CEO Interview: Dave Scobie, All Fleet Services
PUBLISHED: 12:41 27 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:41 27 April 2017
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If aspiring young entrepreneurs are in any doubt about going it alone and setting up their own company, Dave Scobie has proven how working for yourself can reap rewards if you have a great idea and unrelenting motivation
Dave Scobie, managing director of All Fleet Services, which is based at Waterwells Business Park in Gloucester, founded the business when he was just 26.
He’s been at the helm for 14 years and the company is continuing to experience year-on-year growth - last year it grew by 32 per cent - with continuous digital innovations to keep the team on its toes.
All Fleet Services is a specialist contact centre and administration provider for the fleet and automotive industry. Dave, now 40, had his lightbulb moment when he was working for FTM Tyrefit in his home country of Scotland, which provided outsource solutions as a way to sell more tyres.
“While I was with them the services never got invested in,” Dave says, in a soft Scottish lilt. “One of the things I really wanted to do was have the opportunity to create a service you could charge for and invest in those services for added value.
“I took the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy, came away and set up the business.
“When we started, it was myself and three people in a back room somewhere. We started doing a pilot with one customer and then over the next few years we went out to all the fleets in the UK.
“We soon had the largest leasing company in the UK at that time, it was quite a good start.
“Over that time the business has developed from providing a service to being an online support provider of many services.”
All Fleet Services now employs 180 people at its Quedgeley base where it has been for the past four years. Although its customers are mainly national companies, it supports the county as an employer and uses local suppliers when it can, supporting other businesses in the area.
Earlier this year it was shortlisted for Fleet Supplier of the Year at the Fleet News annual awards and was also a finalist for the Young Business of the Year at last year’s Gloucestershire Business Awards.
All Fleet Services’ customers include top leasing companies such as Hitachi Capital, Alphabet and ALD Automotive in Bristol. It offers services to over 600,000 vehicles in the UK including service booking, foreign travel and commercial vehicle management. It also provides the Actionline for Goodyear.
The firm deals with everything from small cars to modern, large cars, vans, trucks, dustbin lorries, cherry pickers and skip loaders. Its call centre is open 24/7, 365 days a year.
“It’s always manned, even on Christmas Day,” says Dave. “Although my wife does complain about that.”
The couple, who live in the Forest of Dean, have three children under the age of 10 and have to balance running a demanding business with raising a young family. Dave’s wife, Michelle, works part-time as company secretary.
“I now make more time for family, whereas I worked weekends before, I don’t now,” Dave admits. “The business is 24/7 but I make sure I have plenty of family time because you can’t get that back when they are that age.”
Dave grew up on the Scottish border and describes his eduction as “standard”. He left school at 16 before going back to college to study for a Higher National Certificate in business.
“I left school quite young, at 16, which proves you don’t need a university degree to start a business,” he says emphatically.
“Both my brother and dad are very much part of that work ethic. I saw my brother have his own business which inspired me to have mine.”
Dave spent four years working for his brother’s bespoke travel company in Scotland at the start of his career.
“That helped me because I saw how he was running a business, although I never got to travel much,” he laughs.
It wasn’t until several years later he decided to leave his Scottish roots behind for the small village of Cambridge in Gloucestershire.
“I lived in Edinburgh for a long time, but my wife and her family are from the west country. We actually met in Yorkshire but we decided to move down here to start the business and it’s pretty much gone from there,” Dave says.
The father-of-three, whose background is in operations, took over as MD in 2007 and bought out his investors a couple of years ago, developing his own senior management team within the business.
Sales Director Chris Hart has been with the company for the past seven years who Dave describes as a “big support” and he has just recruited a new Customer Relations Director, Jon Burdekin.
“I’ve still got the same motivation and passion as when I started the business,” Dave says. “Part of the reason for starting it was solving people’s challenges. If I believe there is a problem, we look at what we can do for customers. There is still that drive.
“Of course there are many day-to-day challenges, but we’ve got some great people. If things do go wrong we’ve got a great team which puts that right.
“Certainly the biggest challenge is we are going through a transition, moving more towards becoming a technology-focused business rather than people-based only.
“It’s moving more towards how people think, we need to think differently. If we do the same thing, we’ll get the same and it’s very much a new way of thinking as a business and moving in that direction.”
At the start of the year, All Fleet Services launched a new digital fines management system – Fleet Fine Online – which removes the administration burden of processing fines, saving fleet companies a significant amount of time and money.
There are around 2.9 million fleet fines processed per year, across 31 traffic offences, and each fine requires a long and arduous process before payment is processed, involving a huge amount of man hours and materials.
“Fleet Fine Online is a digital solution for it,” Dave explains. “It speeds up the process and stops things like fine charges going missing in the post and putting that right. We were processing 5,000 fines a month, but now it’s closer to 30,000 the old system doesn’t fit very well.
“It’s been well received. We’ve done a couple of industry seminars and the customer feedback we have had has been excellent. People can see the benefit to the industry.
“We’ve been working with a number of issuing authorities, which is a new area for us, but it’s been quite interesting getting involved in a different market place.”
Account manager Dan Mallier, who helped to develop Fleet Fine Online, has recently been promoted to Director of Online Services.
“We are quite a large company so I like to promote from within,” Dave says.
“There will come a time when I need to find a successor. Over the next five years my aim is to maybe not work as hard as I have done over the last 14 years.”
It’s a goal which might be tricky to pull off as Dave has ambitious plans to grow the company by 25 per cent year-on-year. All Fleet Services also has two other products it is looking to launch, one at the end of this year and another in 2018.
“There is a lot of new technology coming to the fore like autonomous cars and self-driving cars and we are working on a couple of changes around those areas,” Dave says.
In hindsight when he set the business up in 2003, would he do anything differently now?
“I would put my management team in earlier and have done less myself,” Dave reflects. “But in some respects, the things I have done with the business is what makes it, so I’ve got no regrets.”
As well as working on new innovations, his dedicated staff do their bit for charity too recently receiving donation calls for Comic Relief, the fourth time All Fleet Services has supported Comic Relief and Sport Relief.
They have their fair share of comedy moments in the office as well, with people often ringing up for a taxi from Gloucester Quays. There must have been a few laughs when the boss broke down in his new BMW M3 too.
“I’d had a new car for a day and got a burst tyre. I had to call in and use the service myself and experienced the service first-hand,” Dave smiles.
“They got someone out within 90 minutes, so I was very pleased.”
Does he ever see himself uprooting the business and heading back to the Scottish borders?
“Not unless Nicola Sturgeon gets her way,” Dave jokes. “We have a bit of fun that I’ll move the business back to Scotland if it all goes wrong.
“Certainly, I’ve been down here for a long time now, it’s home for me and my wife, we’re very much here to stay.
“If Brexit doesn’t work my feeling is we’ll continue investing in our business. We have plans to grow the business. I do believe strong businesses will always withstand things.
“You can’t stop and wait for things to happen, but make your own successes and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
David Scobie’s three Top Tips for Business Success
1. Be genuine, I strongly believe that people still buy from people.
2. Fail fast and learn quickly, always approach everything with 100 per cent commitment and never regret not going for it.
3. As you business grows, don’t forget what made your business great and surround yourself with people you can trust.