Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover

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A moving success story...

Nearly 20 years ago, Martyn Hall got his first job in the motor industry as a Mercedes Benz van dealer. He soon developed a love for the industry and in 2007 set up Harp Automotive, and in 2002 set up his business, specialising in converted refrigerated vehicles for the food industry and later in 2008 into the live music sector. 2019 was one of the best years ever for his company, but then along came the Coronavirus and that's when this success story took a turn for the worse. His business, like many others, was severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's how a chance meeting and agility have changed his life and the direction of his company.

2020 brought Covid-19 and some devastating consequences for my company. Being an established vehicle builder in the music sector and having built in excess of 700 vehicles over the past decade, lockdown left us with a number of new vehicle cancellations including vehicles built specifically for Glastonbury Festival which is a huge date in the music calendar. What's more, we couldn't even rely on future orders as lockdown prompted the cancellation of all of our pre-booked conversions for live music events in 2021. The market was understandably dwindling and there was nothing we could do. Work came to a grinding halt and all of our staff were furloughed.

Switching gears
With all of the uncertainty around the pandemic and the economic consequences, I started to look at alternative sectors to build vehicles in, and like many other coach builders looked at the camper market particularly as people were now having to stay in the UK. After extensive research - and some reservations about any longevity - we decided to switch over to recreational vehicles.

In early June, I became friends with somebody who competed in Agility. Coming from three generations of farming - and with some experience of sheepdogs in my youth - many of our conversations naturally turned to dogs and how people get from A to B with their animals safely. I understood that traditionally people bought their van and then took it to a fabricator to be fitted with cages. There didn't seem to be a 'one stop' service where you could build your vehicle to your specifications.

I decided to explore the possibility of developing a safe, custom-built, recreational van for the canine world. So, without further ado , I set to building a vehicle for my friend to use and take out to training and shows to see how it performed and to determine whether it met the needs of an agility competitor. Not only did it get a thumbs up from my friend, but it attracted lots of attention and positive feedback from everyone who saw it.

So I began looking more into the sport of dog agility and set to work building my second dog van, developing what I had learnt from the first.

The feedback was positive
Over the next few months, interest in my vehicle conversions started to rise. Then one morning, I received two enquiries, the first was from Martin Reid, an international agility competitor and trainer and later that day another query from Chris Kerton, Agility Team GB Handler and Fitness Coach. I have to say that when these handlers, with their wealth of experience, showed an interest in my project, I was overwhelmed and delighted. After all, whilst I have 18 years of experience converting vehicle, I am still very new to the wonderful world of agility. Every single person I have met has been an absolute pleasure. To be honest, it's a refreshing change dealing with the general pubic again and actually meeting people who are putting their trust into our product.

After some lengthy telephone conversations and some initial meetings, both Martin and Chris agreed to work with me to develop a new product. I set up a new company called K9 Transport Solutions to supply them both with vehicles to test for six months, firstly assess the quality and safety of our build, and secondly to assist us in the development of our product. 

I am very keen to obtain an understanding exactly what people want when it comes to product development. I am a firm believer in customer services and aftersales, and there is no better recommendation than word of mouth. I am looking forward to building strong relationships

I am overwhelmed by the fact that our vans have received so much interest so quickly and I am looking forward to build strong relationships with customers an suppliers. I am determined that I personally oversee every vehicle we sell from the initial call to delivery as I believe it's important to build customer service from the outset.

I am really looking forward to being able adapt our business model and core demographic to provide first-class vehicles and conversions at a reasonable price to the dog sport community. It's been a real privilege to work with such top handlers to develop our canine vans and looking forward to meeting more agility people.

For more information, go to www.k9ts.co.uk or visit K9TS Facebook page.

About the author...
Martyn Hall
grew up on a farm where there were always dogs around.

He started out his career in the automotive industry in 2002 as a second-hand van dealer, specialising in Mercedes Benz vans and converter of refrigerated vehicles.

In early 2007 he decided to break from refrigerated vans and move into the coach building sector, becoming accredited as a registered converter with Mercedes Benz in late 2008. His business has been building bespoke transportation specifically for the live music industry since 2008 up until March of this year.

Since working with the dog sport community, he has rekindled his love for dogs and acquired a collie called Kiki that he is training to do sheep.

He is based in Wales

First published 11th June 2021

 

 

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