Stephen Nicholson, on the challenges of juggling a successful courier business and fulfilling his ambition of becoming a professional cricket umpire – and how Courier Exchange is helping him achieve his dreams and a balance.
“Hi. I’m Stephen. I’ve been working as a courier for around five years now. I run my own same-day courier business, Salix Courier Solutions, from the south coast. During the last few years I’ve grown my customer base and now serve clients not just in the south east and west of the country, but in the Midlands, the north and Scotland too.
Before I go any further, some of you reading this may be wondering how I came up with the name Salix. Well, for any curious minds out there – it’s not an abbreviation, nor is it a product or material that I transport. It’s actually the Latin name for the willow tree, which as any cricket lover will tell you is the wood that’s used to make a cricket bat.
While I don’t specialise in transporting sporting equipment or even cricketing paraphernalia, I spend much of my spare time umpiring following many years playing the game, and am currently a member of the south coast umpiring panel. I’ve been officiating now for 15 years and really enjoy the challenge of doing so in one of England’s most traditional sports. For me though, cricket is more than a sport. The tradition and history of the game coupled with the continual development and new approaches to keep it current often make it the lifeblood of many a village. It’s where people congregate on a Saturday afternoon. They do it now and they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. It also completely contrasts with our busy working lives – where everyone is connected to everyone by mobile technology. There’s something comforting and reassuring in knowing I can escape all that for a few hours on the weekend. That’s why on a Saturday – come rain or shine – you’ll always find me officiating on a cricket pitch somewhere.”
“But that’s not to say that I’m not a fan of digital connectivity. I am. But just not when I’m officiating. After all, it’s real-time technology that has given me the opportunity to do what I love best.
Logistics, as we all know, never stops. Serving the just-in-time manufacturing sector is a 24/7 business. It’s very hard, therefore, to find a job in same-day couriering which doesn’t require you to work weekends in the summer.
But Courier Exchange, a freight exchange platform, which uses real-time smart matching technology to find me a constant supply of loads, has solved this problem. Once you have paid your subscription, you’re free to network and trade with the 6,000 plus professionals who are also members. CX sets no minimum monthly loads quotas too. So you have the power to decide to work for who you want, where you want. In short, it means that I can still pursue the things that I’m passionate about in my spare time. But more importantly, CX has given me the confidence to strike out alone and build a successful same-day courier business.”
I joined CX in November 2017. During that time I’ve developed my business using CX. I use CX to build loads. On average, I get around 15 loads from CX each week. I’d like to tell you that my previous career as a sales manager has given me an edge over many of my rivals. After all, you’d think that a role that schooled me in advanced communication and negotiation skills, would give me a natural advantage. It hasn’t. The truth is that the Exchange’s technology is so effective that anyone using it only needs to know the answer to one question which is: “What’s the cost you are prepared to do a job for?”
CX has given me the confidence to strike out alone and build a successful same-day courier business.
Of course, to come up with a baseline figure, you need to have calculated all of your overheads, which can differ from month to month. And if you have a small fleet of vehicles – each one a different type and size – you’ll need to work out the price per mile per vehicle. But this really isn’t rocket science, and once you know your bid price, you have full control over the quoting process. Why? Because there are so many loads to choose from, the likelihood is that there will always be one that matches your criteria.
But, as I say, CX’s smart load matching system, which I use on the Mobile App, does the rest for you. If you’re not familiar with the Mobile App, the best thing about it is that it’s very intuitive. It’s well laid out. The buttons are big and the system is very easy to navigate. So you don’t have to be an IT professional to operate it effectively (I’m certainly not).”
“I use several features on a regular basis, but for me, the best one is the ‘view on map’ feature because it provides me with all the information I need in real-time. It’s really handy when you’re close to delivering your current job. My aim, like every other driver, is to seamlessly pick up the next load without waiting. The ‘view on map’ makes this exceptionally easy. It tells me where I am in relation to a load match, how long it will take to arrive there, the number of miles from pick-up to drop-off, and how long the assignment will take to complete. This gives me all the intel I need to make an informed decision as to whether it’s a job worth quoting on. If it is, then I submit a quote for the job using either the ‘Quote Now’ facility or by phoning the customer directly. The final stage of the process is to cross my fingers and hope that my bid is successful.
There are so many loads to choose from, the likelihood is that there will always be one that matches your criteria.
Of course, as CX is a community, I’ve gotten to know several drivers in the past two years, and we work together to secure work. So it might be that one of them will see my position on the LAM, and will offer me the job. But, to be honest, as everyone on the Exchange is a trusted trade-only business, I’m just as likely to receive a call from a contractor that I don’t know. To maximise opportunity, however, I use the future journeys tab. This enables me to post my status in real-time. The more information I provide, the greater the chance that someone will pick up the phone and provide me a direct booking.
Finally, like any cricket lover I’m a great fan of statistics. Last year, largely thanks to CX, I drove over 86,000 miles in my Renault Traffic short wheel base van. This year, with my business still moving forward, my mileage count is likely to increase. And the best news of all – my umpiring career continues to go from strength to strength too. As we say in the game “over, and time gentlemen please.”
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