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Containing the industry

Mar 20, 2018
Lendon Containers Ltd has been supplying shipping containers to the moving industry since 1998. Deputy Editor David Jordan visited the company’s head office in Clapham, London to meet its eponymous founder and Managing Director Lendon Meaby.



It was a bitterly cold day in January when I emerged from the depths of Clapham Common underground station to walk the mile or so to Lendon Containers’ head office in Webb’s Road SW11.  As I passed through the rows of very smart, Victorian terraced houses I naively thought it an unlikely place to find a company dealing in sea containers: miles from the ports, difficult to get to by road, and with sky-high rents in that part of London, surely nowhere to sensibly store them? 

The company’s HQ is on the first floor of a block of houses now converted into offices. Lendon greeted me as I climbed the stairs and for the next hour or so he explained how he’d started the business and why there were no containers to be found on the Webb’s Road site.   

After training as a civil engineer at Oxford Polytechnic, Lendon began his working life in Zambia’s mining industry before taking a year out, back-packing around India living on £1 a day. On his return to England he found it difficult to get back into engineering and began his career in the container industry quite by chance.  “A friend called me and said his company was looking for someone and was I interested.  That’s how I got into the container business, I think it was 1986,” said Lendon.  

Over the next few years Lendon worked for a number of container companies, gaining valuable experience and forming friendships with people in the industry; many endure to this day.  In the late 90s, while working for a major container supplier, he secured a contract to supply 1,800 containers to Trans Euro, a deal that had taken almost three years to come to fruition. Despite his success, Lendon’s relationship with his employer was less than harmonious.  

“There were growing differences of opinion between me and my boss,” said Lendon. ”After a lot of soul searching I decided to move on and start my own business.” 

“I’d managed to save a little bit of money and with the help of my parents - who lent me £6,000 - I set up Lendon Containers Ltd working from my spare bedroom. In those days you could buy a 20ft container for around £400 so by keeping a careful eye on the cash-flow I was able to trade quite successfully without much capital.  I was determined not to go to the bank - I’ve always found them pretty hopeless anyway - and I’ve never used bank finance to this day,” said Lendon. “Initially most of the business I did was with people I knew well, so there was very little chance of not getting paid.  I also used hauliers and converters that I’d known for years and could trust. I always paid them promptly, so they were keen to do business with me and never let me down.” 

Today Lendon Containers’ customer base is wide and varied, as are the uses the containers are put to. As well as selling and renting the basic units, the company specialises in converting containers to suit customers’ requirements. Classrooms, canteens, offices, even a mobile laboratory are just some of the conversions Lendon has supplied. 

 “We use a number of subcontractors to carry out our conversions and that gives us a lot of flexibility when it comes to delivering on time. We also place our jobs with the company best suited to do a particular type of conversion – they all have different skill sets,” explained Lendon. 

Stock is held at a number of container yards across the UK (hence no containers at Webb’s Road) so deliveries can be made promptly and economically to almost any location nationwide. 

Right from the start the removal and storage industry has been a major customer for Lendon Containers and with the rapid growth in self storage over recent years, the sector now accounts for almost 50% of the company’s business. 

“We have a lot of experience in the self storage business and we’ll be happy to offer help and advice to anyone considering setting one up,” said Lendon. “Using shipping containers means you can start small and grow the site along with demand, so it’s relatively cheap and low risk, especially if you choose to rent rather than buy.”  

In April, Lendon Containers Ltd will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Over the years Lendon and his staff have built a successful business founded on fair dealing, high quality and exceptional customer service.  Long may their success continue.    

Photo: Top: Lendon Meaby with colleagues Rosemary Fortes (left) and Alix Monspey;  Lendon Containers supply units for applications beyond self storage (middle right), such as mobile laboratories (bottom left).

 

  

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