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Highland firm set to make most of Brexit opportunities

Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Thomas Eccles, managing director of Kingussie-based Courier Crew

Q. How and why did you start in business?

A. Born and raised in Nethy Bridge, I left home at 16 to become an apprentice in Kuehne+Nagel’s Aberdeen office. Kuehne+Nagel is a global transport and logistics company, and I fell in love with freight forwarding immediately.

After almost a year there I decided Aberdeen wasn’t for me, so returned home to do a bit of this and that before launching my own delivery company – Courier Crew.

Starting as a man with one van, things went well and I eventually took on another driver. We worked up and down the country, on call and ready to go 24/7, and that is what has brought us to where we are today.

Recognising the threats and opportunities created by Brexit, I’m building one of the newest freight forwarder companies in the Highlands.

Courier Crew gets commercial and personal customers’ packages from A to B quickly, professionally and affordably, overland within the UK and Republic of Ireland and, as an international forwarding service, from all of the UK’s major airports.

Q. How did you get to where you are today?

A. Hard work and determination – 80-hour weeks were not something to fear in the early days, because they were the norm for a long time, and now they are back with a vengeance.

I have invested heavily in Courier Crew’s Brexit strategy, allowing companies around the Highlands and Islands to import goods via a local company who, rather than being a number on a spreadsheet, or at the end of a telephone or click of a mouse, will get to know them personally.

Great customer service is everything and creating it has involved a lot of hard work, sweat and tears over the past couple of months, but we are getting to where we want to be.

Q. Who helped you?

A. Without prior industry knowledge and the help of previous employers who answered questions and used our services, Courier Crew would never have got off the ground.

Our first networking event was in Aviemore last February, just before Covid-19 ran rampant and shut everything down, and that is where I was introduced to and joined the Federation of Small Businesses.

Over the past nine months they have been amazing, saving us 100 hours of office work, and helping with things like writing contracts and employment law.

Mind you, I also learned a lot helping my grandparents with their Abernethy Bunkhouse business from the age of four.

Q. What has been your biggest mistake?

A. Not believing in myself, that I could create a business like this in the area we are in. Local importing businesses will be able to relax in the knowledge they are in safe hands.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?

A. I do believe that in starting this company we will be able to help the Highlands and Islands to grow, and that in itself is going to be my greatest achievement.

Q. If you were in power in government, what would you change?

A. It may sound counterproductive but if I was in power I would persuade the UK to remain a member of the European Economic Area, as it would allow free travel to remain and keep importing simple.

Q. What do you still hope to achieve?

A. To grow my company to be the best freight forwarder in the Highlands and Islands, as well as being the go-to choice for companies based all over the UK.

Q. What do you do to relax?

I enjoy flying – something I have not been able to do a lot of lately. Thanks to early mentors, I was Cairngorm Gliding Club’s youngest solo pilot in September 2017.

Q. What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

A. There is nothing like putting my feet up at the end of the day and watching some Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Q. What do you waste your money on?

A. Anything and everything.

Q. How would your friends describe you?

A. We haven’t heard from him in months. Has he left the country…

Q. What would your enemies say about you?

A. We haven’t heard from him in months. Hopefully, he’s left the country.

Q. What do you drive and dream of driving?

A. I drive whichever company van is available, and would like a slightly bigger one.

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