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The Van that Can uses online workers to systemise the backend so they keep a steady growth rate

Brisbane-based startup The Van That Can has fast become the key logistics solution to local business transportation needs, surpassing 10,000 deliveries since its inception in 2012.

The Van That Can is a delivery service that operates in a similar fashion to Uber, allowing businesses and individuals to connect with drivers through a website, and have furniture delivered in a time frame that suits them. The idea spawned from frustration when Tara-Jay Rimmer was left alone with a box containing a Stand Up Paddle Board. Delivery drivers refused to help take it up to her house, and in the time it took for Lee Hovey, husband and co-founder, to return home, The Van That Can was conceived.

According to IBISworld Australia, the market for courier pick-up and delivery services is worth $7 billion and growing. More and more businesses are using transportation intermediaries to supply a delivery service to their customers as an extension of their brand. Using a courier service eliminates the need for businesses to hire extra staff, and is a convenience for customers because they don’t need to organise deliveries.

The Van That Can’s transaction mechanics are fairly simple, according to Rimmer. The company collects data from business clients and contacts the customer directly. This allows the customer to specify a time frame that is suitable to them. They are then notified via SMS or phone when the driver is 30 minutes away.

After two and a half years in operation, The Van That Can has completed more than 10,000 deliveries throughout Brisbane and South East Queensland. Deliveries have ranged from fridges and office chairs to a red carpet for State Of Origin and church pews for a wedding.

80 per cent of their clients are businesses that pay monthly with 20 per cent being clients that call directly. There are over 300 businesses using the system – including brand names like Coco Republic, Freedom Furniture, Jimmy Possum and Natuzzi.

Rimmer says The Van That Can has grown over 500 percent in the last two and a half years and is projecting a turnover of $1 million in the current financial year.

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Rimmer attributes a lot of the success the company is experiencing to a systemised and scalable back end administration system developed with an online workforce on Elance and oDesk.

“At The Van That Can we have 15 drivers that are out on the road completing up to 50 removals and deliveries per day, this would make you think that there are a lot of staff behind the scenes organising the workload. In fact there are only the 2 directors that are in the office and in order to manage the time and jobs effectively and efficiently, we use online workers” she says.

The Van that Can has used online freelancers to build and upgrade its website, create marketing collateral, record an ad jingle, develop infographics, write blogs articles and manage admin tasks such as document writing and scanning.

“Our team of workers have come from the USA, UK, Philippines and Australia. We use Elance, oDesk and Fiverr (for adhoc small tasks)” says Rimmer.

The biggest benefits of using online workers for the business has been financial – it has allowed The Van that Can to scale up and scale down without paying carrying employees during the quiet periods. Rimmel said it also allowed time to focus on building the business instead of handling operations.

Rimmel says “In the beginning we found it a challenge to understand peoples skill sets and the authenticity of their experience but have learnt that asking for examples of their work and references is sufficient”.

The team realised that when engaging workers online, the key was to write very specific job descriptions. They’ve now built a strong workforce on Elance and oDesk to help them continue build a lean and fast growing business.

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