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Building on history to face the future with confidence

100 years of trucking
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100 years of trucking
Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

If there’s one industry that’s seen its share of change over the past century it’s haulage. When our Loughton Business Centre client, Courtney Transport, first opened for business back in 1919, its methods of transport were horse and cart and shipping. Scroll on a century, and it’s vans and lorries for the founder’s grandsons. The ethos, though, of providing trustworthy, reliable customer service at a fair price is something that certainly hasn’t changed.

Early starts

Paul Courtney hadn’t imagined as a teenager that he’d end up in the family business. “I travelled to Australia and the US, I worked in the City and – though it was lucrative – it didn’t suit me. My father and uncle had taken over the business that my grandfather, Herbert Courtney, founded in 1919 and my brother Russell was running it, but needed an extra pair of hands. The time was right, I joined him here in Loughton, and I haven’t looked back since. The location here gives us brilliant access to the M11 and into London, there’s plenty of parking – although the team take their vans home overnight – and renting suits us: we don’t have to worry that we’ve got a five-year lease to pay hanging over our head.”

Plenty of variety

One of the aspects that Paul clearly enjoys about his work is the fact that no two days are the same: “We specialise in transporting hazardous waste, much of which comes to us from Loughborough, but we handle scientific equipment and products too. Today, for instance, we’ve shifted a couple of palettes of solvents to UCL in London.”

While Paul and Russell sort out the logistics from the office, the team of four drivers is out on the road. “We operate 3-ton trucks and vans – I don’t think a 7-tonner would get through London traffic these days!” says Paul.

Keeping customers in the loop

Courtney’s has managed to stay ahead of the competition by keeping its customers firmly in the loop, Paul believes. “It’s about trust and reliability in this business,” he says, “If we envisage any problems with meeting delivery deadlines, we won’t spin our customers a line - we’ll tell them direct  – and because we’re in constant contact with the drivers, we always know what the situation is and can update our customers accordingly. We hire good, communicative drivers, who’ve stuck with us for years – and that’s made all the difference.”

Keeping staff onside

Paul believes his company’s staff retention levels are so good because they are treated as he’d want to be treated. “One of the things that stopped me wanting to work in the city was the sometimes-toxic atmosphere – you’d get spoken to as if you were something on the bottom of someone’s shoe. I vowed if had my own team, I’d treat them like family and that’s what we do.”  

To have been in business for 100 years is no mean achievement, especially in the current climate. “I think we’ve survived because of teamwork and our customer-service record,” says Paul. “Fortunately, we don’t do work on the other side of the channel, so I’m confident Brexit will have minimal effect on us. The work keeps coming in and we keep doing it – it’s as simple as that!”

Moving with the times is essential for any business – but that doesn’t mean abandoning the values of the past. Courtney Transport has kept ahead of the game by combining 21st-century convenience and flexibility with its founder’s commitment to honesty, reliability and great customer service.    

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