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Why I chose funding from BGF – Mike Smith, Speedy Freight
In July 2021, BGF invested in logistics firm Speedy Freight to fund new training and development for its drivers and franchisees. Through its rapidly growing franchise network, Speedy Freight offers same-day services as well as freight forwarding, delivery crews and chilled operations for the food and drinks market. The company now has a franchise “in every postcode in the UK” and recently expanded into Spain.
We spoke to CEO Mike Smith (above left) about Speedy Freight’s funding journey and future growth plans, 18 months after securing minority investment from BGF.
Why did you choose BGF as your funding partner?
Like every business looking for funding, we did the usual beauty parade of potential suitors. BGF stood out. The team seemed to quickly get a grasp of our business and understand that we were an asset-light, franchise model.
Importantly, I liked the approach of BGF. The minority structure allows the management team to get on with their job, while BGF gets on with theirs. They have a more pragmatic approach to investment, but it was their longer-term view that was a real clincher for me. Short-termism drives the wrong kind of decisions, which ultimately is not good for the health of a business. Taking a longer-term approach to investment allows you to build for the future, achieve stronger growth, and create sustainability for the business.
When did you decide to seek external investment?
When I joined Speedy Freight, I had a clear mindset to grow the business. As a franchise model, it’s beholden on us to look at how we achieve that growth because, in turn, it will help the franchises to expand too. At the end of the day, their growth is our growth.
While we have a national sales team, and the capabilities centrally to deal with national retailers, the strength is in our network, which is a local service for local businesses. The real question we asked ourselves was, ‘How do we keep driving value back into the franchises?’ We’re taking that ethos overseas into Spain, with plans for further international development. To achieve all this, it was vital to bring external investment onboard to help accelerate those plans.
What has been the secret to your success so far?
Our people. As a franchise business that focuses on delivering a local service, if you don’t have the right people, then it simply won’t work. That’s why we have our own in-house training centre which allows us to continually upskill our people – both centrally and throughout our franchise network.
Our academy, which was recently highly commended for staff development, enables us to develop our people further. An example of this is a young member of the team who we sponsored through university, while working across all aspects of the business. Not only did she achieve a first-class honours degree but she was also named UK Warehousing Association’s Young Employee of the Year. By reinvesting in training, it provides us with a real platform to grow.
Where next for Speedy Freight?
We have a number of plans to achieve further growth in the coming years. Firstly, it’s about extending our services in the UK and broadening our offering in areas such as fulfilment. We’re predominantly known as a B2B carrier but we want to offer B2C customers the same level of service, essentially allowing us to pick, pack and distribute goods across the UK.
Our aim is also to adapt our model for the overseas market, rolling it out across Europe and replicating our success in Spain. Despite Brexit making it a bit more difficult to move goods in and out of the UK, our internal freight forwarding service allows us to take some of that burden off our customers.
However we choose to adapt and expand our model, the key is to remain faithful to our company ethos – delivering excellent customer service and being solution-orientated.
What advice would you give to those looking for funding?
Do your research. What’s more, you need to treat the investment process like a marriage. If things don’t go to plan with your business – whether that because of a recession, or a pandemic – you need to have someone you can work alongside. It’s important to look at the culture and values behind an investor, and to make sure they align with those that underpin your own business.
One of the lessons we learned along our own investment journey is the value a non-executive chair can bring to the table. Our chair, Rick Francis, was introduced by BGF as part of the investment process – something I’ve not always experienced in previous roles. When you’re personally invested in a business, it’s sometimes hard to let go. But to be successful, you need to surround yourself with the best people you can find.
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