Hall of Fame Inductee 2015
Born in Reefton in 1944, Neil Reed was one of seven children brought up in the Maruia Valley.
His father owned and operated a seven truck transport business. At the age of 16, after four year’s secondary education at Rangiora High School, Neil joined the New Zealand Forest Service as a Ranger Trainee. Followed by a period of professional hunting, truck driving and a diesel mechanic apprenticeship. Eventually Neil began six years employment with Mobil Oil as a company representative in Dunedin and Invercargill.
In 1963 Neil was called up to serve part-time in the New Zealand Territorial Army. The army discipline proved indispensable in business in later life.
In 1974 Neil joined the road transport division of the Freightways Group as Invercargill Manager. During these years Neil had his first contact with the Road Transport Association becoming a Branch Chairman in 1976 and 1977. In 1977 Neil was transferred to Christchurch to take up a position as Operations Manager for the much larger Gutherys Freightways.
In 1980 a further shift took Neil and family to Blenheim to commence employment with the Newman’s Group. In 1987 a life changing journey commenced with the sale by Newman’s Group of their Freighting Division to Transpac Holdings.
In October 1988 Transpac Holdings Limited was placed into receivership by Westpac. There followed an intense period of negotiations which culminated in the formation of a new company, TNL Group Limited. Neil together with Garth Butler, a former Managing Director of Newman’s Group, held 40% of the shareholding with the remaining 60% of the shares being held by a group of investors. The new company took over the core assets of Transpac from the receiver and commenced trading on the 11th March 1989.
Difficult shareholding issues within the new company followed soon after, eventually settled through civil court action in 1993. The settlement left Garth and Neil as the sole shareholders 50/50. A change of banks brought relief and together with the commitment of an extremely loyal and dedicated staff, progress commenced.
In mid 1996, further difficulties occurred with a major downturn in work levels. With the company in real danger of running out of cash, but with the aid and support of the bank, a restructure of the company together with major cost reductions was undertaken. The staff were fully informed of the financial difficulties and across the board agreed to an immediate wage and salary cut of 8.5%. This was the saving grace and together with other cost savings another rescue was completed. Neil has an unequivocal lifetime debt of gratitude to the staff who agreed to the wage and salary arrangement.
Garth Butler passed away early in 2002 and after twelve months of searching Hookers in New Plymouth became the replacement shareholders. Following a strategic review in 2001, an agreed objective (known as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) was set to double the company’s turnover in five years. With a great team effort this was achieved in four years taking turnover to $70 million with more than 300 staff and around 180 trucks.
Interest in the Road Transport Industry continues for Neil with less demanding roles now. Independent directorships of several companies and current chairmanship of the Road Transport Forum ensures that he still has diesel in the blood.