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The mystery of success

Apr 16, 2015
A visit to Movecorp, one of the industry’s thriving upstarts, by Steve Jordan



I didn’t know Movecorp as I sat in the interminable traffic jam on the M1 in the shadow of a fire engine, that couldn’t make any progress either.  I had heard about the company.  I knew it had been sufficiently successful to ruffle a few industry feathers, but I didn’t know how successful and I didn’t know how it had been done. I was determined to find out.

Two and a half hours late and thankful that I had only been delayed by the motorway crash not involved in it, I arrived at the Movecorp office in deepest Walsall.  The façade was modern plate glass giving a clear view of the banks of sales coordinators working furiously within (a clue to what was to come).  On the forecourt, the refurbished Reliant three wheeler that many will remember caused a stir on the Movecorp stand at IAM in Vancouver in 2013. 

Once inside I was faced with a vibrant, buzzing place with constant chatter from a dozen simultaneous phone conversations.  The room was airy and bright; the mood, intense.

Darren French, greeted me.  He doesn’t have a job title.  Apparently he does lots of things.  He took me through to a small office that was temporarily doubling up as a training room during refurbishment where I was introduced to James Tennant, the Managing Director.

James and his partner Matt Belleini started Movecorp in 2007; a time of endless optimism and legendary ignorance of the financial baseball bat that was about to smack the whole commercial world around the temples.  Not a good time to start a business?  “It was OK for us,” said James. “We just grew into the business.  We didn’t have much in the way of overheads to fund or assets to lose.  It was probably the ideal time for us.”  James had some experience of removals but he’d never been out on the vans.  His expertise was sales, in particular the art of generating enquiries via the Internet.  Matt had no removals experience either but he did know transport. “We both wanted to start a business and we got on well,” said James.

Niel Stockley, who had experience in corporate sales was one of the company’s first employees. He used his contacts to secure some corporate contracts.  Meanwhile, the Internet was working hard generating private enquiries. At first all the work was subcontracted to packing crews.  As time went on, Movecorp employed its own crews using the subcontractors as trainers. James and Matt were on the road too, learning the ropes.

At first they just had a couple of Luton vans, then came a 7.5 tonner.  James remembered there was then an unexpected knock at the door.  “It was a salesman from a body builder,” said James. “He had a Mercedes Actros with a draw bar trailer that was a cancelled order.  He wanted £79,000 for it.  I didn’t even have a driver, but I went to the bank, borrowed the money and bought it anyway.  We were then able to start running our own groupage services into Europe.” Movecorp has bought another every year since.

Today, just eight years later, Movecorp has around 20 office staff, 31 vehicles and can put together over 30 road crews with its own trained staff.  The company generates something like 3,000 enquiries a month.  It’s been a roaring success despite the worst recession in living memory.  So how did they do it?  I was intrigued.

Puzzlingly Darren and James said it was all down to hard work.  Well, nice try chaps but I know plenty of movers who work really hard and don’t have anything like the success Movecorp’s had.  There was more to it than that.  I kept digging.  “You have to have the right staff,” said Darren.  He has only been with the company for two years himself but brought with him 12 years’ experience on the road and a further 18 in sales.  “But we don’t always look for experience, it’s more about attitude. We need people who have the motivation to push enquiries and get the most out of them.” They also acknowledge that it has been James’ experience with Internet marketing that has been critical in generating the level of enquiries the company now achieves.  “We never say no to anything,” said Darren.  “You never know where a job may lead.  It could be a trunk this month and a whole household next.” 

I was then introduced to James Mallett the Sales Director.  It was then that the fog of confusion began to clear a little.  James runs a sales factory.  A dozen or so sales coordinators spend their days on the phone, responding to enquiries, chasing leads, providing on-the-spot quotations, giving a fast response, and closing deals.  Every coordinator is measured real time: how many calls inbound and outbound; call duration; and the value of booked jobs.  Names and statistics are displayed for all to see on two continuously changing TV displays.  There is no hiding place.  They even have secret shoppers every month.  Nobody knows who will get the short straw. Now I know what Darren meant about attitude: that cauldron of competition wouldn’t suit everyone.  But it works for Movecorp.  “It’s just a question of making sure you are in a position to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along,” said James.

But it’s not just the office staff who are under pressure to perform.  The road crews are trained not only in moving skills but in the PR side of the job too.  Customer service is key. Bonuses are related to customer feedback reports.  There’s a full-time quality manager who can drop in on any job any time, and a full-time compliance officer to make sure everything is done right.  “New contracts take a lot of time and effort to get,” said Darren.  “We can’t afford to lose them because of shoddy workmanship.  They are just too valuable.”

As a public declaration of its service quality, Movecorp has embraced Standards, is a member of trade associations including BAR and IAM, and uses them to the full to generate new business.  The company has recently won three tenders for Dudley Council.

Movecorp has used the medium of the Internet to help build its business. But James Tennant knows that this mass medium, and the associated social media, is both a blessing and a curse. “We have worked very hard to build a good reputation,” he said.  “But the Internet is not just for us to embrace, it’s for the public too.  I know if we let our standards slip we can lose that reputation overnight.” 

 

But so far Movecorp has kept up its standards.  Deep sea groupage containers flow in and out every week with Australia and the USA as key destinations; the company provides a regular road service to most European destinations including Switzerland (that is avoided by some); all vehicles are fitted with telematics to ensure the most efficient load planning;  60% of the company’s work is corporate; Movecorp has added DSP services to its portfolio; and rather than being a customer of the major groupage operators, Movecorp has become a competitor with around 30% of its containers full of trade work. 

“There’s lots of other exciting stuff we are chasing,” said James, understandably reluctant to tell the world about it right now. “Our main focus is corporate and government work but airfreight is becoming big for us too.  The key is to stay flexible and always be open to new ideas.”

James accepts that he has had some luck along the way.  The day Darren French knocked on his door looking for a job was one of those occasions.  But most of his success has been hard work and everyone knows that the harder you work, the luckier you get. 

Sometimes people don’t like a new kid on the block.  Movecorp has occupied that spot in the UK moving industry for a while and has, no doubt, ruffled a few feathers.  But eight years on the company has been a success story.  Why?  For me, the mystery is solved.

 

Photos - Top to bottom: Top - James Tennant, James Mallett, Darne French and Matt Belleini; Staff photo - Matt Belleini, Michelle Hughes, James Tennant, Victorica Gaunt, James Malltee, Sophie Chapman and Darren French; James Mallett with the TV screen that shows how sales coordinators are performing; The refurbished Reliant three wheeler.


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