23 Dec Year End Review 2020 from our CEO
As 2020 comes to a close, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what has probably been the most challenging year in our working lives, certainly mine.
We began the year very positively, as we started the process of planning and working on our growth strategy. The previous few years had been difficult to navigate, as we changed ownership and were forced to move our operation from West London, back East, where the eCourier journey began, back in 2003. Fortunately, our owners, Royal Mail, were able to help us find new premises in great locations for our offices and workshop and we had really begun to settle into our new homes. 2020 felt like a fresh start and an opportunity to really get back to what we do best; first class delivery and communications underpinned by the best team in the courier business.
We welcomed back some familiar faces, people that had helped the company flourish during early growth years. We added more quality people in areas where improvements were needed and it really had started to feel like a rejuvenated beginning… and then, COVID-19 struck and changed everything.
It has to be acknowledged that we have been one of the more fortunate businesses during this difficult year and this certainly isn’t a doom and gloom review. We had to adapt to rapid change after March 23rd and we did a fantastic job of that. We initially placed some of our team on the furlough scheme to protect long term futures. This action resulted in us not putting anyone’s job at risk and I am extremely grateful for that. It is also important to note that we did not recover any furlough money from the Government and funded all staff payments directly from our own finances.
Traditionally, we have always been focused on the London market, that’s where both Courier Systems and ECourier were founded and it’s the biggest and most challenging area for any courier company. However, since we became owned by Royal Mail, we have been given responsibility for overviewing Royal Mail Courier Services and this has opened the opportunity for wider expanse and coverage across the UK.
This was vital when, in March, we found ourselves front and centre in the race to get the nation tested for COVID-19. In a matter of days, we were asked to stand up a UK-wide solution, including a booking platform, for distributing test kits and PPE into the hands of the most vulnerable. We were also the only company collecting completed test kits and getting them back to the labs for analysis and results. This work initially covered home collections for people self-isolating but rapidly increased to include care homes and local testing centres throughout the UK.
As these volumes increased it was evident that we needed to reach out to other courier companies to engage in a collaborative approach to deliver the Governments programme. These partnerships included both transport and warehousing and required setting aside our usual competitive battles against one another. Who would have guessed we would be working in tandem with CitySprint and Rico Logistics at the start of the year !
However, at the core of this project the eCourier team have led and driven the programme. Our flexibility, can-do approach and reaction to constant changes has been recognised at the highest levels within Government and Royal Mail. Every one of you should take great pride in the part that you have played in rising to the challenge on behalf of the citizens of our four countries. I thank you all for the sacrifices you have made to achieve this phenomenal logistics success.
Whilst COVID wreaked havoc with our personal freedoms our corporate clients also had a very busy year adapting to different ways of working. The transition to home-working has resulted in less short-distance drives across the city and more projects to repatriate peoples office chairs and computers to their homes. The average distance of one of our commercial jobs has risen sharply over the last 9 months, a fact that is not lost on our Controllers !
Our fleet has grown massively this year in terms of size and geographical coverage. We have over 400 additional drivers spread across the UK. We have been fortunate enough to be able to offer work to so many new people which is really satisfying, especially when people have lost jobs in many other sectors.
We have been informed by the Department of Health that COVID-19 will not be taking Christmas off and so we will be working right though the Christmas period, out collecting and delivering tests and supplies to those that need them. There is no indication that the volumes of testing will slow down until the vaccination programme is well underway. It will be interesting to see how quickly London, and all other major Cities, spring back to life once the vaccine is out there. Let’s hope it is a success and I promise we will have one hell of a staff party to celebrate when we are in the clear!
I have been delighted that during 2020 there has been a wholesale shift in people’s minds that couriers, and courier companies, are ‘key workers’. I am proud that we helped to keep the nation moving during unprecedented times and that this industry, that I am a privileged to be part of, had the opportunity to shine.
We should also recall that we have suffered some devastating blows through this pandemic. We lost a friend and colleague in Patrick Dujon in March and I wish to remember him at this time and it should remind us all of the serious and potentially fatal virus that we are still facing. We experienced an outbreak within the office only a few weeks ago with 11 staff members testing positive. Despite the results they all continued to work remotely and I am humbled by their commitment to their colleagues and our business.
Recently we also lost one of our driver partners. Anthony Akpeki was the victim of a hit and run incident whilst collecting Care Home kits and sadly passed away. It demonstrates the perils that the drivers face each day whilst driving and collecting kits from locations across the length and breadth of the UK and we have a responsibility and duty of care to each of them when allocating their work. I wish to express our appreciation to all of the couriers for their hard work and application.
Finally, I’d like thank each and every member of the eCourier team for the hard work, commitment and togetherness I have observed throughout the year. Across the departments, Workshop, Accounts, Warehousing, NDI, Call Centre, Track & Trace, Driver Recruitment, Commercial, Medical and Operations, our teams have consistently worked in harmony to keep this show on the road and contribute to the continued success. I am honoured to be the CEO of such a brilliant and skilled group of people. Thank you all.
It is on this note that I would like to wish you and your families a Happy and Peaceful Christmas, and hope for a brighter and more certain time in 2021.
Chief Executive Officer