CDS are celebrating this month, reaching the milestone of over 150 companies worldwide, using our International, online chauffeur dispatch software.
On this momentous occasion I have decided to do a more personal blog article, about how we have grown Chauffeur Drive Systems to what it is today. Every company, no matter what size, originates with people, but with online business today, we don’t know or communicate with the people selling to us. It is something I miss as a 50 something. Before the web, we talked to the person behind the counter, asked about their personal lives, we cared about each other.
These days a website rarely tells you anything about the people behind the business it represents. When I am going to entrust my business to someone, I want to know at least who they are!
Working at a distance at CDS, we hardly ever have the pleasure to interact with our clients. We are 100% cloud-based and having clients in every corner of the world, it is difficult to feel connected with each one. So, this is our story….,
A Bit about Us….,
Chauffeur Drive Systems is run by my partner Gareth and myself. We both come from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, meeting when I had just left school in the summer of 1982 and Gareth was on summer leave from the merchant navy. We spent our time walking, and dreaming about what our futures would look like, but went our separate ways in 1985.
Leaving Northern Ireland to join the WRENS in 1987, Gareth stayed and worked in various IT jobs: from a company where he designed a footplate that helped diagnose gait disorders, in Musgrave Park Hospital, and software for cardiac patients, to managing the instore IT for the Crazy Prices/Stewarts supermarket chain. At the same time, Gareth completed an MBA in business with the open university, and then wrote a book on personality type and innovation in collaboration with one of his OU tutors. He started his own IT consultancy business in the early 2000s, developing various bespoke systems: Northern Ireland railways, Northern Ireland Electricity, and a stock management system for a builder’s merchants in Donegal.
Gareth has a clear talent and passion for using his mix of IT, management, and innovation skills to develop solutions for industry. In addition, he is extremely creative, being an amazing photographer and wooden furniture maker.
While Gareth was blazing a trail in the Northern Ireland business community, I, on the other hand, moved my family to live in France. We settled in Lyon, then moving to Chatellerault in Poitou-Charentes, and ended up in Tours in the Loire Valley. I have always had an inner desire to travel and experience adventure in life.
I went to university in France to learn the language, then worked in a language school. Then I bought into a property management franchise for British property owners, and after that worked for Leggett immobilier, the largest English estate agency in France. Every day I reminded myself of how lucky I was, nosing around amazing French properties and getting lost driving around the back roads in the Loire Valley, among the vineyards.
CDS is born…,
Gareth and I met each other again in 2008, having not set eyes on each other since 1985, and we quickly realised that our lives should be together. Gareth moved over to Glasgow in 2010 and engaged in some very interesting projects. Two of which were creating a bespoke booking and management system for one of the biggest chauffeur companies in Scotland and working for a cement mixer company creating a system to manage the production of concrete mixers.
On completion of the system for chauffeuring we explored the idea of doing our own system, fully cloud-based, making it available to the general market. So, Gareth got to work, and while in France, I contacted any chauffeur companies I could find on the internet, to see if they would have a look at what we were doing. Out of the initial 10 companies that looked at our software, we still have 5 of them – we think that’s not bad going, and we are forever grateful that they took a punt on us.
Family brought my daughter Mia and I back to the UK in 2016, and we settled with Gareth, firstly in Glasgow and then in Stirling. We are loving life in Scotland, surrounded by hills and history.
Until the summer of 2018, Gareth worked full time doing consultancy to finance the development of CDS, working until midnight every night at our kitchen table. I worked from home, doing admin support, and building micro controllers for cement mixers. CDS became a viable business in July 2018 when we both started working on it fulltime.
Over the past few years, CDS has evolved into an innovative and comprehensive software solution for chauffeur companies. We have been told that we are brave for concentrating on such a niche section of the transport industry. In our opinion, chauffeuring requires a system that focuses and builds on the client relationship, concentrating on the needs of the client. Whereas alternatives focus on more taxiing. This is all about fast throughput, and the speed of allocation and not building client relationships or repeat business. We belive this sets chauffeuring and CDS apart.
Looking to the future, we know from this point, that growing our company is the challenge. Our strength has always been our personal relationships with our clients, but with over 150 companies worldwide we must find the best way of keeping everyone happy, while keeping the cost of our system at a level that independent companies can afford. All our software is created inhouse and we have a desire to create employment where we live, we won’t outsource our projects to a cheaper country. Given the higher wage costs in the UK and scarcity of IT staff, this is also a challenging and costly strategy. Mia, my daughter, successfully completed her master’s degree in business last year and is now working with us part time, to develop our overseas markets.
We have had many offers over the past few years of investment, but as these were mainly from transport industry players, we don’t think that a chauffeur or taxi company investment in our software would be in the best interests of our clients. How would our users feel about one of their competitors being in possession of their company data? One of our founding principles is to stay independent. With all the other big chauffeur backed competitors in the industry, with big investment, it means we must work much harder. We think the industry is healthier while full of independent companies like ourselves, and not as a part of a big network serving the interests of a chauffeur company. Our vision is to arm independent companies so they can stay independent, creating a network of likeminded companies as a force to compete, survive and thrive.
CDS the future!
The future is exciting, starting with a truck load of new features coming soon, to enhance our system. We have recently integrated with the GNet system, to further increase the international capabilities of CDS, this is in addition to our own CDS Connect network of our own users. With the internationalisation of business and travel, networking is essential to give companies the scope to expand. Each company vets their industry partners, to create their own trusted network with no loss of control or deterioration in standards to damage your brand. We don’t believe pooling jobs is a good idea in the chauffeur industry, as how do you know if the company that grabs the job thrown in, will serve your client to the expected standards?
It has been a really rewarding if not exhausting journey to arrive where we are today, running a small business has stress and reward in equal measure. We are up for the challenges ahead, and the most important thing is that Gareth and I are still walking and still dreaming.
Are you interested in hearing what we do? call us for a demo, and take advantage of our 60 day free trial.