers arriving all the way from Turkey, with each telling a different story.
What’s your background in shipping?
Academically, I have none. However, I have worked in import, export, procurement and project departments within multiple forwarding companies, as well as working in Dover for a short period as customs clearing clerk.
What do you think you offer as a company that sets you apart from your competitors?
When offering our service to and from Turkey, we utilise our own equipment, our own customs clearance office, and our own distribution company from the point of collection to final mile deliveries. We achieved this by opening branches along the route, adding to our Turkish fleet, and by acquiring a TPN member, Action Roadways. All of this was done with customer satisfaction in mind rather than cost saving.
What has been your biggest challenge in the role?
I have to say, it must be the credit control. Allowing customers to have credit is often a must, but also our biggest headache.
Your biggest achievement?
I would say it is acquiring our (currently) biggest UK supplier, Action Roadways, who are a member of The Pallet Network TPN. I always heard stories about companies buying other companies, but this wasn’t something that was planned years ago. It was just spontaneous, so I definitely see that as an achievement.
Tell us about your acquisition of Action Roadways
The purpose of Action Roadways was to be able to all of components of the services we provide to our customers, all done in-house. What Action Roadways do, is nationwide distribution. They are part of a palette network, so they can distribute any palette that you give to them, all around the United Kingdom, and parts of Ireland. They will also collect anything in return. It was necessary for us to either set up this service in-house or acquire a company that already has this service.
Action Roadways has been around a long time, and I have used Action Roadways myself as an office junior when I have worked in other freight forwarder companies. I have known the owners and the staff there for over 20 years, so the timing was perfect because the owner wanted to retire. We were their biggest customer at the time too, using them on a day-to-day basis, moving about 500 palettes a week. It just made perfect sense for us to go for it. There are members of the palette network, and members that the network have, we would like to offer additional services such as transport to Turkey and customs clearance now that Brexit is coming up. We are currently training extra staff to take on the extra work after Brexit.
How would you define your company culture?
Once a customer starts working with us, our aim is to never ever lose them. That is always our motto. If we lose a customer for any reason at all, it is like losing the World Cup final!
How do you get the best out of your team?
I am lucky enough to have a lot of young energetic and loyal members of staff around me. I honestly do not have to do anything in particular, because they are all aware of their responsibilities. If I must do anything out of the ordinary to get the best out of someone, they are probably at the wrong job. You either love forwarding, or you hate it.
What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Buying process of Action Roadways has just been completed, so now I am relaxing, and looking forward to my two weeks away in Turkey. The most important thing right now would have to be the family holiday.
What are your thoughts on the new alliances?
It would have to be working towards the same goals.
What about market disruptors – how do you see outsiders changing the industry?
If it’s beneficial for the industry, then it is beneficial for all. If, however, there are things that need to be reviewed, then we can solve them as a group of associates.
What are some of the common challenges you face?
The perception that our market is expensive and can be managed individually with minimum knowledge. All our customers presume that we make a large profit margin on our jobs, but that is not the case. We work on very tight-profit margins. We handle many shipments, and we have to do so many of them to be able to make a reasonable living out of it. We are constantly challenged, such as when someone looks up on Google Maps how long a journey will take. ‘That should take you two hours’ is what we hear, but judging purely on what Google says isn’t really accurate. You also need to consider any issues that may arise, such as any crossings, ferry crossings, traffic jams etc.
How do you decide which new business to go after?
If the route is within our district and we can help new clients, then we will approach and discuss a union. Exhibitions always help to open new doors and meeting new people in different industries.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, we are working on our customs in Dover, training staff. January 1st 2019, the office will be in 24 hour operation, so we will be able to customs clear 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. This will be us getting ready for March 2019 hopefully, where we will have more to clear with a lot more produce coming from Europe.
What are your expansion plans over the next 12-24 months?
We will be spending most of our time developing the Action Roadways Business. Furthermore, looking for ways to save time when the international cargo arrives in the UK to be delivered next day.
How’s your business doing overall?
I’m extremely happy with the business at the moment. Everything is in house, the customs office is ours, we have offices on routes – Istanbul, Georgia and various others. We have total control over the shipments we are trusted to carry out.