Here at Gordon Leslie Group we are immensely proud of our heritage. Despite our global reach, at heart we are essentially a solid family company that still holds dear the same key values some 40 years down the line.
‘Good quality, honest service, going beyond our customers’ expectations and providing staff and suppliers with a stable and long-lasting income,’ states Craig Leslie, MD, of the fundamental principles that have driven this family business to success.
Craig’s father, Gordon Leslie, began his career working for hauliers including Ilkeston Haulage in the 1960s. Gradually he began to realise that his aspirations outstripped those of his colleagues, and Craig recalls his father’s disillusionment with working for others as opposed to himself led directly to a family emigration to America in 1967. There he briefly found employment with a freight broker, but sadly it was not to be. ‘We all returned to the UK a year later having not found the American dream,’ says Craig.
At this point Gordon decided to start his own business and, in 1970, his eponymous company was launched from an office in Royal Terrace, Glasgow. Undaunted by the fact that he didn’t own any vehicles, initially Gordon employed subcontractors to transport goods for his clients.
Soon Gordon established a niche market, arranging full load haulage of whisky, wine and spirits throughout the UK. Early clients included J&B, Chivas, WM Grant Whisky, URM, González Byass and London City Bond. An additional client base was formed hauling books and other print materials for Harper Collins.
It stands testimony to the longevity of the Gordon Leslie name that several of these early clients – London City Bond, Chivas and WM Grant Whisky – still use the company’s services today.
Soon this wealth of clients led Gordon to the crucial acquisition of his own vehicles, and immediately the company moved into a small rented unit in Denmark Street in the suburb of Possilpark. Winning a coveted contract with Fibreglass in the late 1970s then allowed relocation to a considerably larger unit in Paisley. At this point Gordon’s focus on haulage expanded to include storage and distribution so as to make the most of his newly acquired space.
The family aspect to the business started in 1984, when 21-year-old Craig, who had previously been training as a printer, decided to join his father and immediately set about gaining his HGV licence. ‘My father doesn’t drive trucks,’ says Craig, ‘so when I learned that side of it I think we had a pretty complete knowledge of the business.’
Craig spent the next three years driving the length and breadth of the UK and getting to grips with the road freight element of the industry, before eventually moving into the traffic office. All told, father and son spent 12 happy years working together, as Craig fondly recalls, ‘It was great; he taught me a lot about relationships with customers and staff.’
‘The differences are huge,’ he continues, of the unique perspective a family-run company offers on business. ‘There’s clearly a lot more to lose if things go badly wrong but, when things go well, the rewards are far greater.’
The 1980s saw a vast realisation by the general public about the effects of global warming, as it was widely publicised at this time that CO2 emissions continued to rise due to fuel consumption. As carbon emissions from logistics companies account for almost a third of total domestic transport emissions in the UK, it was clear this was one area on which the family had to present a united front.
‘I think we have always had a positive attitude towards our environmental responsibilities,’ Craig explains, ‘however recent scientific research and awareness of the impact on the environment of running a large business has focused our attention more. Care for the environment is now one of our top priorities.’
Gordon Leslie’s first step into distribution occurred when the business moved once again to an even larger depot in Linwood in 1993, for the first time purchasing the freehold of the units. This move coincided with membership of the groundbreaking new Palletline system, which was at that point the first and only pallet network in the UK. Says Craig, ‘This gave the business the ability to offer a next-day pallet delivery service throughout the UK.’
Three years later and 27 years since Gordon Leslie began, it was time for Leslie Snr. to retire. Seeking an investment that would allow this financially, for the first time the family company allowed an outside force into their inner sanctum. The resulting takeover by French company Geodis in 1996 was in name alone, and the business retained its ever-expanding workforce in Glasgow, with Craig overseeing matters now as Managing Director and minority shareholder.
‘Being an international company this appealed to us as we were able to enter the arena of worldwide logistics, as we had been a UK domestic business to that point,’ he explains.
As the firm moved into the 21st century, initially the two cultures merged favourably as the French company shared their vision for the future. However the future was not to be. ‘Several changes of management and a fair degree of turmoil at the top led to an almost inevitable parting of the ways in 2004,’ Craig recalls. ‘Very simply there was no way forward for me within the Group and therefore I decided to leave and start from scratch.’
Craig made the momentous decision to bring the business back into the family. ‘It was the only option to preserve the relationship that I had with my customers,’ he explains, ‘and thankfully all the staff felt the same way… Ultimately I wanted to get back to being in control of my own destiny.’
And so the Gordon Leslie empire was literally restarted from scratch in a small rented yard, with just four vehicles. ‘We were able to evolve at our own pace and in the direction that we wanted to go,’ says Craig. ‘To be honest, the direction changes quite often, even now, as opportunities arise.
‘That’s the main difference for me in running your own business compared to working for someone else,’ he continues. ‘You can follow your instinct and I have discovered that you really can’t put a value on that.’
Craig’s gut instinct proved to be correct and with a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears, the business was gradually restored to its former glory. Craig fully appreciates the loyal staff members who have stood by him during the leaner and more difficult periods, and says that one in particular, Operations Director Brian Gayler, has been vital to their success every step of the way: ‘When I first formed the company, I made Brian a shareholder as a recognition of his past and future commitment to the business.’
A decade on and Gordon Leslie Group, now based at extensive premises in Hillington Park, manages its own fleet of vehicles. Soon after reclaiming the family name, Craig decided to expand further into bonded warehousing and order fulfilment, making the original haulage specialist a fully-fledged global logistics force.
In a pleasing environmentally friendly twist, the large outside space at Hillington Park currently houses 20+ wind turbines and associated parts for the leading American renewable energy enterprise, Northern Power, and the company is looking to extend this space further.
Gordon Leslie Group also owns extensive bonded warehouses, presently providing storage for wines and spirits. This service complements their comprehensive UK distribution service and wine import service within their freight division.
It seems there is no slowing down for this highly influential company. When asked about his vision for the future, Craig says he is keen ‘to continue to expand and develop new services, to offer complete logistics packages…
‘To be seen as standing out from the rest of the pack.’
To find out more about the individual services offered by Gordon Leslie, please visit our services page.
To read more about the company’s commitment to reducing its impact of the environment, please visit our Environmental Strategy page.