HUSBAND-AND-WIFE team Iain and Alison Biddle have built their road haulage and freight business on a very important ethos – the customer is always right. The ambitious couple run Thame Freight from their Oxfordshire home, carrying out express deliveries to destinations throughout the UK and continental Europe.
Their business has grown with the help of Courier Exchange, run by the Transport Exchange Group, enabling them to make contact with new businesses and customers.
Courier Exchange, an increasingly popular networking initiative, has allowed Iain and Alison to trade loads and journeys and source available or part-filled vehicles returning to base.
They set the firm up in 2001. Iain had worked extensively for a number of other hauliers but decided to readjust his work/life balance by being based from home.
He said: "I was fed up of commuting and I felt there was a good living to be made with dealing with local companies. "We found local companies that needed a specific service that they weren’t getting and that’s where we started."
Initially that meant forwarding goods by sub-contracting out business because the firm did not have a van for its first year of trading. However, Iain and Alison soon realised they could increase their profitability by doing work themselves so they began to rent vans and drive them themselves before then moving on to buying a small fleet. Iain added: "The first van we bought was a four metre Luton curtain-sider that could carry six pallets because we identified companies in the area that had small machines that were under four-metres long." He said the company had thrived because there were not many firms close by operating good reliable services with vans of that size.
On top of a good, reliable service, Iain said there was another key ingredient to Thame Freight’s success. "We simply listen to what the company wants and offer them exactly what they want," he added. "The customer is always right." Iain said communication was key, as well as a friendly and approachable style that puts customers at ease, while also keeping them aware of all latest developments. Thame Freight’s work has now spread far afield. Their customers have included deliveries to castles in Scotland, tours in Europe for stage lighting companies and even to a music concert by rock group ZZ Top.
Despite their solid footing in the industry Alison says Thame Freight has no plans to grow but instead to maintain its healthy existing position. She said: "If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We are happy with the business. "We can control what we’ve got here. We’ve got a good home-work balance." Alison said new businesses would do well to heed Thame Freight’s customer-orientated approach, as well as ensuring they are aware of the costs of setting up business.
She added: "I would advise people to make sure when you take jobs on they speak to the people that are giving them the work, the customers. "They pay the bills and you just need to keep talking to them and they’ll appreciate it, they will come back." Using Courier Exchange has enabled Thame Freight to get in touch with other businesses, build up important networking opportunities and pass on some of their hard-earned advice. Alison added: "We are strongly involved with Courier Exchange. It is an excellent way of making contact with other similar businesses as well as seeking out new opportunities for customers."
"It has also meant we can listen to the ideas and experiences of other companies and also pass on advice through the experience we have gathered."
Courier Exchange, which is run by The Transport Exchange Group, enables members to trade loads and journeys and to source available or part-filled vehicles returning to base. Put simply, users with more freight than they can carry post the load on the site, and those with spare capacity register its availability. The parties then arrange the transaction between themselves.
The system increases members’ efficiency as it enables them to reduce the number of empty vehicles they run, making each journey more profitable. The collaborative approach is also good for the bottom line because it enables members to share the cost burden of rising fuel prices, congestion charging and meeting onerous legislation. It also helps subscribers meet customers’ demand for carbon-efficient transport.
Members also have access to a host of other benefits, including a mobile solution enabling them to access the exchange while on the road, and a sophisticated online system which facilitates electronic trading, from order confirmation to invoice approval and payment.
Additionally, Transport Exchange Group’s services are the most secure in the industry. Only once operators have passed rigorous checks, including operator licence, insurance and credit checks, are they allowed to use the site. Members also provide feedback on performance and payment using TEG’s bespoke ratings system. These security features enable members to do business in absolute confidence.
Unlike other electronic exchanges, Courier Exchange is fully managed with support staff available to help member companies maximise the benefits of using it. It is this high level of customer service that helps differentiate the Transport Exchange Group from other online freight exchanges.
And unlike other electronic exchanges, subscribers only pay an up-front subscription fee – there are no pay-as-you-go charges or commissions charged.
For Thame Freight, Courier Exchange has been vital for their business. Alison added: "Courier Exchange has worked very effectively for us."