Your Business: Opportunity-minded boss always ready to pitch in

By Gill South

Steve Bonnici believes online retailing offers a huge opportunity for his business. Photo / Richard Robinson
Steve Bonnici believes online retailing offers a huge opportunity for his business. Photo / Richard Robinson

Urgent Couriers' Steve Bonnici would be an obvious candidate if New Zealand ever had an Undercover Boss series.

"I come to work in a uniform and help out sometimes," he says. "What you get is to really sense the mood of what's going on when I'm out on the road," he says. The last week of Christmas everyone at work who can drive a car just gets drafted in, he adds.

Bonnici became a car courier in his gap year after school. He didn't make it to university until doing an MBA some years later.

"I really liked the industry," he says. From 1984 to 1989 he worked for Sub60, then decided at the age of 24: "I can do this better."

"I still remember our original selling pitch. It was: 'We are going to actually do what everyone is promising to do'," he says.

Urgent Couriers does Auckland (point-to-point) deliveries within 15 minutes to three hours and offers same-day nationwide deliveries.

The Kingsland-based company now has a $10 million turnover, with 21 staff and 95 contractors. Bonnici comes from an entrepreneurial family, his father Allan had a transport business with his brothers, Bonnici Coachlines.

His father was a shareholder in Urgent Couriers until 2004 when Bonnici bought him out and his father remains a director.

"We've gone from push bikes and cars to push bikes, cars, vans and trucks," says Bonnici.

"We have got customers from 1989 who are still using us now. We have done a lot of work in the ad industry, for companies like Saatchi & Saatchi."

National Bank was also one of their earliest customers.

Thanks to email, Urgent Couriers' business has changed markedly since it started. "Things have radically changed since then. About 75 per cent of our business was fast documents," he says. The amount of work from law firms was massive.

Online retailing should provide some opportunities for the company, which does corporate deliveries for fresh fruit and vegetable online business Produce Pronto.

Internet business has got a lot of potential. "We are on the cusp," says Bonnici. Its Urgent Tonight service, which provides "same evening" home deliveries, could work well for internet retailers, especially those with Auckland warehouses.

"What time do people shop online? In the evening." Currently, the best you can get is your order the next day or the day after. "Look out for us to be a disrupter in the residential space," says Bonnici.

"We've been talking to a lot of online retailers who have said: "If you could do it, it would be so good for us," he says.

The Global Financial Crisis has hit the courier industry pretty hard, says Bonnici, who has seen a 25 per cent downturn in business. He is making it a "one-man crusade" to protect the incomes of owner-drivers if pricing becomes too aggressive.

To maintain growth during the recession, Bonnici bought Inter City Courier last year. Based in Albany, it had a truck service and has increased the size of Urgent Couriers by a quarter.

Urgent Couriers was the first transport organisation to go carbon zero.

"In an industry that burns fossil fuel for a living, we should be doing the best that we can within the constraints of the industry," says Bonnici, a former national board member of the Sustainable Business Network.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 29 Nov 2014 18:34:32 Processing Time: 484ms