Keep on trucking: Paul Milligan and Warren Poole both celebrate 15 years with Hemisphere!
10 minutes to read
Fifteen years ago, Hemisphere’s ocean and air freight offering was well established, but road transportation was yet to feature strongly in our repertoire. That all started to change in 2007, with the arrival of two new team members with specific expertise in UK and EU road freight logistics. Able to deliver a complete logistics service across the whole supply chain, we were set on the path to further growth.
We grabbed Paul Milligan (UK Transport Manager) and Warren Poole (European Logistics supervisor) for their thoughts on the changes, challenges and highlights they’ve seen over the last 15 years at Hemisphere.
Firstly, congratulations both on 15 years at Hemisphere! What drew you to working in logistics, and for HFS?
I first got involved in transport some 40 years ago, routing building materials. Then I moved on to a timber importer and then got into transport and shipping with a Scandinavian importer. I ran the transport for them for 12 years.
Then I got married and took a year out to build a large extension on our (then) small house. When this came to an end, I registered with an agency and Hemisphere approached me. I initially started as a planner but was made supervisor on the second day and stayed in that role until being made a manager last year.
I have pretty much always looked after the whole package with the transport at Hemisphere. Everything from hiring and firing to arranging MOTs, repairs, tyres, fuel and much more for the trucks and trailers. And many a time have actually loaded the trailers for onward deliveries as well!
When I left school, there were loads of jobs going in shipping and so I went for that! Shipping was a massive industry at the time, especially before the trade barriers came down. Back in the 80’s, customs clearance was a big deal, and that was my first job, working on customs clearance for a huge amount of imports and exports. When free trade with the EU came in, that went overnight and thousands of people lost their jobs because we didn’t need customs clearance any more.
So it became simply about getting loads picked up and taken to where they need to go. I stayed with it, learnt a lot, worked for Norfolk Line for 12 years and then another small office. When they closed their UK operation, Andy Perrin had an opening and the rest is history.
How has the UK/EU transport landscape changed since you started?
The transport landscape has changed vastly in the last 15 years, with the country becoming more reliant on the haulage industry and new regulations being introduced along the way. Both of these things have presented new challenges, but the evolving infrastructure and technology have been a huge advantage.
On a basic level, it’s still the same – you pick up something from point A and take it to point B, sometimes via C. Trailers are still pretty much the same. It’s the way it’s done that has changed, especially in the field of customs clearance.
The technology has changed a lot. When I first started, we were still using telex machines and faxes. I had a typewriter to fill out the customs forms, but didn’t like that much, so I used to hand-write these 4-ply forms. Then computers came in and made it much easier to type it all out and print it off. And now we have all the software and great pieces of kit, so everything is a lot quicker to complete and send off.
Electronically sending stuff has made a huge difference. When I first started, I had a moped and had to collect the paperwork from the ship’s bag, zoom up to the customs office, lodge the paperwork, come back later, collect the release and take it back down the quay so the drivers could then pick up the trailers and disappear. We don’t have to do all that running around now. Good job – with a whole bunch of agents all trying to do the same thing at the same time, it was a bit like Wacky Races! The quicker your forms got lodged, the quicker you’d get your clearances. Got fond memories of that actually, it was quite funny at times.
What makes you and Hemisphere successful in the UK/EU logistics market?
Put simply, our reliability and competitive rates. And we have a good rapport with customers, which always pays dividends.
It’s the way Hemisphere is set up and run as a nice family-owned company, with good core values. Everyone who works here feeds off that and buys into it. In other more corporate firms, management don’t really have any connection with the staff, and Hemisphere is totally different to that. Everyone is very approachable and friendly. There are lots of couples here, and fathers and sons, and it shows we’re very family orientated.
