Celebrating 15 years : An interview with founder Darren Wright

03 October 2018

A look back at our 15 years in the shipping industry

15 years ago, Allseas Global Logistics opened its doors for the very first time. From a (very) small office and humble beginning we’re delighted to be celebrating our first 15 years in this exciting, dynamic industry. And what a 15 years’ it’s been – challenging, thrilling, rewarding, exhausting, uplifting and – sometimes – just a little bit scary.

Here’s the story from the man who took the brave plunge back then to start the business in an effort to improve how customers were serviced – Darren Wright, co-founder and Managing Director of Allseas.

How it all started

Back in 2003, the time was right. I had got involved in the forwarding and logistics business straight from school and had about ten years’ experience with a company that grew from three or four people to about 30 during that time. Starting as the office junior (I learnt how to make a great brew!) but I just knew this industry was right for me. I knuckled down, worked hard and built my way up to operations manager. But I had always longed to be my own boss. My original business partner and I had gained the experience, built up a good list of contacts – customers and suppliers – and felt really confident. This is a people business – if you are good at what you do, people stick with you. We were tried and trusted and we had built enough of a reputation in the industry. So we went for it!

The very first day

We started the business in an office the size of a broom cupboard, at a business park next to Manchester Airport. There were four of us – me and my original business partner, plus our long-standing team members, Phil Hanley and Danny Walker, both still with the business today. For the first hour, we sat staring at the phone willing it to ring. Then, once it did, it was manic – we never looked back from that day.

Star-trekking – Our first major project

A job for Star Trek – really! It was from a contact we had in Singapore. The Star Trek tour had been in Hyde Park, with all the props, staging, simulator, and so on – including the bridge of The Enterprise. Our job was to move everything to Asia for the tour there. We had to organise 200 containers of this equipment, all labelled up in Star Trek containers and colours. It was massively high profile for us and involved a huge outlay on equipment, some of it on personal credit cards. It wasn’t exactly ‘make or break’ but it was certainly a really testing time cash-flow wise. But it was something we couldn’t turn down. We had to boldly go … well, you know the rest. Another very early and very challenging job was for the MoD, shipping tanks. We had an outlay of £60,000 on equipment for this job, and at one point it was almost cancelled. But it ended up being shipped – and it was a really successful project for us.

A meaningful project for us all to be proud of

My most proud moment – although we have done so many challenging projects, the one that really sticks out for me was shortly after the tragic tsunami in Japan. A new US$40 billion nuclear power station at Shimane was ready to begin operations; it had not been damaged in the disaster and the power was desperately needed for Japan’s recovery, but new regulations meant it could not open until emergency power back-up was in place. We were entrusted with the delivery of five vast generator units, two equipment control rooms and other vital components to Shimane … and this was definitely not a job for the fainthearted. The various parts of the consignment had to be transported to Japan from locations in the Netherlands, the UK and the United States. The deadlines were incredibly tight and the whole project was really challenging and demanding. We had to design and manufacture bespoke transportation and lifting equipment, and we were constantly thinking on our feet, with voyage plans altered as the job progressed.

Our team really took that job personally – it was a 24/7 operation for five of the team, but it really galvanised us all. The whole company was so proud to be involved in it. Winning the International Freighting Weekly (IFW) Project/Heavylift Forwarder of the Year award for that was probably the proudest moment in my professional career to date, and it just created a buzz around the whole company.

Building the business around our culture

As a start up business, we were bold, we were confident and we never believed that things would go wrong. If you are going to succeed in this sector, you have to believe in your own ability – if you don’t, you can be sure that nobody else will. We had always been taught to make decisions and believe in what we were going to do. But we have built our business on the ethos of ‘Hassle-free logistics’. This is an attitude of – let’s get the job done in the simplest and most efficient way for the customer. An ethos which we believe is particularly important in this fast-moving, sector. If the client needs you to take a phone call at midnight on Saturday to help them out with a shipment – that’s what we do.

We have maintained this attitude throughout, and instilled it across the team. Customers like the fact that we can make quick decisions – we don’t need to go to a head office miles away or pass the details through a long chain of people. We take decisions here and now.

The last 15 years – how the industry has changed

Since the global recession, of course margins have become much tighter and prices are scrutinised – but the demand for good quality service hasn’t changed. We make sure we remain as streamlined as possible, but we will never compromise on quality of service and our philosophy. We feel that our customers’ product is also our product, meaning we take it personally. If there is an issue, it pains us as well. We had a passion for the job when we started, and we still have that passion. Getting the right people in the team is crucial – we target people with a similar mindset to our own. It is people that make a great company.

My greatest business challenge

Well it certainly hasn’t been all been plain sailing. The post-recession years have seen some challenging and testing times; not least the oil crisis, which almost overnight forced us to consider our strategy as we were heavily involved in this sector. What this has certainly taught us is how you you cannot afford to be complacent or stand still, and thankfully we were nimble and strong enough to weather the storm and diversify into other segments. Nonetheless, during that time we still had to ‘cut our cloth’ which involved a company restructure. A move, which for a company who had grown year on year, was a difficult period and a real wake-up-call.

And the greatest success

Growing the business from a single-site small office to a multiple-office and global operation. That makes me immensely proud. And doing all of this without losing the flexibility, hunger and ‘can-do’ attitude for our customers that can often be lost as a company grows.

Our Liner Agency DivisionDKT Allseas Shipping has been a real success story. Now in our 4th year, so still relatively new in this domain but now with our 4th Agency under our belt is a real credit to everybody involved.

We’ve recently opened up new service areas in Recyclables, Factory re-locations & decommissioning and expanded our global freight solutions offering in sectors such as Retail. And all whilst remaining true to our core service of Project logistics and out-of-gauge shipping.

But the biggest success is without doubt the team here at Allseas. Loyal, hardworking and absolutely dedicated bunch of people, who despite some difficult times have tackled the challenges head-on and without compromise. It’s this commitment that drives our culture. And now in our 15th year we are on the growth path again, building on the skills and capabilities we have, personalities and ideas, and all with that same Allseas ethos.

So as I reflect on the past 15 years, with a positive outlook for the next 15, I do so proudly and with a smile. Our superb team here at Allseas, our equally committed partners, and our fantastic clients have all contributed to one hell of a brilliant journey!

So here’s to another successful 15 years for all.

Darren

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