Sunday, 29 September 2019

Nothing ventured....

On 4th September 2019, it was 10 years to the day since I formed Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (we abbreviate it to SCL) so does it seem like 10 years? Hard to say. I remember the first 3 years were really tough, but as they say, if it was easy, everyone would do it. I actually say to people that it wasn’t a brave and bold move on my part, and having been in continuous employment since 1978, the abrupt end to my career at DHL was certainly not part of the plan, nor was setting up my own business. It certainly was a big shock to my system, being conditioned, as all of my colleagues were, to playing their part in keeping a large company on track, the usual corporate stuff.
The natural reaction when it comes to an end, is to seek new employment in a similar role, and keep the money coming in to pay the bills, just as anyone would, but that didn’t work for me. It was a recession, and companies were cutting back and laying people off, so a bit like the famous business book “Who Moved My Cheese”, the cheese store had gone for good and it was time to go and find a new one.
The funny thing was that I was still looking for work after I formed SCL, almost like a reserve parachute, but I was faced with the ultimate dilemma in February 2010. A week or so before I actually launched the company, I was offered a highly paid job at a large logistics provider, with an office only 3 miles from home, and people said, why don’t you take it and work on SCL on the side?
Having thought about it long and hard, I knew that wouldn’t work, as I’d commit myself fully to this company just as I did for DHL and Kuehne & Nagel beforehand, and the SCL business/idea would wither on the vine. So, I disregarded the advice of friends and family knowing that this would probably be my only chance to launch my own business, and on 8th March, when everything was in place, I bit the bullet, hit the phones, and started calling potential clients, making 800 phone calls in that month alone, speaking to and meeting people until we won our first client in April.
It’s fair to say that it has been tough, but when my wife Diane joined the company in 2012, that helped to spread the load, although I was always the driver, as I had the industry knowledge, and it really meant so much to me that SCL was successful, and it has been. I was also very conscious of earlier stories I’d heard of people who’d left to set up their own business, only to struggle and then give up and that was a major motivator.
When you’re a small business, there’s so much to do, be that the core operational work for customers, or all the other stuff, such as sales, promotion and networking, invoicing, VAT returns - it goes on and on, and it often runs into weekends and evenings. But if you are really passionate about your business, and you can see that customers truly value what you do, it spurs you on, and that’s how 10 years can come around so quickly.
We’ve never had ambitions for meteoric growth, so some might say that it’s been a missed opportunity, but we wanted to remain on the front-line logistics-wise, in the trenches with our customers, which can have its frustrations, but it’s our passion. We also didn't want to dilute what we had and provide outstanding service. So, despite our modest ambitions, we’ve seen continued growth, fantastic customer loyalty and glowing testimonials and I don’t think anyone can truly understand the sense of achievement and satisfaction you feel by creating a business from scratch and seeing it grow and succeed.
I must of course thank all of our customers for their tremendous support and loyalty over the last 10 years and of course Diane, but I also want to thank all of the other people I’ve met or worked with on the journey, as all of these encounters can really help to guide, inform and motivate you, even if they might not seem to be beneficial at the time. So, be open to everything, learn from people, be professional and go the extra mile, it will be noticed.
So, would you believe it, 10 years, and still growing!