Used fork lift truck and materials handling equipment firm The Fork Lift Company is this month celebrating four exhilarating years in business. Over this short space of time, the team’s energy and stubborn refusal to be daunted by tough economic conditions have transformed a start-up venture into a multi-million pound business.
Right from the start in 2008, the West Midlands firm took a dynamic approach to business development. Recognising that the UK wasn’t the most promising market at the time, the team adopted a ‘go anywhere, anytime’ policy. Travelling wherever they saw a business opportunity, no matter what the challenges, the team identified unmet demand for quality fork lift trucks and allied equipment in a number of areas across the globe. This led to a string of successful deals and established the firm as a trusted top-name supplier in a wide range of countries including Afghanistan and Iraq.
The business has also been a real employment success story. At launch, the team consisted of just four people: Dave Morrison, the owner; David Archer as Export Manager; an engineer, and a painter. Now, they employ nearly twenty people, and that number is continuing to rise.
David Archer attributes the firm’s success to two key factors. The first was their response to changing conditions in the market as a whole. "In the past," he explains, "businesses would buy a specific fork lift truck for each task. Now, as they see their margins being cut, people are looking to reduce costs – and that often means finding one truck that will do the job of two. It has therefore been really important for us to listen to customers and find out exactly what they want to achieve, so we can source the right equipment and help save them money."
The second factor in The Fork Lift Company’s success was their belief that growth markets can be found in unlikely places, as long as you take the time to understand what customers need.
Where European businesses, for example, have access to sophisticated technology and skilled engineers and are able to get the full benefit from high-specification vehicles, this is not the case in other areas. The firm have therefore grown their business in Afghanistan and Iraq by supplying reliable low-tech trucks and equipment that can be maintained easily by the customer’s own engineers even where they don’t have access to a computer, and by sourcing bulk quantities of single brands so spare parts are interchangeable within each fleet. David Archer believes firmly that there is great potential for further growth in this part of the world as conflict lessens and normal business life resumes.
The Fork Lift Company are completely independent, which gives them the freedom to supply exactly what customers are looking for without being tied to any particular brand. Operating on a high volume, low margin basis, the firm keep prices low and demand high. Whilst their focus has been on the export market, they haven’t neglected the UK, and sell to both blue chip companies with large fleets and to small local businesses who may need just a single fork lift.
In addition to working closely with distributors and direct customers, the company also runs a thriving internet shop selling fork lifts and handling equipment online. All equipment is fully checked and serviced before being released for sale, and delivery arrangements are taken care of no matter where the destination might be.