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Baker Street boys

Mar 16, 2015
Steve Jordan interviews David Hollins as he joins Momentous Relocation, just a year after Paul Evans bought the company, in its new home in central London.


I was winding my way down Baker Street.  I was light in my head and dead on my feet. It was another rainy day, I’d drunk the night away and now I’d forgotten about everything.  Fortunately, just around the corner from the tube station, at number 188, is Chiltern Court the new home of Momentous Relocation.  I dropped in. 

The building is a remarkable place, owned and built by London Transport immediately adjacent to the tube line and, indeed, with a secret direct access to the platform.  Handy!  “But they don’t like us using it,” said David Hollins, the company’s new managing director.  I’m not surprised.

With Rafael Ravenscroft’s iconic sax solo burning an ear worm in my brain I followed David to the company’s offices in the remarkably airy basement.  With modern furniture, intriguing art on the walls and collectables adorning the hallway the whole place is a bit of a home from home for Paul. It’s a nice place to work and kind of handy for … everything really. Especially buskers and record stores one would hope.

David had just got his feet under the table at Momentous having joined only six weeks earlier after 18 years’ service with Crown. It is a new challenge for him and very different from what he has known before.  But he has a good team around him: Christian Peck (Stuart Peck’s son) business development; Caroline O’Connor is handling sales support; David McWilliam has been in corporate sales for a very long time; Lyris Andrews, ex Sterling, provides DSP services; Wesley Davies, is new to the industry; Wendy Smith, customer support; Ian Nicholson is in Florida oiling wheels; and there is Paul of course … Mr Midas.  It looks like a winning formula.  It probably is. 

Baker Street is the sales and customer service operations centre of Momentous.  The company still has its warehouse in Aylesbury, 40 miles north-west of London for long-term storage and its new international operations centre in Park Royal (London’s mover city).  The company employs around 30 people in total. 

“It’s a new opportunity, one that doesn’t come around every day,” said David. “After so long working in a large company it’s very exciting to be part of something smaller, right from the start.” David also has a financial stake in the business.

“It’s a nice tight team,” said David. “It gives us a real difference.”  I was intrigued.  How exactly does ‘small’ translate into ‘better’ in the modern moving and relo business?  David strongly believes that the smaller company is on the verge of a renaissance.  The innovative companies that changed the industry for the better in years gone by have now largely been absorbed into much large conglomerates.  Those large organisations provide a very good service to most people most of the time but they are necessarily driven by process not individual customer needs.  Also those large companies are very departmentalised - able to operate efficient division of labour with each member of staff being expert in their own field - but not necessarily having a broad range of skills (Adam Smith would have been proud). 

“But here we work very closely together,” said David. “These people have a very deep knowledge of the whole industry that’s essential in a smaller company.  It means that we can really work with our clients to make sure we give them exactly what they need and want, not what our process says they shall have.”

The company lives its strap line: ‘The attention is in the detail’.  “It’s about touch,” said David.  “We can treat everyone as an individual.  Every customer is a big part of our business.  We have the time to build a relationship with each assignee.  I believe that’s what our customers and their assignees really want.” 

Caroline O’Connor and Christian Peck were both at 360 before its sale to AGS.  They have experienced the dynamic of a smaller organisation before.  “It was the opportunity to work again in a close knit organisation that really appealed to me,” said Christian.  “The company has the right quality ideals in place to make a difference.”  Caroline too enjoys the freedom she has to work with customers one-to-one. “We can provide better quality because we can focus on every customer separately.”  

For Momentous the plan for 2015 is simple: to become known on the world stage as a serious operator that provides great quality service and has a network of agents worldwide that share the same values.  “To do that we have to deliver top quality service from day one,” said David. “We aim to be a boutique, high end operator with every assignee being able to feel the difference. We don’t work on tariffs; we prefer to let customers choose what they need and tailor the service around them.”

And David believes that there is a growing number of small/medium-sized corporate clients who like to manage their own expat populations and need help in developing a properly managed mobility policy.  “Companies are increasingly seeing their Generation X and Y staff as a resource that needs careful management. We want to do all we can to help them.” He is also keen to work with RMCs to provide high end moving and DSP services.

Momentous will be sending four people to the FIDI convention in Cape Town in March which demonstrates the company’s commitment right from the start.  Is there one word that describes how the Momentous staff feel about working in this new, dynamic organisation?  “Excited,” said Christian Peck. “This is really exciting.”

And as for Paul?  Well!  As the song says: you know he'll always keep moving; you know he's never gonna stop moving; 'cause he's rolling, he's the rolling stone.  There was certainly no moss growing in Baker Street as far as I could see.

Photos: Top to bottom: David Hollins and Paul Evans; David outside Baker Street tube station; in the Baker Street office; the Momentous warehouse in Aylesbury; Raphael Ravenscroft, who doesn't work at Momentous, but did perform the saxaphone solo on the Gerry Rafferty hit Baker Street.

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