Established in 1993, this year Dukes is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Having started the company back in the day, I thought I’d take you on a journey back to where it all began.
My career started in the catering industry; where I was a chef for 9 years until I began managing restaurants and pubs with my wife, Elaine. When my first daughter was born, we were forced into the decision to find a ‘day’ job; I experienced first-hand that my colleagues in the licensed trade had little time to spend with their children and Elaine and I decided that we didn’t want that for us, or our children.
After being given the opportunity to drive a Bailiff around the North West of England, I found an interest in a career that I had never considered; the bailiff industry. I obtained a job for a local company in Stafford, who specialised in Arrest Warrant Execution - something that I found exciting and challenging and most importantly a job that offered more reasonable hours than I was used to in the catering industry.
After 12 months, myself and a colleague were approached by a recovery officer at a council who asked us to work for them; including setting up our own company in order to stay anonymous.
At that time, we were in the midst of the Poll Tax revolt with the list of defaulters growing daily, so we took the advice of the council and decided to go for it.
The start of Dukes
In June 1993 my partner and I set up Dukes and Elaine acted as our book-keeper. We initially estimated that our venture would last for up to two years, however, after a successful 12months other local councils approached us and we expanded our services to work on their return and out of area Business Rate Cases.
The motivation behind it all
My business partner and I shared the belief that everyone is required to pay for the goods and services that they receive. So at a time when the revolt was in full force, we were keen and proud to be able to start our own company that could enforce this.
To this day, Dukes uphold the law of the land and play an integral part in supporting councils by recovering money owed from charge payers who can afford to pay but who have chosen not to pay. And for charge payers who can’t pay but want to pay including those who are vulnerable, we help by informing the council and offering support, money advice tips and information on local advice centres where they can seek advice about how to manage their debt.
Our values are simple: Integrity, Quality, Compassion and Diversity and it’s these that continue to be the foundation of Dukes. As a result, our reputation has grown across the UK as the most ethical enforcement agency.
Problems to overcome
The last 25 years have not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. Like with any business, we’ve had our ups and downs. In 1997, we faced a difficult time when my business partner wanted to leave the business. I had to borrow money to buy his share, which meant my family and I lived on next to nothing for over 12 months until the business grew in strength and recognition. That was definitely one of the most difficult times that we’ve had to overcome.
After 5 years of difficult times, in 2002 ‘Dukes Bailiffs Limited’ was formed which aided further expansion.
In 2009, Dukes were awarded the ‘Investors in People’ award, and just three years later we were the first enforcement agency in the country to receive the ‘Investors in People Gold’ status.
2014 saw the introduction of the ‘Taking Control of Goods’ regulations which standardised the enforcement process with a single set of statutory fees. This benefited Dukes because these regulations meant that we could no longer be undercut by competitors when tendering to councils.
A year later, in the summer of 2015 my hopes for my daughters to join the family business became a reality. Having grown up with the business they developed a keen interest from a young age and fortunately after graduating from university, Sarah and Laura have been able to apply their degrees to enhance our Bid Writing and Marketing department. They continue to be an asset to the team, helping to grow the client base and increase our brand recognition.
Last year Dukes received full authorisation to carry out regulated debt collection activity by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and were also shortlisted for four business awards; ‘Best Specialist Collections & Recoveries Business’; ‘Professional Services of the Year’; ‘Small Business of the Year’; and ‘Growth Award’. Whilst we didn’t win the awards, we did come runners up for the latter three which we were very proud of.
So here we are in the year of 2018, hitting the grand milestone of 25 years in business! I still can’t believe how quickly the years have gone by and although running the business has had its ups and downs, it’s a job that I love and an industry that I’m passionate about.
I’m looking forward to the next 11 months as I know it’s going to be another great year for our clients and the team. We’ve got some exciting plans ahead and some great things in store for our employees to give them thanks for their commitment to Dukes.