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A Lifetime in Moving

Sep 27, 2011
An interview with David Trenchard.

David Trenchard has reached retirement age.  As he approached this period of reflection, Steve Jordan caught up with him at his Bournemouth office for a chat and to ask his thoughts on the industry in which he had spent his working life.

In 2011, David Trenchard reached 65 years old.  This marked not only his official retirement age but also the milestone of 65 years in the moving industry: yes David had been steeped in removals since his first breath.

David was born in 1946. His grandfather had started a removals company, V.W. Trenchard and Sons in Winton, Bournemouth before the war and operated it from the premises behind the shop above which David and his family lived. From his earliest years his spare time was spent sorting tea chests, folding paper and cleaning vans.

Trenchards became a limited company the same year that David was born and Trenchards Bournemouth Ltd. became a BAR member. David won a place to the local Grammar school and when he was 16 chose to start working at the family firm while continuing his further education at college on Monday afternoons and evenings. He did business studies and learned a great deal. “In fact some of the people I was at college with are still my customers today,” he said. Unfortunately time took its toll.  After two terms came summer and, in the moving business, summer means all hands on deck.  David left college to work for the company full-time.  

Everyone who knows David knows him as someone who is never afraid to voice an opinion, especially at a public meeting.  This talent he blames entirely on a Mr. Green who, during David’s formative years, was MD of White & Co and the BAR Area secretary. Mr. Green knew that meetings were always better when everyone participated. Before each meeting he would write out a list of questions and hand them to the audience.  He would then make sure they asked them. “He would paper the room,” said David, “and say, as he gave you your question, ‘I’m relying on you to do it’. You made sure you read your question and rehearsed it.”  It wasn’t long before David needed no such encouragement.

BAR has remained an important driving force for David through his career.  In fact it’s more like David was driving BAR. His list of appointments and accolades are too long to list here but are extensive. He was: Sub-Area Chairman and Secretary, Southern Area Chairman, the local Institute Branch Chairman, Chairman of the BAR Overseas Group, a member of the BAR Board for over 20 years and, in 1991, BAR President. He took part in two BAR study tours to Europe and the USA. With Nick Brackin he founded QSS, the BAR’s subsidiary company formed to develop Standards and provide assessment and inspection services; David has worked closely with BSI (British Standards Institute) to develop all the current removals and storage standards. He is still the convenor of Working Group 4 (WG4) of Technical Committee (TC320) of the Centre for European Norms (CEN) based in Brussels. For 20 years he was involved in the BAR External Affairs committee and represented BAR at FEDEMAC.

In 1977, David, with Joe Luxford and Derek Blatchford, was the brains behind the creation of BAR Services, the subsidiary company that supplied materials to the industry and returns its profits to participating BAR members. He chaired the Board for the first 14 years and remained a Director until May 2011. This year David was awarded an Honorary Life  Membership of BAR – many years overdue some would say.

While all this was going on David was embroiled in a family dispute that saw him ousted from the firm. The details of the fall out are not for these pages but, it is perhaps sufficient to say that the split remains a great sadness to David.  In 1981, however, he bought Leatherbarrows in Hounslow as his independent re-entry into the moving business.  He later returned to his home town of Bournemouth and his company became a member of Britannia; it remains so today.

During the whole of this period David has been supported, encouraged, consoled and, no doubt, chastised occasionally by his wife Diane.  “Diane has worked with me the whole time,” said David, “and has been just as important to the businesses as I have been.”  Diane has also been at David’s side throughout his industry relationships with the two seemingly inseparable. 

Diane and David have always been supported by their own family, Sarah who is now a shareholder and director, and son in law Darren Vale who runs the Self Store Company.  John who has a good career in international container shipping and youngest daughter Jo, who runs her own specialist computer consultancy both learnt a good deal by working within the family business before embarking on their chosen careers.

Over his years in the industry David has been something of a pioneer.  He has, for example, been offering self storage since long before the facilities could be bought off the shelf; similarly he experimented with mobile self storage trailers many years ago but, for him, they proved unsuccessful. Although he continued to use them for other uses.

