The boss of a West Midlands logistics business that moves thousands of pallets across the UK every night and has not lost a single consignment in more than 13 years, argues that in a changing world Britain needs to be more TLC than PLC in order to retain key staff.
“We adopt exactly the same approach to recruitment and retention as we do to our pallets – we don’t want to lose anyone,” said Nigel Parkes, founder and managing director of Wolverhampton-based Pallet-Track.
“The same goes for other businesses in a post austerity world – no one can afford the huge recruitment and re-training fees for good people in an industry that already suffers from a chronic skills shortage and is facing an uncertain economic climate. It pays to be good to your employees,” added Parkes whose staff retention levels remain staggeringly high against an industry norm of excessive employee churn.
The people-centric approach is not simply to win popularity competitions, but is supported by a serious corporate philosophy: business stability means business sustainability.
“To me the business is more than just making money. We have a great track record of retention because as far as I am concerned, it is about making a difference to industry by doing things right and working closely to bring your people on,” he said.
“If you invest in people, they will invest in the business. And by investment, it’s not all about massive salaries – it’s about treating people well and fairly.” Parkes took his inspiration from the Birmingham-based Cadbury family who put people before profits and built a philanthropic empire which became the envy of the world. Now a £81.5 million turnover company, Pallet-Track applies the strategy to all investments.
“We adopt the same approach to our FLT fleet. We spend more money on our specially designed forklift trucks and training because we believe this approach has helped us maintain our unblemished record as well as reduce damage and insurance claims. Happy customers are those whose consignments arrive on time and in a pristine condition.”
Since 2004, the company which coordinates and optimises the efficiency for deliveries of its member’s pallets throughout the UK, has seen year on year growth. It operates from a 267,000 sq ft hub in Millfields Road, Wolverhampton and also has a successful southern hub in Welwyn Garden City delivering directly into the Capital and Greater London. Pallet-Track works with a broad range of manufacturers, producers, retailers, suppliers and stockists supplying many household name consumer, business and industrial brands. The business, through its shareholder members, transports anything from building and construction materials, through to sporting goods, clothing and accessories.
At a time of rising fuel costs its national hub and spoke operation reduces haulier’s costs and their impact upon the environment by cutting delivery distances and making sure that no trucks run empty on any leg of their journeys.
The company already has thousands of customers across the country. The rising cost of diesel and the volatility of Sterling has also contributed to Pallet-Track’s growth with businesses finding it more economical to use Pallet-Track’s network rather than operate their own transport fleets.
“The whole world has changed and will continue to do so. We have had to become more competitive and leaner in the new markets where ‘just in time’ and ‘next day’ delivery is now the norm. But although the market has changed we have fundamentally maintained our roots – how we do things has to be not only profitable but socially responsible.”