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Family business defies property slump

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Robinson was the third generation of his family to take the helm of the eponymous removals business, which competes with the likes of Pickford’s and Sterling.

"Did I always want to take charge of the family jewels? No! To be honest, I spent ten years trying to escape the business and ended up running a software firm in Australia. But my father sent me a heartfelt letter asking me whether I’d take over or whether he’d have to sell up. So I moved back to Blighty and joined the family firm."

When he became managing director four years ago, the company was thriving. “People were enjoying inflated profits from the sale of their homes and there was more business than you could shake a stick at.”

But Robinson knew the market was about to dip. “We had a board meeting in August last year. We knew a storm was brewing. The collapse of Northern Rock confirmed that.

“During the property crash of the nineties, our sales slumped by 30 per cent and we had to put all of our operating staff on three-day weeks. It was awful. This time round, we knew we’d have to diversify or we’d sink.”

Robinson’s £18m-turnover business was split between domestic removals and international relocations. “We could have entered the office-moves market but it was already saturated and it’s pretty dull. I mean, it’s not something I’d want to chat about in the pub.”

So instead, he launched a green removals business for corporate clients. As well as moving businesses into new premises, Robinsons recycles any unwanted office waste such as old desks, ensuring it doesn’t go to landfill.

“Our target clients are the kinds of companies you read about in the Sunday Times 50 Best Green Companies 2008. The business is still embryonic but our target is to pull in sales of £2m this year. We’ve found a way to replace our lost sales with a substitute. There’s no way we’re giving up.”

Related article: Credit crunch and the property market: where are we now?

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