In a candid interview with Jim Wilson from Lloyd's List Australia, Neil Littlewood, CEO of Royal Wolf talks about his challenges and opportunities in his new role.
THE GRILL - Neil Littlewood by Jim Wilson
Neil Littlewood - CEO Royal Wolf Trading
What’s your background?
I am a former Army officer. I left in 1999 as a Lt. Colonel. Subsequently, I’ve primarily been involved in equipment hire.
What attracted you to that?
My background is helpful in the industrial services space. It’s not an industry that suffers fools or is pompous. The industry keeps you accountable. I like to think that the industry fits my personality.
What are the challenges and opportunities in your new role?
Previous CEOs have taken the company through to market leadership. My first challenge is to continue to grow the company in a changing marketplace. There are a variety of competitive threats – we are challenged both in a local and digital space.
I believe that there is room to grow our customer relationships, particularly in a B2B space.
We have an extensive product range that I don’t believe that we have exploited fully yet. There are many people that are not aware of how quick and easy our ‘stackable container walkway’ system is.
We’re at 1%. It could be at 3%; it could be a game-changer.
Customers are much more self-informing and the challenge is to keep upskilling our sales team to ensure they are providing logical and effective solutions for customers. The team have also developed into customizing and modifying containers. We do a lot of work there. We are competing against many smaller operators. We need to sell quality product at the right price.
Another opportunity is consolidation. Our main shareholder, and ourselves, have a history of consolidation. So there are regional opportunities. The acquisition radar is on.
We have 20 locations around Australia. Each of our major competitors has five. So we would be looking to consolidate in a given local area e.g. coastal / regional / capital city / inland.
What was your favourite subject in school?
Economics! I liked working with numbers and I’ve always been fascinated in how businesses work.
That has always been an important issue for me. My passion is surfing. I like the physical aspect, then there’s the social aspect, there’s camaraderie. We do annual surfing trips away. The last one was in Sumatra.
Do you support any charities?
I support national cancer research. My family has been touched by cancer. My adult son is handicapped. He was touched by leukaemia [a generic name for a group of cancers usually originating in the one marrow and affecting the composition of blood] when he was only a few months old. I also donate to “Legacy”, which provides support to ex-military people and their children. I’m also very passionate about disability services.
Who would you invite to dinner?
Nelson Mandela. I went to South Africa and to Robbins Island. Ellen de Generes because of the amount of people she has met and helped in equal opportunities. Pele. Kofi-Anan – I went to a presentation of his and I though he was inspirational in his vision for the world. Waheed Aly – he’s a compassionate intellectual, which is rare on a TV channel. Many of his views I empathise with. Also he doesn’t let people get away with things.
What is your favourite book, film, TV and cuisine?
Book – “ Dirt Music” by Australian Tim Winton; film “the Commitments,” I love that pub music roughhouse kind of stuff; TV – sports; cuisine – Vietnamese – I just love the blend of flavours.
So would you cook Vietnamese if you were on “My Kitchen Rules”?
I’d only be on there for one episode. I’d try to cook a risotto but I understand that’s the worst thing you can do.
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From the print edition September 29, 2016
Credit of images and story Jim Wilson, Lloyd's List Australia
About Jim Wilson:
firstname.lastname@example.org | @lloydslistau | More by Jim Wilson
Jim is the editor of Lloyd’s List Australia. Over his career to date he has edited and created several commercially-focused publications.
Jim started as a journalist back in 2000 when he covered law, technology-oriented venture capital investment and private equity as a reporter for a UK-based publisher focused on alternative investment asset classes.
He began reporting on shipping and ports in 2003 for Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, firstly as a reporter based just outside of London, then as its Middle East Correspondent in Dubai, before becoming the Asia Pacific Editor in Singapore. He moved to Australia to take up the post of Lloyd’s List DCN editor in August 2010.
He graduated with a degree in Law and Legal Practice, with a focus on business-related law, from the University of Northumbria, England.