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Keeping one step ahead

Sep 12, 2012
An interview with Mike Fahey of Cheshire Removals.
Cheshire Removals is the archetypical small moving company. It’s run by its owner, Mike Fahey, whose family is steeped in the industry, runs a small fleet of vehicles and does most of its business in its local area.  Steve Jordan dropped in to see Mike to see how he is keeping one step ahead in a difficult market.

The company’s roots go back 100 years or more when Mike’s granddad, Patrick started his business, P. Fahey & Son, with a hand cart.  The horse joined a little later before lorries took over in the 1950s.

Mike is the third generation of the Fahey family to embrace the moving industry.  In 1994 he started his own business, Cheshire Removals and, in 2007 he moved into his present premises in Stockport.  He occupies the same site as Safestore that bought the building from Paul Fahey, Mike’s cousin, who saw the potential of the self storage business many years ago when it was little more than a slightly puzzling American import.  If only we were all blessed with the same foresight!

Cheshire Removals has been successful.  Most of its business is domestic moving with the occasional office job or international shipment.  All its work originates in its local area. The recent recession was tough, of course, as it was for everyone, but Mike is sure that the business is beginning to come back now.  “The business is in a much better position now than two years ago,” he said.  “We went right down to three vans but it’s slowly coming back up again.”  Mike now has ten vans on the road and employs around 25 people on a busy day, many of them as regular part-time staff.  “It’s the media that frighten us into recession. If it wasn’t for them telling us how bad everything is supposed to be we probably wouldn’t have one.”

Enthusiasm for BAR

When the company moved to Stockport in 2007 it also became part of BAR (British Association of Removers) and Mike regularly attends the North Western Area meetings.  “Becoming a BAR member helped us to show a more professional image,” he said. “I find the Area meetings extremely helpful.  Being a member of an association helps the staff be more aware of how to behave with customers and helps us sell our services.  Just those two things alone make it worthwhile.  It also helps us keep on top of the legal side as well: insurances, regulations, training, etc.” 

Driver training

Mike has managed to get most of his drivers through the Driver CPC training in time for the deadline in 2014.  But he said that he had purposely not rushed into it as he could not be sure how many drivers he would need by that time.  This may well go a long way to explaining why the take-up of Driver CPC training has been lagging behind what the training establishments were expecting.  There’s no point in paying to train people only to have them leave.   

Vehicle hiring

But Mike owes some of his success to diversification.  He has never been afraid to use his assets in any way he could to make sure they earn their keep. 2007 also saw the start of his van hire business.  As work dropped of for removals he found he could earn extra money by hiring out his vans to local companies. He now has around 20 vans, mainly Transit size, in his hire fleet. “We don’t hire to private customers though,” said Mike.  “They are a nightmare so I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.”  He also rents out his 7.5 tonne vans too for £150/day.

Vehicle sales

Another diversification for Mike is vehicle sales.  Good quality, used removal vans, it appears are hard to come by even in a recession.  He buys sound vans locally, reconditions and repaints them and sells them on at a profit. If customers are looking for something special, Mike can often find them what they are looking for.  He also has a door fitting service to make a standard truck into a removal van with container doors. Having previously dealt in older vehicles Mike is now concentrating on the post 2006, Euro 4 vehicles which are in great demand.  “We can often take a good body off an old truck and put it on a Euro 4 chassis.”

Mike’s company is a very good example of a traditional moving company that has adapted with the times and taken its opportunities as they were presented.  Many others, who might still be struggling even as the market returns, could learn a lot from his example.

Photo:  Mike Fahey

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