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How James Moore built Fleet Dynamics into a force

How James Moore built Fleet Dynamics into a force

There are thousands of reasons why starting a business whilst still in school is a bad idea; but for James Moore, serial entrepreneur and the owner o

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There are thousands of reasons why starting a business whilst still in school is a bad idea; but for James Moore, serial entrepreneur and the owner of leading truck sales and repair company, Fleet Dynamics, it was just the perfect time to get his first venture off the ground.

“I started delving in entrepreneurship when I was still at school in Durban. The first venture that I started was before everyone started selling soccer and rugby memorabilia; I was printing caps and T-Shirts for one of the big soccer teams – that was without their permission. Back then, they did not have any and I saw an opportunity,” Moore remembers.

“So, I would be dropped off at the stadium with one or two guys helping me. I would sit with the box of stock and the two guys would go around selling. This actually worked for several games until one day when one of my guys was strong-armed back to me.”

They were taken to the changing rooms of Kings Park stadium where he was quizzed about his operation.

“I proposed that instead of them shutting me down, we do a joint venture. I would continue doing all the printing and they would sell the merchandise and pay me a cut.”

Perhaps impressed by the young man’s business acumen, the team agreed and the arrangement worked for around a year during Moore’s Standard 8/9.

“The operation grew bigger and bigger until one day when they send me a massive order. After I delivered it, I never heard from them again and they never paid me – that was my first business lesson!” he says.

While doing his second year at varsity, the bug bit again and he started an importing business called Proway focussing mainly distributing some of the world’s best wind surfing and sporting equipment brands.

“The business did very well as a way of making money, travelling and learning practical business while I was studying but I had to close it when we had Fleet Dynamics running,” Moore described. 

Establishing Fleet Dynamics

Fleet Dynamics, which is based in Port Elizabeth was founded in 1999.

“We started out of the boot of a car with one mechanic doing fleet audits and minor repairs. While I maintained my day job to pay the bills, my wife (then girlfriend), worked at night to get fleet reports and invoicing done,” he said.

“I sold everything I owned including furniture and Standard Bank brilliantly assisted with a R10 000 overdraft as bridging finance to keep us afloat for the first few months.”

The company grew and they later moved into a small building and hired more staff.

“As technology improved and trucks became more advanced, we looked to secure OE relationships – BPW Axles, Afrit and GRW Trailer Manufacturers; then an IVECO Truck Dealership, then UD Trucks Dealership in East London, then a Volvo and Renault Trucks Dealership in East London,” Moore explained.

Today, the company carries out a myriad of repairs including in-house electrical repairs, welding and fabrication, diagnostic tests, general servicing, parts supply as well as being the only accredited Eastern Cape workshop to carry out repairs on BPW axle trailers.

In addition, Fleet Dynamics Group is also the official dealer for Iveco in Port Elizabeth, Volvo/ Renault and UD Trucks in the Eastern East London, and UD Trucks in Mthatha. It now generates in excess of R130 million a year and won the UD Trucks Geared for Success Competition Medium Dealer Category in 2014 – not bad for a company started by someone who never wanted anything to do with vehicles.

“My dad is a qualified engineer and worked at Toyota trucks for around 27 years. I had told myself I would stay clear of the trucks business but look at where we are now.”

One thing he knew for sure though was that he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

“Even going to university was a problem for me because I just wanted to get into business – eventually I had to relent and did a BCom in Economics. I think I was quiet headstrong and independent from any early age – I was Head Boy at Durban High School, and I always wanted to be a master of my own destiny,” Moore explained.

In 2015, Fleet Dynamics saw further expansion with the complete overhaul of their East London as well as beating their sales records in June, August and October.

“Between September and October, we took orders for more than 20 extra heavy commercial vehicles. We have very blessed and very lucky to receive so many orders at the end of the year in a subdued market,” he said.

“Staff-wise, we are also trying to do our bit and have taken on-board apprentices for skills development in our East London and Mthatha branches. We are also mentoring apprentices from within our company so as to develop them for future opportunities within the business.”

He said that they would carry this momentum into in 2016 with the upgrading of the Port Elizabeth and Mthatha dealerships.

“We are definitely seeing a lot of business potential in the Border-Kei area because of increased government expenditure on infrastructure projects,” Moore said.

“There is also a lot entrepreneurial spirit in that region so much that it has become a small, self-sustaining economy that is governed by its own rules. For example, there is more of cash transactions that happen in there unlike in the greater economy, which is credit based. It’s probably one of the reasons why the region is seeing sustained growth at a time when the economies of the Metropoles are battling.”

Other businesses

Besides Fleet Dynamics, Moore runs Thule Roofracks and Thule Brink in Port Elizabeth and East London.

“We also have other business interests running that I will not mention here.”

Moore advises aspiring entrepreneurs trust their intuition.

“Even if people try to talk you out of it, many times if your initial gut feel was that it is going to be brilliant – then it is probably going to be brilliant! If you first thought it won’t work, usually it won’t,” he explains.

“The next thing is to do your proper diligence and put in hard work. I have tried many things on my entrepreneurial journey and for every business that succeeded there are actually about three or four ideas that failed.  In business, there is no one with a Midas touch – you have to work hard and be able to recognise when an idea is not going to work.”

He said a good team was also essential for business success; “I must say, I have a great team because what we have achieved so far is not because of me driving them but because they are highly motivated.

“I also think, as an entrepreneur, know your own strengths and weaknesses as well as to know the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals of your team so that you balance them out. You can’t rely on one individual in the team but must rely on it as a whole unit. So once you know your team members, you can get the best out of them!

“Again, if you don’t know anything, maybe about business financials, seek advice from someone who does.” 

He said it is also important to always have a Plan B and to plan six months ahead.

“As an entrepreneur and a businessman, I always say to my staff my job is no longer the day-to-day running of the company but to steer us and to position our business to negate potential problems and to exploit potential opportunities that may arise at least six months in advance.”

Despite business challenges in the Eastern Cape like low capital inflows and poor economies of scale, he remains an optimist.

“There is a lot of potential for business in the province but, currently, you have to physically go out there and knock on doors – even in rural areas and farms, to make it.

“That is going to change in five years. I always say to outsiders, I totally believe in the Eastern Cape, in Port Elizabeth and East London; despite our best efforts not to grow, it is too much of a beautiful province with too much of untapped natural wealth for it not to grow. Hence, I bet you we will soon be booming – businesses from across the country have seen it and are beginning to invest here,” he said.

“I have always been optimistic in everything that I do; you can choose to see the glass of water as half-empty or half-full! I believe we would not have grown our business to where we are now if we had been in Cape Town or Johannesburg as the bigger companies would have gone out of their way to sort us out – operating in the Eastern Cape, you are kind of working under the radar.”

With plus or minus 90 people working for him, Moore said that his leadership style is to keep an open door and his staff can chat to him about anything that affects the quality of their life and their work, including salaries, “and they can even call me after-hours if they don’t find me down during the day as I am always up and about”.

Away from business, Moore says his other passions are family and sport.

“I still paddle actively; I wind surf; I mountain bike and I still enjoy off-road motorcycling. I still do mountain biking and wind surfing competitively while I have been involved in various canoeing competitions but not seriously.

“When I start something, I fully commit to it. For example, within two years of joining mountain biking, I had competed in almost every major competition in South Africa. Then I get bored, and go on to find another thing.” “My day usually starts in the mornings with an early morning jog or cycling, then to the office. After work, in the evening, I make time for my family, when they are asleep, I can then put in two or three hours of work – due to age, I have cut that down to three nights a week, it used to more many hours every night when we were growing the business.”

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