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From Saturday Job to Managing Director

Jul 23, 2013
When Rob Horrobin took a Saturday job helping out at John Lomas Removals in Cannock when he was 14, he never thought that one day he’d be running the company. But sometimes dreams come true and in 2011 at the age of just 27 Rob took over as managing director.

 

I visited Rob at the John Lomas depot on the outskirts of Cannock in May and was greeted by Elaine, Rob’s mother, who has been office manager at the firm for the past 25 years. Rob met me at his office door with a beaming smile and out stretched hand and over a welcome cup of tea he explained how he’d climbed the ladder to become one of the country’s youngest removals entrepreneurs.

 

“John and Steve Lomas, the founders of the original company, are close family friends and I often used to ride in the trucks when I was a little kid,” said Rob. When I was about 14 I used to help mum in the office during school holidays, I’d make flyers and print forms on the computer; that sort of thing.  On Saturdays I’d sweep the warehouse and tidy the blanket piles for a bit of pocket money; it was better than doing a paper round! As I got bigger and stronger I’d sometimes go on a move as third man, so that gave me an insight into the sharp end of the business.”

 

After leaving school Rob attended Sheffield Hallam University and gained a degree in business studies - a subject that would prove very useful a couple of  years later. Rob returned to John Lomas after leaving college working on the vans and generally gaining experience in the business. It wasn’t long before Steve Lomas recognised Rob’s potential and started involving him in estimating and other management roles.

 

In 2006, in what was something of a shock for the workforce, the company was sold to the Clockwork Group. “A lot of the lads were upset at the suddenness of the announcement and worried about what would follow,” said Rob. “I knew, having studied business, that everybody needs an exit strategy and John and Steve would probably have had to sign a confidentiality agreement, so I didn’t take it personally like the others.”

 

Rob was promoted to sales manager, a job for which he was ideally suited. “I was doing about 9 or10 surveys a day and winning on average 6 of them, the firm had never done so many moves,” said Rob.

 

It wasn’t long before Rob was promoted to branch manager, but the storm clouds were gathering in the economy and things began to take a turn for the worse.  Many redundancies followed and in 2010 Clockwork announced they were closing the branch.

 

“The branch was due to close in July 2011 and I didn’t want to see the company I’d worked for for so long just disappear,” said Rob. “My father is a successful business man in the chemical industry and I’ve always respected his opinion, so I decided to ask his advice to see if we could work out a way of saving the company. I knew that as an independent business we could reduce the overheads and felt sure I could make it a success. We had several meetings with Clockwork and after looking carefully at the figures we made an offer for the company, which Clockwork accepted. The deal was completed in August 2011. Luckily the John Lomas name was no longer registered at Companies House so we were able to keep it.”

 

That was almost two years ago and although things certainly haven’t been easy John Lomas Removals has turned the corner and is holding its own in what as we all know is still a tough market for the moving business. The company has 14 staff - drivers Paul Griffin and Mick Kilgallon have over 30 years service - and a fleet of 5 vehicles. Around 55% of work is domestic moves and 45% commercial. The split is similar on the storage side.

 

As one of the UK’s youngest movers Rob is naturally excited and optimistic about the future. With his ready smile, easy charm and keen business acumen, he is surely set for success.

 

Picture: Rob Horrobin

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