Central Taxis chairman answers the questions
Central Taxis was formed as a members cooperative in 1968 by 33 like minded cabbies. They wanted to create a business owned and controlled by the people who worked in it. Now it is the largest taxi cooperative in Edinburgh with more than 400 members. Here chairman Bill Purnell tell us how it operates.
Where did the funding come from and which organisations have supported the business?
The initial funding for the business came from the original cooperative members. Over the years, as the business has grown, new members have continually invested to make Central the company it is today. As a cooperative company, each member has their own share within the company. We feel there is a greater sense of support and involvement from our members because they invest more than just time. There has also been great support from our local, loyal customers, many of whom have been with us for several decades.
Who are the key people in the business?
As chairman, I lead a management committee which includes four directors, who each have specific roles within the business. The committee members are elected on a yearly basis by their fellow colleagues and provide ongoing support and commitment to the company. The key people within the business include drivers, telephonists, taxi dispatchers and our customer service advisors. We are proud that Central is the only taxi company in Edinburgh to have a dedicated customer services team.
What is unique about what the company does?
We’re the first black taxi company in Scotland to be accredited with CarbonNeutral status for all booked taxi journeys. We want to lead the way in terms of innovation and green travel in Edinburgh and reduce the impact of our carbon footprint.
What has been the single biggest investment?
Our single biggest investment to date would have to be our new taxi booking and dispatch system. The new system will go live this month (April) and will allow us to reduce waiting times for our customers by using a GPS tracking system.
Has there been a key moment or turning point?
Embarking on the CarbonNeutral project and getting our certification.
What is the business plan and how does the company intend to grow?
To continue to innovate and lead the way for fast, safe and green travel in Edinburgh. In terms of our green credentials, we would like to expand our offering to be CarbonNeutral for all of our street and taxi rank hires.
Do you have any non-executive directors, mentors or key advisors? Who are they?
We have various mentors who advise the business in many different ways. Keith Marshall, Director at RSM Tennon in Edinburgh is our key mentor on all financial matters. Peter Rogan from Future Positive provides help and support with staff training, appraisals and performance development. Last but not least, Maureen Paterson from RBS Mentor Services provides the business with important HR and legal advice.
How does the company use technology and IT?
We are very keen to utilise new technology to improve our services to customers. We were the first taxi company in Edinburgh to install chip and pin machines in all our vehicles. We are currently in the process of implementing a state of the art data dispatch system and an iPhone app. We hope the new system and app will add another dimension to our customers’ convenience.
What has been the best achievement so far?
Leading the way in green taxi travel in Scotland has to be one of them. Many people don’t realise the impact their journey is having on the environment, but as a company, we want to play a full part in helping our taxis become a greener mode of transport for all by offsetting the emissions associated with taxi use.
What has been the biggest hurdle which has been overcome?
Committing to CarbonNeutral accreditation at a time when the economy is in recession.
What will the next 12 months hold?
We would like to develop our business, extend our customer base and continue to deliver the best taxi service possible in Scotland.
Where do you want the business to be in 10 years time?
We’d like to continue growing our business and look at diversifying our product offering to best suit the needs of our customers. Ultimately we’d like to maintain our reputation as Edinburgh’s most innovative, environmentally aware taxi company.
If you were given £1 million to invest in the company how would you use it?
We would use it to make the business fully Carbon Neutral and invest in innovative projects which help the environment. We would also invest in purpose built offices for our dedicated staff.
What's the best part of running a business?
Being involved and seeing plans come to fruition. It’s great to be part of a business where we all have a say in helping to drive Central Taxis forward.