Leading an award winning and growing business in Wales
We recently caught up with the team behind Freight Logistics Solutions following their recent win at the Wales Start-up Awards to find out more about the business, their ‘why’ and future plans for growth.
Freight Logistics Solutions is a supply chain management company specialising in logistics. They offer a range of UK, European and Global transport solutions with the ultimate purpose of improving businesses’ transport service levels while reducing costs.
Picture credit | Wales Start-up Awards
First off, congratulations on winning four awards at the recent Wales Start-up Awards – how did it feel to win and be recognised as the overall winner of the evening?
FLS: Thank you. Our expectations were fairly neutral as we’d won our two category’s last year, and like everyone, potentially winning two years in a row would seem very ambitious, but we were delighted to win Services Start-up of Year and then Global Start-up of the year again. Collecting Cardiff Capital Region Start-up business of the year was a real surprise as this was a very competitive category with some impressive businesses in the mix, but of course the icing on the cake was topping our night off with another trip to stage to pick up Wales Start up of the year – we were over the moon, truly flattering to be recognised in this way.
Can you share with us a bit of background on your ‘why’ behind Freight Logistics Solutions and the team behind it?
FLS: After a degree in IT, I went into the recruitment sector where I forged a very successful career firstly as recruiter, then developed to team manager, regional director, and managing director. I was then involved in a new business start-up in 2006, where I project manged the start of the new recruitment business, with the role developing into managing director with the remit of promoting growth within the business, developing working structures and identifying new opportunities.
After 10 years we had created a £100m company and its success was undeniable, but I had always yearned to find and develop my own opportunity one day.
During my career within recruitment, I had been supplying services to automotive, manufacturing, waste and logistics sectors, covering start-up operations and large volume projects, and it was within these sectors that I saw an opportunity.
The new business idea grew from my research into the causes around the UK driver shortage to initially support business recruitment needs. I established that although the attraction of candidates to drive company vehicles was really struggling, the owner-driver and haulage business’ were thriving.
Next was combining this knowledge with feedback from prospective clients, quickly establishing that there were growing frustrations in the internal and external logistics services being supplied to clients, these included:
- The low standard of drivers combined with the cost of running their own fleet
- The need to utilise multiple companies for their logistics requirements and the management of them
- Limitation in vehicles and services being offered by hauliers
- Below standard customer service and administration in supporting client needs
- Growing costs of services
It became apparent that there was a demand for a single supply business that could offer all types of logistics services whilst improving service standards and removing service-based frustrations.
As a supply chain management company, we could offer all services currently performed by a logistics company, a freight forwarded, or an outsourced provider and I was confident in building an extensive supply chain to meet these demands. The ultimate aim to build a global service that can offer everything from ad hoc services to a complete outsourced embedded client solution to clients transport requirements.
The 2016 timing of this start-up was corner-stoned by both the UKs decision to Brexit and the increasing national driver
shortage, in that I felt that the time of the launch of the business could have an instant uptake from struggling customers, looking for change, with a sustainable impact on their transport usage due to pending changes in the logistics sector from Brexit and the UK driver situation.
I had speculated that if the UK were to Brexit, the opportunity, scope and need for a new independent logistics, supply chain company with import and export expert specialities, would be magnified 10-fold. The opportunity in the market place was already there for me but when the UK made its decision to leave, I incorporated the company the next week, then handed in my notice at my full-time job.
The business was 18 months in the making, with our values set out to improve services whilst providing flexibility and value for money throughout the logistics sector.
I wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own and to support the start-up and delivery of business plan I engaged 2 directors – Gavin Clarke, a logistics specialist for both the UK and European market, and Dafydd Rosser a outsourced specialist with experience of mobilisation and managing large scale projects. Between the three directors we all have specific skill sets and remits within the FLS business plan, together we continue to drive and deliver financial growth and service improvements to support our clients.
Freight Logistics Solutions has seen substantial growth recently increasing from 3 directors to 22 members of staff and developed a supply chain of over 40,000 vehicles, a client base in excess of 200, and currently manage imports and exports to 24 countries – do you have any future plans to develop the business even further?
- We have grown from 3 to now 22 staff and plan for 4 additional heads over the next six months.
- Working hard to hit to exceed 250 clients
- We move into a fit for purpose building at the end of the year. This will provide space and opportunity to deliver our growth plans and cater for the new divisions of the business
- FLS have dramatically improved its 'regular routes' over the past year and will continue to enhance these as our customer profile grows.
- We have been busy developing our supply chain to support the launch of our enhanced sea and air freight divisions planed for January 2019
- We have plans to open a second logistics hub in the Midlands, (Birmingham)
- We have extensive plans to expand our preferred suppliers list across all global regions.
- We have had initial meetings in Poland and Austria with a view to secure European hubs by the end of 2019.
- We have started the development of our internal transport scheduling systems, to offer an enhanced tracking portal and service monitoring system. This will offer our clients further contract visibility in tracking details behind the movement of their freight across the globe.
- Release of our internally developed client portal. In addition to integrating with the tracking system, this will give live up to date management information on key financials, shipment data, customs documents and PODs.
- We have started work on planning our own driver delivery App
Apart from the three directors being Welsh, why have you chosen to base your company in Cwmbran, Wales?
FLS: Before starting the business we were in client facing roles across the manufacturing landscape of South Wales. Establishing fresh relationships with potential customers can be done better if you’re local, on some common ground and in-depth knowledge of the regional supply chain networks. We wanted to be central to a commercial patch we knew well.
The Torfaen area is very lively region for us and is a good position to physically support our clients where needed. Plus, as Torfaen boys (well at least Dafydd and I, with Gavin only just moving to the area) we’d like to be close to home and do our best to engage local talent and give something to the communities we love.
What are one or two valuable business lessons you have learned throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
FLS: Successful businesses need great relationships. Do your best to surround yourself with genuinely good people. You spend a lot of time on your new business journey, so make sure your travel companions are as like-minded and good company as they can be.
Trust and respect are something you need to be able get the most out of people, even though you're the business owner you've still got to earn it, so be honest and make sure those people know they’re appreciated.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received that you think could be of value to other entrepreneurs?
FLS: Do your research ensure you know the market place, the sector, competition and opportunities, and then plan. It took this business 18 months in planning followed by a clear 5-year business plan with goals and a clear vision on how we were going to achieve it – do your research, do the meetings and only start when you are completely prepared.
Why do you think creating a more visible, simple and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem within Wales is so important? /Why do you think the BeTheSpark movement is so important for Wales?
FLS: We can’t possibly invest too much in the development of the Welsh economy. In my view the business connections we hold are vital in business growth. I have only just been introduced to BeTheSpark, and I can certainly see how this could benefit the business and others, I’m very excited to see what happens next…
What’s next for Freight Logistics Solutions?
FLS: In short, keep growing and developing our services whilst always maintaining our values. We do have some exciting times ahead in the next few months with:
The launch of our air and sea freight divisions in January
2 new staff awaiting to start with the team
The move into our newly developed head office
In addition to being recognised for four awards in the Wales new start-up awards, we have also been shortlisted as a finalist for Employer of the year, at apprentice awards Cymru in recognition for our apprenticeship programme, and our MD Ieuan Rosser has been shortlisted as a finalist in the new start-up Entrepreneur of the Year at the great British entrepreneur awards both in November.