Barry the Cabby – An Ordinary Hero

By April 18, 2011Business

Recently I was in Morpeth working for the wonderful Clore Leadership Programme. Barry from Rusty’s Taxis drove me back from (the also wonderful) Linden Hall to Newcastle train station. He charged me an £18 fixed fee, as opposed to the £42 I paid to get there in a metered cab the night before. He told me their story.

About a year ago, a husband-and-wife team set up Rusty’s Taxis, buying in Barry’s cab. In a year they have grown from receiving around 57 calls a week to receiving over 1,200. Their secret? Fixed fees. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And they are way cheaper than the competition. In fact, they have recently introduced a business special for the Morpeth square mile – a £1.99 flat fee between 9am and 5pm – and they are cleaning up. So much so that an investor has just agreed to put £1m into the business. In the last month, Barry has brought three lucrative accounts into the firm. He told me about winning their most recent account. A chance chat with a Freemason in his cab netted him the right number to call, and a very honest conversation with a rather difficult lady about their approach got him and his bosses that all-important meeting. Within the hour they were signing a contract, because their fixed fee approach was so much more attractive than the competition’s. And at the meeting, Barry’s boss announced that he was adding a Jag to the fleet, to be Barry’s reward for bringing in the new contract. In future, Barry will receive shares in the business every Christmas as a bonus. Barry’s story, and the story of Rusty’s, is a mixture of serendipity, persistence, business nous, and altruism.

For instance, one of their accounts is with Holiday Inn. As Whizz Kidz is Holiday Inn’s officially sponsored charity, Rusty’s’ drivers are donating £1 to the charity for every fare, as a thank you for the account, which cements this important relationship and benefits a very worthwhile charity. Barry told me that Rusty’s were also sponsoring hanging baskets at derelict shop sites in Morpeth as part of Morpeth in Bloom. This has helped Morpeth to win Silver, and Rusty’s gets free advertising on the derelict shop-fronts. And recently the new Humber community radio station contacted Rusty’s, who had been thinking about opening a new office, to offer them a year’s free use of their new premises in a roomy old fire station, in exchange for putting the radio station’s logo on their cars.

For Rusty’s, it’s all about volume, and knowing the bylaws. The competition has complained about their fees to the council, but the set tariffs are a maximum, so Rusty’s is free to charge less if they want to take the risk. In a community where every penny counts, their fixed and highly competitive fees give them the edge, and their customers love them for it. Volume does the rest, allowing them to cope with increases in fuel and operating costs, and, while they are not millionaires, they make a good honest living, serving their community.

Hurray for Barry.

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