Deputy Editor David Jordan took a trip to rural Nottinghamshire to visit Ballards Removals, a family business now prospering after the dark days of recession.
The historic town of Tuxford, a few miles north of Newark in Nottinghamshire, was once an important staging post for horse-drawn carriages travelling along the Great North Road between London and Edinburgh. In its heyday around 100 stage coaches a day would pass through, bringing rich pickings to the town’s coaching inns, ostlers, blacksmiths and general traders that lined the streets. Today, Tuxford is bypassed by the new A1 and most travellers will be unaware of the town and its rich history as they speed past in their modern cars.
Driving south from the town centre I turned left and followed the road for about a mile to a large industrial estate and Ballards’ headquarters. Richard Ballard and his wife Janette started the company in 1978 carrying out local removals using a second-hand Ford Transit van. They are still very actively involved in the business but are gradually handing over its day-to-day running to their two sons, Matt and Joe.
As we sat in Ballards’ busy open-plan office Matt explained that the company was going through a rebrand to reflect the changes they’ve made to the business during the past few years. “Like most companies in the removals industry we were hit hard during the recession. Somehow we survived and I’m pleased to say we’re now back up to full strength. Before the downturn we only did removals so we were very vulnerable. Although removals is still our core business we realised it was important to diversify, so as soon as we could afford it we introduced new services to avoid having all our eggs in one basket. I would advise any company in this business to do the same,” said Matt.
Early in 2015 Ballards entered the self storage business and now has 45 containers on the 5-acre site; all are fully occupied and there are plans to expand to a second site later this year. Other developments include a van rental service, in collaboration with United Rental Systems and a general haulage service. The company holds a franchise with Bishop’s Move and also carries out overseas work for several large relocation companies.
Another important addition is the creation of a new training department complete with a mock-up house interior, headed up by Charles Checkley who joined the company earlier this year. Charles has worked in the industry for 28 years and gained his experience working for some of the UK’s largest and most respected removal companies. As well as the usual materials handling skills, Charles teaches new recruits the more subtle aspects of the job such as the correct way to address a customer, what to do if they find money that has been mislaid, and not to pack credit cards or passports. Other skills include how to remove an old-fashioned sash-window, the difference between the ‘Shotgun’ and ‘Bradford’ method of packing a van, and the need to check for a cup of water inside a piano! Driver CPC will be introduced towards the end of 2016. As well as training its own staff Ballards is happy to train people from other removals companies and has recently applied to become a BAR regional training centre.
Despite the ups and downs of recent years, Ballards has remained a family business and with Matt and Joe still in their early thirties and the next generation growing up quickly, it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Photos: Family picture, left to right: Richard, Matt with son George, Janette and Joe with son Archie; Middle right and below left: training centre head Charles Checkley.