Despite the tough economic climate opportunities exist for well structured and focused medium sized hauliers, according to David Inglis, former MD and chairman of Fowler Welch.

Having been one of the original shareholders in Fowler Welch, Inglis saw the company achieve it first £1m turnover and believes the key to success is hands-on management, tight cost control and a relentless pursuit of operational excellence.

The operational flexibility that smaller/medium size business can offer can set them apart from the world of 3PLs and some larger organisations, he said: “The problem with many of the big boys is that they become too focused on strategy and, thinking about tomorrow, they lose focus on what’s going on in their business today.”

A glance at the MT Top 100 indicates that some of the most profitable operators are in the £50m to £100m a year turnover bracket; while these medium-sized hauliers are not making huge profits there are hardly any running in the red.

Before the crash in 2008, Inglis says the industry was in a “bubble” but now is face to face with reality. “Complacency still exists in many businesses out there, operational bottom line profits are slim at best, and the clock is ticking,” he said.

Inglis also believes that running an effective and profitable operation is all about having the right people. “Technology is great, but it supports the business and will never run it for you,” he said. “When it comes to delivering your customers a first class service every day then it’s about committed and highly motivated people at the coal face. They can set you apart from your competitors. A good ops man for instance can make a mediocre paying run into a profitable one by thoughtful planning.”

After 45 years in the transport industry, Inglis has stepped back from the front line but remains in touch with the industry through his newly formed consultancy covering: company structure; business direction; change management and people coaching; and acquisition and disposal support. In addition he works with established associates to offer guidance on  recruitment and employment law.

Inglis said: “I am being quite selective, choosing only to work with businesses where I feel I can bring benefit and working only with like-minded people. I still like the odd challenge, and for the first time in my life I get to choose the customer!”

He can be contacted at dinglis@inglisconsulting.com