Trucking to a new standard
Taking on New Zealand’s transport and logistics industry creatively and efficiently is all about doing things one percent better every day. That’s the mantra adopted by business owner Leonardo Law. To be a successful entrepreneur you need focus, drive, opportunity and a chunk of luck. That’s probably not the textbook definition, but not too wide […]
Taking on New Zealand’s transport and logistics industry creatively and efficiently is all about doing things one percent better every day. That’s the mantra adopted by business owner Leonardo Law.
To be a successful entrepreneur you need focus, drive, opportunity and a chunk of luck. That’s probably not the textbook definition, but not too wide of the mark. Add creativity, the ability to listen, to multi-task and get most of the tasks right – consistently. And how could I omit; be a disrupter, if you can.
Leonardo Law, MD of Recur Transport and Freight Plus, is a disrupter. He’s also creative, listens, doesn’t think much of textbooks (but has a degree), has a fierce focus, is humble, he says (more later), but claims to run “New Zealand’s most efficient transport company”; “the most innovative in Australasia” with the “highest accounting standards for a New Zealand SME transport company”.
Leonardo’s fond of a quote from Michelangelo: “The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.”
He also likes one from Pope John Paul II: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
But here’s another surprise from Leonardo. He’s Chinese. Born in Hong Kong, came to New Zealand at the age of five. “Back then, I was the only Chinese in the whole school. So, it was particularly tough.”
His humility is fully on show when you ask about his background: “I later went to Auckland Grammar School. I didn’t do particularly well. Possibly because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I loved technology though. But, throughout, there was always a burning desire to be successful.”
The University of Auckland followed. “I studied Bachelor of Property, coming from a large extended family – mostly with careers in real estate. I didn’t do particularly well there either. I did qualify, but just an average pass.”
He had no intention of following his family and relatives though. “It was a period of finding myself. I still had the immigrants’ desire to succeed. I’d grown up with technology, and have been an early adopter of many tech trends. Still I went from job to job, doing everything from customer service, sales administration, etcetera.
“It really built the base of my becoming an entrepreneur. I really learned how customer service works; how to make sales, and how marketing departments influence sales; where accounts and finance fits in; and then how they all link together.
“I had always known I was different – it was probably the immigrant thing, plus I had always come up with good practical ideas in those jobs.”
Finally, Leonardo met another entrepreneur, Hugo Phillipps, through a friend. He had a business called PO Box Couriers.
“Hugo is my current business partner. He introduced me more into the real world of business. He knew more about business than I did back then, having much more experience as a younger entrepreneur. What I learned was more practical than from text books. How to improve sales; ways of making better conversion; measuring KPIs; and, especially, telling me how good systems are vital to business success.”
Good people and systems
By 2014, Leonardo reckoned he was ready for running and owning a business. Hugo bought a truck and asked him to join him.
“Within six months, we ended up with four or five trucks. Still we were not making any money, and operating at a loss. Worse, we were both working 80-hour weeks. We had some bad contracts. We nearly went under. I thought I would lose everything I had worked for. There was this awful feeling of failure. It was probably the toughest time in my life.”
It was turnaround time. Leonardo’s time working for a consultancy kicked in. He and Hugo realised they were good at sales and customer service, and had good technology.
“So, we got rid of the bad contracts. We had learned the difference good staff can make and hired people who could help take us forward. We applied some smart thinking, moved a lot of aspects to digital, cut costs and improved service, and through all that ended up offering an amazing service. Within a year, we were a multimillion dollar enterprise.”
So what are his insights, now he’s much further on in his entrepreneurial career?
“I saw a gap in the market we could fill in the logistics and transport industry. We could achieve a huge improvement in customer service and efficiency,” says Leonardo. “The industry has historically been operated by older New Zealanders, mostly males. We could bring fresh ideas from a diverse group of young passionate people. We built our own digital tools; developed great systems; and that has given us an amazing advantage in the market. Add the fact we are still improving too,” he says.
“Take doing software development for say, workflows. We map out and agree the existing workflows. Next create rules around them, making it easier to identify areas for improvement. You can apply that both online and offline. Another boost to our efficiency follows,” adds Leonardo.
“We apply the Kaizen Approach: one percent better every day, across all areas of the business; always looking to improve. I always keep an eye on every aspect of company activities and practices.
“We have a manager looking after every area of both businesses. This is based on The E-Myth – a book given to me, by my father, in my teens. That frees me from the day-to-day, to see what’s going on and what can be improved.
“We always work on: ‘How can we improve on this?’ Every single issue is logged, so we can proactively brainstorm to problem-solve it.”
Diversity and development
Today Recur is a bulk, empty-container Auckland-based carrier. With a fleet of more than ten skeletal trucks, it specialises in carrying empty containers between various yards, depots, and ports in Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton.
The company hires people from different cultures, ages and ethnic backgrounds – not just those with industry experience – says Leonardo.
He believes in personal development first; ‘learn before you earn’; always stay humble; know your strengths and weaknesses; and know the importance of health and fitness.
As managing director of Recur Transport and Freight Plus he is committed to:
• Continuing with good growth.
• Keep coming up with ideas to improve service.
• Always having a store of many ideas ’in the works’.