Going back to the beginning, Rupert tells us how in 2002, he got a job working for Royal Mail. “I was there for 4 years. I started off in data entry and worked my way up to become work area manager”. At the end of 2005, Rupert left the company, after deciding to pursue a HGV course he took whilst employed there.
“It’s fairly well known that there is a national shortage of HGV drivers, and it sounds cliché but I really enjoyed driving! So I thought if I get into that then I’d never be out of work”. After a short stint working as a delivery driver for Wiseman Dairies, and being employed by Smiths at the age of 21; Rupert then moved on to become a courier driver for UPS in Bodmin.
“I knocked the lorry driving on the head, and focussed on the van deliveries for the best part of a year”. Rupert then moved back to Plymouth in 2007 and joined forces with a friend to form the beginnings of Rupert’s first company- Logistics Direct.
They traded from home for a year; however Rupert tells us they weren’t very popular with the neighbours! “There were a lot of transit vans outside”. This sparked the move to bigger and better premises.
Unfortunately, Rupert tells us that after a divide of interests, himself and his business partner decided to go their separate ways. This is the point that Logistics Direct was shut down and Devon Couriers came into being. Rupert tells us that the business essentially had a head start- “We already had 6 vans, a few contracts and a couple of drivers. I worked on expanding that and built it from there really”.
Through organic growth and the right mindset, the fleet increased from 6 to 35. I started to think about different directions other than just courier services
The business moved to its current location in Lee Mill last summer, after outgrowing its previous office in Valley Road, Plympton. “When I wanted to expand the business, I realised that I needed facilities to park and valet the fleet, we needed somewhere self contained”.
Whether you’re a commercial or domestic customer, Rupert had made sure they offer a service for everyone. DCL Vehicle Hire was formed at the end of 2016, and offers to hire a range of vehicles out at extremely competitive prices.
“What makes us different from the national companies is the fact we offer a 24 hour rental period”. Rupert explains. “If someone came in at 9am we wouldn’t expect it back later that day- they would have it until 9am the following day”.
A self drive Ford transit van can be hired from £49 a day, £69 for a weekend from Friday evening to Monday morning, and for larger jobs; the Luton Van can be rented at £99 for a weekend with the current special deal. This price includes VAT, insurance and breakdown cover
DCL is a member of Active Fleet Solutions, meaning that the customer is covered in the event of a breakdown or accident. “Each of our vans has a sticker in the windscreen, so if a customer is involved in an incident they call the number and the call handler will take down any details”.
Rupert explains that their flexible opening times are what sets them apart from the national courier and hire companies. “If someone needs something done outside normal trading hours, there are facilities put in place to offer that”. Rupert tells us that all of the office phones are diverted to mobiles, so every call will be picked up. “It all comes down to giving the customer the service they expect, our hours are user friendly”.
All hire vehicles are less than a year old, and get a full valet between rentals. They’re all clean and comfortable
It’s not just the rental side of the business that is booming. Rupert tells us that the biggest part of Devon Couriers’ success is the multi drop aspect. “We supply liveried drivers and vehicles to companies such as UK Mail and Tuffnell’s. It’s hard work! You’re looking at doing 60-70 jobs a day and finding the calibre of driver that can do that is getting harder and harder”.
Another core product of Devon Couriers which is proving to be extremely popular is the same day UK Mainland service starting from just £30. “We are part of the UK’s largest national Courier network, which means we have instant access to over 30,000 vehicles in the UK at any given time”. Rupert tells us that this enables them to collect from anywhere in the country generally within 60 minutes.
Rupert’s newest venture, Plymouth Taxi van; is the latest part of the business to be making an impact. He tells us that it is as easy as booking a taxi, hence the catchy name. Customers can call up, and a van will get to them within the hour or at a specified time to help them deliver or collect. The Taxi Van is charged at a flat rate of £25, and this covers all of Plymouth and the surrounding areas.
“The only requirement is that the item/s can be loaded into the van in under 5 minutes, otherwise the rate will increase slightly; however in our experience 5 minutes is usually plenty of time!”
Every delivery made by Plymouth Taxi Van is tracked via GPS, and every customer receives a notification of the ETA and another for confirmation of delivery. “I’m just trying to make a product that’s already out there in a way, but is easier and more accessible for the customer”.
Looking to the future, Rupert is keen to expand on an already successful aspect of his business. “The vehicle Hire is my favourite part of the group if you like, so I’m looking forward to working on that”. Rupert also tells us he is looking to branch out into self storage solutions and vehicle sales. “We could potentially sell our fleet at 12 months old, so we would be offering well looked after, low mileage vehicles”.
In regards to the self storage potential, Rupert tells us that he would have to move to larger premises and he doesn’t want to rush the process. “The storage and vehicles sales would probably have to happen simultaneously. I want to get everything put in place and be ready before we potentially move, but that is the trajectory- that is where we want to be”.
The DCL Vehicle Hire website is due a revamp in the near future, with the addition of online booking and online payments being taken. This will further expand the accessibility of the business.
To conclude, we ask Rupert what he would say to someone looking to emulate his success. “It’s not all a bowl of cherries. It takes a lot of hard work, many hours of dedication and actually having resilience.
There have been times in the past where things have gotten difficult. Many voices that you give weight to will start to question you, and you are tempted to listen when times get tough- but it’s not always going to be like that. As one door closes another opens as long as you knock on it.
If you believe in yourself and your product you will succeed. It may not be the first time, as I know. But you will”.