Of course David has seen many changes during his career.  The most recent of these is his company’s change to swap body trucks and trailers rather than pantechchnicon coach-built vans. He currently has over 20 bodies with more on order. “They are ideal for household moves because we can pack and load them to spread the work on to less busy days with the larger moves,” he said. He only uses a handful of vehicles to provide the transport. “We can also offer a ‘holdover’ service at no extra charge where we hold the loaded bodies in the yard for an extra day or so to allow customers to get their houses ready.  It’s proved very popular.” David also uses the swap bodies for long-distance moves and has the ability to cooperate with other Britannia members to handle the haulage. “Our services have improved and we have significantly cut handling costs on European moves by the intelligent planning and use of these demount bodies. The height limit of four metres will grow in importance as several European countries have now adopted this height limit for their own hauliers and body builders. Replacement trucks with just the demount equipment are far cheaper and easier to source than a full coach built vehicle too.”     

Another change is the growth of the removals brokers, a phenomenon that David sees as an indication of the moving industry having failed to embrace the dominance of the Internet. He has no objection to companies buying leads from these brokers or working directly with their customers and paying the broker a commission. “But we should not work as subcontractors to these people otherwise they will subrogate any claim for damage or additional charges straight back to us,” he said.

With regard to insurance, and specifically the emergence of insurance brokers that deal directly with the public, David has very strong opinions. “I would refuse to move anyone that did not insure their goods with my company,” he said.

David was very disappointed that the BAR membership did not vote for compulsory Standards-based membership at the referendum earlier this year. However, now that the decision has been made he feels strongly that those domestic movers that have achieved a recognised standard should come together under their own functional group of BAR in the same way that the Overseas Group and the Commercial Moving Group already has. He does not believe that this will cause confusion with the public and, he said, much corporate work is booked by procurement departments. “It’s their job to know the difference,” he said.

Coming right up to date, David had an interesting take on the recent Channel 5 reality TV documentary centred around the Pickfords crews.  For many years the industry has talked itself down by selling on price alone.  This, David believes is as a result of a lack of education relating to costing and poor salesmanship.  He also thinks that the big companies, that have had economies of scale, have played their part too driving prices down because they had the ability to do so. He sees this documentary as a way of breaking the cycle. “I think it’s a very good programme,” he said. “It’s the first time that the moving industry has been seen positively in the media. The show demonstrates the difficulty of the job.  It shows Pickfords off very well and that professional attitude reflects on the rest of the industry.”

David believes that Pickfords should use the momentum of the show to help lead the industry out of recession and on to a better, more profitable future. Customers are now much better informed about what’s involved with handling a move. “Pickfords can now raise its prices as a direct result of the exposure it has received. Other top companies have a responsibility to recognise this opportunity and do the same. This will allow the smaller companies to get a proper price for the job too.  Everyone wins.”

In fact he felt so strongly that this is a unique opportunity that he said BAR should be working with Pickfords to broker a strategy to benefit from the positive PR the show has achieved. “It’s an opportunity for BAR to do something positive for the whole industry,” he said.

Although David is now 65, and he has appointed a new managing director to run his company, Robert Dance, few who know him well can believe he’s ready to hang up his snappy three-piece suit forever. No way!

His forthright style and his enthusiasm has made David many friends in the industry, and rubbed a few up the wrong way too.  But anyone joining the industry now would do well to listen to his words and learn from his experience. Few, if anyone, have done more for the industry or are more deserving of its gratitude. David has undoubtedly earned a long and happy retirement, and when has does choose to take a back seat, it will take someone with remarkable qualities to fill his shoes.

Long service award: David and Diane Trenchard at a special meeting of the Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry where they were presented with a certificate acknowledging their long service of support and involvement in the Chamber.  In fact David’s involvement goes back many years prior as he was Trenchards’ representative and a member of Bournemouth Junior Chamber for over 20 years until, he says, “the maximum upper age requirement kicked in”.  Above: David Trenchard with the new Managing Director of Leatherbarrows, Robert Dance.

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