Name: Russell Start
Position: Group Managing Director
Company: AGM Group
AGM Group, Group Managing Director 2018 - Present
Pickfords Move Management Ltd, Managing Director: 2010 –2018
Team Relocations, Joint Managing Director (United Kingdom): 2007 – 2010
Team Relocations, Operations Director (United Kingdom): 2003 – 2007
Pickfords/Allied Pickfords, General Manager, International Operations (United Kingdom): 1987 – 2003
Davies Turner & Co, Import Clerk (United Kingdom): 1982 – 1987
A: It seems to me that you are either born into this industry or fall into it, for me it was the latter. I joined Davies Turner straight from college with the intention of starting a career in freight forwarding. The day after I started the removals division needed some filing doing and I was dispatched to do it. I stayed in that division for five years and was hooked.
The industry has fascinated me ever since, particularly in the early days when the novelty of dealing with people all over the world opened up areas I didn’t know existed. Another fascinating aspect is the emotional element of touching on peoples lives during a stressful time for them and their families. Above all this are the fabulous characters you get to meet in our industry, many of whom have become good friends, plus a career that is interesting, ever-changing and rewarding.
A: Having only just started at AGM Group it’s a little early to comment on what normal looks like, having said that I’m not sure I’ve experienced too many ‘business as usual’ times at any period during the last 36 year…
I am fortunate that the companies within the AGM Group include some very talented and experienced people working with great brands so I will be able to focus on development and growth which I know all the brands are more than capable of. We will also be looking to add some new, but related, revenue streams to the group so that will also be very exciting.
A: The recent developments in technology (and how we can best make use of them externally and internally) have been a very exciting, if sometimes frustrating, aspect to my job and to the industry in general. With the customer base demanding more and more online access, a business need for IT to drive real cost out of service delivery and new innovations like video surveys coming to market it looks like technology will play a big part of our focus for many years to come.
A: Technology – the pace of change in technology now is as exciting as it is concerning. How we make use of new technologies in an industry ripe for innovation and try to stay ahead of the curve is a constant challenge. New disruptors are appearing all the time and bringing new initiatives every day that bring as much challenge as they do opportunity
Never stand still.
I’m a keen follower of Formula 1 motor racing and the constant search for improvements for thousandths of a second serve as a great example of how you go backwards by standing still so must constantly be on the lookout for improvements in your business.
Another exponent of this is the British Cycling team. They dominated in the velodrome in Rio, as they did in London 2012 and Beijing 2008, as well as having a British winner of the Tour de France for four of the last five years. This success came after the “aggregation of marginal gains” concept which aims to improve everything you do by 1%; the aggregated impact of these marginal gains is huge.
A: As an industry I think we need to be able to improve the overall customer experience. We tend to focus very clearly on the operational aspects but as an industry we have not yet mastered how we manage the overall way we interact with the companies and people we move. What we do tends to be delivered on a case-by-case basis and providing a tailored service each time, but is that what everyone wants? We can certainly look to some of the consumer brands outside our industry for inspiration here. How long before we see someone like Amazon providing moving services? This won’t be the service requirement for everyone, but we need to get ahead today.
For this to work we need to be able to adapt our traditional moving methodologies and processes. Embracing new packaging, online ordering and automation. How about ordering your move and managing a whole service via Alexa? Why not allow customers to pay using tap technology or even blockchain for global payment management? Why can’t we use collaborative technology to enable specialist movers to integrate with specialist immigration providers and realtors? Some of this is already happening so we watch this space closely.
A: I think this is continuation of my previous response. From my perspective, I have seen the face of mobility change considerably. Over the past five years, the rise of short-term mobility and developmental assignments has grown exponentially as part of the focus on talent. The industry doesn’t feel like it has really caught up with this need yet. although Gerson Relocation and the AGM Group have some nice services coming through – ask me about these in six months.
Once again, we need to focus on the customer experience and those aspects that are providing the best return on the investment of an assignment to the business. We have seen that services are being cut out of policies to reduce costs, such as cultural training or reduction in home finding services to save money. Yet we know as a business that our home finding service could save more than this value through effective lease negotiations which would enable the client to offer more to support their talent who in turn are more likely to positively impact the results of their business.
A: Generally speaking I have witnessed that overall mobility has increased whilst employers are looking to do what they can to manage the costs. but some of the solutions that have been adopted have reduced costs in one area, but increased costs elsewhere.
For example, the rise of short-term assignments can reduce overall mobility spend and allows more people to relocate. However, this can create a range of complex tax challenges which can be extremely costly for an employer to manage as a result of the additional tax partner fees.
Lump sum moves also appear to be more popular today which presents a range of potential compliance issues for employers and the question about whether their employee is receiving the support they need in order for them to deliver value back to the business in their new role. This particular topic is receiving a lot of attention from providers right now as organisations jostle for position in a rapidly growing area.
Talent-based moves have gained significance which is an area where Gerson has worked for many years. I feel that this is good for international business overall.
The macroeconomic factors we all operate within have also changed dramatically in a very short amount of time. We have talked about technology’s influence which I embrace wholeheartedly. Today is even more interesting though, particularly here in UK, as we are also dealing with uncertainty regarding what our borders are going to be like over the next 12 months or so. We need to be agile and respond to the needs of our customers to keep their businesses functioning internationally during this period of flux.