After spending 13 years in Singapore working at major corporate brands, Julian Starr ventured back to the UK searching for a new lease of life. He had proved integral to American Express Asia, firstly as Chief Financial Officer for the bank and then the Controller for the whole company, before moving on to PayPal Asia where he was influential in the early stages of the business. With a decade’s worth of experience behind him, Julian was ready for the next chapter.
“I think everyone gets to that point, after so long, when they want to try something different. My role as CFO at PayPal was a difficult act to follow – I was the fifth employee to be recruited and at the end the team had grown to over 5,000 strong. When I started, the company was achieving £100million in revenue and by the time I had left, it was turning over £700million.
“It was at that time; my children had finished school and I had the opportunity to return to the UK. PayPal offered me a role in the UK but the commute from our home in Essex to Richmond each day didn’t bring the change I’d been hoping for. I soon realised the time was right for a change.”
Julian agreed a transition period out of PayPal which enabled him to explore the next chapter. He whittled down his options to either starting a business himself, buying into an existing company or investing in a franchise. In March 2013, Julian began his intense search into the franchising route.
“During my research, I stumbled upon PACK & SEND and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. It was a less risky option because of the proven franchise model and it would give me a little more time with my family once I had established the business.”
PACK & SEND is the UK’s leading packaging and shipping specialist franchise. Franchisees usually start as owner-operators of their franchise, building a team to manage the needs of their customers. By providing professional packaging services and combining this with a wide range of delivery options, they can send anything, anywhere. They form part of the UK’s £70billion logistics industry.
“It also helped that PACK & SEND solves the issues I experienced in my time at PayPal. There were always problems with the cross-border logistics side of the business, so to have those solutions at my fingertips felt very satisfying.”
Julian started his due diligence by speaking to other franchisees and making sure that PACK & SEND was right for him. Once he’d made his mind up, he was ready to embark on their intensive training programme to prepare him for the opening of his very own service centre.
“My son, Bradley, and I went to the Reading head office for a week of on-the-job training. I worked on the sales side whilst my son focused on the packing – that was the plan all along for when our own store opened. We learnt more about the business but it was the operational side that benefitted us most. It was crucial to get hands-on time with customers and process enquiries under the guidance of someone experienced from PACK & SEND – some items really do take you by surprise!
“The most challenging part of the start-up process for me was finding the right premises. You want a location which is accessible to our range of customers and that will also work financially for our business plan. The PACK & SEND support team assisted in finding the right type of premises in the target area.”
The father and son duo launched their PACK & SEND business in London Spitalfields in September 2013. The pair were fully aware that the first year of any new business can be tough. They both knew they had to be realistic with their approach and agreed to set their 12-month target to breakeven.
“We were excited for the challenge. We focused heavily on our marketing and created a buzz around us starting up. We didn’t have any competitors in the area but that also meant we had to educate our potential customers on what was a completely new service. Our hard work soon paid off as, due to winning a very large customer, we actually smashed through our target, breaking even within six months – with a final first-year turnover of just under £200,000.”
In the second year, PACK & SEND London Spitalfields increased its turnover by 47%. Since then, business has continued to show healthy growth through a mixture of new and repeat clients. Given the growth, to handle peak times, Julian’s wife, Lisa, helps out.
“When it’s busy, Lisa comes in to continue our smooth delivery of day-to-day customer service. That allowed me to focus on the operational side of things, managing the accounts and dealing with the logistics.
“Customer retention is vital to consistently grow a business and is just as important as finding new customers. PACK & SEND are focused on excellent customer service and this has certainly been a good strategy for our business growth. It sounds simple but, if we provide a solution with ease for any packing or delivery job, our customers will keep coming back.”
Franchisees benefit from a strategic supplier network which would be difficult to negotiate as an independent business. Specialist rates are available from all major logistics brands, whilst IT, finance and marketing systems at head office ensure you are always ahead of the game.
“No item is too crazy to pack and deliver but the list of suppliers I can rely on certainly helps when we get odd requests! The list of things we handle is endless – some of the most challenging probably being large antique model ships with intricate rigging and xxx. It’s one of the satisfying things about the PACK & SEND franchise – being able to provide a solution to some of the more difficult jobs.”
“PACK & SEND has also given me the freedom that I was looking for. I now have the time to do so much more with my family – I love taking my son to football matches. On top of all that, I was able to offer him his first job. If he wants, he’ll never have to do the commute or work away from home like I had to.”