Consistent investment – importantly in people – is the underlying key to the success of Stewarts Group, which has been bought by National Express Group’s (NEG) The Kings Ferry, and now works alongside NEG-owned Clarkes of London coaches.
Speaking exclusively to routeone, Stewarts Group CEO Andy Cotton, 53, says: “It’s very important that we invest heavily in our people. We have an excellent staff and being part of NEG will create opportunities for people here.”
His high praise for his staff – including drivers who have received pay rises after becoming part of NEG – comes on the back of at least £10m investment in the business, since Mr Cotton bought what was then a small family-owned taxi, minibus and private hire firm, Stewarts of Mortimer, in February 2003.
In recent years, Stewarts Group has grown to 50 vehicles, including the addition of the 15-vehicle Leicester-based Woods in April 2014. Both companies will retain their names and identities.
Under the deal for an undisclosed sum Mr Cotton, a former business developer for an IT firm, will stay with Stewarts Group for at least two years.
In the year to March 2018, Stewarts Group’s turnover was £7.6m, with a gross margin of 31% and a pre-tax profit of £613,250.
Stewarts Group was not for sale, but was approached by NEG. After NEG bought Clarkes of London in December 2016 it said that it was looking to expand its portfolio.
Adds Mr Cotton: “Our core principles of quality and safety have been our guiding driver.” He attributes the business’ success to its strong investment in people and assets, along with re-investing profits back into the business.
He concludes: “Had we not made that investment, we would not have got where we are, and delivered the quality.”