Action International is a company founded upon strong ethics and a desire to deliver a quality service to every client. At the heart of their service is a determination and ability to tailor a solution which is bespoke to your precise requirements. Whether road, air-sea, projects, cross-trade or refrigerated shipment, import or export, Action has been keeping clients happy for nearly 30 years!
They have worked tirelessly to build a reputation for reliability and professionalism, and this is your assurance that they will always deliver on their promises. To delve into this further we were lucky enough to speak to Eddie Buist, Director at Action International, to speak about the latest conundrums facing the industry, how Action separate themselves from the competition and Eddie’s views on the future of freight.
How does Action International separate itself from other freight forwarders in a tirelessly competitive market?
Action International separates itself from the competition in various ways: we have strong connections with most of the major shipping lines, built over the last 28 years, and indeed have strong connections with our customers at directorial or senior level. All clientele has the comfort of knowing that both Peter Murphy and I are available virtually 24/7 for them. Larger companies may find it difficult to boast that their directors would be available for a one on one with a customer during national and personal holidays. We at Action International are always there for our customers in an emergency. Whether the customer is a 1-shipment-a-year or a 1-shipment-a-day client, a customer is a customer and treated as equally important.
How have you dealt with the recent GDPR impact?
At Action International we believe in keeping up with legislation and the in response to the recent change of data protection in line with the new GDPR regulations, both Neil Scraggs and I underwent a full-day course with UK Training to ensure we were prepared as a company and understood exactly what we needed to do to fully comply. We can assure any existing or future customer that their data is managed properly and securely within our company. We have also had all our service providers provide a letter to our company assuring us that they are fully compliant as well.
How have you advanced your services across the company over the last five years?
We have, as a company, tried wherever possible to cater to every customer’s needs individually. We no longer believe that going to a customer with a procedure set in stone works. There are customers who want certain things and customers who do not want certain things. A prime instance would be that we offer tracking to all our mid-range and large customers. Some want it, some do not, some want certain fields, some do not. We cater to customers’ EXACT needs. We pride ourselves on our customers being so happy that they even recommend us to other new clients. Client recommendation cannot be beaten as it comes with an assurance that we are tried and tested, and our customers would never recommend us to friends or colleagues in business if they were not happy with how we perform.
How has technology impacted your business?
Technology has impacted our business quite a lot over the years with more advanced logistics software packages and EDI links and uploads. We do, however, also try to keep our current service providers up to speed with our own new ideas, trying to enhance their systems to give more precise information and reporting systems customised to our or our clients’ needs. We are fully connected to customs systems at all the main ports and can, therefore, update a customer at the push of a button on the customs computers throughout the UK.
With our departure from the EU imminent, how do you see this affecting your business and relationships?
We here at Action don’t just have agents throughout the world, we like to call our agents partners – and indeed, in most cases, friends! Relationships take a long time to build and are quite often irreplaceable. Our European agents/friends are currently employed by Action to carry out non-inhibitive movements from within the EU to and from the UK as presently no customs restrictions apply, so it is like moving a shipment from city to city in the UK. With our departure from the EU there are many different opinions flying around. Do we keep free trade or do we re-introduce customs barriers where customs clearance and accounting for relative duty and VAT takes place at the time of import? Rumour has it that Ireland has already stated that it will redeploy customs clearances from the UK. It remains to be seen, but greater numbers of customs staff will be required should that be the case both in Ireland and the UK.
How has reporting and tracking increased productivity for Action International?
Our present service provider, as I’ve already mentioned, gives Action a full tracking and reporting facility from their system, which over the years has been modified – with our input – to make it better and better as time goes on. Automated shipment and tracking reports are always helpful to a customer who wants to look online, day or night, for an update. Our system is, however, fully secured and only information relevant to the customer can be accessed. A relevant security code and password is issued to the customer and fully protected. In turn this saves us time and effort, enabling us to handle more and more shipments.
Do you feel that regulations regarding transporting dangerous goods are currently clear to freight forwarders?
To be honest, they must be – at least for us. I cannot comment on behalf of anyone else. We are members of IATA and therefore two of our employees are dangerous-goods certified; however, we fully educate ourselves if we are instructed to perform a shipment containing dangerous goods to ensure that all procedures and relevant transit documents are provided before we take the shipments on. So, total clarity from the start.
How important is having a vast, varying array of networks?
From my perspective, having tried-and-trusted agents throughout the world is vital; it is key to success! We can perform part one of the shipment here and all can go well, and then disaster can strike on the other side, or indeed vice versa The problem can materialise overseas and no one knows how to solve it – that’s why reliable agents are required. Are we members of WCA, ALGN or any similar organisations? In short, no. Why is this the case? Over the years we decided to try out two networks – no names mentioned – and no reference to either WCA or ALGN. We found that most agents which were members of such networks wanted all our shipments but gave very little, if anything, in return – and such networks required the full support of all their members. Would anyone in the industry consider changing an agent they have dealt with for 20+ years? I don’t think so, unless they were to make a major mistake. Trust and confidence in your partners and friends is imperative. We do have trustworthy existing partners throughout the world. We would never recommend anyone unless we completely trust them. After all, we are only as good as them!
