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Jul 12, 2016
Premier International Movers, Lisbon started from nothing just 12 years ago. Steve Jordan caught up with director Luis Amorim to find out his story.

It was in 2004 that Luis Amorim, Helder Antunes and Edgar Antunes started Premier International Movers in Lisbon.  It was an unusual beginning for the company as they had no experience of running a business or of management but, with hard work and determination, it worked.   

Both Luis, Helder and Edgar had been packers with one of Portugal’s largest moving companies when they saw an opportunity to start something themselves.  Not many companies start from a purely operational background but Luis, Helder and Edgar complemented each other.  “Edgar and I handle the warehouse and Helder takes care of the office,” said Luis. 

They started using their own money, focussing on domestic moving in the beginning and training their own people as the company grew.  In 2006 they hire an international specialist allowing the company to move into the international market. “You can’t make money just working in Portugal,” said Luis.   

This was at a time when global trade was doing well.  Nobody predicted the crash that came along two years later.  But Luis, Helder and Edgar had a good idea that the bubble couldn’t continue forever.  “In Portugal crises come along in cycles,” said Luis.  “I am 41 years old and we have had three crises in Portugal in my working life. So when you see something getting bigger and bigger you know it’s going to fall. You cannot hold it forever. So you have to be careful. Nobody gives you anything free.  In the good times you have to keep something back for the winter.”  

So the crash of 2008 and beyond left Premier virtually unmarked. The company remained relatively small, keeping a nucleus of staff that could be employed all year round and using trusted subcontractors during the busy periods.   

In 2008 Premier joined PAIMA.  Luis saw the opportunity of working with other PAIMA companies, particularly in South America.  Luis enjoys being part of PAIMA.  “It’s a small group and it’s not a regular conference.  It’s friendly.”  

Two years later Premier became a FIDI member giving it the opportunity of working with some of the bigger companies in the industry.  “We wanted to play in the Champion’s League so we joined FIDI when the conference was in Lisbon,” said Luis. “With all these groups you have to be patient. If you take your time, make contacts and provide a good service, opportunities will come up. You can talk 50 times to the same agent but if he’s already working with someone in Portugal who’s doing a good job, we have to respect that: we have to wait. Nobody is going to change agents for a few euros; it’s about partnership.”  

Unlike many start-up companies, Luis, Helder and Edgar didn’t have any help in the early days: they had to do everything themselves and learn as they went along.  “We had to start from scratch.  We didn’t have a father or an uncle to give us a head start.  We had to prove how good we are and make a name for ourselves in the industry.”  

But that has resulted in a company that is very equal and in which everybody benefits.  “We are not suppliers we are partners,” said Luis. “If you have a problem pick up the phone and call me.  We have good relationships with all our road crews.  Everyone is nice.”  

Another key member of staff is Bruno Rosa who’s been there for four years.  Bruno spends most of his time in the office coordinating the moves, talking to agents and providing rates.  “I make sure that I answer them on the same day,” said Bruno, underlining the company’s dedication to providing a high level of service.   

Embracing the international work has transformed the company.  “All the decisions are taken outside Portugal, in the UK and US mainly,” said Luis.  “We can’t book with big brands here, there are no contracts.”   

But through the company’s international partners it is now thriving.  Full-time, permanent staff include five people in the office and around ten on the road.  Local work is performed using their own trucks with long distance haulage provided by specialist contractors. The main office in Lisbon is supplemented by a small warehouse in Porto in the north of the country.  “It’s a small country,” said Luis. “From Lisbon you can be in the north or on the Algarve in 2-3 hours.”  

Premier International Movers has grown from a standing start in 2004, survived the worst recession in living memory, and come out strong and providing an excellent service to its partners worldwide.  It’s a testimony to hard work, common sense and a practical approach.

Photo: Luis Amorim and Bruno Rosa pictured at the FIDI conference in Geneva.

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