For Jimmy Cutajar, the journey towards becoming one of Malta’s foremost logistical providers began through a combination of coincidence and a lifelong love of learning. “I was always eager to learn,” he shares.
“After I finished school and had the odd job here and there, I moved to Libya and upon contract completion returned to Malta where I was employed by DHL as a courier; it was then I developed a passion for logistics. Besides learning on the job, I went to university to learn the business side of managing a company, and it was also around then that I met Carmel Cini, a haulier with an excellent reputation. He inspired me to take the leap of faith into setting up GFS.”
Alongside Mr Cini’s experience and support, it was Jimmy’s steady determination to grasp every opportunity – and the example he wanted to set for his children – that gave him the confidence to take the leap into the unknown and establish GFS in 2014.
“Carmel is an excellent partner and his expertise forms the backbone of the company. But beyond his guidance, the decider was my drive to do what is best for my kids. Children are the most precious gift we have. I wanted to create opportunities for them while showing them that hard work pays off,” he shares.
“I’ve always believed that every opportunity, whether good or bad, always results in experience. That experience, that knowledge, is the base of everything – and when combined with hard work, you can build a career that you love.”
It is this philosophy that today continues to guide Jimmy in his role as CEO at GFS. “From my perspective, I’m a worker not a CEO,” he continues. “I forged my career from the ground up. In fact, my mentor is Richard Branson, who also started from nothing and, like me – although, of course, on a much larger scale – he builds his future as part of his company and understands that without his employees, he is lost. Like him, I try to be a leader not a boss, and set the tone of positivity in everything we do.
As CEO, my role is to ensure the company thrives and grows, but I can’t work alone. I need to lead people with my ideas and help them to develop their own skills and business personality, so that we learn from each other and grow as a company together. I believe that if you take care of your employees, then your employees will look after the company.”
That shared knowledge, individual expertise and understanding of the importance of teamwork has successfully taken GFS from an emerging logistical company in 2014, to one of the leaders in Malta’s busy and ever-demanding logistics services sector today.
Operating in collaboration with a range of expert partners and alliances, once established, GFS was able to quickly offer a wide spectrum of logistical solutions, while applying Jimmy’s signature flair for personalised service.
“We have grown exponentially over the last six years, both in terms of personnel and financially. When you start at zero and turn that into a multi-million euro turnover, something right is happening. And it’s not luck that achieved that, but hard work and our firm belief in offering clients competitive pricing and, more importantly, exceptional service standards,” Jimmy explains.
“It’s not that the company reinvents the logistics wheel – the wheel was already there and turning fast – but what GFS brings to the table is the quality of our client and partner relationships, and our ability to provide quality products and solutions designed to cater for each customer’s needs. We do everything to stay efficient and proficient. Those are my ideologies; I’m old school!”
While unparalleled customer service is one of the core values at GFS, Jimmy believes that it is customer retention that solidified the foundations of the company over its first five years of operations, until 2019. “The first five years are crucial to any business, particularly in terms of revenue or client base. Society generally believes that people tend to trust companies more after five years, but I don’t agree with that. A new company has more to give, and we thank the clients that have grown with us.
“Now, six years later, we are a firm part of the market and our customer retention remains of the highest importance. We don’t want our customers to work with us one day and disappear the next, so we drive to build solid relationships and leave a lasting memory of quality service and expertise. After all, the customers pay our salaries – without them, there would be no business. But thanks to them, the company keeps flourishing both locally and internationally.”
And it was these ongoing customer relationships – combined with Jimmy’s unshakeable positivity – that assured the continuity of GFS throughout 2020; a year that presented a plethora of challenges, not just to the logistics sector but to all industries across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“2020 was an interesting year; COVID-19 stuck the nail in the coffin of many businesses worldwide,” Jimmy says. “Certainly, when the first cases were announced in Malta it was a shock and brought everything to a sudden standstill. I had, by chance, already been working on installing a teleworking system in the office, so we were quickly able to set up the team to work remotely and safely from home, and continue to meet the individual needs of our diverse clientele.
“But I believe survival in such situations all depends on perspective, turning the negative into the positive and recognising the opportunities that arise. The logistics industry requires us to be adaptive and flexible to the market anyway. But, when the pandemic hit, it drove us to become even quicker and more responsive, to create better results, and place less financial burden on the client. As always, the key to success is staying on your toes, with an adaptive mindset and the ability to always look at what is possible; to keep going, asking and learning.”
As GFS continues to grow – having employed a sixth team member at the height of the pandemic – and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of Malta’s logistics sector, Jimmy is also focused on directing the company towards greater sustainability in all its operations.
“As humans, we seem to be doing everything to kill our world but there is no plan(et) B,” he stresses. “Since new opportunities and challenges are always on the horizon for GFS as a logistics company, it is our responsibility to use common sense – another great gift – to keep sustainability at the heart of everything we do and explore more planet-friendly freight solutions along each link in the logistics chain. No business model should be restricted to the inside of a box – and neither should your mind. It’s amazing what you can achieve by thinking outside the box,” he concludes.
This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.
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