MOVE FORWARD: Founders Can Be Key To A Business - But This Shipping Company Hit A New Growth Phase When They Left

Royal Wolf containers at the Dhurringile Prison

MOVE FORWARD is a series outlining the approaches of successful leaders to taking a business strategy on paper and making it a commercial reality. You’ll find links to more articles at the foot of the post.

Shipping container business Royal Wolf took almost two decades to reach annual revenues of $150 million and couldn’t have done it had the founders not left, according to CEO Robert Allan.

Royal Wolf was founded by Mike Baxter and Paul Jeffrey in 1995 to buy, refurbish and sell used shipping containers.

Allan joined the company after a management buyout in 2004 and was appointed CEO two years later. The founders are no longer involved in the business.

“Mike and Paul were the normal sorts of entrepreneurs that you’d expect to see from private owners,” Allan said. “One of the issues with a rental business is the more you grow, the more you have to reach for capital.

“Small private owners sometimes struggle to raise enough capital to grow quickly.”

Robert Allan / Royal Wolf

Allan said Royal Wolf had grown 24% a year since 2006, when it was acquired by California-based General Finance Corporation (GFN), and credited later capital raising rounds for helping it grow.

The business also expanded past simple, refurbished shipping containers to a range of new and used containers for anything from accommodation in prisons and mining camps, to trade show booths, construction site walkways and refrigerators.

“Australia and New Zealand only has a certain population so we needed to develop new products to access a broader marketplace,” Allan said.

Royal Wolf listed on the ASX in mid-2011 and now has a market cap of $339 million.

Last year, it inked a high-profile, $2 million deal with Corrections Victoria to provide accommodation for 100 low-security inmates of Dhurringile Prison.

The company also has worked on a $7 million contract with BP in Queensland, a $12 million rail freight contract with Aurizon, and a $6 million to $7 million contract to supply containers for the Department of Defence’s Shoalwater training facility.

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