Transporting goods is the life-blood of today’s cities, as consumers and businesses need their possessions or products moved from one place to another. One area of opportunity in this sector is removals – helping customers move home or office.
A removals business specialises in packing, loading and transporting furniture and other goods from a home or an office.
When starting up, a useful niche for small businesses to target may be the homeowner – the ordinary consumer who does not have a lot of cash to spend, but needs help to move large and bulky items. As a small enterprise, with low overheads and high efficiency, you can offer this service at a good price.
As you grow, there could be opportunities to expand your services into the corporate market, where margins could be higher.
COULD I DO IT?
Moving furniture and other goods is a physically demanding job, with much lifting and carrying, so you need to be fit and strong.
You also need to be able work in all weather conditions – hot, cold or wet – so it is not for the fainthearted! Each job is likely to be different, with its own challenges – so make sure that you are practical and patient, and good at finding solutions that are efficient and safe.
You must be a good planner and organiser, keeping to a schedule, so that you work to your customers’ expectations. To do this properly, you should be able to estimate how long it will take to load the required goods, and how much space they will take up.
If you underestimate the work required, you will lose money and will probably delay your next customer; this makes it difficult to build a good reputation and get referrals for more work. Social skills are vital; you must get on with people from different backgrounds, and deal with customers who are stressed.
MY TRAINING NEEDS
This industry is still largely unregulated, so there are no compulsory training requirements for people wanting to start a removals business, but there is training available that could make your business more successful.
The Transport Education and Training Authority (Teta) accredits training organisations that provide good courses to businesses in this sector. For further information, contact Teta’s Road Freight Chamber on 011 781 1280 or visit the website at www.teta.org.za. The qualifications they support include the National Certificate in Professional Driving. Also look on the website of transport magazine Fleetwatch for training providers (www.fleetwatch.co.za).
About 2.5 million South Africans move home each year, most are between 25 and 34; they are developing their careers and families, so are usually moving into larger homes. Not everyone who moves home uses a removals service, but your customers will be diverse and could include any of these groups: Those with smaller homes (or moving somewhere close) could use your local services.
Customers may also just want to move one or two large items and don’t have suitable transport to do so. Small businesses that are moving premises could also use your services. However, some smaller retailers who cannot afford their own vehicles use a contractor instead. Also, large retailers may use your services if they get very busy and don’t have enough transport to deliver.
Homeowners and businesses often need rubble or rubbish to be removed, usually during building operations. If you offer this service, you will probably need a different type of vehicle to deal with these loads. If the material is not too heavy and the loads are fairly small, you may manage with a trailer (a cheaper option than a whole new vehicle).
Here are some ways to get your business known:
Get leaflets and flyers printed and distribute them in your local area. Target those households or businesses that are more likely to need your service soon. For instance, drive around and find homes with a ‘For sale’ sign outside; people who are planning to move house will be more interested in your service.
Advertise regularly in your local community (or suburban) newspaper; this is usually one of the first places people look when they need a removals service. For community newspapers in your area, look on the websites of the Association of Independent Publishers (www.aip.org.za) or Caxton Publishers (www.caxton.co.za), South Africa’s largest publisher of suburban weeklies.
You could even set up your own website, with information about your services, basic prices, contact details and testimonials from previous customers who were happy with your service.
Decorate your truck with your logo and business colours, and display your name and contact details boldly for people to see.
DON’T BE A COWBOY!
Being ethical, trusted and respectable can earn you more customers. Consider joining a trade organisation such as the Professional Movers Association (www.pmamovers.co.za); this will raise your image and will make potential customers feel more confident about your professionalism. Before you join, you will need to meet certain quality standards. As a member, you can display the association’s logo on all your publicity material.
- Go to www.cobwebinfo.co.za for more by Paul Crankshaw.