Cardinal has £100m in sight as global expansion hits the target

Fast-growing logistics business Cardinal Maritime is set to exceed £100m turnover this year, as it gears up to open two more offices in Asia.

The Manchester-based freight forwarder, which employs 300 people globally, expects a quarter of its income to come from international operations, and plans to launch in Thailand and Vietnam in 2019.

Cardinal, which is run by chief executive Brian Hay, has opened four offices in China in the past four years, and has recently set up in Singapore.

Hay said: “Five years ago we had offices in Ireland and South Africa, and turnover from international activity was less than five per cent. Now it is 25% and growing.

“Since then we have opened offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Ningbo, Qingdao and Singapore – with two more planned in South East Asia in the next year. It’s fair to say that our overseas growth is going to outstrip our growth in the UK.”

Hay added that despite the challenges of Brexit he was clear the business needed to open more overseas offices to better serve existing clients and employ people directly in each location, rather than work with partners.

“We now manage trade from China to Australasia and America, for example, which we could have never engaged with from the UK,” said Brian Hay.

“We also wanted a common operating platform in terms of technology so that every key strike in China was a key strike in the UK.”

Cardinal Maritime now employs 80 people in China and Hay says investing in the country as a British business has been a huge pull for attracting staff.

It has also developed proprietary technology LEDA to aggregate global shipping data for all its offices and provide real-time visibility on customer supply chains.

“The fact we are a British business is hugely important – in terms of locals’ desire to work with a European company rather than a Chinese company,” he said.

“That has been our biggest lesson – it’s really easy to attract to high-calibre members of staff.”

But he acknowledged that replicating the culture between Manchester and China hasn’t been easy: “We have someone in China for us at the moment, looking to see how the two can be knit together,” he said.

“If we are going to continue to grow and not lose sight of what’s important to us we really need to understand what the growing pains will be and what we do about that.”

Alongside plans to hit the £100m mark this year, Cardinal Maritime has been running an internal project for the past 12 months to galvanise staff around the goal.

Hay added: “I had a conversation with James Timpson about growth and working towards the next milestone.

“He said we needed a project, Project 100, to get everybody involved in the business to celebrate achievements that contribute and be rewarded for them. There is a board in our office with probably 45 photographs on it now.”