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Q&A

Q&A with Kate Lester, Founder of Diamond Logistics

Thursday 5 October 2017

Kate Lester

Kate Lester is the founder of Diamond Logistics

25 years ago, Kate started Diamond Logistics, simply because she had the opportunity to do so – growing up with both parents having their own small businesses, Kate always wanted to work for herself. From reading business books at the age of 15 to focusing her studies on economics, it was running her own business, rather than the courier world, that began the journey of Diamond Logistics. The successful logistics business has evolved from modest beginnings, to a national multi-site operation; existing to build businesses, on the one stop logistics platform.

We caught up with Kate to find out more about her day-to-day life as a successful entrepreneur and the advice she gives to those thinking about going down the franchising route.

What time does your alarm go off?

5am, get up, have a cup of tea, do an hour (or so) work, then take the dog for walk – get into the office for 7:30am - 8am, have coffee and so it begins!

What are the key tactics you implement to maintain your company culture as you scale?

Our company culture is everywhere; be it through daily actions and communication or induction and refresher training. We have value champions for the team, franchises and suppliers, and have our values displayed on the walls. We use them daily – our values define every breathing moment.

What systems have you set up in your business to help it grow?

It’s all about the Book of Diamond (our operating bible) and MyDiamond our online system that will eventually be our entirely integrated work stream. It ensures consistent level of delivery of service and performance as individuals.

How have you built your team to drive growth?

We focus on our key purpose rather than incentives, which is building businesses with our logistics platform. If we fulfil our purpose and, build the businesses of our clients and franchises – then our team, with our support, nurturing and training, build their careers.

We have a performance culture so people are awarded for great performance – but bonuses can be counterproductive.

What is your management style?

Passionate, direct and caring.

What one ability do you have that you think has helped you scale?

The ability to see the big picture and the detail simultaneously. Great for impact assessment and long-term vision.

What piece of technology could you not live without, and why?

My iPhone. Why? It’s an iPhone!

What techniques do you revise to grow as an entrepreneur?

I’ve been quite critical and direct – I’m working on not telling people what they’ve done wrong but helping them discover it themselves. And slowing down to go faster – patience!

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

I don’t do any work whatsoever at the weekends. I have a high maintenance Dalmatian and a lot of friends and family to drag me away from my desk!

What is your greatest fear?

Boredom.

Recommend one book to fellow entrepreneurs, and what key lessons did you learn from it?

88 The Narrow Road by Felix Dennis; “Those who walk the narrow road, walk in single file – shadows plague each wary step, hazards haunt each mile”.

Why did you join The Supper Club?

I needed to learn from people with bigger businesses than mine about how to scale.  

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve learnt from the Club?

Too hard to name one - there’s many; that my ambitions were more than possible - and that I should stretch myself more; to recruit the best people you can(t) afford and; to recruit an MD before you are on your knees, as it will take 18 months before you feel the burden lightening!

If you could go back ten years and give yourself one piece of advice, what it be?

Wear sunscreen. Seriously though, my business advice would be; don’t be afraid of scale.

We were tiny for 20 years out of fear of the consequences of scaling (risk of failure and for me, losing my income mostly, as sole provider in my household). But actually, scaling has been essential for us to survive and thrive – the economies of scale, the ability to invest, the ability to afford amazing people, has all enabled us to find our very own niche, which is actually a lot more stable than the knife edge of small business. So, go for it!

What one piece of advice would you give to those thinking about going down the franchising route?

Be more prescriptive than you’d ever imagine you’d have to be, and assign one person solely responsible for maintaining the key manual to the business - use this manual as the basis of EVERYTHING.

Ensure you incentivise good company behaviour, and penalise bad. Recruit slowly. Why? Because every quick recruit has been one based on enthusiasm, not a meticulous review of the people involved. And in a true partnership – you are going to be doing business with these people for YEARS so you need to like them, you need to trust them, and ultimately you need to believe in them to deliver.

What they say and do over 3-6 months will be a far better indicator than simply throwing down their franchise fee and opening a depot. 

We’ve completely shifted our recruitment process – its very much an application process now and it take 6 months. As a result, we have much better depots, lower attrition, and better performance. All good!

Looking ahead ten years, what is the biggest opportunity or threat to your industry that you are preparing for?

Biggest opportunity is in outsourcing logistics and boom in fulfilment. Happy days indeed.

To connect with Kate on LinkedIn - click here