Twenty years ago John Regler was a 20-year-old languishing, by his own admission, in a dead-end job.
Then his aunt inspired him to start his own man-with-a-van courier service and he has never looked back.
Fast forward to 2018 and John is director of Astral Couriers based in Dorset with a driver force of eight and fleet of six vehicles.
It’s a far cry from his first foray into the logistics game, working out of a bedroom at his parent’s house and armed with just a phone, fax machine, Amstrad computer and van.
John explained: “My aunt ran a courier business in Plymouth and knowing I wasn’t happy with my job she suggested I give it a go too.
“If it doesn’t work she told me, all I would have to do was sell my phone, fax and van.
“So I started up, cold-calling round industrial estates and business parks, trying to get contracts.
“I was only 20 and it was difficult for people to take me seriously so it was pretty tough.
“Technology wasn’t as good either at the time so while I was out looking for work I couldn’t be at home taking phone calls which was very frustrating.”
Despite the initial struggles and disappointments, John persevered, soon gaining his first big contract with an aircraft parts manufacturer.
“I walked out of the place and I didn’t know whether to be happy or nervous or absolutely petrified,” he said, “Then I thought crikey I’m going to have to get another van.
As his business grew John realised the benefits of being part of a network to share work and information on van and job capacity.
A member of the National Couriers Association ten years ago he also decided to join Courier Exchange.
With Courier Exchange you press a few buttons and you get firms coming straight back to you, it saves a lot of time and hassle.
And he has no doubt that being part of Courier Exchange has aided him in not only cutting costs and increasing profit but staying strong during the recession.
Courier Exchange is the world’s biggest trading exchange for the sameday courier and express freight industry.
John said: “I would say with Courier Exchange we can get pretty much 99 per cent of jobs covered from anywhere to anywhere in the country.
“It’s a huge improvement on how we used to have to do things. In the old days, if we had a job we could not cover it was a case of ringing round nine or ten other firms to see if they had capacity and you wouldn’t know if someone was already out on the road.
“With Courier Exchange you press a few buttons and you get firms coming straight back to you, it saves a lot of time and hassle.
“It’s made the whole process of sharing capacity easier and more streamlined and we have an impressive network of contacts to call on.”
Astral Couriers still delivers for John’s first big customer, the aircraft spares maker, although the company has seen numerous changes.
With expensive and essential parts involved and speed and security a priority, this can mean picking up the package then hopping on a plane to deliver it hand to hand across Europe, or even North America.
Another large part of Astral’s operation is for a drinks distributor where they specialise in delivery for customers who have missing orders or require extra goods.
While John says Astral doesn’t take that many jobs off Courier Exchange, it has been particularly helpful in fulfilling jobs they may not be able to cover.
“It is a really valuable service for us, if we were not part of Courier Exchange I think we would still be operating but it would be a struggle to give our customers the level of service we can offer now nationwide.
“And if you cannot meet customer expectation then you soon lose business.”