5 minutes with... AWA Limited's Rod Wallace

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5 minutes with... AWA Limited's Rod Wallace

What attracted to you to moving to work for AWA?

 I was already a customer and so I knew the AWA team very well.

I knew from experience that they have the capability, flexibility and the responsiveness to deliver a trustworthy logistics service.

Also the “the people who own the company” run the company. The AWA directors work in the business, and directly engage with customers. There’s a lot to be said for this.

You have been in customer service and logistics a long time. What keeps it interesting?

Two things: I really like to deal with real customers, at the coal face. There’s no substitute for that. Something different happens every day and only by being closely involved can you understand what’s really happening and what needs to be done to make it all work smoothly.

Also it’s something of a cliché but customer service is all about helping people, and when you do this well you get a great sense of satisfaction.

Of course there’s always the odd weirdo that you get on the line from time to time and that needs to be managed carefully, but most customers are just trying to get the job done and are great to deal with.

Logistics is all about moving things so there’s always something happening and a good busy feeling in the team. Plus at the end of the day you can see what you have done.

You like to race cars in your spare time. Are they any similarities between racing cars and the business world?

Yes, lots. Like most activities, preparation is the key. If you have the race car well prepared mechanically you are in a much stronger position to do well before the race even starts.

Similarly if you have taken time (sometimes a lot of time!) with the car’s appearance and presentation then you are justly proud of it. The same as you are proud of a product or service that you have developed, nurtured and brought to market.

In a race, quick decision making is essential: will I hit the guy in front or not at 150 km/h, how can I avoid or pass him? You are always looking for opportunities.

Most of all it’s the camaraderie, comparing experiences, sharing knowledge, forming relationships the same as we do in business with good partners and good customers.

Now that I think about it, it’s just like doing business, really.

What lessons do you take out of the experience of racing cars?

Always pursue your interests whenever you can. We only have one life and you might as well enjoy it. And it’s good to put yourself outside your comfort zone sometimes. Do something different, try something new. For excitement there is no substitute for adrenalin. Racing cars is one of the biggest shots of adrenalin you can get, anywhere, anytime.

To quote Dirty Harry, does a man got to know his limitations? Yes and no. If you always stick to your limitations, life is going to get pretty boring and predictable. This is what Dirty Harry is pointing out to his superior. But if you constantly go beyond what you are capable of life is going to get very messy at times.

What is the weirdest logistics problem you have ever had to solve?

There have been many, some definitely not stories I can tell. Once we had to meet a ship, immediately at the dock as it came into port, as the equipment had failed at sea.

Some are unsolvable. In 2011, for example, “can you help us ship these goods (of US origin) into North Korea?”

AWA is now more than 100 years old which is amazing for a technology company. What is the secret of your success?

In a word, flexibility. AWA has always managed to change and move with the times and be able to respond to customer needs.

Tell us a bit about your personal life. Married, kids?

Married for a long time with two kids now in their 20s which happily means I now have time to do the things I want to do – and that’s a nice reward when you get to this stage in life.

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