Talk Business catches up with John Griffin, founder and chairman of Addison Lee, the UK’s largest mini cab firm
Addison Lee was founded in Battersea in 1975. The company was run out of a shed and had one car. Fast forward 36 years and the company has 2,2000 vehicles, and carries over 10 million passengers a year. In that time it’s launched a courier service and formed a partnership with PrivateFly.com for a private jet service – Addison Lee Private Jets, allowing customers to book private jet charters alongside chauffeured vehicles.
For start ups and entrepreneurs Addison Lee’s progress and growth is encouraging. The company was launched in the middle of a financial crisis and was struggling to pay its bills, a period that founder John Griffin cites as his biggest challenge.
‘The banks weren’t very helpful. They were as they are now; they only want to help you if you have money. We were high risk at the time. In the end it grew quite quickly and I had to sell part of it off – I got funding that way.’
Though Griffin makes the transition sound easy, in reality it was anything but. That the company grew in a recession and has become the largest minicab company in the UK is testament to his vision and attitude. At the forefront of this is the company ethos in which every worker is an equal. ‘I see all these people in ivory towers. I don’t know what it’s all about. Who are they impressing?
‘I started off as a worker and I’ll finish as one’ says Griffin. ‘I don’t do servants. I don’t have a PA or a secretary. We work in an open-plan office and I sit at a desk in an open plan office. I regard myself as part of the staff. We go down to the pub on Friday for a drink.
‘People have to realise that work isn’t the only thing in their life. I want them to go home at 5.30 and go to play squash or go down the gym or do what they need to do to relax. I want them to come into work the next day refreshed. It’s about quality not quantity.’
This approach has served Griffin and Addison Lee well. It’s indicative of a man that has grown his business on a set of values, at which honesty and integrity are at the core. His time as a working cabbie – he drove for seven years before founding Addison Lee – has taught him the value of good business practise and the need to treat your workforce and customers with respect.
‘I’ve always tried to be honest with our customers. If you’re standing on the side of the street and I tell you the cab’s five minutes away and it’s not, that’s not good business. When we were starting out I told people the truth. They tend to forgive that, but they don’t forgive lies. I think that was one of the best things I ever did.
‘I also respect my drivers. It’s a noble job. There are no shortcuts. If they don’t take the fare they don’t earn the money. I represent them and make sure they’re fairly treated – that way they feel valued, which they are.’
Read the full interview in our November edition or in the digital issue by clicking here.