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Full Circle

Jun 15, 2012
Mark Radcliffe rose from being a man with a van to running a successful international removals business. Now he’s back driving a van – this is his story.

Like many people in the moving business Mark Radcliffe started small, with a Luton van, a small ad in yellow pages and a big overdraft at the bank. That was back in 1988, he was a young man with a van and determined to make it big.

Mark’s business career began over 30 years ago when he moved from Manchester to Eastbourne, bought an old pick-up truck and set himself up as a general carrier, clearing rubbish for local businesses, collecting scrap metal and even, from time-to-time, tarmacing people’s driveways.  “I soon realised there were easier ways of making a living,” said Mark. “So I swapped the pick-up for a Luton van, bought a junk shop and started doing house clearances instead; I called the business A1 Removals.”

Soon the moving side of the business began to take off and it wasn’t long before a second van was needed to cope with demand. “Business was booming in the late 80s and I decided to expand,” said Mark. “I was making a very good living and thought, if I can make this much with a couple of small vans and a junk shop, what could I do with a proper warehouse and a fleet of real removals vans?”

Mark devoted his life to building his business. “I was a single man but I was really married to the company, the vans were my children.  For nine years I worked seventeen hours a day seven days a week and I loved it.” Soon I had twelve trucks including three road-trains doing European work, a 26,000 sq ft warehouse and 20 people working for me, life was sweet.” In 1997 Mark changed the name of his company to A1 Worldwide Movers and became a member of the British Association of Removers (BAR), the transition from a man with a Luton van and a junk shop to a successful business entrepreneur was complete.

But things were about to change. It was the day after his 40th birthday that Mark began to question his way of life and what the future might hold.  “We had a big party at the Cavendish Hotel in Eastbourne, it was a great evening and lots of people from the moving industry came to help me celebrate.  My girlfriend had organised a This is Your Life for me and lots of people said very nice things about me when they came onto the stage.  But the following morning I began to think about my life and realised that everything in it revolved around the moving business – I had nothing else.  It sounds crazy but at that moment I lost interest in what I had achieved and decided to make a radical change.  Not long after, I put A1 Worldwide Movers on the market and headed off to Thailand for an extended holiday.  I fell in love with the place; I loved the people and the culture, their way of life was so different from here in the West and although most of them had nothing by way of material possessions they were happy and content.”

Selling the business proved to be more difficult than expected and after three years a buyer had not been found.  Mark was spending long periods of time in Thailand and the business suffered as a result.  In 2006 A1 Worldwide Movers went into administration and a year later Mark, burdened by credit card debts, was declared bankrupt.  A1 was eventually sold by the administrator and continues to trade today, but for Mark the days of running a large removals company were over.

Today Mark’s life has turned full circle and once again he makes a modest living doing small removals with a Luton van and driving trucks for some of his old friends in the moving business.  He’s even bought another junk shop. “It’s a far cry from the way of life I enjoyed back in the 90s, but I certainly don’t miss the £26,000 a week overhead and all the stress you get running a big company,” said Mark. “I’ve been working as a self employed van driver now for four years and I’m loving it. I never thought I’d be able to revive my interest in the moving business but going back to my roots in the industry seems to have done the trick. Some people say small is beautiful and I for one believe them.”

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