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Alexanders’ success

Jun 15, 2012
Why has Alexanders succeeded while other fail.

When you first meet Sam and Alex Pope, you can tell there’s something different. There is something about them and the culture of their company that is extraordinary. Steve Jordan went to find out what’s so special. 

Alex and Sam (husband and wife) set up Alexanders after returning from a year’s travel around the world.  Alex started as a sole trader ‘man and van’ and quickly became successful.  “I am very good at making stuff happen,” said Sam. “Alex is great at sales, marketing, concept and strategy.” Alex appreciated that they made a great partnership. “We are very lucky that together we have very complementary skills that help us in our business.”

Alex continued working in the Kilburn area with one transit and one Luton, advertising for business in the local press. A chance removal for a friend gave Alex his eureka moment, “I had never seen self storage or knew it existed,” he remembered. “But it’s a perfect complement to removals.”

There was one big difference with Alex and Sam’s approach. Instead of allowing their clients to have access to the storage, Alexanders kept control. The clients had a contract with Alexanders and Alexanders paid the storage company.  This meant that Sam and Alex built up a strong client base that could be moved into their own warehouse when the time was right.

When the self storage company would not renegotiate the deal, it was time to get their own self storage facility: a 5,000sq ft modern unit in Park.

“I just knew that we would have our own self storage facility one day and as soon as we got it, we filled it with our existing clients.  I have friends who have over 40,000 feet of storage with a third-party company and now have nothing to show for it,” said Alex.

“The flexibility of our self store has given us an edge over our competitors,” said Sam. “For example, fashion houses love the self storage at Alexanders because we offer the extra service of a managed self store, which allows us access to the contents to arrange delivery of items for them at short notice.” Despite the success of their self storage warehouse, Alex is not sure whether he would build more. “The costs of setting up a self storage facility are huge compared to the costs of providing a storage container service.” 

When Alexanders needed more warehousing, the company regenerated a nearby disused Eddie Stobbart warehouse taking on board the advice and expertise from the company.  “I wanted to make sure that I am comfortable with our health and safety,” said Sam, who provides all their workers with toe protector shoes and all the necessary equipment to keep them safe in the workplace.

In 2010 Alex and Sam had the opportunity to purchase two other local removals companies. “We could see the advantage of adding turnover, but lacked the confidence,” said Alex.  After completing a six-week Dale Carnegie course which helped guide them through the acquisition process, they took the companies on. Alexanders now holds an operators’ licence and has two 7.5 tonne and six 3.5 tonne lorries, enabling it to focus on the middle to high end of the removals business.

The acquisition of the two companies has facilitated the departmentalisation of Alexanders and allowed both Alex and Sam to focus on strategic planning and moving the company forward. “It is the best thing we have ever done,” said Sam.

The Popes are enthusiastic about delivering a quality service to their customers. “To deliver a great removal – that’s what we want,” confirmed Sam. To achieve this, the staff are selected for attitude, and are trained to provide an excellent customer experience.

The moving industry has often suffered from a ‘them and us’ relationship between the ‘on-road’ crews and the office/sales staff: each blaming each other when things don’t quite go according to plan.  It has always been very destructive.

But Sam and Alex have none of that.  Everyone is in it together.  Everyone understands that their own success is directly related to the success of the company. They take time to nurture and motivate their 26 full-time staff by providing monthly feedback meetings, half-day workshops and professional training where necessary.  “We really like to encourage the growth of a person within the company,” Sam said, “by helping them to achieve their goals with our full support.”

Sam and Alex believe that the ethics of a company are really important and that the attitude of the staff at the sharp end of the business is key. “We only take on staff that will fit into our ethos and who will be impressive, friendly and successful with our customers. We are always looking at ways to improve,” they explained.  “We hold regular meetings to ensure that all staff are aware of any problems and so we can work out ways to further strengthen the team.”   

What next for Alexanders? Alex’s main ambition is to buy their own warehouse and move the company into the commercial market.  Marketing strategies have already been put in place to achieve these goals and with Sam and Alex heading up the team, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll see them realised before too long.

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