‘The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity’ – Peter Drucker
I’ve written before about how much I admire people who don’t just sit around talking about changing the world; they go out and do it (like my friend Gemma launching her own clothing line). So when I got chatting to Georgia and her hubby John at a party (while I was dressed as Donald Duck and he was dress as Dick Van Dyke no less) about how John left work and started up his own haulage business, I knew exactly where my next blog post was coming from. The biggest surprise of all being how interesting the world of haulage could actually be!
John MacWhirter grew up and went to school in Ponteland, where aside from playing a lot of rugby, always had an interest in business, so went on to study Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Northumbria Uni. By his own admission he had about a dozen jobs in his adult life, including a chef at Alan Shearer’s local, the Badger in Ponteland, a banana picker (amazing!) and bus driver in Australia, then mainly sales and business development roles for various different companies.
To put it bluntly, John got sick of making money for other people and saw a gap in the market that he could potentially fill. He set up business with his friend Robert Cornell and Leda Transport Solutions was born. Now, I don’t know much about the haulage game but to my mind the number one essential would be having your own fleet of lorries right? Oh how naïve I am.
John and Rob’s USP is acting as a filter between suppliers (often local owner drivers) and their customers. Through utilising the services of people who are pretty much already going the same direction as whatever the customer wants delivering (within the confines of the law of course), means their service levels are pretty difficult to beat and without their own fleet, overheads are pretty low.
Starting up on their own wasn’t easy of course, however they had lots of support from the Business Factory, a North Tyneside based organisation and Tedco Business Support in Sunderland, who both offer free guidance and advice to all types of business from start-ups to fully established companies. Buoyed by this along with lots of encouragement and support from family (including John’s wife Georgia and brother in law Ben Wilson, who created and maintains their web site) they were able to really start making their vision come to life.
John vividly remembers the first two days of going live as they had no sales, only quotes coming through so got pretty tetchy wondering if they had done the right thing. However they got their first sale on day 3 and pretty much grew from there. Amazingly they got a job for two dedicated vehicles from the UK to Greece in the 2nd week of trading (a desirable job in magical world of haulage apparently as its quite rare) so that was a much needed confidence boost. With coveted jobs like that as leverage, they got lucky with payment terms to suppliers and customers paying in advance so all worries about cash flow had been unnecessary.
By the end of the first year they hit and exceeded all targets for turnover, gross and net profit by a fairly significant amount. In fact business is now going so well, they’ve taken on an apprentice to help out with admin and are considering further employment of an account manager for year 3.
So what advice would John give to anyone looking to start their own business? He reckons find out who the equivalent of the Business Factory is in your area and get in touch with them. Create a business plan and a cash flow forecast and just take the plunge, you will be surprised at how much of your plan actually happens!
In 2017 Leda Transport won the North Tyneside Business Award for best new business.
One of my favourite quotes (and you know I love a quote) has always been ‘There are two ways to be happy; improve your reality or lower your expectations’. John and Rob could have just stayed in jobs they were unhappy with, making money for other people and remaining unfulfilled. But they didn’t, they took a chance, had a gamble and it all paid off. And I bloody love stories like that.
Learn more about Leda Transport via their socials below: