“How my army training helped me to forge a career in same day logistics.”
We all occasionally lose our footing. Some missteps, however, can be life-changing. But in life, it is how we recover from a setback the really counts.
If you want to understand the true meaning of resilience – you won’t find it on a football pitch. Instead, try the battlefield in Afghanistan where Luke Sands was serving with the Queen’s Royal Lancers as a tank driver.
Serving on Helmand Province’s front lines is not for the faint hearted. With Luke’s regiment frequently called upon to relieve coalition troops under fire, it was often dangerous work but rewarding too.
“We knew the risks. But we also could appreciate that our actions were making a difference. Every day, for example, we cleared enemy IEDs, captured small arms, confiscated stockpiles of ammunition and seized large quantities of heroin.”
But four months into the tour, Luke’s time in Afghanistan came to an abrupt end. “It’s something I’ll always remember, he says. “It was a night without stars and we’d been sent out on a mission to clear an enemy compound. The plan called for us to complete the last few miles on foot, but I as dismounted from my armoured vehicle that I’d been travelling on, I didn’t see the dry riverbed at the side of the road. I lost my footing and fell awkwardly. It didn’t help that I had seven stone of equipment on my back and a rifle on my arm. The rifle snapped my shoulder bone in two and my time in Afghanistan was over almost before it had begun.”
Back in civvy street and after corrective surgery, Luke began looking to get his career back on track. An answer quickly presented itself. “I could still drive,” he says, “In my time in the forces, I drove 60 tonne Challenger tanks, armoured vehicles, and jeeps. I knew how to fix them, maintain them had the relevant commercial licenses. So I decided that becoming a courier made sense.”
Several years after his life-changing injury, Luke founded Big Load Little Load Ltd, which serves the same day and next day logistics markets. In just a few years, his courier company has gone from looking after one customer to serving several large clients. Luke puts much of his success down to hard work and the strong relationships he has formed with his clients.
The army taught me everything I know. I learned what the officers would call “winning hearts and minds”, which basically means knowing how to talk to people. Keeping customers happy all of the time in my line of work is the most important part of the job and we take great pride in the number of clients we work with every day.
But that’s not to say that life has been easy for Luke. The first year was the toughest as he battled to juggle running his business from his van – something that he still does. But Luke had a trump card up his sleeve. In his previous job, he’d picked up the basics of couriering very quickly, but also learned how he could use technology to his advantage.
“My boss had a small fleet, but he used Courier Exchange’s (CX) large fleet to get the best out of his business. That meant that when all his permanent staff was out on job, he could still quote for work. If and when he won it, he’d post the load on CX and within a few minutes, he’d have four or five offers for the job. I realised very quickly that if joined CX, I could build my business a lot faster than paying money that I didn’t have to lease several vans.”
Luke joined Courier Exchange soon after starting Big Load Little Load, and says that it’s “been an absolute godsend”. He explains,
Without the Exchange. I’d never have started the company, never have landed the work or met the clients that I’m not working with. For me, CX is the reason the business is where it is and I can never be thankful enough for that.
However, that doesn’t mean that loads have fallen into Luke’s lap. Instead, for Luke, the Exchange is a “useful tool” which compliments and rewards “the hard work” that he and his drivers put in every day.
You have to understand how the Exchange works, you have to know how to get the best out of it, and then be able to execute a game plan. I don’t want to give away any trade secrets, but working together as a team is what really counts. That’s probably the most important lesson from my army career. So around 3 pm every day, we gather together and use our laptops or mobile phone to find work. When you have good people – who all know CX inside out – working as a team to track downloads. It makes it so much easier. We don’t stop until everyone has a job – and a good one too.
Luke says that many of his clients have been given to him by the 5,600 trade-only member businesses operating on CX. But the Exchange’s virtual fleet has also helped Luke to take on much larger jobs. During the last few years, for example. he has forged “long-term agreements” with a number of large logistics companies including a contract to deliver flowers to one of the UK’s most prestigious hotels and another to deliver air conditioning components to offices across the UK. His company also specialises in carrying aviation and automotive parts.
“We have been working with many of our big customers for years now. Take the hotel contract for example. We use our 3.5 tonne vans to make the deliveries. Recently, however, demand for our services has gone through the roof. We’re currently making around 40 deliveries a day, but our customer has asked us to up it to 90 in the new year. In 2019, therefore, we’ll need to find 30 drivers to meet demand. We absolutely rely on the Exchange’s fleet to service this contract. I don’t think it would be possible to satisfy the client’s requirements on our own.”
In the new year, Luke plans to move to larger offices, and add to his growing customer base. But he has no plans to stop driving any time soon.
“I’m not going to be sitting in the office all day. My time in the army have taught me the importance of leading by example, and I love being behind the wheel serving my customers. What’s more the app on my phone now allows me to do both.”