Nowry’s Haulage: step by step business growth


The Sydney-based husband-and-wife team behind Nowry’s Haulage open up on how they juggle a growing business with a young family

Nowry’s Haulage: step by step business growth
Scott and Joy Kelly

 

It’s 1.30pm on a warm October day and Joy Kelly has already done 12 hours out of her 17-hour shift. Despite filling in for their receptionist who was away on her honeymoon, the long shifts are a daily occurrence for Joy and Scott Kelly, who started the container haulage business eight years ago.

Situated at their new premise at western Sydney’s Chester Hill – their office is a converted shipping container – the pair is in the midst of the afternoon rush with phones constantly ringing.

When asked what it’s like managing the business and mountains of paperwork, Joy, 31, is quick to reply: "It’s like having 11 kids."

Soon after ATN’s arrival, the pair’s lunch is delivered with Scott apologetically adding "we don’t get out much".

Parents of two kids under the age of five, they’re putting in the long hours for the sake of their children’s future, they explain.

Operating in a 24-hour industry, they can barely switch off, with phone calls taken into late nights.

However, it’s their service that sets them apart.

PORT HAUL

Their nine trucks move up to 250 containers a week from Port Botany.

The business has grown substantially over the last five years but the pair has no plans on becoming the next ACFS Port Logistics, saying a lot of companies fail because they end up with too much debt and become big too quickly.

"I don’t want to tell 11 people tomorrow that they don’t have a job because we can’t pay our bills," Joy says.

The pair has grown the business strategically by dripping money into assets slowly.

They had just bought a 16-tonne Omega container-handling forklift in time for the Christmas period.

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"We went for five years without it; we only got that when we moved into this yard a couple of months ago," Joy adds.

"You have to make do with what you’ve got at the time; we never knew any better or any different.

"Previously we didn’t run any forklifts at all so everything used to be on a side loader, from empties to fulls.

"We have a driver who was with us at the time when we were doing that and he even says he doesn’t know how we used to do it the way we did it, but we made do," she says.

"I think a lot of people rush into buying these things before they can even do anything whereas we didn’t have anything new – our first brand new piece of equipment was three years in. Everything we bought before that was second hand."

GROWTH

Joy has hired three people in a single month and now has a team of five in the office.

The company runs a mix of trucks: three Mercedes Actros 2663, one Mercedes Actros 2646, a Kenworth K200, a Kenworth T408 SAR, two Scania R620 and one Freightliner Argosy.

Having previously owned second-hand vehicles, Joy and Scott are now in a position to buy new.

"It’s just easier for the drivers and they love it," Scott says.

"It keeps the drivers happy because they want new stuff and they don’t want to drive unreliable trucks where the air conditioning is going to break."

When they first started the business, the pair struggled with insurance costs. Having hired drivers with little experience, their premium was up to $25,000.

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"If you had someone with less than two years’ experience it would be that high – so we had to take a risk," Joy says.

"We hired people that hadn’t been in the industry before and trained them up and we grew through word of mouth.

"It’s a very high-turnover industry. The wharf doesn’t shut, which means we don’t shut and you have to work when the work is there. It’s weather-dependent, so if there’s a storm outside, the wharf shuts down, which means there’s no work for a week.

"We stay consistent and don’t have subcontractors for that reason; the boys know that there might be more hours this week than next week and we don’t worry about what everyone else is doing."

BARRIERS

Being a female in a male-dominated industry has its setbacks, Joy explains.

"I find my sex to be a barrier as there are not enough women in the industry," she adds.

"I find it a lot harder to deal with drivers than with brokers; I think the brokers appreciate the fact I understand enough about the industry to speak to them about what they need to know and I’m not cocky about it or arrogant.

"I’ve been here for five years so there’s definitely a lot more women now than what there was five years ago, but it’s almost like you need to swear and carry on around drivers to show that assertiveness so you don’t get pushed over."

The pair works with 20 custom brokers and their customers.

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They are exploring rail infrastructure links to avoid the burden of increasing stevedore infrastructure surcharges.

"We’ve started using rail links recently and are still investigating in whether that’s going to work for us," Scott says.

"Obviously it’s a bit more in cost; some weeks it works really well and other times it doesn’t because their train is dependent on whether the container is off the wharf, so you don’t know when it’s going to come off the ship.

"We do rail to a minimum. We won’t put everything on there so the drivers are still going to and from the wharf, and we do a lot of export stuff as well so that balances out the gaps," he adds.

"It’s a hard balance because potentially if you put everything on the rail then you do have that possibility of not having jobs, with drivers sitting around and waiting."

The pair has set the business up by investing in new equipment carefully.

"We paced ourselves and didn’t buy anything new," Joy says.

"We waited every six months – one piece of equipment at a time. If we couldn’t wait that long then whatever we needed it for had to wait, so we tried to do it slowly.

"We did the groundwork first and I think a lot of companies fail because they end up with too much debt too quick and they can’t sustain it."

UNITED

Being together for eight years and married for four, Joy and Scott know the highs and lows of a husband-and-wife business.

Willing to put in the hard work and the long hours, it’s about passing on the values to their kids one day, Joy explains.

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"It’s not as easy as it looks; a lot of people come into the industry thinking they can make a lot of money and turn it over but it’s not," she says.

"It’s not easy working with your husband first of all, we argue a lot but you need to be able to leave work at work.

"We disagree about a lot, obviously I don’t drive so what I think will work might not necessarily work so you have to be able to communicate and explain things.

"The thing I’ve struggled with initially was the big hours that Scott was doing when driving, he wasn’t home and having a newborn at the time was hard.

"Sometimes the difference was driving home and losing one and a half hours of sleep or sleeping in the truck; I would obviously rather have him sleep and rest so you have to be willing to make sacrifices.

"The values we want to pass on to our kids is that you have to work hard to get what you want; it’s not going to come to you on a silver platter, if we wanted something easy we wouldn’t be doing this."

 

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