XL Chauffeur Services Ltd

“I got to rock bottom. I thought I was going to have to go deeper and deeper into credit card debt. When the bank refused to help me I was forced to contact my MP”

XL Chauffeur services ltd is owned by Denys Barton, he has been in business as a private chauffeur for 22 years and is based in the South of England. 90% of his clients are corporate people, visiting the UK for business, often from far flung parts of the globe like South East Asia and New Zealand. 

With clients around the globe, the reality of Coronavirus hit Denys’s business sooner than it did for many. In November, clients coming back from China were sharing stories of the outbreak. In January, clients began to drop off as the virus took hold in parts of the world. As the weeks went on and the situation developed, Denys lost all of his clients and his income. His last job was on March 12th. 

With overheads still to pay, Denys approached his bank to see if he could extend his overdraft. The bank refused to help and signposted Denys towards other financing options which he started to explore. Following an unhelpful experience with his bank, Denys contacted his MP, Caroline Nokes and explained the issue. Within a day, his bank was prepared to offer a CBILS loan but with a restricted monthly loan payment. 

Thankfully his broker had accessed a CBILS loan through Askif which allowed him to access a lump sum loan on an interest-free, 12-month repayment basis. If XL Chauffeur services hadn’t been able to access the loan, Denys would have been forced to pay his stacking bills using his credit card. Putting the company into deeper debt. 

Joanna Hill, Commercial Director, AskIf, commented: “This story really demonstrates to me the importance of providing a human and personal touch to all our customers. We want everyone to know their case is important to us. We’re all working through incredibly tough times and Askif want to be able to help not make anything worse. 

“With all the uncertainty surrounding travel and the implications of global lockdown, we hope Denys is able to rebuild his business when this crisis ends. Sharing his story, it is clear Denys has the tenacity and the right attitude to succeed despite the current situation.”  

“With all the uncertainty surrounding travel and the implications of global lockdown, we hope Denys is able to rebuild his business when this crisis ends. Sharing his story, it is clear Denys has the tenacity and the right attitude to succeed despite the current situation.”  

XL Chauffeur Services Ltd is owned by Denys Barton, he established the company 15 years ago but has been in business as a private chauffeur for 22 years beginning his career as a sole trader. The company doesn’t employ a team but uses a network of subcontracted drivers. 

XL is based in the South of England but the work often sees drivers travel up and down the country. 90% of XL’s clients are corporate people, visiting the UK for business, primarily from far flung parts of the globe like South East Asia and New Zealand. The remaining 10% are celebrity customers who require private vehicles. Pre-pandemic XL Chauffeur Services was a successful, cash rich business. 

With customers from around the globe, the reality of Coronavirus hit much sooner for Denys. In November, business people returning from China were sharing stories of the outbreak and many of the drivers Denys knew were coming down with severe cold and flu. Denys commented: “I suffered for days with what I thought was the flu, there’s no way of knowing whether it was coronavirus but the timing was right. A lot of drivers I know had the same experience.”

As the weeks went on and many countries were forced into emergency lockdown, Denys lost all of his clients and his income. The last job undertaken by XL was on March 12th. As a first step to help his cash reserves, Denys sold his prized Jaguar XJ to save himself a healthy sum each month. 

With overheads still to pay, Denys approached his bank to see if he could extend his overdraft. The bank refused to help with this and in the short term he was forced to use his credit card. His bank also signposted him towards other financing options which he started to explore. His bank assured Denys his credit rating would not be affected by applying for these loans but this appeared to be misinformation. He found the process very difficult and considered that the bank was unprepared to listen and provide the service he needed over the phone. 

Following this experience, Denys contacted his MP, Caroline Nokes (MP for Romsey and Southampton North) and explained the issue. Within a day his bank called multiple times and was prepared to offer a CBILS loan but with a restricted monthly payment. Denys said: “I’m not sure what she said but the funny thing is I had at least four calls from my bank the next day.”

In the background, Denys’s broker had been exploring CBILS options and had contacted Askif to begin an application. At this point Askif was able to offer XL a £15,000 loan to help sustain the business through this time. Importantly the loan was a lump sum and had a 12-month interest- free repayment plan, something his bank was unable to offer. 

If XL was unable to access this loan, Denys would have been forced to continue using his credit cards to pay his business overheads and ultimately feed his family. Denys added: “The loan will go in the bank and help pay off those stacking bills. I may use some of the funds to pay one of the vehicles off. So when we’re out of this mess I have fewer overheads to think about. Having a lump sum and a great interest-free period means I can be more flexible and properly weight up my options”

Sharing his advice for UK businesses in the same position, Denys said: “Don’t sit on your hands and rely on other people to sort the mess out for you. Get up and do something. Your bank and the government isn’t always going to help. You must look elsewhere. 

“Don’t give up hope. I got to rock bottom and thought I’d have to use my credit cards. There’s always something there, you just need to fight for it.”

As a business which relies on travel, XL’s future is still uncertain. But Denys hopes this crisis will bring in a new way of thinking, he commented: “I’m still in contact with many of my clients and I’m hearing that they’re all missing the connection face-to-face meetings bring. In my opinion, to work with people you need to see them to get the measure of them. You need to see the whites of their eyes, especially when these big corporates are making deals. We worked with Sony for years, the guys behind the first video conferencing technology, even they didn’t rely on it fully.

“I hope this will happen anyway! Otherwise I won’t be driving around businessmen so much!

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