CLIENT SHOUT OUT
Katie Warrington | Relationship Partner, Cooper Parry
“Together with my team of audit and tax specialists, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know James Hyde and his fast growing business, James and James.
It’s been inspiring to see how he has been able to grow revenue by 50% each year over the last 3 years – taking it to approximately £16m in 2019 – and growing the number of employees to over 100.
It’s great to be working with him and his fellow directors since they’ve taken investment from LDC to invest in a larger fulfilment centre to continue to help hundreds of online brands to scale up.”
In 2010, James Hyde co-launched a small e-commerce fulfilment business in Cambridgeshire. Armed with a plan and a truckload of passion, but next to no capital, he rented a dusty corner of a warehouse and built an office using doors and windows donated by his friends and family. Ten years later, James’s start-up is a multimillion-pound Sunday Times Fast Track 100 company that recently raised more than £11m from private equity firm LDC.
It’s been one hell of a journey. James has piloted the company from boot-strap to mid-size corporate, and is now headquartered in Northampton. It all began when James (Hyde) and James (Strachan) noticed that the fulfilment industry was ripe for modernisation.
He says: “When the internet came along, companies that had done logistics in the 1980s and 1990s were being asked by their clients: ‘Can you fulfil our new online orders?’ They said yes they could but did so using old techniques. We saw that there was massive room for improvement, so we built our own technology. We self-funded from day one and experienced 300% growth in our first two years.”
That growth continued and, of course, brought lots of challenges. However, the latest expansion – an £11m investment deal – coupled with the global impact of Covid-19 – has perhaps been the most demanding yet.
“It’s been exciting, but tough,” says James. “I’ve had to change my approach totally. Not because of Covid, but because of the size we’ve reached. As a start-up founder, I was process-driven – all about getting the job done. That was my comfort zone. But now I’ve had to shift my mindset away from task-fulfilment towards planning, strategising and motivating. And of course, Covid has made everything so much more uncertain.”
However, the pandemic hasn’t damaged James and James. If anything, after the initial uncertainty, it’s made it more robust.
“Due to Covid, LDC’s investment deal nearly didn’t happen,” says James. “But thanks to their commitment – and ours – we got it over the line last March. Since then, we’ve seen a significant revenue uplift – our biggest ever growth. Online purchasing has gone through the roof, and high-street businesses that previously relied on customers walking in have been rushing around setting up e-commerce shops. So we’ve taken on lots of new business.”
He continues: “We also see big demographic changes. Older people, many of whom are shielding or self-isolating, are being forced to shop online with many businesses benefitting.”
With such impressive growth, plus the £11m+ investment deal, the future for James and James looks exhilarating. Especially because the company’s US operation is perfectly placed to take off after being built up over the past four years. In 2016, James and James opened a warehouse in Ohio before moving to a larger 38,000sq-ft warehouse – also in the Buckeye State – in September 2018.
“The US has been a slow-burn for us,” says James. “Perhaps we went there too early. After all, opening in America is costly in terms of both outlay and distraction. That said, investing in just being there has bought us a brilliant opportunity. Incredibly, our US operation is now growing at more than 100% year-on-year.”
Despite all the growth and all the exciting opportunities, James finishes on a cautious note. “You hear all these success stories about companies that launch overseas, secure millions of pounds of investment, add new departments and brands and generally do brilliantly. But for every one of those, there are at least ten that have done too much too quickly and end up imploding. You’ve got to stay focused, get your timing right and invest in your team at the same rate as you invest in the business. There are many examples of companies that grow too fast and start to unravel. It’s about adding one piece of the puzzle at a time and making sure you hire the right people to manage each piece.”
The very first piece of the puzzle was laid down in the corner of a Cambridgeshire warehouse in 2010. A decade’s worth of focus and ambition has turned it into something special. And now, with the pandemic accelerating the growth of the e-commerce sector and proving there are as yet untapped opportunities on planet Covid if you know where to look, James and James Fulfilment is set to continue its thrilling voyage of discovery.