Herald Entrepreneur: Removals firm happy to keep it in the family
WHEN Georgina Berry agreed to help out at the family business during a busy spell, she expected a short stint before moving on to a career as a financial advisor.
Twenty years later, the 43-year-old is running Richard Healy Removals alongside her brother, having been instrumental in expanding and diversifying the Ayrshire-based company her father set up with a single truck in 1965.
“I went to help out for six months and I’m still there,” smiles Ms Berry. “But I enjoy being in a position where I can make strategic decisions for the business. Sometimes being a company director can be pretty stressful, especially because you have to ensure you always bring in enough money to pay everyone. But I wouldn’t change it.
“I love the variety of the job. Every day is different and I get to work across so many areas of the business. I don’t think I’d be able to work for someone else now.”
The company now employs 32 staff to move domestic and commercial customers all over the UK and Europe, and ship items throughout the world. Recent additions to the business include a specialist shredding service and an industry-recognised training school, which Ms Berry devised and runs.
“It’s important to offer a range of services so you don’t rely too heavily on any one part of the business,” she explains. “Some years ago we only had one big contract and when that ended through no fault of our own, it was a blow. We’ve never been in that situation again. To expand and move forward you need to be prepared to diversify.
“We’re really excited about the training school in particular, which offers new skills to both our own staff and firms all over the country. It gives us the opportunity to pass on the experience and expertise we’ve gained over the last half a century.”
Despite being a director, Ms Berry is happy to be hands-on during busy times, driving removal vans wherever they need to go.
“I enjoy that aspect of the job,” she says. “Often it’s women who run the businesses in this industry, though they don’t get the recognition they deserve. We won a training award a few years ago and at the ceremony there were 600 attendees but only 50 women. I was the only woman who picked up an award. But things are gradually changing.”
The mother-of-two admits there are some drawbacks to working with family – “recently we all went on holiday together and had to remind ourselves to stop talking about the business” – but says the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
“We all get on really well and that trust is always there, the knowledge that there is someone you can count on backing you up. When I’m having a bad day I know that Richard and our transport manager Barry, who is like a member of the family, will work with me to find a way forward. For me, that support mechanism is vital.
“My dad Richard started the business 53 years ago and since then we’ve built a reputation based on quality of service. Many of our staff have been with us for a long time and we have worked hard to keep that tradition and continuity going for both staff and customers.”
As part of that, the firm brought in the business consulting arm of Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie, Family Business Solutions, to assist with the legal aspects of planning for the future.
“The advice they’ve offered has been invaluable,” says the businesswoman. "It's important to get these things right."
And does the next generation of the family see their future with the business?
“My teenage son has expressed some interest, but obviously that will be up to them individually when they’re older,” says Ms Berry. “They would have to bring something to the table in terms of expertise, though, really look at the business and see where they could make improvements. They won’t get a free pass."