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Growing site aims to take that load off your mind

22/02/2014 13:00

Andrew Bishop works from home, which is Raglan these days, and surfs whenever he gets a chance. It sounds like he’s living the dream, and Bishop says he pretty much is. He’s the co-founder of Findatruckload, the Trade Me of transport. The website matches up empty freight trucks with loads needing a carrier. This year, the five-year-old start-up is aiming to hit $3 million in revenue, and is looking at growth of 40 per cent. The idea was the product of Waikato lads Andrew Bishop and Walter Ormsby. “He was working for Mainfreight, we both were. So we were based in Taranaki and we had to get trucks there from Waikato and Palmerston North. “We weren’t allowed to use other companies, because if they weren’t blue they (Mainfreight) weren’t interested,” he says. He doesn’t want to go into detail on the numbers, but Bishop says empty runs were costing transport companies millions of dollars a year. The lack of efficiency sparked the idea, initially for a call centre linking up trucks and loads, which developed into the website findatruckload.co.nz. The pair funded the website construction from their own capital, and Bishop says they broke even on the $100,000 investment within 10 months.  They initially charged a 6 per cent commission on every successful linkage of load and carrier, although they hiked the fee by two per cent in September to deal with increasing transport costs. Today over 250 transport companies are represented on the website with more than 1000 truckies signed up between them. Another 650 users are signed up to list loads, with newbies signing up every day. On average, the company connects 200 loads and carriers a month. But Bishop says they are still just scratching the surface of demand both here and overseas. As he sees it there are still massive inefficiencies in the transport industry. Already the company is looking across the ditch to see where other opportunities may lie. “This year we will be doing some market validation in Australia,” says Bishop. 
“Hopefully by 2015 we’ll be making a decision whether we potentially franchise the business or whether we’ll embark on operating in those countries ourselves.” They will be doing that while looking at how they can increase their workload in New Zealand. Findatruckload currently deals primarily with general freight and some bulk shipping, but there is plenty of room in the livestock industry for the business. “That’s an area we do a little bit of but it’s something we want to expand, and containers and machinery,” he says. “There’s probably about half a dozen verticals we can go across.”The major challenge is convincing hardened truckies and their bosses it’s all a good idea. There are a couple of key concepts to get across says Bishop. First, the company had to convince the carriers they would get paid. “With an online market place the transport providers don’t know who they’re dealing with on the other side he says. “They just want to know they’re getting paid, so we said ‘look we’ll guarantee payment’, and therefore we got the support of the carriers,” That business model hasn’t been without it’s hiccups. Bishop says last year a Hawke’s Bay company that used the website when into liquidation. It was unable to pay its carrier fees, so Findatruckload had to pay it for them. “Because we charge such a small commission it’s really hard to recoup that, so that was a big hit on the bottom line,” he says. The other key for convincing the carriers to come on board was ensuring tenders for big jobs were private.  “It’s been tried in the past, this model, but it was an open auction, so basically it became a became a Dutch  auction where carriers were driving down the price, and you just lose support of the industry,” Bishop says. “So we made it a private tender, meaning no one else can see their offers other than whoever listed the jobs and that’s the most fair model.”  Findatruckload is slowly catching on, says Bishop. Last year, it hired a sixth staff member and it is looking for a seventh currently, and there may be an eighth later in the year if necessary. However, Bishop is keen to keep the company very lean. “Obviously labour is our biggest cost, we don’t want too many operational people.” That means keeping very busy to make sure everything gets done. Bishop says the only thing that makes it workable as a job is not having an office. “Pretty much it’s all go, but that’s why everyone works from home, you’ve got to have a lifestyle. “I think that’s why we’re attracted some good staff, because people get to work from their houses, and they have a lifestyle with their job, so that’s quite important for us.”
That means for now, Bishop will be able to keep up the unlikely balancing act between surfboards and trucks.

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