Do not try and do it all . . .


There were a few hectic weeks between the current manager planning his move to Sydney and me taking over his role.
When I was at sea, we were taught to delegate, so I advertised for an operations manager, while I tried to understand the full aspect of managing the office and the staff.

I hired an ex-air cargo man from a freight agent who I thought would have the wherewithal to grasp what we did for a living and to organise the warehouse operation and the delivery / pick-up drivers.

It did not work out all that well and after a few weeks he left to return to ‘normal’ air freight rather than fast pick up and shipping to be delivered overnight to London or Los Angeles.

His replacement was not much better and in both cases I had Helen show both new ‘boys’ the ropes and how things worked.

Life was hectic, so I shut my office door and thought of where I had gone wrong in training the two failed operational managers.
Then it dawned on me, so I went out to speak to Helen and told her that from this minute on she was the Operations Manager for Victoria .


She tried to change my mind because in her mind she was a secretary, but she was far more than a secretary, she already ran the operation and had tried her best to train the two failed operation’s managers. It was not her fault that they had failed, it was my fault for hiring them.

Eventually she came round to my way of thinking and she moved her desk to overlook the warehouse. The warehouse staff were mixed in their reaction to Helen’s new position, but they all knew that she knew the operation backwards, and she would not put up with any skiving or shirking.

Now I had a female operations manager and a female sales manager (who had joined Skypak before I arrived).
Now I could start learning about budgets, sales targets, and writing reports to head office. 

Since joining the company I had been concerned that there was something missing to gender pride, by the staff, in the company and how they saw themselves as Skypak employees. 

I then realised that they did not have a uniform – nobody in the company had a uniform.

In addition, although we had our vans painted in company colours, they did not have the company logo on the roof of the delivery vans – nor did any other courier company at that time have a roof logo.

First thing first, we had the logo painted on the roof because the people who made the decision to use a particular company would never see the logo on the side of the van from the 40th floor, but they would see the log on the roof of our vans. 

That was fixed quickly.

Uniforms – my problem was that I did not have a budget to uniform the staff, because none of the staff in Sydney had a uniform.

I wanted yellow shirts and blue badges and flashes.



so that the staff had a feeling of pride.


  Yellow shirts and blue trousers or shorts in summer.

Three shirts, trousers and shorts and how to hide the cost because I did not have a budget. The roof painting of the van was easy because I put the cost down to ‘repairs’ & touch ups for our new owner IPEC, see the rear door of the van below.


So, I spread the uniform cost over several weeks of ‘stationery’. I got away with it for some time even though Max, the head office accountant, wanted to know why we were using so much stationery. . . .

After some weeks of wearing the uniform there was an incident with one staff member (male) who arrived in work not wearing his yellow shirt. I asked him why he was not in uniform – he told me that his mother had failed to provide him with a clean shirt – she had not washed his previous day’s shirt. 

The staff member was in his early twenties, so the fact that he was incapable of washing his own clothes was unacceptable.
On pay day I had his weekly wage sent to his mother, so when he signed for his wages, he was surprised not to receive any.
When he asked where his money was . . . I told him to ask his mother.
From that day on he was always in a clean uniform shirt, as was everyone else who had witnessed our chat.

We had a small turnover of warehouse staff, but when we had a vacancy I would advertise and let the local government labour office know.
The first person to apply arrived in a singlet vest, shorts, flip flops, and he was unshaven. He had not made any effort dress accordingly for an interview, even if it was in a warehouse. 
We had a short chat and I told him that he was unsuitable, and I thanked him for his time. He then produced a government card that was his record of applying for a job so that he could keep drawing unemployment pay.

I refused to sign, because I considered that he had not made any effort to even try to fill the vacancy. He became quite upset and abusive. 
As I ordered him off the premises, I noticed his girlfriend sitting at the bottom of the office stairs. 


She was dressed in a mix of westerner clothes, a Bolivian native style shawl and a Bolivian lady’s style hat, but I could see that she was not Bolivian.

The next interviewee was dressed as if he wanted the job and he looked intelligent and I thought he would fit the required roll. 

We had a pleasant chat during which time I told him the area in which he would do pick-ups and delivery.
Once he knew of the area, he told me that because he was against tobacco, he would not be able to pick-up or deliver to/from Phillip Morse who had a cigarette factory in the area designated for the new driver.


This was the end of the interview because he had ruled himself out of the running. I was not going to hire anyone who had a problem with his job description. Also, Philip Morris was a major customer of Skypak.

I was then accused of discrimination and that he was going to report me to the authorities (which authorities??).

I reminded him that he had a problem with tobacco, and I required someone who did not have a problem with tobacco, which is why I was not offering him a job, but I did sign his record card for unemployment pay.  

He left, and I never did hear from the ‘authorities’.

I did find the right person for the job, and I did not have any problem with the pick-up & deliveries in that area. This driver stayed with the company for years.

The pleasurable part of the promotion was being invited to Sydney to be ‘appointed’ as the State Manager, but also to receive my own car.


The General manager gave me his car, which was a Ford Fairmont and all I had to do was drive it the thousand kilometers back to Melbourne, a job I was happy to accept.
Only six months or so earlier I was on top of the world to have the operational vehicle for my own use, now I had a Fairmont!

The New South Wales registration plates on the Fairmont spelt out ‘SKYPAK’ instead of the normal letters & numbers.
The car was now based in Victoria so I had to get it registered locally, (Victoria) but my personality would not allow me to keep the SKYPAK plates, so I just ordered the standard plates, BCN364 I think was the number issued.

Flamboyancy was not for me; I left that aspect of the job to the sales staff.


Time flies


Time just flew as I became involved with Skypak and the operation.

