Forktruck Solutions Geared For Growth

Simon Penny-Smith Managing Director of Forktruck Solutions talks to MHW Magazine about the company's success to date and plans for the future.

Simon Penny-Smith believed that by building his own company, he "could create real added value" for his customers, suppliers and his team. Ten years after he established Forktruck Solutions, the successful business has more than doubled the size of its premises – and set its sights on a £10 million turnover by 2017.

The company, which moved from its original HQ in Leeds to Ossett, near Wakefield last year (08), employs 19 people and expects a £2.5 million turnover in this financial year. Managing director Simon believes another move to an even bigger site will be necessary before their 2017 target date.

It is a long way from Forktruck's beginnings in 1998 when Simon, then regional sales manager within the forklift industry, when he felt that changes could be made to improve life for both his team and his customers.

"I decided I could make those changes if I had my own business," he says.

Relinquishing the security of employment – together with his with company car - he established the business in 2,500 sq ft premises on the Whitehall Industrial Estate – and employed his first engineer.

"I went out talking to customers, which was a role I knew. Then I came back to the office to type my notes, prepare estimates and invoices and everything else that needed doing," he says. "They were long days."

Within five years the business had grown from its first annual turnover of £60,000 to around £900,000. Then came a massive leap to £1.5 million in 2004, which proved to be a catalyst for Forktruck's future development.

"At that point I realised I needed help to move the business forward in the right direction," says Simon. He contacted the Chamber of Commerce who referred him to Business Link who suggested a consultant should benchmark the company – and prepare a future strategy."

"The consultant asked one big question which really focused my mind 'what do you want the finished business look, feel & sound like?' " says Simon. "He made his meaning clear by pointing out that I would not ask a builder to start work on a house without architect's plans and a clear idea of what I wanted."

That's when Simon set his own targets of a turnover of £5 million by 2012 – and £10 million five years later, but more importanly he set his sights on FTS becoming a 'World Class' organisation.

So what has been the secret of his success? "Good communication with our customers," he says. "They each have their own view of the world, and if we can tune in to what drives them, what is important to them, then you can help them with the best service possible.

"Much of the credit for the success of Forktruck must go to our team throughout the organisation – and of course we also rely on our loyal suppliers and customers.

And Simon is not daunted by the current economic climate. "I think it could be a blessing in disguise for SMEs as major national companies struggle with their pricing structures," he says. "It could be a great opportunity to continue spreading the word."

Forktruck Solutions, who celebrated its tenth birthday last year - a perfect opportunity to find out more about this rapidly growing Yorkshire-based business as we talk to Simon Penny-Smith, the company's Managing Director.

Forktruck Solutions' first ten years have been a decade of progress, of building a solid platform as the company seeks new horizons in the years to come.

It has also been a decade of change and evolution in the business world and a crucial element in Simon Penny-Smith's role as Managing Director has been to ensure that Forktruck Solutions has evolved with the changing times.

He believes that one of the most significant developments has been a change in his customers' demands and expectations in a world where value for money and quality of service have become more important than ever before.

"Today's customers are better informed than they have ever been about the products and services they wish to purchase," says Simon. "As a result, we are finding that they are less price-driven and more value-focused.

"I believe that it is now up to the industry as a whole, as well as individual organisations, to respond to customer expectations by adding the extra value customers are seeking."

He says that more customers are demanding better fleet management, which is no longer the sole domain of the large 50-250 truck fleet users.

"Smaller 5-20 truck users are also looking for greater management of their fleet, with the aim of driving standards up and costs down," he says.

"Customers are asking for Key Performance Indicators for downtime, uptime, repair and service intervals and utilisation of their fleet, as well as more information on equipment damage and nearly all other cost-related issues."

The higher expectations and demands of customers prompted Simon to examine the various IT solutions available and assess how they could help Forktruck Solutions to become a World Class supplier.

"We were determined to be a supplier who could offer the right customer support and give that crucial added value. We also considered how our business could not only evolve to cope with the demands, but also exceed the expectations of today's – and tomorrow's -- market place. "

His company's Mission is to become a World Class company within the Clark dealer network. With this in mind, he had to consider how Forktruck's Mission and Vision could not only benefit its customers but also enhance their businesses and partner their own Mission and Vision Statements.

"So we sought out and trialled industry-specific software," he explains. "And after a lengthy evaluation process, we made a considerable investment to install and implement a system capable of taking our business to £20 million turnover…and beyond.

"The system would also provide our customers with as much detailed analysis as they require to surpass their own expectations and also add real value to their business."

Forktruck Solutions, who provide Forklift equipment, parts and spot hire anywhere in the UK and Europe, moved from its original HQ in Leeds to a new home at Ossett, near Wakefield, this year. The move confirmed the company's progress during its first decade but the story does not end there.

Since its formation, the company has grown by almost doubling its turnover year on year, including the financial year ending 2008. Simon is already preparing for another move to an even bigger site as Forktruck aims for a £10 million turnover by 2017.

He says, "we began by asking ourselves: 'Who are we and what kind of business do we want to build?' We knew that we wanted our business to grow; we knew that we needed not only to meet, but far exceed, the expectations of our business partners in a fresh and innovative way. We wanted to be World Class.

"We constantly asked ourselves, our own team and business partners: 'What do we do that you like? What do we do that you don't like?' Then we simply did more of what our customers liked."

Simon and his team then began to focus on what resources they would require to fulfil their vision of becoming a World Class business and meeting the expectations of business partners and their own team.

He explains: "We plan to take our Clark dealership to a £5 million turnover by 2012 and a £10 million turnover by 2017. We knew that our industry-specific software could take our business to a £20 million turnover, so we began to focus on our team…working from the top down, looking at the kind of management structure a business with £10 million turnover would need.

"So when I'm asked what prompted the move from our previous accommodation, the short answer is growth. We have been planning the recent move for the last three years. We already know the next step in Forktruck Solutions' evolution and are planning the next move to a larger capacity site in 2012."

So it is clear that Forktruck Solutions, who provide new, refurbished or used Forklifts to any budget and also offer contract hire or lease purchase, have a vision for the future as they look to build on their first decade.

Does Simon have a personal dream? "We are in the business of dreams," he says. "I like to think we provide a vehicle for each team member to reach his or her full potential. As well as educating ourselves and everyone we work with, we will also ensure that our customers make educated decisions about the equipment they wish to purchase.

"We will always offer quality products and value for money, our service will be World Class and our customer care will be second to none. Our aim is to show the world that good business ethics can benefit everyone.

"Improving the quality of products, improving the quality of service and, most important, improving the quality of life for everyone; that must be our ultimate goal."

What, then, can Forktruck Solutions customers expect in the future? Simon is aiming high. "World Class is defined by the Webster's dictionary as 'being of the highest calibre in the world."

"When you see World Class in your day-to-day life, you recognise it instantly, whether it be cars, homes, design or sport. So when you take on a supplier, service provider or a business partner that is World Class, they should be instantly recognisable as a world-class company.

"This is the future for our team, our suppliers and our customers. This is the Forktruck Solutions future."

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