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The Guild comes of age

Mar 19, 2012
This July, The Guild will have been part of the moving scene in the UK for 21 years: it’s come of age. Steve Jordan invited Martin Rose to The Mover’s office for a chat about the way the organisation works.

The National Guild of Removers & Storers (NGRS) came about because of a chance meeting between Geoff Salt and Martin Rose in the 1980s. Although Martin wouldn’t be directly involved with NGRS until much later, it was then that the idea was born that would provide association membership to moving companies choosing to apply. The organisation provides the same function to this day.

Martin was working at BAR as its commercial manager and later, commercial director in the 1980s. It was at this time that he developed the BARGAINS scheme that was to provide special offers for a wide range of goods and services to BAR members and their customers. Geoff Salt ran the marketing business who Martin contracted to provide the collateral material for the scheme. It was originally very successful with the members but the BAR wouldn’t support it. Some years later Martin moved on from the trade association to work elsewhere in the industry. Geoff, however, saw the opportunity of providing services to movers and started what quickly became known simply as ‘The Guild’ in 1991. It was 10 years later that Martin became a consultant to the organisation he had helped, inadvertently perhaps, to inspire.

The Guild provides for its members a range of services to help create a professional image. These products include: marketing and promotional literature, access to The Guild’s insurance scheme operated by Pound Gates; and vehicle badges. Other member services include a website with each member listed; operational, and management training; bespoke video; leads; and group advertising. These products are all provided at a cost to the members however the cost of marketing materials purchased from The Guild can be set off against membership fees to help keep membership costs down. Many more, including the website, paperwork, buying schemes, legal helpline, sales training and other commercially beneficial seminars are all included in the membership fees.

Two key elements of Guild membership are inspection by The National Independent Removals Industry Inspectorate (NIRII); and membership of The Removals Industry Ombudsman Scheme (RIOS). The NIRII was set up in 1997 after consultation with RIOS to provide The Guild with an agreed method of inspecting its members. The Guild handles the NIRII accounts and some of its administration to keep inspection costs down for the members. Martin explained that in practice it provides a totally independent assessment of a member’s quality of workmanship and its relationship with customers. He said that decisions are not influenced by The Guild in any way.

The Ombudsman Scheme was started in 2001 and again is an independent organisation that gives customers of Guild members a simple and free way of handling disputes. Although Martin is an officer of RIOS he says that his contribution is purely as an industry expert and he is not directly involved in the decisions taken by the Ombudsman. The Scheme is a full member of the British and Irish Ombudsman’s Association whose rules and vetting procedures guarantee the independence of all officially recognised ombudsman schemes.

The Guild has gained a reputation in the moving industry as being aggressively litigious towards any organisation that crosses it. Martin said that this is only the case in respect of companies using the badge illegally or purporting in any way to be Guild members when they are not. He said that members pay for Guild membership and it takes a very dim view of anyone trying to gain a major benefit of membership for nothing. “It’s not fair to members,” he said. “Additionally in so doing removers passing themselves off as Guild members deceive the moving public who need to trust that a remover purporting to be a Guild member is exactly that and meets The Guild’s rigorous standards. In other words customers of genuine Guild members can therefore rely on The Guild for consumer protection. Any company that tries to pass off as a Guild member can expect to feel the wrath of The Guild.” In fact one of the criticisms of BAR for many years has been that it doesn’t take a sufficiently hard line with companies that use its badge illegally. The Guild has certainly never been guilty of the same.

In response to questions on The Guild’s position if ex-members display the badge, Martin said: “If it wishes to leave The Guild it should make sure that the badge does not appear on any promotional material before it resigns, otherwise we feel it is legitimate to make a claim against the company. However, there is no necessity for litigation because members that have met their contractual liabilities during their membership are able to continue to use The Guild logo under licence after resigning. This has been enshrined for around 7 years in the rules of membership, and is available to all members if they have long-term directory advertising that was placed prior to resignation notification.”  The licence fee is £50 a week and the concession is open until the publication date of the next issue of the paper directory (such as Yellow Pages). “Clearly paper directories are in use long past the date when a new edition is published but as that is not the responsibility of the advertiser we take no action,” said Martin.

The Guild also has a reputation for firsts and is justifiably proud of its achievements. For example, it claims to have the first Code of Practice for the industry; ongoing monitoring of members’ performance through quality questionnaires supplied to customers; the first independent inspections; the first free online back load system; the first to offer interest-free instalments for membership fees; the first personalised sales packs with DVDs; and the first to offer free sales seminars for its members. Over the last 20 years few would doubt the quality of the marketing materials it makes available to its members.

With the BAR having been the only trade association for the UK moving industry since 1900, starting a new one over 90 years later was a tall order for Geoff Salt and there were always going to be a few cages rattled in the process. However, the organisation has been successful and it has an intensely loyal membership that will, and frequently does, sing its praises.

Martin said that Geoff Salt has now retired and, in the last 12 months, there has been a 17% growth in Guild membership.

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