Telling the truth about SME life today

Angus Elphinstone: “We want to make Anyvan synonymous with the action of moving”

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Angus Elphinstone

Role and company: 

Founder of delivery auction website 

Employee numbers: 


Growth forecast for the next three years:

Right now we see 2,500 listings per day and our turnover is more than £2m. By 2015 we expect listings to be at 8,000 per day and our turnover to be more than ?9m.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace: saves users up to 75 per cent on removals and courier services by making use of empty space in lorries and vans travelling on UK and European roads. Users post details of what needs moving and delivery firms bid for the job. In doing so, they widen their customer base. 

What’s the big vision for your business? 

We want to make Anyvan synonymous with the action of moving, like Betfair is for the gambling world and eBay is for the retail industry. The aim is to be the first place people go to for home or office moves and courier and delivery services due to the cost savings being so huge. We are also broadening the Anyvan brand to include a storage space marketplace called AnyStorage, which enables consumers to get the lowest possible prices on storage space for hire. 

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

We re a British-based business but delivery firms signed up to Anyvan have transported goods all over the world, including house moves and deliveries to South Africa, Indonesia and Australia. We currently have German, Spanish, French and Irish websites and are soon looking to expand and enter other European markets.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

Lack of patience! The process of growing a business has taken far more time than I envisaged and required more capital than I expected. You read about how sites like Groupon expanded rapidly, but rarely does any business grow both organically and quickly. I took a big risk starting an online business, not having had previous experience. Perhaps I wouldn’t have started Anyvan with the benefit of hindsight, so there are pros and cons. 

What makes you mad in business today? 

People with verbal diahorrea. There’s a good reason why people talk too much when they are trying to sell you a product or service. It’s because they are trying to cover up the fact that they actually have very little to say! I?m a firm believer of straight-talkers who deliver their message confidently and let their service sell itself. Talking it up won’t help a potential client who just wants to cut through the jargon and make a decision. 

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

More people will use marketplace-based businesses. Marketplaces are a consumer’s dream because they dictate the market value by putting the consumer in the driving seat. They also benefit those providing services to consumers as they can broaden their client bases and pick-up more work. The more awareness consumers have that these businesses exist, the better for everyone.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow” If not, what can be done to improve things?

Most online businesses go under within the first two years, which makes them more risky. On the other hand, with interest rates so low and the stock market less of a safe bet, private investors are looking for new investment opportunities. It’s not as hard as you think to raise finance if you have a good idea. With the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme giving tax relief to individual investors, start-ups are an increasingly viable option for VCs. 

How would others describe your leadership style  

I don’t want to ask! I hope they would describe me as a dedicated, open-minded and forward-thinking employer. I get involved in every decision and like leading from the front. I?m passionate and completely focused on one goal: growing the company.

Your biggest personal extravagance

I wish I had one’sadly I don’t. My one weakness, however, is liquorice!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

I?m a firm believer of the employer having control over its workforce – within reason. SMEs can have a high turnover of staff, not least because recruitment is very difficult, and so we often rely on trial and error. Controversial this might sound, however, most SME owners agree they need to be able to lay off staff if they aren?t achieving what’s expected of them. 

Too many ineffective people can literally kill off a business. Mr Cameron, please recognise that SMEs don’t have HR departments, sometimes they do not follow the correct procedures when employees are underperforming. While you absolutely need to protect employees, you also need to support SMEs as they strive to grow in a difficult climate and a difficult jobs market.



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