Diversification vs Specialisation

Apr 05 | 2020

Ray daSilva from Mobility Exchange looks at diversification for movers and, in particular, pet transportation.

Bliss Corporation Pet Services

Ray daSilva from Mobility Exchange looks at diversification for movers and, in particular, pet transportation.

The seasonal nature of the moving business and the entrepreneurial drive of the small to medium-sized enterprises that make up the industry has always encouraged diversification.  This has led movers to explore other areas such as business records management, winter fuel deliveries, relocation services, office furniture installation and pet moving services, to name just a few.  Ask any mover worth its salt if it can handle transport arrangements for a pet as well and the answer will usually be yes.

The typical moving company story is one that traces its beginning to a single truck and a strong, singular focus on customer service. The business grows but, the company’s core competency becomes less about providing services directly and more about forwarding or as we call it now, move management or supply chain management: a concept that does not require physical assets, directly hiring people or being in a particular service location. It is about professionally and expertly managing the delivery of service.

Calling in the specialists

When you say yes to a customer in need of pet transport services, you must know how to collect enough vital information before calling in the pet transport specialists. The respectable way for a mover to proceed is to provide the customer with a single point of contact who will be primarily responsible in ensuring that the process is properly coordinated, and the customer’s requirements are adequately met. Service excellence is paramount. To achieve this, the mover must know enough about the underlying service whether it is pet moving, visa and immigration or area orientation, for a seamless delivery of service.

Deciding which is better

In some cases, movers will choose to gradually develop inhouse capabilities related to these diversifications. Some may create a division and invest in adding this specialisation as a distinct service offering.  In some cases, the company may even completely transform and leave the moving business behind. Some of the largest business records management, self storage, and even global relocation companies can trace their roots to the moving business. 

To understand the journey of one moving company that has undertaken diversification, let us look at a specific example: Bliss Corporation in Italy.

Bliss Corporation

“I started in the moving business working for my father’s company, so the roots of Bliss are firmly planted in moving,” said Francesco Argirò, President and CEO of Bliss Corporation (pictured below).  “After seven years, I felt confident enough to strike out on my own. I started Bliss Moving. The lessons I learned at my father’s company of personalised service and building a good reputation, one satisfied customer at a time, have served me well in achieving success and growth for Bliss.”

Francesco ArgiròWhat Francesco realised along the way was that moving was just one important part of the relocation process. There were many other services that a relocating customer required. This led to the decision to form three separate, distinct service divisions under Bliss Corporation:  Bliss Moving, Bliss Pet Services and Bliss Relocations.

“A brand is not built overnight,” he said. “It takes serious commitment and investment, so we did not treat the decision to extend the brand to pet and relocation services lightly. Each division is staffed with specialists who are trained, qualified and experienced in these distinct service areas.”

More than safeguarding precious items

Moving is a specialist niche in the transport and logistics industry. They say that our cargo (household goods) ‘talks back’ because of the emotional values attached to it. Freight shipments do not have this emotional element. Pet transport services are an even more specialist niche because the cargo in question not only figuratively ‘talks back’ but is literally alive and breathing.

“We take the responsibility seriously, of course, and our staff have to be animal lovers to start,” said Francesco. “Customers entrusting us to safeguard their personal possessions is one thing but when it comes to a live pet, the stakes go up considerably.” 

There are strict staff requirements in place. All Bliss Pet Services’ staff hold a Live Animal Regulations (LAR) certification through the International Air Transport Association (IATA).  This means that they have completed the IATA course on how to handle pet shipments in conformance with the LAR Standards Manual.  The manual covers the use of specialised pet travel shipping containers and refers to the customs and quarantine regulations of various countries. The staff are also familiar with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between governments, which may limit or prohibit the transport of certain animal species.

Making the right choice

Francesco believes that each company must carefully weigh the benefits of choosing to specialise by bringing a diversification inhouse or use a specialist.  “Our business is built on a foundation of managing supply chain partnerships. We cannot hope to be everywhere and do everything that relates to our service delivery. Often, the right choice is to work with specialists.” 

According to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 67% of US households own a pet.  Allowing that percentages will vary by country, the market for the international relocation of pets is still fairly small in relation to the market for moving services.  Of course, there may not be as much competition in this market as a much smaller number of service companies specialise in pet moving. 

“The dynamics of agent-to-agent trade is quite different between moving and pet transport,” said Francesco. “For example, we receive most of our pet transport business through direct enquiry and referrals rather than by being nominated as an origin or destination agent by an industry partner. Leads and referrals do flow quite naturally between the Bliss divisions. Service credentials established through pet transport transfer very effectively to our other business lines.”

While Francesco recommends that each company protect their brand by limiting their areas of specialisation, he continues to keep an open mind and a willingness to explore diversifications that make sense for Bliss Corporation. 

Broadening your company’s horizons

There is no question that the professional moving industry is undergoing rapid and dynamic change.  Potentials for diversification created by market disruption and changes in consumer demand are evident for those that know how to answer the door when opportunity knocks. Pursuing new potentials and broadening your company’s horizons are always viable options toward meeting your growth objectives.

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