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First Women Awards winner packs “manicured” punch in fight to revamp UK courier market

Kate Lester, CEO and founder of Diamond Logistics, is a businesswoman on a mission to revolutionise the UK logistics industry, we found out in the aftermath of our First Women Awards recognition.
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“We want to rid the world of crappy courier companies,” she said, with uncompromising and, as it turns out, characteristic plain-speaking clarity.

While it could be considered a tall order for some, after a few minutes with the 2015 First Women Awards entrepreneur of the year, you get a strong sense that her competitors would do well to watch out.

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From its Guildford-based headquarters, the 23-year-old business has seriously ramped up its ambitions in the last four years.

Prior to that, Lester was providing logistics consultancy services to companies with distribution challenges and running a modest boutique courier company alongside, more as an additional service than the main event. Now, Diamond Logistics is literally beginning to sparkle in its own right.

Her award, one of several rewarding her entrepreneurial endeavours, has shone a spotlight on a company that will deliver a £10m turnover this year – with a rapid growth plan looking to achieve £60m by 2018.

Read more about the First Women Awards winners:

So, what is the revolutionary strategy underpinning this goal? The answer is simple, according to Lester, and, refreshingly, it’s not couched in the usual PR fluffery, which she says she chooses to ignore in favour of “telling it like it is”.

She said: “SMEs in this country have been horribly underserved when it comes to courier and logistics services, but the challenge isn’t just about being brilliant at the physical moving of packages.

“By and large, the UK carrier market is very successful – but the industry is poor at managing expectations with its customers. We are focusing on bridging that big gap, between the quality of service and educating customers with good, open communication with everybody in the chain. We call it the ‘give a sh*t factor’.”

Tactically, Lester’s focus for the expansion of Diamond Logistics is about being a national player with a friendly and knowledgeable local “face”.

“We are not hiding behind an 0845 number and a call centre, we are growing a network of vetted franchisees who sign up to our high standards with the vision of being the courier partner ‘around the corner’,” she added.

There are 25 franchise partners currently, with plans to develop the network to a wider national footprint of 60 within three years or faster.

Each franchisee takes on the challenge of building local business relationships and the reward is potentially a “seven figure revenue” in their area and the chance to grow a strong local business with support under a respected national brand.

Lester added: “This will sound trite, but we are about delivering other people’s promises and shared success. All of our stakeholders are incredibly involved in what we do.

“Our network is made up of local couriers, with local knowledge and a local address and contact number. We are delivering a good experience, and our revolution is simply about getting it right and keeping the communication channels open.

“Our customers are good at what they do, whether it’s manufacturing amazing products or running a good ecommerce website, but it’s our job to make sure their customers receive the goods they ordered on time. Statistics show that a bad delivery experience turns customers off. It’s as simple as that.”

As for winning a First Woman award, and being a “girl in logistics”, Lester revealed she prefers developing strategy and building the business, but will take advantage of good opportunities to promote the brand.

“Awards are good for the company and they bring wider attention to what we are doing,” she said. “When it comes to being a women in business, I’ve never really felt discriminated against in my industry, and I believe it’s possible to create in your own mind bigger hurdles than perhaps actually exist; you’ve just got to get on with it, take action and see things through.”

It is a theme Lester has captured in a new book she has written, entitled “The Manicured Fist”, which is to be published on 30 September. The book title is inspired by a comment made in an interview by another successful logistics entrepreneur, the former Dragons’ Den judge Hilary Devey.

“There are times when things aren’t going your way when most sensible people would just give up, but as an entrepreneur you just don’t do that. I would like to inspire more people to have a go at starting their own business, I just think if I can do it, anyone can,” Lester concluded.

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About Author

Eric Woollard-White

In addition to freelance writing, Eric Woollard-White is a business development, marketing and PR consultant and founder and CEO of Thirty7 Productions. For ten years, he worked with entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den panellist Peter Jones in a variety of communications and senior management roles.

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