Are there any really pressing issues in the freight forwarding industry that you are concerned about?
There are indeed pressing issues in the freight forwarding industry which I think most forwarders will not deny if they are totally honest. The recent acquisitions and mergers of shipping lines cause me great concern. The playing field and options for companies such as ours are becoming lesser and fewer and all, I believe, down to the demise of Hanjin a few years ago. Shipping lines now have merged or been acquired by larger lines in order to survive. The choice is becoming an ever-decreasing circle. Where will it all end? Rates potentially rising higher and higher as less opposition is around (which to be honest if you consider that a freight rate from Taiwan in 1979 was around $1,100 for a 20ft, if I remember correctly, may not be a bad thing if rates do not rise through the roof). Should rates go through the roof then perhaps an idea may be to re-introduce a body such as the FEFC, which was the policing body of shipping lines during the 80s – maybe that’s the solution, an even playing field for all and then it’s all down to service.
The explosion of e-commerce has created a demand for a variety of products and services. How have you dealt with this?
e-Commerce has indeed seen an explosion in shipping, it is something that has its good sides and bad sides. People these days often prefer to shop online, and it would seem certain high street retailers have suffered because of this. e-Commerce is indeed there and growing and good luck to it. We are involved with quite a few e-commerce companies and provide solutions not only in the UK but other countries as well. We have customers supplying e-commerce companies in the U.S. directly from the Far East and we manage that. We have companies importing into the UK where we must split stock codes and SKU numbers, re-label, etc. and we offer that service via our associated company Action International Ipswich. So from our perspective it is not rocket science if you have been doing it from the advent of e-commerce. I suppose my only worry is when the e-commerce companies try to negotiate with shipping lines directly and instruct all their suppliers to use only their designated shipping lines…it may well happen.
Where do you see Action International in 5-10 years’ time?
Action continues to grow year on year due to previously stated factors. I would like to think that we could retain our own brand and identity in the industry and continue to grow at a steady rate. After all, with 73 years in freight forwarding between me and Peter we must be doing something right! Steady growth is the best kind of growth, as it is manageable. Rapid growth can sometimes be inhibitive, as it means one of two things: you either succeed at a rapid rate or fall at a rapid rate. I would sooner hedge our bets and continue steady growth, acquiring strong, experienced staff with the Action mentality as we go along.
What makes you unique within freight forwarding?
We are unique in freight forwarding because we have a strong chalk-and-cheese approach to business, which Peter will confirm. We are very different but in the long run we are on the same page. We are both approachable by customers, we both take pride in what we do, our staff are knowledgeable and professional in what they do and in the main are left to their own devices to do their day-to-day jobs. However, they all know we are here in an hour of need, Peter Neil and I, so people who want to leave the company are normally few and far between, as we like to look after and take care of our staff. In turn, they take care of Action and their designated customers. A happy team (including the directors) is normally a successful team and that is what I firmly believe we are. There are probably other companies like ours, but we like to believe we offer something more and will continue to do so…God willing.
How many start-up companies has Action dealt with? How many stay?
That’s a great question! In fairness, we deal with lots and lots of new start ups, either recommended by existing clients or someone who finds us courtesy of our website and alphabetically high listing. In the last six months I would estimate that we have had five new start ups and over the last five years probably about 20 which we have nurtured from their very beginning, advising on methods of transport and duty and tax implications, VAT and EORI registration. Quite often start-up companies…fail…with their first shipment, and decide never to do it again. We have been lucky enough to bring each new importer/exporter to a position of greater success and profitability. In answer to the second part of your question…all. One customer that was a new starter three years ago sold out to an American company that now wants us to handle their shipping and the customer that sold out is starting a new business as we speak – and again wants to continue with Action.
How do you prevent things from going wrong at Action?
I am not saying we have a crystal ball at Action, because no one, no matter how good, can say that. No one can see what is around the corner, but we try to look at each new customer as they commence business with Action and anticipate problems before they happen. Is the customer, whether import or export, familiar with being VAT or EORI Registered? Some don’t even know they should be. Is the customer aware of UK weight restrictions if shipping FCL? However, we can’t give away all trade secrets or our competition will be following our lead! We keep a low profile in the industry, and that is how we prefer it to be. We get on successfully with what we are doing and leave our competition to do the same.
Do you have a mission statement?
In answer to that question, we believe success breeds success and actions speak louder than words – pardon the pun! We make our customers successful by giving them the best service and pricing we can offer. In the face of adversity, we meet the problem head on and solve it.