One of my late mates, who I really miss, is Neil Graham one of the two founders of Mainfreight. Neil, whenever he met somebody and when asked what he did, always replied that he was a truck driver. He was a guy who started working for himself when he was 17, and never worked for anybody else. Not that anybody else would employ him, but I was taught to never speak ill of the dead.
The company that the two founders started has gone from strength to strength and it was fascinating to read about progress. Here is a report:
Johnny Lee writes:
NEW Zealand is home to many special companies, some of which are listed on our stock exchange.
One special company listed on our exchange is Mainfreight.
Mainfreight, headed by Bruce Plested and Don Braid, is a very well-known transportation and logistics provider, and one of our ten largest listed companies.
Mainfreight shareholders have enjoyed growing profits, growing dividends and a growing share price, virtually since the day the company was listed. Grumpy shareholders would be few and far between. The grumpiest, I suppose, would be those who sold too early.
It would be easy for a company like this to rest on its laurels, boast about its achievements and grow simply by riding on the coattails of its already established market dominance.
Instead, Mainfreight strives for further excellence, rewards the staff who drive that excellence, and focuses on the long-term. Mainfreight is one of the very few companies, globally, that bases its decisions around a 100-year plan.
Mainfreight’s recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) highlighted this level of forward thinking. Instead of discussing avenues for short-term growth, Plested spoke at length about the efforts of the company to preserve water, utilize rainfall and the importance of water self-sufficiency. He spoke about the importance of social housing and his belief that the need for shelter among the desperate, and the lack of tourists occupying our motels, could meet the others need.
The leadership team understand that the company cannot thrive in a fractured economy, or one crippled by resource shortages. Last year, Plested discussed the importance of paying income tax, and even featured a small film review. Its record dividend was barely mentioned.
This is not to suggest that the company is all talk. Between solar panels, electrification of their fleet and even vegetable garden initiatives, Mainfreight are making real investments towards its 100-year goals.
There are tangible benefits to these investments. The direct financial benefits from investing in rainwater collection and solar power may not be immediately apparent, but both international and domestic fund managers are increasingly focusing on ”ESG” – Environmental, Social and Governance – factors when determining asset allocation. Greater numbers of ”Socially Responsible” funds are emerging, and companies are keenly aware of changing societal norms and the need to maintain access to capital by adopting these standards.
Very few AGM’s would ever be described as inspiring. Most are fairly drab affairs, designed to give shareholders an opportunity to meet and talk to the company management about its strategic direction, with the odd member of the public enjoying a free lunch.
But Mainfreight are different. With an audience of some of the wealthiest New Zealanders, the company chooses to instead commend its staff, and express its commitment to addressing some of our most intractable national issues.
They deserve recognition.
Which one of our local authorities has a 100-year plan? If not, why not? Does the three-year election cycle constipate people within the organisation?