Coach hire firm is on the road to success

GOING PLACES Ian Luckett, director of Lucketts coach company
GOING PLACES Ian Luckett, director of Lucketts coach company
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Eighty-six years ago a haulage firm began trundling its lorries in and out of a small depot near Wallington village, Fareham.

The firm would haul anything and everything, not least the livestock from the family farm.

HAULAGE A Luckett & Co truck idles next to its biggest customer, Schweppes

HAULAGE A Luckett & Co truck idles next to its biggest customer, Schweppes

Harry Luckett carried on carrying anything and everything up until his death in 1966, growing the firm thanks to contracts with the Schweppes bottling plant that opened its doors just behind the H Luckett depot.

The firm continued to do well, buying its fleet of vehicles from Sparshatts coach builders and enjoying such a great contract with Schweppes that the haulage firm had its own entrance into the bottling plant.

But it wasn’t to last.

Schweppes left the area and David, who took over the running of the business after Harry died, bought his first coach. ‘He drove it himself,’ said Ian Luckett, director.

FOUNDER Harry Luckett

FOUNDER Harry Luckett

‘We then had a guy who was our transport manager, got very busy with the one coach, which then wasn’t enough, so we bought another one and got a driver for it.’

That has really been the Lucketts pattern ever since the 70s, with casual expansion every time it is needed – paid for by the firm’s success.

Ian and his brother Steve – now the firm’s managing director – joined the business in the 1980s when it had a fleet of 12 coaches.

It has now got around 120 and is on the cusp of turning a family-run business with a small firm mentality into a regionally-serving large family-run business.

‘When we joined we had a company with a very strong foundation to start with,’ Ian said.

‘But we’ve had a lot to learn along the way.’

Geography has played its part in the business’s success, as when the motorway was built through Fareham the developers chose land close to the Lucketts base.

With Southampton one way, Portsmouth the other, and Winchester to the north there are potentially a million customers within a 30-minute drive in any direction.

But the real secret to the firm’s success, says Ian, is its investment in its staff.

‘You can’t underestimate the value of training,’ said Ian.

‘In our industry it has long been the case that there’s never enough training.

‘Dad used to train people how to drive coaches. He’d give them the keys and then they’d get on with it.

‘We started down the road of training a long time ago, on Dad’s instigation, really.

‘A lot of people say to us they’re really impressed with our business, but we think there is always room for a lot of improvement.’

Lucketts launched its award-winning training academy, which during the three years since it was begun has seen 100 staff, mainly starting from scratch, becoming fully-qualified coach drivers, doing it the Lucketts way.

The firm understands its drivers have to act almost like they’re part of the hospitality industry – ensuring the customer’s needs are met.

Some of the training is technical – recently the drivers were given their annual snow chain training – while some is more general and helps open career paths for all employees.

‘It’s about training and communication and ensuring staff have the right skills,’ said Ian.

That’s one of the reasons why Lucketts has joined the government-backed Growth Accelerator scheme, as a way to help its top management point the business in the right direction.

‘The business has grown considerably,’ said Ian.

‘In 2005 we took over Worthing Coaches, which was another 10 vehicles. The following April Eastbourne Coaches sold their business to us.

‘In October 2006 Helliers went bust and we took on their work, and in 2009 we started the National Express services out of Portsmouth.’

The firm also added Coliseum coaches, based in Southampton, in 2012.

Ian added: ‘All the time we were getting more and more staff. When we had 45 coaches we had 60 staff. We’ve now got around 300 people in the group as a whole.

‘It’s a different animal to manage now.’

The firm is busy working with the Growth Accelerator mentors to get its first business plan in place, as well as the business’s aims and missions at the forefront of its top level management.

‘It’s not just the family making all the decisions now,’ Ian said.

TIMELINE

1926: The company is started by Harry Luckett, the current chairman’s father. It is predominantly a haulage and storage business but also has a sideline with a family farm.

1958: The current chairman, David Luckett MBE, joins the firm.

1966: After Harry dies suddenly, David is thrust into the managing director role to drive the business.

1976: David buys the company’s first coach, believing it would be easier to deliver, in Ian Luckett’s words, ‘things that can walk on and off by themselves’.

1980s: Steve and Ian join the firm and the coaches begin to outnumber the haulage fleet. It is clear which direction the company is heading in.

2005: Worthing Coaches joins Lucketts as the company’s expansion across the south coast begins in earnest.

2006: Lucketts takes over Flagship buses, based in the Eastbourne area.

2009: Lucketts Group wins the National Express coach contract for routes up to London and Gatwick.

2012: Coliseum coaches is added to the Lucketts stable.

2013: Lucketts buys in new coaches and also expands its Wallington headquarters.