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The sunshine returns

May 13, 2014
Paul Evans has bought Momentous in Aylesbury, UK, returning him to the moving industry he left almost three years ago. It’s a small company with a big potential. Now that Paul’s involved, that future has taken on a whole new hue of rose. Steve Jordan spoke to him at the FIDI conference in Singapore to find out more.

Paul Evans has been in the international moving business most of his working life.  In his youth, post working for Stockbrokers (Greenwell’s) in the city and Lloyds bank, he did a stint as a minicab driver/night controller and when customers started asking if he had a van, he thought he’d better buy one.  His first moving company, P&M Removals, was run from a bedsitter and café in Fulham with his friend, Micky. Since then he’s done rather well.  He founded Trans Euro (with Richard Levine) in 1973, selling it to Deutsche Bank Capital Partners 27 years later; then bought Interdean in 2005, revitalised it and sold it to EAC, the owners of Santa Fe in 2011.  Paul seems to have a talent for creating success.

So his latest acquisition, coming after Paul completed a two-year restrictive covenant period, will be welcome news to the Momentous employees, Paul’s overseas agent friends, and those on his loyal customer contacts list.  It will be less of a joy for some of London’s established corporate moving set who now have another, very strong, competitor to defend against.  My first question to Paul was simply, why?  Why, after you have achieved so much in the moving industry and, more recently, in other industries, would you want to start again?

Paul misunderstood the question.  Probably on purpose. He told me that there is no university course for relocation, but he’d felt he’d done a degree in practice by starting at the bottom. “I have been through every aspect of moving,” he said, “loading, driving- (Class 3 licence) , packing, surveying, selling, routing.” He didn’t mention running two of the most successful companies the industry has known. 

But I wasn’t questioning his qualifications, just curious about his motivation. “It’s the people in the industry,” he said.  Now we arrive at the real story.  Paul, like many people in the moving world, recognises the values of relationships, enjoys them, has made many friends, and wants to remain part of it.  What better reason to do anything: to be with the people you like best.

That established: why Momentous?  That one was easier.  “It was for sale, has a freehold, purpose built, five-high warehouse, some good staff, and FIDI and BAR Overseas membership,” Paul explained.  Momentous had also seen a dramatic drop in its business after losing the MOD contract a few years ago. This meant that it was rattling around in its Aylesbury facility and so there was plenty of room for expansion.  With the sale also came the company’s operation in Waltham Abbey, which will close shortly.

The business is mainly corporate international and storage.  It has an annual turnover of £2.5m (at its peak, it achieved £14 million). Wendy Smith has been with the company for over four years and will take over as International manager.  “Our service is spot on,” she explained.  “But we have never had any real sales to build new accounts. All our business comes from recommendations and word of mouth.”  It’s easy to see that, with some Evans magic, the company’s growth is virtually assured. “On such a small turnover there’s only one way to go,” said Paul.

The sale only went through on Wednesday 19th March, but already plans are taking shape.  Paul has bought an office in Baker Street to house the sales and administration staff and provide accommodation for his property and investment business TRL Properties. He is looking for operational headquarters in Park Royal, the world famous north-west London industrial area that is already home to much of the capital’s moving industry. And will retain the Aylesbury facility for medium and long-term storage.  Some key appointments have already been earmarked, but not announced.  He is definitely on the lookout for further talent to help build a quality, ‘boutique’, moving and relocation company.

There are no plans for diversification.  Corporate moving and relocation is the niche. But Paul is being realistic.  He says he doesn’t intend to take the bigger companies on preferring to go for small accounts that he can service well. “I think there are ample accounts out there.  Either new companies who want to learn how to go abroad or the smaller companies that will never expand beyond trading between two or three countries.  These will be ideal for us because we can provide the service level they need.”

As a parting shot I asked Paul if there was one message he wanted to give the industry.  He didn’t need to think long. I was expecting something like ‘tell the others to watch their backs’ or ‘call me if you want a job’ – but no: “The moving and relocation industry is a great career, and I would recommend it and I am really pleased I ‘fell into it’,” he said. And Paul Evans is a perfect example of just how great it can be. 

The industry will just have to watch and wait to see how Momentous develops under Paul’s helmsmanship.  One thing you can be sure of, judging by the twinkle in Paul’s eye: for him, and those around him, it will be fun.

Good luck Sunshine!

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