Each week, we ask small businesses key questions.
Here we speak to Ron Hardie, who left the energy industry to launch Aberdeen-based courier business Nordrop.
How and why did you start in business?
I had been working in Norway for four years in the energy sector, which involved weekly commutes from Aberdeen to Stavanger. When it became apparent my contract would not be extended, I started to look for similar roles in the sector, but without success. I was keen to stay in Aberdeen to spend more time with my family, as I had missed much of my daughter’s later primary years. I’ve always loved driving, so assessed a few options and decided to go down the route of becoming a courier driver.
How did you get to where you are today?
It has been difficult moving into a sector I had limited experience of, and there have been numerous hurdles to jump over regarding client engagement, building up a network within a competitive industry and, of course, working with contracts. I have been able to use my business skills from previous roles to negotiate with people and plan ahead, but I am still learning when it comes to who to trust and not trust, business-wise.
Who helped you?
My lovely wife, Julie, has been very supportive as we both agreed this was a bit of a gamble. In the past year I have found the Federation of Small Businesses to be invaluable. It has helped with favourable membership benefits in areas such as insurance and banking, and it is good to know I have its legal team at the end of the phone.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Starting in the business I chose was not easy and required much more attention to the sector than I thought. In order to look professional at start-up, I invested money on a website, email addresses and virtual mail and telecommunications. In hindsight, these could have all waited, as much of my business comes from social media and word of mouth.
What is your greatest achievement?
Aside from our three children, Sean, Craig and Caitlin, in March last year I opted to move from a diesel delivery vehicle to an electric one. In the 15 months since, I have performed a rate of more than 80% of my deliveries using the electric van. To date, and compared to the use of a Ford Transit, this has saved 2.75 tonnes of CO2 tail-pipe emissions in Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
There is a lot that needs be tackled, such as mistrust in Westminster, climate change, wealth inequality and the unhappiness of a lot of people.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I am hoping to build on my success with the electric van and increase the company’s zero emissions capability.
As mentioned, I used to commute from Aberdeen to Stavanger. I can’t say how many flights were involved, but it adds up to a hefty carbon footprint and I have been able to offset perhaps only six minutes of flying time for a (Boeing) 737. There is still so much more to do and I’d like to think I can contribute to a greener Aberdeen for years to come.
What do you do to relax?
Having recently added a puppy, Bran, to the family, relaxation time at home is hard to find. Believe it or not, the opportunity to drive non-stop for 30 minutes or so is a period of relaxation for me. Even better if it involves the Cairn O’ Mount.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
With the TV series Game Of Thrones just finished, I am looking for something else to get stuck into. I have just ordered the latest Stuart MacBride novel about Logan McRae. I really enjoy the series and it’ll be something to read while the van charges.
What do you waste your money on?
We have a lot of family barbecues.
How would your friends describe you?
Having just had a mini poll, the words “honest”, “reliable”, “friendly” and “compassionate” were the front-runners.
What would your enemies say about you?
I’m not sure I have any, however, some of the more aggressive road users may tell me to “speed up” as I drive economically to preserve battery power.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
At work it is usually the electric Nissan e-NV200 and at home it is a Ford Focus. I dream of getting my hands on a Tesla Model X.