It was a light-hearted remark that can be credited with Kerry Whaley’s entry into freight forwarding and her subsequent success as a freight forwarder. At the time, she was working in recruitment and her change of career came about in an unlikely manner. She recalls: ‘I had a client in the transport industry who needed some admin and PA support and I jokingly said: “looks like you need a PA!” and that’s where it all began. I took the opportunity with both hands and whilst I was there, I started to find about how vehicles work. I completed my International Transport Manager’s CPC and it all grew from there’
Unfortunately, after a few years in that company she was made redundant. This spurred her on to establish her own operation. That is how, just three months later, HD Forwarding was born. It all started out from my dining table, with an old laptop and my phone, she says.
HD Forwarding Limited has become Doncaster’s largest independent freight forwarding company. The extensive combined experience of its team enables it to provide reliable and efficient air, ocean, road and parcel services across the globe.
Females in logistics
There are growing efforts within the supply chain to encourage more female participation, both on the shop floor and in the management offices. These moves have the complete backing of Whaley who welcomes the growing move to bring women into logistics.
She says: ‘I have always been big on women in business, in whichever industry they choose. We are always supporting women in logistics, currently having a 50/50 split within the team and actively looking to keep the level square. I am very supportive of the next generation of forwarders and believe we have the foundations in place to be able to bring them in and develop careers within the industry. Our most recent female to be employed at HD was actually via the KickStart Scheme. At 20 years of age she came in and is now an integral part of our Operations Team. She showed a keen interest from day one and leads by example.’
Success breeds success
From the moment she started HD Forwarding, Whaley, now CEO of HD Forwarding, was determined that the company would be set apart from the competition. How has she accomplished this? Whaley considers: ‘Team HD is separated from the rest as we specialise in service. At HD Forwarding you have one main point of contact through an allocated account manager, whether it’s booking a shipment or an issue with Customs your central point of contact will be able to help you avoiding explaining yourself several times. One thing that we really like to shout about is our ability to ship same day into Amazon, both UK and Europe. We’re a platinum-accredited preferred carrier so not only do we get priority bookings we also handle such a high frequency of UK and EU Amazon shipments that they are second nature.’
As Doncaster’s largest independent freight forwarder, it comes as no surprise that HD Forwarding has been the subject of merger or acquisition interest over the years. Whaley says: ‘Yes, we have been approached on a couple of occasions either with people wanting to invest or to acquire our business. However, we have a clear vision of where we are, where we want to be and how to get there over the course of the next five years.’
One matter that is attractive about HD Forwarding is that it is in expansion mode. As well as established offices in Doncaster, Congleton and Bristol, London Gatwick now sees an HD Forwarding office.
Whaley says: ‘At the back end of 2021, we opened our newest location in London Gatwick. It is a fantastic location for freight coming out of the area. We now have very close links to LGW which is warming up to implement the construction of the Northern Runway, which is set to increase cargo movements by around 300% over the next 10 years, putting HD Forwarding in a good position.’
HD Forwarding currently has warehousing capacity across its locations. There are six warehouses strategically placed in key UK areas – Liverpool, Stoke, Manchester, Bristol, Crawley and Leeds – as well warehousing in Berlin, Stuttgart and Cuxhaven in Germany. The capacity across these sites is currently around 900,000ft2.
No-one currently working in the supply chain needs to be told what challenges HD Forwarding is facing at the moment. A trio of headaches faces Whaley and her team. The shocking headline rises in fuel oil prices into 2022 will be all too familiar to FORWARDER readers. Alongside that are the issues arising from Brexit and its fallout.
More issues for Whaley have been created by the general issues surrounding the shortage and inconvenient locations of ocean containers in the market.
Whaley, however, does not dwell on the negatives. Instead she looks to the company’s achievements.
She talks about HD Forwarding’s biggest achievement: ‘There are too many to whittle it down to just one. Winning the Business Start Up of the Year award in 2021 is up there. We are ticking big things off the list all the time; for example becoming members of BIFA, taking a stand at Multi-Modal. We all help each other out and stick together as much as possible. We live and breathe our five core values: teamwork, accountability, development, honesty and family. HD Forwarding is an extended family the company was formed from me wanting to be around for my kids and dogs and now it has grown beyond original plans and measure. As a company, we are really good to our staff. Everyone gets private medical insurance and an extra holiday day for their birthday. Our commission structure is one of the best in the industry.’
On the look-out
The success of HD Forwarding is built on its staff. For a young company, HD Forwarding has enjoyed stable employment and loyalty from its staff.
Whaley says: ‘We are always looking for shining stars in the industry; however, we are actively recruiting for a presence in the North East to further extend our reach and give ourselves a base north of Doncaster. We have had just one staff member leave us so far, due to the role not fitting. I couldn’t let him go for long; three months down the line he returned as our Operations Manager! Our longest serving member of staff has just been given a promotion to International Sales Director. Steve joined us back in April 2020 at the height of the pandemic and has been an integral part of HD Forwarding since.’
Whaley would ‘absolutely’ encourage young people to enter the supply chain as a career. She says: ‘Dean, who has recently received a promotion to Commercial Director, started his career as an apprentice in logistics. He is part of the BIFA Young Forwarders network and actively takes part in Think Logistics, which is all about bringing young people into logistics. I am passionate about the future generation.’
I regularly go into schools and talk to year 10s and 11s about their plans for their future careers. We have a lot going on at HD HQ at the moment. We’re currently implementing an operating system change and ISO9001 accreditation to ensure good practice and the highest standards throughout our company. We have also taken on a new Account Manager (ACM) so Steve is busy training and guiding him through the learning process of the Team HD way.
Challenges that HD Forwarding faces
Brexit and Covid have been significant factors in the business of freight forwarding over recent times. Whaley says: ‘As a forwarder, we’ve taken both in our stride! Covid was a little more challenging with working from home upsetting the offices; however we produced great work opportunities and some accolades. There was a point where we were delivering 50 loads of toilet paper into Tesco and ASDA everyday and we handled enough dried pasta to feed the nation. We imported some of the first Pfizer vaccines through covid and we have helped guide countless companies through the processes of selling to the EU. At HD we have a broad selection of experience amongst our ACM’s, some who are well versed in air freight, others in road freight and others in sea, we can cover all angles of forwarding. We enjoy working with customers who we can build a strong ongoing relationship with and strongly believe that an honest ongoing relationship is better than the Golden Egg contract win. We’re keeping a lot of secrets under wraps for the next 12–18 months, however, we’re planning to expand aggressively with around eight new members of staff in the next 18 months or so. That expansion will be new ACMs and new operations staff. It’s going to be an exciting time so keep your eyes peeled; we will be sticking to our mission statement of becoming a market-leading forwarder!’
James Graham, contributing editor, FORWARDER magazine