Interview with Danny Gabay, managing director of Redwood International

Interview with Danny Gabay, managing director of Redwood International

Settled over the centuries by tradespeople from across the region, Gibraltar’s outstanding economic performance stems from the entrepreneurial spirit of its population, which continues to this day. Danny Gabay, managing director of logistics service provider Redwood International, is a shining example of Gibraltarians’ drive to succeed. He spoke to The Report Company about his experiences.

The Report Company: How would you define the entrepreneurial spirit of Gibraltar and its people?

Danny Gabay: The proof of the pudding is that Gibraltar has been subjected to very awkward circumstances in the past and emerged triumphant. We had a closed border and everything had to be imported by sea, and there are businesses that have survived over that period of siege.

TRC: What led you to set up Redwood International?

DG: I’m the first businessman in my family. I left school at 18 because I thought I wasn’t made for studying. I started working as a clerk in a construction company for six months, then I got a job as a civil servant in government where I worked in various departments, and then an opportunity arose as a shipping clerk in a local shipping agency. That’s how I got into logistics.

I then started working for Mateos and Sons, a local shipping agent.  That was quite an eye-opener because I went from the public sector into the private sector which was quite demanding, especially as a shipping clerk. I had to go out to ships at all times of the day and night. I used to have to look after the vessels; any requirements the captains had, I would organise them. For a person coming from the background of being a civil servant, it was quite demanding initially, but I learnt to enjoy what I was doing. After four and a half years I was made redundant, and by that stage I had realised that there was a niche in the market because there wasn’t anybody in Gibraltar offering a logistics service for these shipping agents.

At the time, shipping agents used to have to rent a taxi to go and collect spares from the airport, or have them arrive by air freight. We used to do the customs clearance ourselves, and so I realised that there was a niche for somebody to open up a business offering customs clearance, transport, and basically looking after the logistics for these companies. Because I came from a shipping agency background, those four and a half years made me good contacts with other shipping agencies, so by the time I decided to open up my own business they were quite happy to give me the business. I started off my own business at the airport with a handful of clients, and last year was our 20th anniversary. We’ve moved from that situation where I started off on my own, with a clean desk, doing my deliveries with a van as a one-man operation, to where we are today.

TRC: In 2002, you enrolled in a postgraduate diploma in strategic management at Durham University. Why did you choose to go back to education at this point in your career?

DG: I was quite happy with the way the business was going. I was right in thinking that there was a niche market, and from day one I had a small business that was already successful within its own right. But I felt that I needed something to reinforce that I was doing things correctly and give me some more management background. It was quite interesting; I participated in a programme that involved having some consultants sit down with me, make a five year plan and put it into place. It was very interesting and I had an advantage over some other students as I already had a business. I used a lot of what I learnt on the course to come up with new business plans for the organisation.

I was then asked by Durham University to enter a competition they have every year where the universities nominate their best students. I was listed out of about 7,000 students in the UK and I won the Petrie Memorial Award.

If I gain a customer, I’ll try and make sure that I can provide every single logistics service so that it doesn’t leave a door open for anybody else
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TRC: What are the current operations of the company?

DG: We have our main office, and then within the airport terminal we have three other offices, including one in the customs entry processing unit where we clear all the goods coming in and out of Gibraltar. We are the authorised service contractors for UPS in Gibraltar, so we have a warehouse at the airport where we cater for everything related to couriers.

TRC: What is the secret of your success?

DG: I would say first of all that there was a niche market for the service that I was initially going in to offer. It coincided with a period in Gibraltar where there was a lot going on. Part of my philosophy has been to position the company to take advantage of opportunities that might be coming up in the present or in the future.

TRC: What does the strength of the Gibraltarian economy mean for Redwood?

DG: The standard of living of most people living in Gibraltar goes to show that there is a solid economy. We’ve positioned ourselves in almost every single service line within the market; we do removals and relocations, so when the finance centre is busy and they are recruiting personnel from abroad, we are called in to relocate them from wherever they live to Gibraltar.

TRC: What makes you competitive and who are your immediate rivals?

DG: There are about six companies in Gibraltar that offer logistics services. I don’t compare myself to any of them because I don’t think that any of these companies offer such a wide spectrum of services. One of the things that I’ve always tried to do is that if I gain a customer, I’ll try and make sure that I can provide every single logistics service so that it doesn’t leave a door open for anybody else to come in.

Apart from that, I’ve been very conscious of the quality of the services that we provide. We are ISO accredited and we are also accredited by Investors in People, which is very important, because to us, our staff are our main asset.

TRC: Do you see further room for expansion?

DG: Definitely. The airport is still expanding, and we’re looking at possibly having some airlines coming in who are going to move commercial cargo, which would open up more opportunities for us.

TRC: What has been the most challenging experience for you?

DG: The relocation of the existing hospital. We only have one hospital in Gibraltar and we were successful in the bid to relocate the whole of the hospital over a short period of time. What happened was that there were ambulances coming in with passengers while our vehicles were carrying some of the critical lifesaving equipment at the same time. It was a very big job by Gibraltar standards.

TRC: What motivates you?

DG: I enjoy what I do. Every day when I come to the office, I find myself with something new. I am very motivated when I see that the business progresses. I feel that at the moment, my business is at a stage whereby we have consolidated everything we do. I have got a very motivated staff who see a lot of future in the organisation and that gives me a lot of energy to carry on pushing and developing the business.

Part of my philosophy has been to position the company to take advantage of opportunities that might be coming up in the present or in the future
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This article was published 12 October 2015
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