Behind the wheel: Yorkshire logistics business finds route to success
Passion, ethos and strong customer orientation: this is how Rebecca and James Hall would qualify the values behind their company, JMHC Logistics. While last mile deliveries are the final step in the complex journey of a parcel to its final recipient, for the Tadcaster-based couple they represented the opportunity for a new beginning – and a successful family business story.
James entered the logistics industry in 2004, after leaving a job in the insurance field he no longer enjoyed. He worked for himself as a courier, learning the job from an experienced driver, and rapidly discovered he had a talent for it. Within a few years, James had moved up the ladder to more strategic tasks, and felt ready to incorporate his own delivery company, JMHC.
The road was not without bumps: “Setting up a new business, and especially obtaining funds, can be very hard. We had to sell our car to buy our first van, and we couldn’t have made it without the help of our parents,” he recalls. The initial set up was spartan - James, one van, one delivery route in the Hull area and pure grit. Before long, though, JHMC had taken over the whole depot, several drivers had joined the company on a freelance basis and James was taking on more and more responsibilities. At that point, after the birth of her first daughter, Rebecca decided to take the plunge and join her husband in the adventure: “I have never looked back,” she smiles.
Partners in life and at work
James and Rebecca proved to be an exceptional team, in business as in life. Both equally passionate about their company, they have complementary skills: “James loves operations, taking care of the fleet, while I look after accounting and training,” she explains. Rebecca admits that working with your spouse also comes with a few cons: “Sometimes it’s hard to disconnect. But we share the same goals and we always have each other’s back – and the truth is, we genuinely enjoy spending time together.”
After months of slow growth, the turning point for JMHC came in 2014 with an unexpected phone call. “Amazon wanted to work with us,” Rebecca explains. “For us, it was very prestigious. With that call, everything changed.” The collaboration began with JMHC serving one of Amazon’s delivery stations in the area, and soon expanded to cover more as the business performed well, customer demand kept increasing and online shopping became a part of everyday life. “People’s expectations have changed over time,” Rebecca notes. “When James started out as a courier, customers found it normal to wait for two weeks for their Reader’s Digest copy to arrive. Now they expect one-day deliveries. For us, it’s been a continuous growth.”
The cooperation enabled JMHC to open new delivery routes nationwide. “We worked very closely together: the advice and knowledge Amazon passed on to us was outstanding,” says Rebecca, explaining how the experience helped her and James strengthen their relationships with other customers, too. In fact, besides Amazon, JMHC serves seven major companies that have their peak of activity at different times throughout the year: “This has allowed us to manage our driver pool in the most efficient way.”
Safety is key
Looking ahead, the future looks busy for JMHC: “Ecommerce represents an immense opportunity for us,” Rebecca says, as she explains that the industry keeps growing every year and the demand for drivers is increasing steadily. “Many logistics companies just try to put bums on seats, but we want to do things differently. If we want to keep the industry sustainable, we need to make it safe and appealing for prospective drivers,” Rebecca explains. Providing drivers with guidance in areas like customer care, sustainability and safety plays a key role in how Rebecca and James conduct their business.
They also make use of the latest technology on the market: a GPS tracking system allows them to monitor the fleet, intervene in case of accident or immobilise a vehicle if it gets stolen; vans are checked on a daily basis and have their plate number printed on the roof to be identifiable immediately. “We are ultimately responsible for what happens on the road,” Rebecca explains. James and Rebecca’s efforts found recognition in 2017, when JMHC became the first courier company in the UK to be awarded the Van Excellence accreditation from the Freight Transport Association – a true milestone for the company.
Driving forward a JHMC family
What Rebecca and James are most proud of, though, is their own journey, and the people that have been riding along. “Our drivers have grown with us. Most of our fleet managers and supervisors come from the pool,” says Rebecca with pride. “So much about this job has to do with people skills – not only the ability to satisfy customers, but also to recognize the talents of our collaborators and help them develop in the right direction.” The result is a pool of self-employed drivers and a close-knit team of 30 employees in charge of the back office, an environment with a distinct family feel. Rebecca and James’s daughters and the family dog are often around, too. “We have people coming from all walks of life. I recruited two of our current employees from the playground where my daughters used to go,” Rebecca smiles, adding that she would love to see more women join the industry.
The promise is that of independence and flexibility: some of JMHC’s drivers work throughout the year, while others see logistics as a seasonal occupation that leaves time for other projects once peak is over. “Couriering is not for everyone, obviously. You need to have a way with people,” James explains. “But if you don’t like working at a desk, and you are customer oriented and well-organised, then the freedom of the open road could be for you.”