An all in approach
Paul Little’s strategies for success
How does one of the most powerful men in logistics, running one of the most significant companies in that industry move from freight, transport and logistics services into property? According to Paul Little, the transition isn’t as difficult as you think. Transition is all about knowledge and integration.
“Toll had a very large number of properties around Australia and around the world really. So you acquire certain skills and knowledge about developing property. I have always found property very interesting. When I left Toll, I thought property development was a risk that was more easily managed than perhaps other forms of investments.” A brief history of Toll By the time Little had departed Toll, he had served the organisation for well in excess of 20 years and felt that the organisation required a fresh perspective.
“I think it’s good to have a changing of the guard in most organisations over that period. I felt it was time for Toll to bring in new ideas.”
It is always a difficult decision to step away from an organisation that has shaped your life as much as you have shaped that company’s structure, shareholding and focus. Little says it was a difficult decision to make, but the right decision.
He came to the Managing Director’s position in 1986 after being largely responsible for arranging the management buyout from Peko Wallsend. This deal set up Little’s career for the next 26 years.
“The main challenge in negotiating the buyout was to agree on a price. The business was for sale and we were ultimately able to negotiate an arrangement that Peko were happy with. We had the interest and we had the desire; we just needed to go to Peko and have them agree on a price and the total package.”
Little was able to transform Toll from this point onwards. Peko Wallsend owned Toll and a number of other diversified entities. By privatising Toll, it meant the focus could shift solely to making the organisation a logistics powerhouse.
“The buyout gave us the ability to grow the Toll business, to expand the range of services offered by the business. It was always a very good business, but perhaps wasn’t getting the focus and attention that we were able to give it. So I think we gave the business a new life in many respects.”
Post the management buyout, the focus shifted to survival in a very competitive transport industry. Our focus then moved to the implementation of a longer-term strategy.
“Having a business that was in many ways focused on delighting customers with service levels was an important attribute of our approach. It is an extremely competitive indus-
try; always has been. But I think to be able to offer the customers high levels of service and great levels of innovative and creative solutions worked really well. And then as the company grew, we were able to integrate those service offerings across different modes of transport and across different geographical areas. Previously a customer might have had three or four transport service suppliers with different companies to get goods moved from Asia into Australia, but under our strategy they would just need to make one phone call and they could track the movement of the goods. That was unique at the time. It’s not unique now, but we offered seamless, integrated service and we built a company that would actually deliver that.”
Toll Holdings developed to become the pre-eminent provider of integrated logistics services in the Asia region. A clear vision, the knack to employ the best people and the ability to offer an integrated service allowed the business to be unique and very successful.
“And we grew the business aggressively,” Little says. “That aggressive growth combined with the strategy that we had in place at that point in time worked really well.” Applying the integrated approach to property The integrated approach that worked so well for Toll, is the same approach Little takes with Little Projects. With this property development venture Little has assembled a team of property experts, whose purpose is to not only build some of the most unique apartments in Melbourne, but to also offer an integrated service to tenants and owners that doesn’t just finish with the sale of a property. Little Projects is a multi-faceted property group that focuses on delivering innovative and high quality residential and commercial property solutions around Melbourne. With successes in commercial, land subdivision and apartment developments, the company’s core competency
Little Projects is a multifaceted property group that focuses on delivering innovative and high quality residential and commercial property solutions around Melbourne.’