He has spent almost 30 years in the motor trade, and seen a lot, but 10 years working for a supplier shaped his dream to run his own motor factor with brother Andrew.
Richards says: “The reason for setting up BMF was down to frustrations over the constraints of suppliers.
“So 20 years ago we thought we would come and do this, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Factoring even now is still, for me, you build your little raft and you bob along at sea, and see what it is all about while controlling your destiny.”
The two decades that BMF has been in existence have been anything but smooth for the brothers, or the rest of the industry, and they have had to take risks to ensure the sustainability of the business.
“This is the third recession we have bounced our way through, and this last one was very tough. In 2007 we bought a majority share holding in Brakes Midlands, and that actually helped us weather the storm.”
“It was an opportunity that came up, and you try and see what happens. Until you try you don’t know. It gave us a different perspective on garages – we became far more aware of the constraints and difficulties that garages face.”
Learning from past experiences is also key to BMF’s approach and their attitude towards factoring. Richards knows all too well that the aftermarket is very congested and that aggressive pricing is creating challenges that are tough to overcome.
BMF has a couple of aces up its sleeve, however, which are used to great effect and to its advantage.
The freedom to make decisions instantly allows them to compete with the bigger chains, but also their ability to deliver orders on request without following a set route.
Richards explains: “It means we offer a much sharper service than anyone else. If I need to get something from point A to B, I always know I have a van that can take it there sharpish.
“Flexibility is the name of the game. It’s a tool we have to fight against the price-led competitor. We will get it there faster than anybody else.
“If it’s here, it is going to be there before they know it. The majority of stuff is delivered in 20 minutes to half an hour.
“We are in and out of there as much as customers need us. First vans will leave at 8am and the last van will leave, well whenever they need us till.”
Richards’ business has continued to thrive and he is constantly looking at ways to improve the sales and performance of the branch.
Joining Groupauto back in the early 2000s helped take BMF to another level with immediate access to suppliers and tools to help streamline the business. While the membership has helped, Richards believes they have got it right by only doing business in the local area.
“It was described many years ago to me as the doughnut effect. You have got vans going 20 miles away. Happy days. I am dealing with a garage 20 miles away, but the guy on the doorstep can’t get a delivery from you because your van is 20 miles away. You end up with the doughnut effect, with a ring of customers all the way outside, but nothing on your doorstep where it is local and quick.
“We concentrate on a very tight area, no glamour in that I accept, but it is a way forward for us.”