The Entrepreneur: Kate Lester, Diamond Logistics

The woman behind the successful UK courier franchise discusses plans for overseas expansion, recruitment, and "gormless" university graduates...

Founder: Kate Lester
Company: Diamond Logistics
Description in one line: The UKs fastest growing courier company
Previous companies: Established DL in 1992 as small local courier co. Consulted, owned and established various businesses in logistics based environ between 1999 and 2011.
Turnover: £5m
12 month target: £15m

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • The local national courier partnering with small and medium enterprises to deliver promises and profits with one stop logistics.
  • Same day, overnight and international plus local storage and despatch facilities for online traders and businesses with remote storage requirements.
  • Non asset-based collection model run by regional franchises.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Seeing my management team blossom in their new directorial roles and opening our 20th depot.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Sales pipeline activity, daily job totals, bank balance.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We plan to roll-out the franchise model to Europe as soon as we have the UK covered, and there after will pursue the US and Australia (with master franchisors already chomping at the bit!)

Describe your growth funding path:

It’s been funded via a £200,000 loan from Metro Bank. Working capital (invoice discounting) provided by Ultimate Finance which will take us to £15m approximately. Looking at investment now.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Cloud-based booking apps and mobile tracking.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

£40m turnover. Then we’ll go for Europe.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Accepting failures in the franchise network.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Thinking that everyone we recruit will be as dedicated as my HQ team, and having a model reliant on their performance. It was tricky funding the turnover lag.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Employment law.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

They don’t look outward enough – you can get very insular and inward thinking when you run your own business. Learning, staying abreast of new methodology and trends and hanging out with people who know more than you do is essential in fulfilling your potential which is why groups such as The Supper Club are so useful.

How will your market look in three years?

Massive evolution in home delivery. Radical rewriting of traditional business models to embrace devolution from corporate models. Pursuit of life and happiness shaking up 100 hour working weeks. The self employment revolution is starting!

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Get used to feeling uncomfortable. That sick feeling in your stomach? It doesn’t mean it’s wrong – it probably means you are reaching peak performance!

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

My Brighton flat – I escape to the seaside every weekend.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Both. I learnt it on the job, but there is stuff good business graduates know that I have just found out about. Equally I have come across some very gormless university graduates with no practical experience…

What would make you a better leader?

To set a better example to my team about working hours – I work long hours – they copy it. Not good.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:

Business app: Dropbox  Personal app: Fitbit

Business book:

Will It Make The Boat Go Faster by Ben Hunt Davies


(will not be published)