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A watercooler moment with... Kate Lester

Written by Dara Jegede on Thursday, 17 April 2014. Posted in Interviews

A watercooler moment with Kate Lester, CEO of Diamond Logistics, the logistics franchise

A watercooler moment with... Kate Lester

In a nutshell, what does Diamond Logistics do?

We provide same-day, overnight and international dispatch services. We basically remove the headache from people’s logistics needs. 

Where did the idea for Diamond Logistics come from?

I'd had a regional courier company since 1992 but it became very apparent that there was a UK-wide need for transformation in logistics. Major players got involved in the market but they have not been able to provide a truly quality-led business to both small and medium-sized firms and nationwide companies. We've basically evolved from being a traditional courier company to a one-stop logistics solution that incorporates same-day courier, overnight domestic and international services, along with an actual warehouse product for storage, pick, pack and dispatch.

When did you start up?

1992

When did you start franchising the business?

2012 

Why was franchising a good fit for the business?

We’re aiming for 40 depots by the end of the year but doing that from a standing start in less than 18 months would have been pretty tough financially without the franchise model. It also gives the depot a completely different dynamic and an additional quality level, which is really important because our franchisees are pursing their own aims and ambitions as well as the aims and ambitions of the network. It has been possible to scale it very quickly and it would have been incredibly problematic to capitalise the kind of growth that we’re expecting this year if we hadn't franchised.

How has it gone so far?

It’s been pretty bloody amazing. We are now in the position whereby we can be incredibly selective with the people who apply to be our franchisees. We’re only as strong as our weakest member and we all work very collaboratively as a team. We've picked the best applicants to run the depots and we aim to launch our national marketing from February next year.

What has been the biggest challenge so far? 

In 2012, we had an awful bank and it really inhibited our growth. I felt like my hands were really tied by the lack of available finance for everything from upgrading our premises to investing in our business to transform it. In the end I had to sell one of my homes to fund it. We've also changed our banker since then as well.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?  

Everything from our ethics, values and brand ethos to the way we go about marketing and approaching our clients is completely different from the run-of-the-mill logistics or courier company. We select our clientele very carefully and we have a fundamental principle called 'shared success' which is about collaborative working through all levels of the supply chain from our ambassadors out on the road who are our couriers, to the teams that run our depots, to the headquarters team that brings the work in on  behalf of everyone.

What has been the best decision you have made to-date? 

To stop tolerating incompetence and parachute key members into the business.

Where do you see the franchise in 12 months’ time?  

We've got another 10 openings within the next six weeks and we hope for 60 depots by Q2 next year.

If you had one piece of advice for those wanting to franchise, what would it be? 

Get up early! You really need the 15-18 hour days. And write the most prescriptive manual you can imagine. Unless you are very formulaic and prescriptive in your instructions, your methodology may seem unclear. 

About the Author

Dara Jegede

Dara Jegede

Jegede recently left the London School of Journalism having previously embarked on a soul-searching stint in the city of love. That's Paris, by the way.

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