Looking back to that April day in 2010 when I received the letter telling me that Kestrel Liner Agencies Ltd were to be named in her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II birthday honours list, I still can’t believe it.
I am the boy from Romford, who left school with no qualifications, and here I am being invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. The next few months were a whirlwind to be honest, a mixture of press conferences and interviews. Over the next few years we grew our business into a global brand - first buying certain assets of Johnson Stevens when it went into administration, and opening as JSA Global in Felixstowe and Dover, then opening Kestrel Liner Agencies (Manchester) Ltd, swiftly followed by San Francisco and Cape Town South Africa.
Fast forward to 2015 and now our amazing group of companies employ over 120 people and has offices strategically located throughout the world.
In the autumn of 2015 we will open in Ireland and Namibia, and have our eyes firmly fixed on the Asian markets as we see them heading downwards and people looking to pull out and retrench.
We represent more shipping lines to more destinations than all of our competitors put together. We have formed strategic partnerships and joint ventures with like-minded companies and are seeing our business grow into a truly global brand. After 21 years at the helm I still enjoy finding creative solutions for our customers.
Thinking back, we were revolutionary in our approach to the liner agency business. We transferred our phones when the office closed to our mobiles so customers and principals could contact us. We allowed customers to print bills of lading in their own office, we were first to combine liner agency with forwarding and NVOCC activity - these things are now all taken for granted as the norm.
But one thing I would not follow was the ridiculous cost cutting exercise spearheaded by the multinationals to outsource the back office to India. Instead, we had some of our back office business moved to our port operations office in Dover that already works 24/7. Here our customers feel comfortable speaking to our own dedicated people who are truly Kestrel/JSA people with intrinsic knowledge and understanding of our life blood. This has delivered significant benefits to our business and will do the same as we innovate in the coming decade.
To our phenomenal team, our loyal customers and amazing principals that had the vision to believe in a boy from Romford, thank you! The journey so far has been incredible. Best of all, Kestrel was and still remains the only shipping company to receive The Queens Award for International Trade. A true testament to all that our team achieved.