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Growth and success for Andrew Porter

Aug 13, 2012
Andrew Porter Ltd went into administration in 2009. It was bought back by the directors in a pre-pack sale designed to save the business and the livelihoods of as many of its employees as possible.

Since then the company has prospered.  Here, Steve Jordan talks to John Best about the route to recovery.      

Andrew Porter Ltd was started in the early 1970s by Andrew himself as a man and a van operation in Wigan.  Tim Aspey, now the company’s Managing Director, joined as a porter in the mid 1980s.  They have remained friends and colleagues ever since.

The company was successful.  It grew to have a sizable staff and fleet of vehicles throughout the 1980s and 90s, and was an enthusiastic supporter of BAR with Andrew being closely involved with the Association at a local level.

In 1996 it branched out to include furniture logistics, i.e. the delivery of furniture for manufacturers and retailers.  By 2008 the company was employing around 180 people and had a fleet of 60 vehicles. 

Unfortunately one aspect of the business was becoming a drain on the company as a whole.  The home delivery side of the furniture logistics business was taking up too much resource and the main customer, a major retailer, was acting unreasonably.  “There was no partnership,” explained John Best, the company’s National Accounts Manager. “They were telling us how to run our business.”

Eventually the company had little choice but to opt for a pre-pack sale to relieve it of its debts relating to the home delivery work while retaining the profitable removals side. “The reason we did the pre-pack was because the removals side of the business was good.  The choice we had was to make 80 people redundant and do a pre-pack or do nothing and make 180 people redundant.” John explained that he, Tim and Andrew all invested in the new company and did what they could to make sure the creditors were treated as fairly as was possible.

The rebuilding

Through 2009 and 2010 they worked very hard, often starting at 4.30am and working right through to the late evening - weekends too.  It paid off.  The strength of the removals side of the business was illustrated by the fact that it was possible to grow again right in the middle of the worst recession in living memory.  Fortunately, as the directors had always known, the removals business was sound and the retail logistics was doing well. 

“We concentrated on better attention to detail.  We focussed on our surveyors and sales staff to help them follow up better and look for opportunities to provide customers with additional information. We’ve re-opened our training centre with its mock house and employed a full-time trainer.  Every time we lose a quote there is an inquest so we understand what we have done wrong.  We have been adamant about price. When people come back to ask why we are more expensive it gives us the chance to explain and get involved in a dialogue, to build a relationship with them.”

The company has also worked hard to make more of its resources.  It has vehicles running all over the UK doing furniture deliveries but, as the drivers are also experienced in removals they can take back loads from moving companies who trust them to handle the furniture and effects properly. 

“We have really been pushing our return load service this year and it is proving very successful,” John said. “UK-wide removal of a small load can be a costly procedure, but because our vehicles are spread across the country every day, we are able to guarantee collection from any area within five to 10 working days.”

“This is a cost-effective and convenient service for smaller, regional removals firms and is something we are seeing increasing enquiries for.  Plus it is good for us to be forming partnerships with other removals firms and helping them to fulfil jobs they may not ordinarily be able to complete.”

The company is also making good use of the Internet though, perhaps, not in the traditional way.  It doesn’t use pay per click and, although it provides online quotes these are always followed up by a surveyor’s visit to verify the information provided and the quoted figure.  This provides an opportunity for up selling and makes sure the customer is not misled.

Since 2009 the company has done well.  It now employs around 80 people, has 45 vehicles and its turnover, of some £8million/year, is close to its peak in 2008.  Net worth is improving steadily.  And it’s winning some impressive accounts including the moving of the Liverpool Library, one of the largest commercial moving contracts available in the area, won against stiff competition. “It’s probably the biggest removals contract we have seen in the North West for a number of years,” said John.

Looking back, the difficult times seem a long way off for Andrew Porter Ltd. “It’s all in the past now,” said John. “The company has moved on and is enjoying good growth.  Our key strength is in our customer service, which we constantly look to maintain or improve, and we like to think our innovation and keeping in mind the bigger picture has helped us get where we are today.” It’s been hard work, but success has come as John, Tim and Andrew knew it would.  The company, despite the recession, is set on track for a prosperous future.

John Best

John Best has recently rejoined Andrew Porter after a short time away from the business.  He is a self-confessed outsider to the moving industry.  Immediately on leaving school he became involved in deep-sea shipping sales and, soon after, moved on to air and road freight.

In 1998 he stared his own business, TCM Management, handling time and mission-critical goods such as donor organs.  He also spent some time in the migration shipping business as MD of Migrate Global in Manchester before joining Andrew Porter in 2008 to oversee its retail logistics business.

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