In this episode Sarah Cole, Managing Director of Universal Commercial Relocation, discusses how she became involved in the industry only 20 years ago (next year) after leaving her role as a commercial property specialist within the legal profession to start a family.
We discover that Universal was formed in 1978 by Sarah’s father (William), and is a 2nd generation commercial moving specialist based in Greenford, Greater London, servicing mainly the London area, with a fulltime staff of approximately 25 and running a fleet of 8 vehicles. We also discover that Sarah is Managing Director of ISS (Information Storage Solutions), the document archiving side of the business which was started by Sarah’s mother (Margaret) in 1986.
We discuss that while archive is going more digital Sarah still maintains there is a large requirement for the physical storage side of things.
We discover that Sarah has very much enjoyed working in what is predominantly a male dominated industry and has never found any challenges with that. Sarah has found that there are a lot of women within management roles of organisations but would encourage more to get involved with the BAR initiatives.
We discuss how working from home has and will affect the commercial relocation industry and Sarah highlights that even before the pandemic companies were looking at the office space occupied and how they were using it, from a productivity, wellbeing, and a sustainability point of view, but it was such a huge and risky ask to undertake the stress test. However, the pandemic became that stress test and forced us overnight to work from home and leave the office behind. Sarah believes the future is with companies ultimately having a hybrid solution, shrinking the physical space but keeping separate office space for staff to participate in, but affording staff more flexibility about how to undertake their work.
We discover that Universal have many accreditations which Sarah believes is fundamental to business because office moving is business critical and the accreditations helps the client to manage the risk. We also discover that Universal have won the BAR Commercial Mover of the Year (CMotY) 3 times and is a great pat on the back for the staff that provide a huge contribution to the company.
We discuss that Sarah’s challenges to date are to always move with your client needs and to look ahead at where things are heading. Universal are always trying to add value to their clients to support them. Sarah also believes getting the message across in what they do, how they do it and the value they bring to a service is also often challenging.
We discover that Sarah would not change anything from her past, she enjoyed her time as a lawyer but was happy to move on and is very happy with what she does now and where Universal is.
We discuss Sarah’s highpoint, which was back in 2015 when Universal were awarded CMotY winners for the first time (having been a finalist twice before), and especially so as the awared was presented at conference (BAR) in the city in which her parents were from, Belfast.
We discover that the one change Sarah would make to the industry is to raise our profile, selling our services better and making clients aware how specialist we are and the professionalism we bring, as she believes as an industry, we undersell ourselves and there is often a race to the bottom in terms of pricing.
We discuss the advice Sarah would give to a younger self and it was confidence, get involved in the industry and BAR, go along to conferences/events and take up training and development opportunities offered.
We discover that within the next 5 years Sarah would like to grow the team at Universal, bringing in more junior members to the team and increasing and expanding the scope of what Universal do.
We discuss that outside of the industry Sarah likes to spend time with her family and friends, going out, attending concerts and eating in nice restaurants.
And as always we end Moving Matters with a funny moving story regarding Margaret Thatcher and a union card!
Links to Universal Commercial Relocation Ltd: