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Europe ahoy as Supreme Freight steers steady course

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Supreme Freight Chris Green

Having navigated Supreme Freight through the choppy waters of Brexit,  Founder and Managing Director Chris Green is busy onboarding EU partners to ride the next wave of expansion.

After the significant business boost provided by Brexit, the Southampton-headquartered logistics company is back to more-or-less business as usual.

“The circumstances that Brexit created were good for us in helping customers to keep goods moving,” he says. “We’re now focusing on freight to and from the eurozone. We’re also handling more goods leaving the UK for world markets, as well as cross-border trading that doesn’t touch the UK.”

However, slow global economic recovery has been something of an anchor on profitability. “While we’re busier than ever, our profit margins have been squeezed somewhat.”

Turnover growth has been steady, though. It climbed from £125 million in the year to July 2021 to £155 million in 2022. Supreme Freight’s steady rise up The Business Magazine’s Solent 250 ranking of the region’s top privately-owned business continues, seeing it climb to 31st in 2022.

Green’s economic outlook is relatively upbeat: “Although I’d like to think that margin pressure is only a temporary blip, with the state of the global economy and high interest rates that’s unlikely. Inflationary pressure has meant people buying fewer products. That said, we might see improvements in global trade in the latter part of 2024 if global economies recover sufficiently.”

In the meantime, Supreme Freight has become more ship-shape in its operations. Having leased office space at multiple locations across Southampton, the company benefited from consolidating four small offices into a single city centre building that was purchased a year ago.

Supreme House is at the heart of the global business. Headcount has increased from 50 to 80, with most of the team based in Southampton. It also has a presence in Los Angeles, China and Hong Kong.

Shore crane loading

Green has always appreciated the value of staff loyalty. During turbulent economic times, retention is more important than ever. “We have very low staff turnover. People who leave are usually retiring.”

After all, he points out: “It’s easier to retain good staff than find and train new ones.”

The key, according to him, is in offering a broad package of support of attractive salaries, full training and support. Staff empowerment is another persuasive – and practical – incentive.

“We instil trust and confidence in our team by encouraging them to use their initiative,” he says. “We don’t micro-manage.”

Green benefits from having a strong management team. “I brought in associate directors and team leaders to give us a stronger, more flexible management structure.”

He says the decision not to lay off any staff during the pandemic is now paying dividends. A recent £750 bonus for every member of staff to help with the cost-of-living crisis was a ‘thank you’ for their support during these difficult times.

The company found it easy to reverse Covid-induced remote working. “I think we’re all happier to be back in the office, especially in one location,” he said. “It’s good for bouncing ideas off each other, also for motivation and efficiency.”

The appointment of a welfare officer demonstrates the company’s commitment to wellbeing and workplace mental health; while its sponsorship of Southampton Football Club’s Saints Foundation enables staff to participate in local community-based volunteering activities.

“It’s important for us to be able to give back to the community. Through their volunteering work, staff support young children, adults and the elderly in the local community,” he says.

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Now 62, Green has no plans to ease up. He is looking forward to the company’s 40th anniversary in a few years. He is often on the move, travelling the world nurturing contacts and links to expand the business.

It’s a far cry from his first job in shipping as a dock runner, on his bicycle, cycling around Southampton docks distributing paperwork and meeting trucks arriving on the cross-channel ferries, collecting paperwork from the drivers and taking them to Customs House for processing and customs clearance.

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