Tom Keighley

Taxi game proves winner for former Leeds United director

Former Leeds United director, David Richmond, tells Bdaily about his transition into taxi enterprise and his growth ambitions for his Leeds-based business.

How did you make the transition from Leeds United director to business proprietor?

The business proprietor part came first. I have been running businesses since 1987, when I founded Scorpio Products (later Scorpio Print Finishing). We built the company into the largest privately owned print finisher in the UK before selling it in 2003. It was a fascinating few years where I learned a lot about running a business and how to drive growth in an industry which had traditionally suffered from a lack of investment and clear strategy.

What gave you the idea for Arrow Cars?

I was taking a bit of time out on holiday and considering what my next venture should be when I met the owner of Addison Lee, the largest private hire company in the UK. I was fascinated by the entire concept and decided that it was a venture that held real appeal. The private hire industry was similar to the print finishing industry in that it was a cottage industry suffering from a serious lack of investment and strategy. I returned from holiday and immediately bought a couple of small local taxi businesses and then set about a plan to modernise and invest.

What are the main challenges in running a taxi firm in the present climate?

One of the main challenges we face is the recruitment of decent quality drivers and the red tape that goes with it. It takes about a minimum of four months for a person to become licensed to drive so that’s often off putting for people who want to get into a new line of work quickly. There are also industry-wide issues around customer perception of the industry and the fact that prices can be so wide ranging for essentially the same service. We’re working hard to change that and are introducing a new system of agreeing fees on booking before travel so people won’t have to take their chances with the meter. We want our pricing to be totally transparent so customers know exactly what to expect.

Is there anything you’ve taken from your time at LUFC into this business?

The football industry is a fascinating one and the money in the industry is mind blowing. From being involved in football, I’ve learnt that vanity gets you nowhere. To be honest, the disconnect between football and other industries is so vast that you can’t apply usual business thinking to football. It’s a business like no other (it’s rarely profitable for a start) and it’s largely through the income generated through television deals that clubs have actually been able to survive.

You’ve recently invested in a new executive service - was this a gap in the market?

We’re investing £3 million over the next three years so we’re pretty confident! Our research indicated that there was a huge gap in the market for a widely available, affordable and reliable executive service. This is something that is already hugely successful in London but hasn’t made its way up here yet so we wanted to be first off the mark. There are plenty of high-end chauffeur driven services which have a few cars but these are very expensive. Our E Class service works in the same way as our standard private hire offer but enables individuals and companies to ensure they get picked up in a new E Class Mercedes with free 4g WiFi and uniformed driver for only around a third more than standard prices. It’s perfect for corporates wanting to ensure their clients get an executive service or for those individuals who prefer to travel in style.

What are the growth ambitions for the business - do you intend to grow your workforce?

We’re an ambitious company with big ideas. Over the last six years Arrow has grown from been a small local firm to become a nationally known name with exclusive private hire contracts at three airports - Manchester, East Midlands and Leeds Bradford. Our plan is to expand into more airports over the next couple of years.

The E Class service is also offering huge potential for growth. The people of Leeds are thoroughly enjoying the new service and the feedback we’ve been getting is superb. Our mantra is ‘a quality service at a fair price that is totally transparent’ and it really seems to have struck a chord with customers. Our growth since the introduction of the E Class has been breathtaking; so much so that we’ve brought forward our E Class buying strategy to keep up with demand.

We currently employ 54 full time staff and around 500 drivers drive under the Arrow banner. We’re expecting to be employing close to 100 staff when the next round of expansion is concluded.

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