Light bulb moment + great business partner = success
Darrin Armstrong, the Managing Director of Lost & Found Courier Services, explains why Courier Exchange has proved the perfect business partner…
“When I started couriering 14 years ago, things weren’t easy. Margins were even tighter than they are today. The industry was much more conservative and risk adverse. It was difficult to get in front of large companies, let alone win new business. Many simply weren’t prepared to listen to a new guy’s pitch, as they already had access to tried and trusted contractors that they’d been working with for decades. And back then work was much more seasonal than it is today, meaning only the most well connected couriers could prosper.
Going alone back then simply wasn’t an option. I decided that if I was to succeed I’d need to put my thinking cap on and create a niche business that insulated me from many of the pitfalls that I’ve just mentioned.
Living in Chertsey in Surrey, I’m close to Heathrow airport and a stone’s throw away from quite a few large hotels, which are located close to the major terminals.
Now they say everyone has at least one light bulb moment in their lives. Mine came three years ago when it suddenly dawned on me that there was no courier firm out there dedicated solely to returning lost property. I tested my idea by visiting a few hotels in the area and they all told me that my plan – to start a specialist courier company which reconciled customers with their lost possessions – would be great niche for me to exploit. That’s how ‘Lost & Found Courier Services’ was born.
But as everyone in freight knows, it’s easy to start a business but very hard to make it profitable. I didn’t realise it then, but you need advice, financial support and sometimes a slice of luck. When I began operating, I had no business partner – it was just me and my website. Perhaps I was naïve, and was expecting with a fully functioning website, that the work would come to me. It didn’t. Why? Because my website had – what the IT crowd would call – a low SEO ranking. In other words, anyone who’d lost a Kindle or an iPad couldn’t find me because I was on the five hundredth page of Google, rather than the first. Secondly, anybody who typed ‘lost and found’ into their search engine would be directed to a large parcel provider.
In the early days, I desperately needed funds to cover overheads. The Exchange ensured that I had work whenever I wanted it. And by granting me access to markets that I could never tap into on my own, it took away the stress of me having to search for jobs. This meant that I could concentrate all of my efforts on driving and making money, which put me on a sound financial footing to take on another driver.
I realised I needed support and I found it by joining the Courier Exchange. I joined nearly three years ago. It’s been instrumental to my business and I really don’t know where I’d be without it.
With the regular earnings I received from working through CX I’ve been able to turn ‘Lost & Found Courier Services’ into a profitable business. Since joining the Exchange, customer foot-fall has risen by 95 per cent, while demand for the lost and found arm of the company has tripled.
But how has the Exchange helped us? Firstly, it’s technology has opened new doors. How? Well, as there’s just me and one other self-employed driver on the books, without CX we’d have to turn down a third of the job requests that we receive each week. However, with CX giving me access to 43,000 vehicles in the UK, we can simply post the load on CX and within twenty minutes of doing so the lost item is on the road with a driver, who’s been fully vetted.
For example, if we didn’t have the Exchange, we might have to turn down a job – say from Heathrow to the Manchester – because as much as we’re passionate about reuniting sentimental items with their owners – it just wouldn’t make economic sense for a London-based courier to take this job on. However, with the CX App we can now win a backload home, which covers all fuel costs and makes the round trip pay.
Secondly, as we’ve got bigger, the Exchange has given us the confidence to broaden our horizons, and has given us the capability to do so too.
Thirdly, the Exchange has helped us to change the pattern of demand, in the sense more jobs no longer originate in Heathrow, where we’re based. Again, if we didn’t have the Exchange, there’s no way we would contemplate taking a lost item from Manchester to the Lake District. But if we post it on CX, the smart load matching system will find us a driver based in the north-west who is able to make the delivery to Kendall on our behalf.
With CX behind us, we’re excited about the future. But who wouldn’t be? After all, what area of logistics can you return a phone or tablet to its relieved and grateful owner, and at the same time reunite them with memories that they thought they’d lost forever?”