Far looks ahead after one-page business plan leads to £30m turnover venture

Simon Boucher

Manchester freight forwarder Far Logistics, which provides entrepreneurs a platform to grow their own businesses, hit £30m turnover in 2018 and plans European expansion this year.

The company, which was founded in 2012 by chief executive Simon Boucher with investment from Cardinal Maritime, supports freight professionals to open regional offices and gives them equity once early targets are met.

In the past six years operations have been opened in Manchester, Liverpool, Southampton, Felixstowe, Nottingham, Heathrow and Basildon.

Boucher is in talks to expand into Glasgow and opened the first European office in Holland in January.

“When I was regional director for another freight forwarder, I met Brian Hay (chief executive at Cardinal Maritime), and he asked me to come and work for him,” he said.

“But I didn’t want to swap a job for a job; I wanted something different. Brian came up with the idea of giving me 25% of a new business and said: ‘it is what you make of it’.

“A lot of effort has gone in to get us to this point, but we are starting to reap the rewards now.”

Far Logistics now employs 48 people and eight of them have equity in the business, in addition to Cardinal Maritime.

It has grown at 70 to 80% each year and aims to support SME clients across the UK.

Its story is part of a growing trend of start-ups receiving direct investment from large businesses.

According to research from CB Insights, there was a 43% increase in the number of deals like this globally in 2017.

“When we started this process we hadn’t seen it structured like this before, but instinctively we felt it was the right thing to do,” said Hay.

“The whole process of forming a business in this sector today, compared to what we did 20 years ago, is poles apart.

“There are legislative difficulties, the threat of terrorism and security issues in the supply chain, for example, and funding for new businesses is harder to come by.”

Hay said Far Logistics, which was backed by an initial investment of £250,000, was designed to enable others to shine with the support of Cardinal’s back office, but the freedom to grow their own future.

“They have all come from senior positions, they have been handpicked from the leading businesses in the UK. The industry has seen this happen and think it’s a bit different.

“We call it a partnership model. We are not telling them how to flip the burgers, in terms of 30 seconds one side, 30 seconds the other side, the way they manage their client relationships is up to them.”

Boucher added: “We don’t ever set out to say, ‘we need an office in each location’, we find the person rather than the location. It’s based on local relationships, the managing director is the key sales person in every office.”

He said the business had come a long way in a short time.

“I am proud of what we have achieved.

“There aren’t many businesses that started with one page of A4 as a business plan six years ago and are doing over £30m now with seven offices.

“We are probably one of the fastest-growing in the UK now.”