by Jessica Vella-Bone, Head of Digital Marketing at Courier Exchange and Haulage Exchange (part of Transport Exchange Group)
The much-publicised recruitment crisis that’s threatening the logistics industry has created an ideal scenario for entrepreneurs to fill a widening gap, particularly in the field of delivery work. The rise and rise of consumers’ online shopping habits has seen a huge demand for same and next day delivery services, placing even more strain on an industry that’s finding it harder and harder to attract skilled, reliable workers.
As every good entrepreneur knows, the crux of success is in identifying a need (or a niche) and providing a solution or service. In the case of delivery work, while it’s undoubtedly competitive, it’s also a growth industry – so there’s plenty of space for new start-ups. Even though the global entities might appear to have the market dominated (think TNT, DHL, UPS etc.), this is one of those sectors where an owner driver really can set up in a ‘man and van’ operation and start making profits from day one.
There are also plenty of opportunities to work for larger companies on the management side of things, with skilled fleet managers in high demand.
Starting a Delivery Business.
For those looking to go out on their own, putting strong foundations in place is critical to long-term success. This means doing some homework first, not only in the form of market research, but even more importantly, by creating a business plan. Even if you’re self-funded (and not looking for finance) it’s hugely important to be able to answer the questions of: who you are, what you offer, where you want the business to go, what your expenses are, and what you forecast your profits will be. Even if things change along the way (as they invariably will) having a roadmap, as it were, will allow you to keep your eye on the big picture.
Other things you’ll need to consider when starting out are:
- Choosing the right vehicle and set up equipment for your needs
- Marketing, promotion and networking
- Setting your prices competitively
Expanding on Success.
There’s no fool-proof formula to succeed in delivery work, but there are definitely things that all successful businesses have in common. They make use of the latest technology; they’re constantly on the lookout to improve their services; and they have the ability to reach a wide range of potential customers.
Those three factors are integral to being able to grow your business, but in order to keep expenses manageable and maximise profits, you’ll need to work smart to capitalise on the opportunities that are available to you.
Extend your Reach without Expanding your Fleet.
A delivery business that remains agile in a crowded market has the potential for exponential growth. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to join a freight exchange, where capacity is bought and sold in real time using smart matching technology and live availability maps. This collaborative approach allows operators to extend their reach and capacity by sub-contracting work to available drivers in a particular area without having to invest in a fleet.
Specialise and Set Yourself Apart.
While being able to diversify (see above) is one way of increasing profits, when it comes to delivery work, specialising is another highly effective tactic. The delivery industry is full of specialist niches that, if you’re prepared to put in the extra legwork (for training, licensing or vehicle investment), can be extremely profitable. Some of the specialist areas to consider might be medical deliveries, refrigerated deliveries, hazardous materials and fragile goods.
Other specialist services you can offer to set yourself apart are international deliveries and same day or overnight delivery. If you have the capacity and ability to offer the latter the potential is huge, with many large online retailers outsourcing to sub-contractors.
Becoming a Fleet Manager.
While there are myriad entrepreneurial opportunities in the delivery industry, self-employment is not for everyone. However there’s no dearth of prospects to climb the corporate ladder and reap some substantial financial rewards with a career as a fleet manager. Some fleet managers work their way up to the position through an internship or entry-level job experience, but most have a degree in accounting, logistics or business administration, and are also required to attain multiple professional certifications if they wish to advance.
Whether you’re an independent entrepreneur or prefer the security of working for a larger company, there are countless opportunities to make your mark in the rapidly growing delivery work sector. It just remains to go out and find them!