We all strive to do as good a job as we can for our customers, and have a good core group of customers that have been with us for a long time. There are 3 or 4 that I’ve been dealing with for all the 15 years I’ve been here, and they were with the company before I started, so that shows we’re doing something right.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Probably to overcome the adversity of driver shortages. We had to work hard to maintain services and keep Hemisphere at the forefront of a competitive and ever-changing industry.
Brexit, one hundred percent. We tried our best to get ready for it, but every day it’s still a challenge. The customs work we have to do now isn’t the same as when I had to do it all those years ago. There seems to be even more red tape, and it’s tough work getting everything in place. So, that’s the biggest challenge and it’s still ongoing.
How have you and Hemisphere overcome this challenge?
As a team, we met the driver shortage challenge head-on with competitive rates for drivers, backed up by a strong team-orientated atmosphere. We’ve made Hemisphere a great place to work, where people appreciate what everyone else does.
With customs, we’ve made sure that everything is set up with clearance. That all the paperwork is in place beforehand, there’s a clearing agent ready on the other side, that people know what they’re doing and we’ve checked all the paperwork is correct. We’ve tried our best to get everything in place – we put in a lot of extra training across the department and there’s a whole new customs team of 4 or 5 people here now dealing solely with the import and export customs clearance workload. We sometimes deal with the export paperwork ourselves, so we have to keep up with everything.
What have you been most proud of?
I constantly take great pride in ensuring our customers’ needs are met in a timely manner, with care and attention. This basically shows what Hemisphere is all about. Nothing more specific than that, as such. It’s like a constant theme in what I do, and I’m proud of that.
When I first joined, the department was just me. The company was more about sea freight and air freight, and road freight was more of an after-thought at the time. We did a little European work, but never pushed it. Then, when we took on the distribution for a particular golf client, one of the guys I worked with at Norfolk Line came in as well, and between the two of us we built up this department. We simply provided a good service and knew what we were doing. There’s 5 of us now and I’m proud of how it’s grown and what we’ve achieved with road freight here.
What’s the one biggest change you’ve seen at Hemisphere during these 15 years?
The biggest changes have certainly been with the expansion of the company, with new sites, increased demand and more involved planning requirements.
Yes, definitely the expansion and growth of the company. When I joined, we had a small office at The Hythe in Colchester, a smaller office in Ipswich and another small office/warehouse at Heathrow. Then we soon moved to a new place in Colchester with room to expand and just grew from there – first filling the top floor, then the bottom floor, then adding the warehouse in Ipswich and finally moving everyone up to the new office here too, so everything was in one place. Now we’ve taken on the other warehouse in Felixstowe as well. The growth of the company over these 15 years has been massive.
What’s the nicest thing a client has said to you?
Nothing specific, but it’s always rewarding when our clients are happy with the service we provide. They could just say we’re doing our job, and there’s truth to that, but it does make a difference.
Probably just a simple thanks for a job well done. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s nice to know the hard work you’ve put in is appreciated. They like a quick, efficient service, and when problems come up, they like how quickly we can get around them and deliver what customers want.
What have you enjoyed the most in the last 15 years?
I’ve really enjoyed helping Hemisphere reach its full potential, especially being involved with the purchase of new vehicles suitable for our needs, increasing the fleet and having a hand in the overall image of the company. The trucks are at the forefront of what customers see when deliveries are made, and it was great to set up the livery on them.
For me, it’s the people I’ve worked with and still do work with. Lots of nice people – that’s the most enjoyable thing. It helps you get through the day, have a bit of fun on the way and do a great job.
What are you excited about for the future?
Who knows what the future holds but for now I’ll just take every day as it comes and look forward to staying fit and healthy and doing a decent job!
I’m excited to continue adding to Hemisphere’s development, seeing how they succeed and working with our strong team to overcome all the challenges in future. We just seem to keep growing and growing and doing better and better.
Want to join the team?
If you’re looking to advance your logistics career, or simply want to take your first step in the industry, check out our latest vacancies on LinkedIn. Alternatively, please feel free to send a CV to firstname.lastname@example.org.