Founded in 1978 in Retford, we have developed Ballards Removals steadily over 40 years.
I’m Richard Ballard, the founder of Ballards Removals, and I was born in 1952. After leaving school in 1967, I worked down the local mine, Bevercotes Colliery, as a mechanical fitter, maintaining coal face machinery, then in 1973 joined the merchant navy as a marine engineer, working on 9 different vessels visiting 49 countries over a period of 5 years.
Just after leaving the merchant navy in 1978, I met Janette. At that time, I’d bought a transit van and was operating as what would now be called a “white van man”. Janette helped to establish and expand the delivery business, both with personal savings and her admin skills. For the first couple of years, Janette worked as a social worker during the day and a van delivery driver evenings and weekends, before leaving her job in 1980 to help run the business full time.
By 1980, we both worked as sub-contractors to TNT, with a van each, making deliveries to local shops, agricultural merchants, and cleaning product manufacturers. With a healthy turnover of over £600 per month, we were able to save some cash to build the business. We purchased a 7.5T furniture lorry and I took the necessary exams and obtained the operators licences needed to become a small removals contractor. With the help of some small ads in the local newspaper, we soon started to get some work and started the steep learning curve of running a professional removals business. Janette concentrated on packing and admin, whilst I did the removals, with some help with loading and offloading. We also kept the small vans busy with deliveries.
Customers started asking us to store the household goods, so we rented a small warehouse to accommodate this. By now we’d had our first son, Matthew (soon to be followed by our second son Joe) so we started learning how to juggle running your own business with bringing up a family. The business continued to evolve, with steady growth. Our approach was very conservative – if we couldn’t afford something, we didn’t have it. By the mid-1980s we were becoming the remover of choice in our area, so we decided to focus on the removals and storage business, letting the small van deliveries stop when the vehicles needed replacing.
Business continued to grow and by 1989 we needed more space as we had the furniture and belongings of 20 or so customers in our rented warehouse. A ¾ acre plot became available to purchase in the Hallcroft area of Retford. It was just a patch of field really and we paid £19k for it, raising the cash by re-mortgaging our house. We then approached the bank for a load to build a warehouse. We borrowed £100k, with an interest rate of 11%, which nearly crippled us for a while, but we managed to sublet half of the warehouse to a local company, which helped.
We consolidated our business over the next 2 years and by 1992, with the warehouse up and running, and almost full, we bought out a local competitor. This gave us 2 large removal vans and a smaller one. In 1992 we took over another competitor, giving us a total of 3 large vans and 2 smaller ones. We also had 6 full time staff by this point.
We wanted to continue building the business and Janette and I attended some training. That made us realise that we were too involved in working “in” the business and we should spend more time working “on” it. We took the decision to step back slightly from the day to day work, and with hindsight that was a very sound decision. We continued to expand the size and scope of the business, always looking for better methods of working and creating a strong a loyal team, with the Ballards family at its heart. During this time we started supporting our local communities with donations for raffles, free storage for charities and free transport for good causes, and we still do that now, whenever we’re able to.
By 1997, the business outgrew the Retford depot, which we sold and invested the proceeds back into the business. We moved 6 miles from Retford to Tuxford, where we had twice the space and room for our fleet of 6 vehicles and our team of 15 staff. We continued to expand our customer base and services, including the development of our van-hire business and “self-storage” services, whilst also expanding into European and Worldwide removals. After 10 years in Tuxford, we were getting a bit short on space again, so in February 2017 we acquired land at Markham Moor, just off the A1. 18 months later, we were delighted to move into our new Removals and Storage hub, which has a larger storage warehouse, much more outside storage space and more self-storage capacity. The new hub is easy for customers to access whenever they need to and features the highest levels of security to keep our customers’ furniture and possessions safe and secure at all times.
We are still heavily involved in the business, working closely with our sons Matthew and Joe and enjoy helping Ballards Removals to continue to grow and achieve recognition for its capabilities and excellent standards of service. We’ve won several awards in recent years, starting with the 2016 Family Business Awards, where we were winners in the “service Excellence” category. We are also a BAR approved training centre for removals skills.
So this is by no means the end of the story. Janette and I continue to love working in the family business and helping Ballards Removals to continue going from strength to strength.
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