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Quality first

Apr 10, 2014
Steve Jordan visited Gary Fontana, Managing Director of Kent’s Fontana Moving: a company that places an emphasis on giving a quality service above all else.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to Fontana Moving in Strood, Kent to catch up with its managing director Gary Fontana. When I arrived in the pouring rain at its modest headquarters on the north bank of the River Medway, I was greeted by the gleaming spectacle of one of Fontana Moving’s 17 tonne removal vans. ‘Nothing too special in that’ you may say, regarding the fact that I had come to visit a removals firm, but the van clearly wasn’t brand new and with the recent bad weather making road conditions muddy and wet, it was a shiny and clean sight to behold. The good impressions continued when I saw how neat, tidy and well-presented Gary’s offices were. After shutting the storm outside, we began our chat about his plans for Fontana Moving’s future and his 30-year journey in the trade so far.

 

Next year will be Gary’s 30th year in the removals industry, having begun his career at Pickfords back in 1985. He then struck out on his own in 2004 to set up Fontana Moving. After very modest beginnings, Gary now employs nine regular staff, as well as his son and daughter who work during their summer holidays from university. Gary also employs his wife in the office part-time. His current vehicle pool includes three 17-tonne trucks and two 7.5-tonne vans – three of which were successfully converted to comply with low emission regulations back in 2007 making them all compliant.

 

So what is Fontana Moving up to these days? “At present, business is split 50-50 between the domestic and commercial sectors,” said Gary. “We are working hard to increase trade in northern Europe by establishing regular runs to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg.” Fontana Moving has good contacts throughout Europe and offers a door-to-door destination and origin service on their behalf. A high percentage of the jobs are for freight moving between Germany and the UK.  “We’ve also done a few groupage jobs across to Australia and New Zealand but I would really like to establish the brand across northern Europe before I target markets further afield.”

 

Gary explained that staying closer to home is not a case of false modesty. He places an emphasis on delivering quality and maintaining a human touch, which he believes is only possible if you don’t dilute your work by overstretching your resources. Gary said that being contactable is important. He has always made himself available to his customers via telephone to answer any queries that may arise outside of normal office hours. It costs very little to offer such a small plus, yet it’s a personal feature he feels many of his competitors lack. It shows his commitment to his customers and he’s keen to maintain a high degree of personal care.

 

“I received good industry training at Pickfords, so in turn I’ve learnt that good staff training is important,” said Gary. He still goes out on the vans a few times a week to help the staff maintain the company’s high standards. He enjoys it and he feels it sharpens everyone’s attention to detail. “This duty of care can make all the difference to a job and it’s what separates us from our competitors. For instance, our domestic customers will always be kept up to date, if we say that we’ll begin a job at eight o’ clock we’ll begin a job at eight o’clock, we pride ourselves on being reliable,” said Gary. On an even more personal level, the guys at Fontana Moving like to make a point of looking after their customer’s prized possessions whether it’s an antique dresser or their grandma’s old tea pot. They enjoy that extra level of care.

 

Usefully, Gary has recently added a short video to the Fontana Moving website for its clients that identifies the different kinds of packing materials and covers available. Its inclusion is a very helpful visual aid for customers who may be unfamiliar with the terminology and are completely unaccustomed to moving house. Like Gary said, it’s this kind of care and attention that counts in the end.

 

Fontana Moving isn’t a member of any national trade association but Gary has registered his company with the Medway Council Fair Trader Group. He maintains that membership offers good networking prospects in the local area in addition to a requirement by Trading Standards to check each member company’s ‘terms and conditions’, and that all of its staff are CRB checked. Having Fontana Moving staff CRB checked is important to Gary because many of them go into people’s homes. Gary feels that the check demonstrates an extra level of security and assurance for his clients.

 

The conversation turned to Gary’s hopes and plans for the future. The highest priority is the intention to establish regular trade routes into northern Europe. He is also considering applying for BAR membership and installing satellite navigation for his fleet. The long-term goal is to expand Fontana Moving’s premises to include its own warehouse and storage containers.  On a more personal note he confesses that he loves the north-west Kent region and would like to stay in the area where he has enjoyed providing jobs for local people.

 

Despite the pouring rain I wrapped up my trusty Canon against the elements and took a snap of the truck. It seemed a shame not to as it was clearly so well cared for and had been waiting patiently in the yard for so long.  All in all, it was a heartening experience to meet Gary and to see that he was paying more than just ‘lip service’ to giving his clients a good quality moving experience. It is a nice company with, no doubt, a prosperous future.


Photos: Top - Gary Fontana, Fontana Moving Clean Machine!



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