Interview with the vam... er... Andrew Bernard.
  • Jesus! It's busy!
    I was informed that my name was being taken in vain on another thread, so I popped in.
    I may well be making a lengthy contribution to the other thread later, but I've been so rushed off my feet that I haven't had time to loaf in Internet Cafes composing it to my satisfaction. Anyone would think I was working for a top firm like City Sprint.
    Anyhow, without further ado, I'm posting an article based on an interview with Mr. Andrew Bernard earlier this year. The interview never saw the light of day as Mr. Bernard requested some editorial alterations before publication.
    It's 2,200 words long, so I'll be cutting and pasting it in bits.
    I'm sure you'll all find it as interesting at Mr. Patton's offerings.
  • Whither Now, City Sprint?
    New MD Andrew Bernard spoke to Dave Gurman about the future.

    If you got this mag free legitimately, you’ll know who City Sprint are. At the very least you’ll have read their ads; and you’ll certainly have seen their riders in their yellow and blue livery. If you’re clued in, you’ll probably have also heard some of the rumours which have been circulating the industry ever since West 1, Security and Delta where abruptly brought together to form one mega company in 1998. What was being attempted, was the equivalent of buying up Chelsea, West Ham and Millwall (plus Aberdeen for good measure) with the intention of forming one enormous club that would dominate British football by virtue of its sheer size.

    However the sudden collision of three completely different cultures was never going to be painless. Aside from a predictable duplication of roles (with consequent redundancies) and all the usual ego stuff; it also threw together all sorts of vendettas, personality clashes and attitudes that had happily avoided each other for years. No surprise then that the goings on in EC2 produced a wave of disgruntled people who sent a ripple throughout the industry.

    But what’s the truth behind the rumours? Who better than Andrew Bernard, the new Managing Director of City Sprint, to tell us. He asked to speak to TRD partly because he wanted an opportunity to set the record straight and put an end to all the “Chinese whispers” that continue to do the rounds.

    The moment I met him it was clear he was more MBA, than South London mini cab; but I’d expected that. After all City Sprint is a seriously large company; and a seriously large wadge of cash has already been invested in it. Andrew Bernard was given the job because clearly DMS believe he is the man with the record to ensure that the CS juggernaut is roadworthy; before steering it to its ultimate mission, which is to become the biggest thing around — a byword for the same day courier business.

    As soon as the intros were out of the way, AB began the sales pitch. He started with the power of the three brands, which I’d already read about in a glossy brochure while I waited in reception. I politely stopped him to point out that as I’d been around the industry for over twenty-two years; and, aside from having worked at two of the “brands” during that period, many of my friends now found themselves under the auspices of CS, I was well aware of their individual strengths — and their weaknesses — and I’d heard most of the rumours. What I believed TRD’s readership (including Mr Bernard’s riders) wanted, was his version of all the gossip that had emanated from Scrutton Street over the last couple of years.

    Well if that’s what we wanted, it sure as hell wasn’t what we going to get; but in fairness, that’s only to be expected. When asked about problems, he responded by saying that he’d been MD since the end of January and admitted that it was “unusual to bring in a new manager for a company that’s trading at its optimum...” (I’m not going to insult you by translating that) But he had focussed the company quickly and sorted out their sales and marketing plan. He believes in providing the highest level of service to their customers; and went on to say what a great platform they have to capture a bigger share of the market. He accepted that it hadn’t happened in the last couple of years; but said that was due to “integration problems” — due to having three different companies with three different “owner entrepreneurs” (which raised a little grin of recognition on my part). He’s convinced those days are behind them now; and more importantly, he believes there is a requirement for a national same day company and that they fit the bill.
  • Andrew wanted to focus on where they were going, not where they may have gone wrong. He said that one of the strengths they have now is the management, as he’s recruited two key new managers (Financial and Sales & Marketing directors). Personally he claims 15 years experience in transportation and logistics. He trained as a Chartered Accountant, but what he does is runs big successful transportation businesses (including one with an annual turnover of $700 million). He emphasised that he understood the sector exceptionally well, before adding that this was a slightly different part of the sector; but he was confident that many of the issues courier companies face, are the same as those International couriers, transportation and logistics have to deal with. I interjected that one significant way that our sector differs — and it’s the thing that makes it more than just a postal service — is the professional DR. He or she can save a customer’s business life, with the sort of miraculous dash that an organisation where everything runs by schedules simply cannot begin to muster. I asked Andrew what he thought about the reality that his riders were entirely free agents. That while their massive investment secured the physical assets, the accounts, the radio channels and to an extent the employees with contracts; the people who actually deliver the goods and present the company’s image to the customer, were free to leave at any time without any loss of tenure.

