written by Jimmy Wong, posted on 3rd June 2013
Hong Kong born, Arthur Lau is the co-founder of Bullet Transportation, a prominent logistics company that specializes in removal, storage and re-distribution services for students and small businesses across the United Kingdom. A lawyer by trade and an entrepreneur by heart, Arthur co-founded the company with his friends when he was pursuing law school in the United Kingdom. Via his personal experiences as a student and a local consumer, Arthur saw an opportunity to develop an entirely unique business that based on and capable of satisfying actual student and local needs.
Arthur speaks with us briefly today about his business and some of his thoughts about business management and development.
Arthur, how did Bullet Transportation come about?
When I was in my 2nd year of university in the United Kingdom, I started contemplating about my grandfather, a notable business man and his business endeavors. At that point of time, I kind of thought I wanted to expand a business as well but I was thinking about what kinds of things I’d want to do if I was to take on an entrepreneurial journey. So as a student and in my own experiences in university, I found out there was a real need for student removal for national but especially international students. It was perfect because at that point of time, a very good friend of mine called me up and told he was looking to invest in something as well. So I proposed the idea and we eventually got another friend together and started Bullet Transportation.
We came together to initiate the idea. One of the first things we did was really working on finding out what the market of the business was going to be. We really settled on focusing, as a prominent aspect, on my initial ideas about students. This was because students had a serious logistical need, especially international ones, they have to move back home term after term, and move back to the university at the start of the term. Some of the problems they faced was a sense of loss over finding the right logistical service with the big corporates and for those who try to move themselves, as with the national students, their cars and usual mode of transportation were not enough. So essentially this was a very specific market and a prominent niche market that we heavily work on.
But you also work with local businesses, isn’t that right?
Yes indeed, we work not only with students but also with a lot of the local businesses around England. We have a lot of contracts with small businesses especially.
What made you decide to tackle businesses as well?
I think there was a real commercial need. Our company is based locally and usually students are only in need of our services in certain times of the year. So in order to continuously generate revenue, we wanted to also offer our services to clients who will be in constant need of logistics and businesses naturally fit into our picture.
Why do you think you have met so much success with working with small businesses over your competitors?
I think its ultimately because of our corporate and business culture. Even though, we may not have the same costs yields as big companies, what we have is something they don’t. We are locally friendly. I guess you can say its because of our roots, you see. As a student and local consumer previously, I understand the real needs, concerns and wishes of local people. What has resulted from this, is this emphasis that we create a sort of personal relationship with our local clients, be they businesses or what not. We work on these relationships and really build personal trust. Whereas a lot of the big companies and corporate bodies they kind of lack this kind of personal approach, as such I think many people including small businesses have chosen us over them.
What would you say is the major challenge in starting up Bullet Transportation?
The major challenge was certainly with regards to how do we get proper representation of our services, especially with students because we wanted to become the number one provider of such services to students. So the major question was how do we market our services to students in universities across the United Kingdom. So through much contemplation, we though of an equation to better this problem and that was to locate in every university a student representative. So the first point of call for students would be other students! It would very much be student to student communication. This is good because it emphasizes that personal relationship and culture I have been just talking about. Via this way, they will be able to maintain and foster a personal relationship with real understanding of needs.
Have you faced any major problems so far?
Not really. The only problems we have so far, is keeping track of everything relative to growth. This is because we do both students and business logistics now, so we need to focus on separating our management of the two. Adequately maintaining the accounts for them and managing all of our operations in order.
Would you say the management of your business has been very hard so far?
Yes definitely. The management of our operations is very hard indeed. It may be surprising to some people but it is especially hard in dealing with students as compared to businesses. This is because students’ needs and nature are very dynamic. Its hard when students finish at different times and require such services in university and especially so when they have very different demands usually. Some students have tons of stuff to move home, others very little. So we try our best to manage and balance it.
Has it been hard to stay competitive today?
No. With students, we have been going very strong since start up. However, with businesses, I think we can do better. We have to generate more trust with them and so long as that is there, between our company and business-clients, I think we will remain viable and competitive over others.
One of our themes earlier this week on Facebook was whether paid advertising was more important than word of mouth, what do you think?
To be honest, I think word of mouth is perhaps most important. Especially for small and growing businesses in this kind of context. Definitely, advertisements work but at the initial stage I think advertising is irrelevant.This is because you are competing in the beginning with big business. I think you would want to build up an atmosphere and an industry reputation for advertisements to have substance. So when they see the advertisement they will also know of the substance. You want people to know of the company and business to such an extent they say: “Oh! I’ve heard of it!” and by the time they see the ad, they say: “Oh! I know of it!”.
What have you learnt with pursuing your venture?
I’ve learned that there is even more hard work in ventures than anything else, like a job. There might also be some draw backs. Most difficulty in starting your own business would certainly be in management. However, I think I’ve learned that it is also important to have a broad and creative view to solve problems in order to succeed in ventures. So for me it would be to say that, we must create different ideas to solve our issues and we must just work at it and never give in.
Could you give an advice to entrepreneurs out there reading your interview?
Sure. As an entrepreneur I’ve learnt never to give up. Even where there is failure, we need to move on. Get a good plan of the time scale of your ventures and stay with your time table. Most importantly, know the market, research it and also try to test your research and plans and after that phase you’ll know what to expect from your business. If its not what you expected, remodel it and make it sustainable.
How did you test our Bullet Transportation initially?
It was a very active process. When we were in the second year of university, we tested it out with stalls. We had a list of questions and questionnaires to ask people, what sort of service they’d want. It was very easy to cater to that after that.
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