“People ask how we got started in the world of logistics and, to be honest, it’s not an obvious path. My background is engineering, but quickly moved into product marketing and have had a career in B2B sales and marketing ever since. Jo has had a range of careers, working in licensing, recruitment, IT support and teaching. We were both working with Perkins Engines / Caterpillar in Peterborough, when we got the opportunity to move to Dubai. We had a young family at that time and Jo had given up work to look after the children. Money was bit tight and this seemed to be an opportunity to do something new and get our life back in order.
So, we moved to the Middle East with 3 children under 3, far from family and friends. The first few months were pretty tough but once we made new friends through work and school, it all began to come together. We had intended to go for 3 years but in the end we stayed for 13! I had a number of sales and marketing roles helping to build and develop the brand for Aggreko, a power rental business, which grew from $40 million turnover to $1,300 million; whilst I was there we became a FTSE 100 business. We got to travel to many interesting places (in all sorts of ways) and made friends with people from all over the world. I’ve been to 64 countries so far and plan to add to that total when time permits. My last role was sales and marketing director and I was also responsible for the International Major Events business, a role I enjoyed very much. We worked on many interesting contracts including the Palm Island construction in Dubai, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa.
By the time that the children had reached GCSE’s and A levels and we were looking at University options and felt that it was time to return to UK. Our experience of the education system in Dubai had been a bit disappointing, and the timing coincided with a reorganisation in the business, so we took the opportunity to come home and put down new roots. I took a contract in Germany with an engineering business as a sales and marketing consultant, it was a weekly commute from Stanstead to Stuttgart on a 3 month contract that lasted for two years before coming to a natural end.
We had seen adverts for franchises and thought it would be a good idea and time to start our own business, but weren’t sure which would be the right franchise to invest in. I went to a few meetings and found a broker on LinkedIn, somebody who specialised in matching people with different franchises. We went through a process of finding out our strengths and weaknesses, what hours would suit us and how much we had to invest. We shortlisted a list of five franchises, a couple we knocked off straightaway. I went to see the other three and ended going with InXpress.
Although my background is engineering, sales and marketing and not logistics, the common thread is that both Jo and I have a customer service background – and that’s an integral part of what makes InXpress successful. Also, the fact that we’ve worked in international business where logistics is a key part of the service offering. That was in 2017 so we are now into our third year – it’s been a steep learning curve, especially in the first year with all the systems to learn and contacts to make. We’ve done a lot of training and made a few mistakes – learning the hard way. The InXpress network is also very deep and there is always someone who has been there before to help give you a contact or advice on how to get something done. Because I had been working overseas for so long, I didn’t really have many local business contacts, so I do a lot of networking – eating a lot of breakfasts and drinking a lot of coffee – making some great friends in the process.
Whilst running your own business has many frustrations, there are a lot of upsides too. We like the independence and flexibility and the opportunity to make it be what you want. It’s also great that you don’t have to commute every day, you plan your own day and working from home is a breath of fresh air. Being responsive is also important and it fits in nicely with the way we like to do business.
We’ve met a lot of interesting people as well, from a really diverse group of markets. Almost every business has some need to move goods, imports from suppliers and distributing products to customers at home and overseas.
Carriers are different too, documents, parcels and pallets all have their own ways of distribution. Same day, next day economy, DDP or DAP and now there’s Brexit to consider as well. The common feature is that our customers value the additional personal service that we bring; not a faceless online comparison site or call centre where you are just another number. We get to know and understand our customers’ needs and this means we can suggest the right solutions for what they need. Every day is different. There are always challenges to overcome. When you combine vehicles, traffic, IT, people, communications, weather disruption, public holidays, last minute emergencies.
It’s a fast paced, people-focused, business and that’s what we like about it.”
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