    Of course he was aware of the situation and that’s why his attitude to all of their sub-contractors, was that they were partners and he wishes for them to share in the success of the company. He said that they needed to make themselves attractive to them. He was also reassured that experienced riders were wise enough to know that the grass was unlikely to be any greener elsewhere. He believes that City Sprint will be a successful business; and given their “fair way of treating them” and the volume of work they are able to provide, he is sure their riders and drivers will want to be a part of that.

    When I asked about turnover, he assured me that no one had left since he’d taken over. When asked about a rate drop last autumn, he denied it and claimed that they pay the highest rates in London. When I pushed the point and asked if the rates had been altered in any way, it was conceded that there had been a “readjustment” on October 23rd; but insisted that it had been necessary to bring the pricing structure of the three brands into line. Apparently they were like the three bears: one too cheap, one too expensive, while the other was just right. I suggested that perhaps it was the riders who’d previously been paid too much, who thought they’d suffered a rate drop. But this was swept aside, as I was reminded again of the top rates they pay and the enormous volume of work they have.

    What about the prospect of start-up companies by the ex-directors of the origional brands? I pointed out that in this business, when it comes down to riders and drivers, it’s often not so much a case of company loyalty, as controller loyalty. So when a controller is lured away to a new position with his or her old boss, they invariably take half a dozen or so top riders with them. He was unperturbed by this, saying that he welcomed competition. And he added as a note of caution, that in the last few years many people had given up good jobs to go and work at new companies, only to find themselves out of work when they failed to make it in the marketplace. I suggested that it was hardly a valid comparison, because dot.coms were relatively new technology, whereas the courier industry has been tried and tested for thirty years.
  • Andrew was clear that their riders were unbelievably important to them, which prompted the question: how well did he think the company had managed to get that across to them? After reminding me again that he had only been there for a short period, he went on to say “I don’t know that we’ve maybe done the best job of communicating with them and that’s something that we will try to do. Obviously that’s one of the reasons for talking to you, because I do see them as important and one of the things I want to do through the medium of your magazine, is to be able to impart that to them. So they feel somebody is interested in them; somebody is looking after their interests.”

    Fine words indeed, so I asked how he consulted with his riders? How he knew what the issues were? Am Pall the Fleet Manager (who was sitting in on the meeting) fielded that one. His department is open 5 days a week; and recently they have started a forum, where one person from each brand has the opportunity to bring up any issues. However he says that it’s difficult to get self employed guys to turn up after work; and that the chats have been of the cuff and just chit chat so far; but they only have two questions anyway: money? And work? Communication isn’t a problem. They have ten channels (plus another entirely dedicated to training), every one has a controller, and the riders use them as their “interface” with the company. If they have any problems their friendly controller will know about it and see it comes to the attention of management. People don’t think management are getting feedback, but they are “…it comes via the radio circuit. (the riders) don’t want to talk to you on a Wednesday… but we have a forum, it’s been started.”

    I thanked Am for his contribution and reassured them that I’d write whatever they said; but at the same time cautioned them that if the riders think it’s just a snow job and it doesn’t line up with their own experience, they’re not going to be impressed. To suggest that management could get meaningful feedback through controllers, that would actually provide them with insights into the feelings of their riders, struck me as particularly naïve (as did Andrew’s earlier assertion that as MD he knew what was going on in the company) but when I pointed it out, Andrew was back on the case pointing out that was why they have a fleet management team of eight people. That Am has only been there since November; and besides he wondered how much of the stuff we were talking about was ancient history. He likes to think the company is moving on and detects a discernible difference in motivation and morale in many of the workers since he came on board.

    And so it went on. I’m sure if it had been a shareholder’s meeting, Andrew would have received a standing ovation when he finished. But it wasn’t the moneymen he was trying to convince it was you, the riders. So does his reality match yours?