I was pleased to note that I could call on at least fifteen different languages amongst the staff, so if I had a problem with any shipment overseas, I could take advantage of our time zone and speak to a customer, airline or customs officer during their working hours.

The newspaper reading supervisor thought I was being unreasonable by asking him to supervise the processes that were happening in the warehouse.

He left soon after.

I was fortunate in having Helen, the Tongan lady, to help me understand various aspects of the operation. She was a fund of knowledge.

It was time to study the international cargo rates that Skypak was paying the airlines.


All the airlines were members of IATA (International Air Transport Association) and even when I worked for an airline,I found it odd that they supported an operation that was illegal in most countries i.e price fixing.
In 1980 there were 100 members from 85 nations in IATA.

All airlines charged the same rates on the same routes for passenger tickets and cargo rates. If they did offer a different rate and they were reported then they would be fined, so there was a lot of pressure on the airlines not to step out of line.
If you knew your product you could construct a rate that was ‘legal’ but cheaper than the rate for point to point. There was a system called intermediate point rule, which allowed a cheaper airfare to a further destination to be used for the route that you required.
For cargo the description of the goods might be ‘tweaked’ to generate a cheaper kilo rate between two points. For example, newspapers and periodicals are entitled to a 50% discount off the full cargo rate, but if the goods were classed as paper or stationery there might be a special commodity code number that allows for a cheaper rate again.
I had ten years’ experience of tweaking cargo rates to obtain the cheapest rate for the customer, so now I was the airline’s customer, and I knew to what length the airline would go to make a sale.

I loved my job at Skypak.


I requested a meeting with Qantas Cargo, and their sales representative arrived for the meeting. I asked for their best rate to London. The rep did not know my background, I was just the new boy on the block for Skypak.

Cargo at that time was offered as follows – a minimum rate, followed by a high rate per kilo for traffic up to 45 kilos and then a lower rate per kilo over 45 kilos to 100 kilos and then a reduction from 100 to 250 kilos and so on.

Once you knew the rates you could work out break points, for example if the under 45 kilo rate is $5 / kilo and the kilo rate over 45 kilos is $3 a kilo I would multiply the 45 x $3 to get $135, and divide this by the under 45 kilo rate i.e $5 , to obtain the break point, which is 27 kilos.
So, if I had a bag of documents over 27 kilos it was cheaper for me to call the shipment 45 kilos on the paperwork than the actual weight.   


In this picture you can see a standard courier bag, which when packed with documents could weigh over 25 kilos. At that time, you would expect a male to be able to lift and handle a 30 kilos bag without assistance. H&S was in its infancy. 

Being aware of the airlines ability to ‘bend’ the rules I asked for a simple kilo rate that was a lot lower than the historic high rates that Skypak had been paying. 
It was as if I had insulted his family, because he was so indignant that I had even suggested such action. IATA would not allow such rates!
Qantas would be fined!

He then told me, in a roundabout way, that I should support Qantas, because Qantas was the national airline. I then pointed out that it was Skypak International that paid me, and my job was to make a profit, not support the national carrier’s high airfreight rates.
He didn’t even stop for a cup of tea.

The next rep I invited in was from British Airways.


I knew that they carried cargo from Manchester to London by road, for major British & American air freight companies free of charge.
The amount of money that these major airfreight companies spent with various airlines dictated the level of overall service. 

The rep was not the BA cargo manager that I had contacted looking for job ideas, but a regular cargo rep. He knew that most of our shipments were being carried by Qantas so there was a big incentive to ‘do a deal’.

We did do a deal and came to an agreement that the paperwork would show the correct IATA rates, and an incentive fee would be paid once a month depending on volumes of kilos shipped.

Suddenly Qantas lost the Skypak International traffic to London, but they did keep the Los Angeles traffic – I did not wish to burn all my boats.

At the end of the first month the British Airways rep came in with a small package for me.
While he was drinking his tea, I opened the package just a little – it was the ‘incentive’ payment. I returned the package to him.

‘What’s the problem’ he asked.

‘It is cash’, I replied.

‘Isn’t that what you wanted?’

‘I wanted the incentive fee as a cheque made out to Skypak International’ I told him.
I knew how the game was played and accepting cash would leave me wide open to accusations of corruption.
Accepting a cheque I was a servant of the company and unable to take advantage of the incentive fee.  
Every month I would send a cheque to Max, the company accountant in Sydney, with a note that the enclosed amount was part of Melbourne’s sales revenue.



A few weeks after I started, I was invited to a lunchtime businessmen’s function by the Skypak manager to celebrate Australia winning the Bledisloe Cup.
My problem was that I did not have any idea what the Bledisloe Cup was, or even that it was linked to a rugby match.

My Manager was a Kiwi and was a bit down in the dumps as New Zealand had lost, but he thought it would be good for me to attend and meet people who were also our clients.
The lunch was very nice and the people I met were hospitable and pleasant, but I wonder what they thought of me being at such a function and did not have clue as to what was being celebrated other than Australia had won at rugby.
It was huge learning curve for me.

During my settling in period Skypak was sold to an Australian company called IPEC (Interstate Parcel Express Company).IPEC

IPEC had been in business since 1955, and had expanded internationally into Europe and Asia.
IPEC’s purchase of Skypak was followed by extraordinary growth for Skypak and we became the second largest international courier company in the world. 

Six months after joining Skypak the Melbourne manager was promoted to manage the Sydney office and I was promoted to the position of Melbourne’s Skypak manager.

Writing this blog, I thought of the Australian migration officer in Manchester who had told me that I was unemployable.

It would have been nice if he had said something like –

DSC05066 Do not look back, you are not going that way . . .

I took the photo on one of our earlier cruises.

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