NAME: David Burke
YOUR BUSINESS / ORGANISATION: Alpha Executive Cars
YOUR TITLE IN THAT BUSINESS: Managing Director
WHEN DID THE BUSINESS LAUNCH?: April 2013
ELEVATOR PITCH – TELL US WHAT YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS DOES IN A NUTSHELL:
We provide corporate chauffeuring and executive-level airport transfers – or as some would regularly say, “posh taxis”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BUSINESS’S USP OVER YOUR PEERS?
We provide a unique service based around a high-spec MPV (the Mercedes V-Class) as our vehicle of choice. These provide unrivalled leg room and space to relax or work, and virtually unlimited luggage space. We have also adopted a “back to basics” approach to our service level – timeliness and driver/vehicle presentation being key to this. And a personal mission to ensure that our drivers are the most highly qualified – we work with the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) to train all our drivers to their “F1RST” standard.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST BUSINESS CHALLENGE SO FAR?
Initially, establishing a reputation and building a customer base, and proving that we were different to clients’ potential previous experiences in our industry. It was hard not to devalue our service by undercutting our competitors, but sticking to our guns and believing in value-led pricing has stood us in good stead and led to a loyal and trusting set of clients.
AND YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS?
Our greatest success, or rather, the one I’m most proud of is sweeping the board at the Professional Driver Magazine “QSi Awards” in 2016. We won gold awards for “Small Chauffeur Company of the Year” and “Best New Start-Up” and one of my team, Andrew, won gold for “Professional Driver of the Year”. It was the biggest “haul” for any company on the night, in front of a huge quantity of industry peers.
WHAT DOES THE NEXT 12 MONTHS HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU?
A holiday at some point would be nice! Our fourth year, this year, has been all about introducing new software and processes to streamline the operation, and building the team size and capability. So next year will be all about growth – we’re launching a brand new website that will be the most up-to-date and forward-looking in our industry, at least locally anyway. Alongside this, later next year, will be a new cinematic promotional video to really demonstrate our service and what we believe in as a company. These, and building on the success of our new software, will allow us to take on many more new clients with no fears of over-stretching ourselves.
AND IN FIVE YEARS TIME YOU’D LIKE THE BUSINESS TO?
…have doubled in size, but without getting too ungainly – I’ve always believed in slow and steady growth, with zero compromises on standards.
NATURALLY, YOU WANT TO REACH CUSTOMERS AND SUPPLIERS AND THOSE WHO CAN HELP YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS SUCCEED. WHO MIGHT YOU WANT TO HEAR FROM?
We’ve got some great suppliers in the field of web design and development, photography and videography, virtual telephony and administration services, who are key to our success at present. Customer-wise, we’d always love to hear from businesses that require our services, either for their staff or visiting clients – especially those with regular requirements for travel to and from airports, or into London or similar.
WHEN YOU FEEL TROUBLED OR ‘BEATEN’ AT ANY STAGE IN BUSINESS LIFE, WHAT’S YOUR SECRET TO RALLYING YOURSELF?
Speaking to other business people – we all go through the same highs and lows and gaining encouragement or a boost from them is always great. I’ve recently taken on someone to help me manage the day-to-day operations who is proving fantastic (thank you Mark!) when it comes to taking away a lot of the administration stress – this is giving me time back to spend with family which is always a great getaway from business worries and stress.
DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR, OR HAVE YOU USED ONE? IF SO, HOW WAS THAT?
Not formally, no. I’ve got a few people in business that I’m acquainted with, that I admire and like to catch up with on a semi-regular basis and bounce ideas and thoughts off. In this job, I also get to spend a lot of time with some incredibly successful individuals too, so I gain a lot of free advice and support that a lot of people wouldn’t. As I seek to grow the business next year, I may well be asking a couple of those I’m acquainted with to formally become mentors.
WHAT’S CHANGING ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY THAT MAKES IT SUCH A GOOD SPACE TO BE IN?
All the talk at the moment is about autonomous vehicles. It’s making for an uncertain future, but I still feel that people will need the service element of chauffeuring for many years to come. I hope that this will stand us in good stead, as we’re a very service-centric company – those in the industry who don’t focus on their service standards will be the first to be wiped out by autonomy.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WANTING TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY SPACE?
Don’t. Run away. Hide. There are a million easier things to do….! In all seriousness though, don’t underestimate how much you have to give to become successful – highly unsociable hours, funny sleeping patterns, lots of dead time spent loitering in strange parts of the country waiting for clients. But if you decide it’s for you – focus on service and quality ahead of anything else.
THE PLUG BIT:
We can be found in a myriad of places – just bear with us whilst we move from our ageing website to something far more incredible in the new year:
Facebook: Alpha Executive Cars
AND NOW THE SLIGHTLY LESS CORPORATE BIT…
BEST THING ABOUT EAST ANGLIA: The people – Suffolk is home to a host of clever, funny, interesting, creative and diverse people. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of these people, that I can now proudly call friends, since starting this business. And we all get to live in such a picturesque and tranquil county that I’m proud of.
YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS:
Ambitious. Humble. Customer-driven (I’m self-excusing it being four words by using a hyphen!)
Regaining my private pilot’s licence – I got it when I was 17, kindly funded by the RAF, but couldn’t afford to renew it every year. I’ll get airborne again at some point, I hope!
FANTASY DINNER PARTY GUESTS:
Ian Lavender and Clive Dunn – I’d love to talk Dad’s Army for hours with them
Theo Paphitis – his attitude to business is incredible and I find him highly inspirational
Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar – the legendary commanding officer of 617 Squadron (“The Dambusters”)
Stephen Fry – because, who wouldn’t want him at their dinner party?
WHERE YOU LIVE, WHERE YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM (AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE), HOW OLD YOU ARE, WHO YOU LIVE WITH:
Born in Cambridge, but purely as my parents were working there at the time. I was back in my true home town of Bury St. Edmunds by the age of 3. I’m 34 now, albeit I feel 54 some days…! But no-one said this business lark was easy!