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The Mover Conference Part 1 - Making more profit; VOSA; AIM; Generating leads

Dec 17, 2013
After David Jordan's introduction there was a lively session focussed on ways of increasing profitability by offering additional services that don't require capital investment. These are some of the topics discussed.





Making more profit

Insurance

Editor Steve Jordan introduced Graham Puddephatt from Reason Global who told a heart lifting story about how one mover had rescued his business from liquidation simply by offering insurance to his customers. Graham urged all moving companies to talk to their brokers and discuss how they can start selling insurance products or if they are already doing so, how they can improve their sales performance. Later in the session Bob Tree from Basil Fry encouraged movers to buy a master policy from their broker that would give the necessary cover for the kind of moves they were doing and then sell the benefits on to their customers at a price to suit their market. This was also recommended by Neil Matthews from insurance broker Pound Gates.


Training

The focus then moved onto training and how improving the training of staff can result in lower operating costs and consequentially higher profits.  Ray Marshall from Britannia Squab explained how a course he attended on export packaging resulted if fewer insurance claims, better time management and more economical use of materials. Later, training expert Philip Kidd explained how their specialist training courses were very much hands on that people who attended them left with real-world skills that would enable their companies to take on tasks such as export packaging that they would otherwise have to decline. Although training does of course mean some investment, Kidds' two-day export packaging course costs just £240 per trainee, which should soon be recouped by extra business and more efficient processes.

 

Overseas work 

Several delegates said they didn’t currently advertise or offer an overseas service and Steve Jordan encouraged them to take advantage of the many groupage services offered by some of the larger operators. Alternatively they could simply sub-contract the whole job to an overseas specialist rather than turn the customer away.

 

Retail sales

Selling packaging materials was another area that some removals companies still ignore even though the margins can be very high, in some cases several hundred percent. Oliver Dawes from Simpson Packaging described a retail stand they supply to moving companies that displays a range of packaging materials and makes it easy for customers to buy. These have been particularly effective in self storage facilities where there is a lot of walk-in traffic. Another option is to sell online. Oliver explained that Simpsons will arrange for materials to be delivered directly to the customer without the moving company even having to touch them, so there is no excuse for not getting involved.

 

Shredding

Shredding in recent years has become a multi-million pound industry and moving and storage companies are ideally place to get a share of the action without having to invest in extra space or expensive equipment. Andy Dickerson from Simply Shred explained that because the industry has two profit centres - the revenue from shredding and the sale of the waste paper – removal companies can retain nearly all the charges for shredding with the shredding contractor taking the profit from the sale of the paper. Companies like Simply Shred will collect bags of confidential material from the removals company’s premises and carryout the whole operation.  All the removal company has to do is collect the material from the customer and send them an invoice.

 

Currency exchange

Clients moving abroad and needing to move cash, be is savings, or the proceeds from the sale of their house, need to transfer those funds to their destination country. While their high street bank will be happy to do this, at a price, cheaper alternatives are available saving them up to 3% of the capital transferred and generating a healthy commission for the introducer. Although removals companies are ideally placed to introduce their customers, many do not and are missing out on a lucrative extra source of income simply for passing on a phone number. Michael Zervakis from Currencies Direct pointed out that on a transfer of say £300,000 the saving to the client would be in the region of £9,000, a substantial sum, and that a range of commission options are available to removals companies introducing their customers.

 

Utility Warehouse 

With energy prices in the news for all the wrong reasons switching to an alternative supplier can save hundreds of pounds a year on domestic fuel bills.  Again removals companies are in a strong position at the time of a move to save their customers money and gain extra revenue for themselves in the process. Sharon Nolan explained how leading utilities supply company Utility Warehouse can save customers money on their electricity, gas and telephone bills and pay both initial and on ongoing commission to introducers.

Several companies at the conference already had arrangements with Utility Warehouse - which is one of the top performers on the London stock exchange - and were very impressed with its services. Sharon can be contacted on itsthepigdifference@utilitywarehouse.org.uk. 

With so many additional ways of adding value to the bottom line, some delegates were a little sceptical and thought that by offering so many services they would be diverted from concentrating on their core business of removals.  Conference facilitator David Jordan pointed out that it was not necessary to adopt every extra service but to consider which ones were appropriate for each individual business.



Photos: From the top, left to right - Graham Puddephat of Reason Global; Bob Tree of Basil Fry & Company; Steve Jordan; Neil Matthews of Pound Gates.  Andy Dickerson of Simply Shred; Oliver Dawes of Simpson Packaging; David Jordan.  Michael Zervakis from Currencies Direct.  Sharon Nolan of Utility Warehouse


VOSA presents at The Mover conference  

Dave Murray and Mark Horton from VOSA gave an interesting presentation about the latest regulations affecting drivers and their vehicles. With only a few months to go before the deadline for Drivers CPC, Mark reminded delegates that all drivers of vehicles over 3,500kg will need to complete their training before the 9th September next year. Later he explained how the Working Time Directive has changed the way a drivers hours are recorded and the need to record time spent doing jobs other than driving, such as loading and unloading, on the driver’s records.