    The despatch business is a funny old game and DR’s are a particular sort of wage slave. Riders who have been around may be slow to change companies, but they also have a habit of reaching a point where suddenly enough is enough and they move on, or out of the industry. New incentives at City Sprint such as the rate hike for riders who work five days will help convince some riders; but at the same time there are others (including riders who have always been regular, reliable and consistent on the part time days that they do work) who won’t be getting the extra 20p per minimum and may have a radio levy (not a charge, but levy) applied.

    Andrew Bernard has stated unequivocally that his sub-contractors are unbelievably important – partners no less. But it remains to be seen if he has really taken it on board, or if it’s simply window dressing. If he does believe it, then he and Am Pall need to work a bit harder at finding an effective way of relaying the message to the fleet, because they don’t seem to have convinced many people yet.

    Ultimately City Sprint’s fortunes are in their own hands. There’s no question that the great amalgamation was painful and frustrating for many, or that they lost a number of good people in the process; but the dust is beginning to settle and there are still plenty left. If the stalwarts who have stayed on through all the crap and uncertainty of the last couple of years, find that times really are changing and that once again they are earning the money and respect that their professionalism demands, there’s little doubt that the word would spread.
  • Must dash. Yet another job do be pedalled to... and it doesn't pay twenty bob.
    Back later.
  • And I thought you had renounced this forum and all its works.

    All very well cutting and pasting this whole interview, but there's not much in there worth reading, is there?

    "Ultimately City Sprint’s fortunes are in their own hands."

    Not exactly a great insight, is it?
  • And wasn't Am Pall working for DMS in 2003? I am sure I had a meeting with him in Scrutton Street, at the time of the London ECMC.
  • fuck me that was long. anyone want to rustle up a synopsis?
  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
  • Wait a minute. So TRD wouldn't publish this because otherwise CS would pull their ads? And now it ends up here? Not that I was planning to try and get ads from CS (or anyone else in the business, come to that), but still...
  • Earlier this year???!!!!

    I don't know what year you think it is pal, but this interview must have been, at the very latest, 2002.

    Mad as as goose!!!

    Count Basie or Friar Bellows, P02, whatever name you're hiding behind, you should stick to baking your cakes & howling at the moon.
  • Yeah, I thought so. Cheers for the info, Spiro.
  • Still,good to have him back right?
  • oh, now I know who Count Basie is, he's the Slim Gaillard fan....
  • Mad as a goose? Not heard that one before. Mad as toast?
  • i like the old bag of snakes analogy, mad as a box of frogs is saved for a certain frogman :wink:
  • Tricky as a bag of monkeys.
  • i like Basie
  • Oops!
    Apoligies all round.
    I found the article and as it referred to rate cutting in the previous autumn, I assumed it was talking about the rate cuts of last autumn.
    I'd clean forgotten that rate cutting was now an annual event at City Sprint.
    It's a bit embarrassing as I was aware of Am joining City Sprint a good few years ago. Haven't spoken to the blighter for ages and as people do tend to go around in circles, so I assumed Am had departed and come back.

    There is probably a pithy comment to be made about rate cutting being an annual event now that City Sprint's run by a fine, upstanding accountant like Andrew Barnard, whereas rate increases were an annual event when its predecessor, West One, was run by a convicted bent copper like Derek Perry. I just can't come up with a pithy comment after such a hard week at work.

    Definitely says something about modern society, though.
  • I've only just come across this (13/6/14) and as I don't know who anyone else is (with the exception of Buffalo Bill if he's the same one who worked at OYB) I don't have any idea how it got on here.

    For the record it was written in April 2001, when Scrutton St was still in turmoil after the expensive DMS buy outs of West 1, Security and Delta, but before Andrew Bernard bought what was left of the mess for a pittance (this was also before Hilton started Lewis Day, which was what I was alluding to when I mentioned ex-directors starting their own companies).

    Yes it is long, if you'd like a brief synopsis it's: "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining, I've been around the business for over twenty years and have a far better understanding of the dynamics of the London DR business than you do."

    The reason it was never published was because AB came back with an eviscerated version that had had any suggestion of cynicism removed, leaving basically what amounted to a fluff piece. Roger (Tuson, founder and editor of TRD back then) favoured running their version, but I said that he either used mine, whole, or I wouldn't allow him to use it at all.

    Mindful of the fact that they were his centre page advertisers (and proving that he's an infinitely better businessman than I will ever be), he chose to spike it.

    Dave Gurman
  • Like a frog in sock.

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