Fast forward to scale-up ambition
During its first 20 years Diamond Logistics was ticking along steadily generating sub-£1m annual revenue. “I ran it as a lifestyle business while my two children were growing up,” explains Lester.
While managing the business, Lester also found time in her busy life to run a logistics consultancy. “It was during this time,” she explains, “that the design and methodology to scale the business were born.”
Capitalising on e-commerce growth
Having read ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ by Timothy Ferriss, Lester realised potential customers wanted to work less, in part by outsourcing more. So, she decided to capitalise on the burgeoning e-commerce market by expanding into warehouse and fulfilment services.
Her kids were off to university and Lester had developed a new risk appetite and “personal ambition”. “I didn’t mind gambling the farm,” she adds.
Ambition indeed. Over the last five years the business has grown tenfold. And Lester is focused on scaling the business up to the £100m revenue mark.
Creating a 2020 vision
Lester and her senior management team have clocked up 100-odd years of industry experience, and they’ve used their combined intellectual capital to spot market gaps.
Unlike many other logistics players, they focused strongly on tech by creating a user-friendly digital interface to enhance the customer journey and streamline their fulfillment offering. “We have a 50% uptake from proposal to signing clients due to our tech offering,” says Lester.
They’ve also focused on partnerships and franchises, which are unusual for “an industry that has tended to be very territorial”.
Valuing the human factor
At its head office and across the company’s franchise network and supply chain, values are held in high regard. “If you don’t get values and purpose correct when you’re scaling a business,” Lester explains, “everything can go wrong.”
Because we run an open business we care a lot about the team.
Kate Lester, Diamond Logistics
To make those values work, people need to subscribe to them, and they attract the right people who will “uphold and implement our values further”. Service compliance and standards are also interlinked, and the company scores 80% compliance in 10 metrics across its network.
As the business has grown, Lester’s single biggest focus is change management. She has to manage the acute challenges that come with changing and growing the team. “Because we run an open business,” she says, “we care a lot about the team. For those who have left us, it was very important to talk about creating a happy exit for them.”
A measured approach to financial capital
Having so far raised £2.5m in debt – comprising a £750,000 capex small business loan and an extendable £1.5m credit line, the business has largely been self-funding “so everything has to have an exponential return”.
As part of the 2020 plan, Lester also wants to rank in the top three of comparable UK businesses. Lester is considering raising expansion capital, potentially from interested Chinese investors to expand its UK-China offering. The company is also eyeing expansion into the Middle East and Europe.