Dave Murray said there was no magic way to improve vehicle safety but showed how by taking more care with vehicle daily inspections, prosecutions could be reduced by up to 85%. Tyre defects, faulty lights, brakes and insecure loads were some of the most common reasons for vehicles being prohibited from the road, all of which should have been spotted by the driver. 

The presentation included a number of graphic pictures of some of the most serious cases taken at the roadside by VOSA officers.

 

Photos: Dave Murray and Mark Horton; Serious tyre damage found by a VOSA inspector.


 

Interviewing the new boys

On day two of The Mover Conference editor Steve Jordan turned his hand to conducting a Paxman style interview with Scott Rust and Darren House from the industry’s new trade association the Alliance of Independent Movers (AIM), which launched at the Movers and Storers Show.

Steve began by asking Scott, the owner and Managing Director of the Alliance why he decided to start AIM. “We thought there was a lack of options for the small and medium sized removals companies and we wanted to offer an alternative to the Guild and BAR.”

 

Although AIM is a limited company it is governed by a steering group made up of members of the Alliance.  Members can also put forward ideas through the members’ forum on the AIM website. Scott also runs his own moving company, Central Moves in Twickenham, but now spends about 85% of his time developing AIM. Steve asked Scott how he can devote so much time to AIM and still run a moving company. “I have a very good team at Central Moves and I’ve taken on extra people recently; so that frees up the time I need to spend on the Alliance. Eventually I hope the split will be about 50-50 between the two roles,” said Scott.

Darren House said they had had a very good response from visitors to the show and that the comments from people on the stand had been very encouraging.

Benefits of membership include a company profile on the AIM website which is fully search engine optimised to attract customers looking for a mover and expert advice and support for smaller companies wishing to expand their services. “You may, for example have a couple of guys with a Luton van who want to grow their company but don’t have the expertise or business acumen to drive the company forward,” said Darren. “We can help them find ways of doing that and put them in touch with suppliers and service providers. We will also help them develop their website or even build one from the ground up if necessary.” The idea was to help companies that might not meet the membership criteria of AIM or other organisation to improve standards and achieve membership in the future. 

Steve asked Scott how AIM would make sure standards were maintained by the members. “We keep a careful eye on the online feedback from customers and other removals companies and also carry out physical annual inspections to make sure standards are kept up to scratch,” said Scott. “We also have our own complaints procedure as well as an independent arbitration and conciliation service for more serious cases that can’t be resolved in house.”

Companies wishing to join AIM need to be VAT registered and have a registered company name; there is no minimum trading period required prior to membership. The annual membership fee is £1200 + VAT plus an initial assessment fee of £395, £295 for subsequent years. There is currently a single level of membership for all companies. Full conditions of membership can be viewed at www.aimovers.com. The Alliance is aiming to attract around 50 companies during the first 12 months and 400 – 500 within five years.


Photos: From the Top - Steve Jordan interviews Scott Rust and Darren House of AIM; Matthew James Removals receives the company's AIM membership certificate.

 

 

Generating leads in the Internet age

Editor Steve Jordan introduced this session of The Mover Conference by relating a story from the 2008 BAR Conference when fledgling companies offering removals service online were regarded with scepticism and often disparagingly referred to as ‘Bedroom Brokers’. How things have changed. Just five years later getting an online quote for a move is often people’s preferred way of finding a removals company and several new online services have emerged to bring removals companies and customers together.


Two such companies, Reallymoving.com which has been operating since 1999, and new kid on the block Buzzmove.com gave presentations highlighting some of the benefits of using their services. Rob Houghton from Reallymoving explained that over 80% of people now use the Internet to research the market before making any large purchase, and that includes removals. However, just having a website is no good unless people can find it and with the ever changing algorithms used by Google and others, keeping at the top of the listings is a constant and expensive challenge. Rob mentioned other Internet tools such as Google AdWords and pay per click, but these simply direct traffic to your website and don’t produce firm leads. By using a company like Reallymoving it is possible to have a constant flow of genuine enquiries without having to build and maintain an expensive website.


Becky Downing, Managing Director of Buzzmove gave a potted history of her new company and explained how she was inspired by a bad experience with a removal  company during her last move. She realised that people were not savvy when it came to selecting a removal company. It was difficult for them to distinguish the good from the bad operators and how much they should be paying for the service. Becky was keen to stress that they only work with companies who give top quality service and that they are not about driving down prices. Buzzmove customers are able to select a mover, get a firm price, and book online 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

 

There was much discussion and plenty of questions with delegates still somewhat sceptical about how a firm quotation can be given without causing further problems down the line. 

 

Rosie Rogers from Reallymoving closed the session by giving details of their recently introduce Ombudsmen scheme designed to protect both mover and client on the rare occasions when a dispute cannot be resolved in house.

 

Photos: Rob Houghton, Becky Downing, Rosie Rogers.

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