Meet Our People: Gary Harrold

Gary Harrold in front of a UK flag

In our series #WeAreCustomsSupport, you will meet the people behind Customs Support. We value our colleagues and the work they do. In this series, we will interview the people who are always ready to assist you with importing or exporting your goods without worries. Next up in this series is Gary Harrold, who is the UK and IE operations director.

Who are you?

Hi! I’m Gary, and I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years now. The bulk of my career has been in customs clearance, mostly within freight forwarding companies.

I started with UKCS – a company that was acquired by Customs Support – shortly after they launched in 2014, seizing the opportunity to work for a company that solely provided customs clearance. It’s the part of the industry I am most interested in and it’s been a joy to concentrate on it.

What does a UK & IE Operations Director do at Customs Support?

I am responsible for working with the operations managers across the group on our structure here in the UK. We are still in the process of unifying the UK acquisitions and transforming them into a single entity. Part of that is defining the structure and roles for everyone so that we can efficiently service our people, clients and overseas colleagues.

What does a typical working day look like?

There is a lot of assessment and reorganisation going on at the moment, so I am in a lot of meetings – either with clients, managers around the UK or with our counterparts across the EU.

In the UK, we have restructured our managerial teams and backfilled positions where senior leaders have left following acquisition. It’s good to see that our people have taken their new roles in stride, and that they are exceeding expectations as they upskill themselves and their teams.

These key leaders are a big reason that our clients in the UK trust us to guide them with the ever-changing landscape of customs, having led them on the changes with Brexit, the progression from CHIEF to CDS, and our ongoing support for all things customs across every major port in the UK.

I am currently working with colleagues across the EU to determine resource requirements for end-to-end customs clearances for their clients trading with the UK, and vice-versa.

What do you like most about your role?

People. I love talking to our people, talking to our clients and helping people solve problems.

You are located in Felixstowe, England. What is the best thing about your location?

The pool of talent here. We have the largest port in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe, so the amount of local people in the industry is far greater than most other places. Felixstowe, itself, is a nice coastal town, and the sun is always shining, so working here is good.

What excites you the most about joining this network of customs experts?

What we can now bring to our clients. We now have a much better capability to provide end-to-end customs clearances through the networks software, electronic data interchange, and having physical offices at the other end of our clients’ supply chain. We [Customs Support] are ahead of the game in that respect.

What is the next stage for the UK's development?

Alongside structural and management changes, we are heavily investing in our systems and working with clients to improve our electronic data interchange way of processing documents.

Once our structural reorganisation is complete, we are looking to grow the team from that base so that we can service more of the UK traders where Customs Support are already providing clearances to their counterparts in the EU.

Why is it important to have an office in Felixstowe?

Again, it’s the access to the pool of talent that we have here. With the port here, local careers are heavily orientated around it and that environment creates better opportunities for people to grow as individuals and make connections, compared to being away from the area.

What do you do outside of work, and how does your outside life affect your work skills?

I am very family orientated, so I spend my time with them. Whether it’s with my daughter, my stepdaughters, my brothers, or their families – my nieces and nephews. We’ve also just moved, so a lot of time is being spent renovating the house.

Working with lots of people day in and day out, we are like a family unit. It’s great when the team is pulling together and we are creating solutions, but it’s also important for us that everyone knows they are valued, appreciated, and supported as a person, too.

What do you think is the most important quality clients should look for in a customs broker?

In this industry, compliance, but we look to go one step further than that. We aren’t just employed by a client to do their clearances; we are a partner to our clients and bespoke what we do to their needs, so we are a part of their team rather than it being a supplier/client relationship.

You are now part of a Europe-wide network. If you were to visit any Customs Support office, which country would you go to and why?

Italy. I’ve been all over Europe, but I have never been there. They have a lot of history and impressive things to see, so I’d love to explore there.