Charlie Schwerkolt and Waverley Forklifts – Part #2
On our last blog post (check it out here) we covered the beginnings of Waverley…now we’re taking a look at the way the Charlie joined the family business and drove it to become the specialised forklift rental company it is today.
As Waverley has always been a family business, Charlie was eager to learn the ropes from a young age. Leaving school at fifteen in 1976, he began in the bottle recycling business and then moved into a diesel forklift apprenticeship. He also drove bottle truck early morning shifts to deliver the recycled bottles and began getting more involved with the forklift rental side of things.
In 1981, Waverley had ten second hand forklifts that had been sourced from auctions, and by 1986 the fleet had forty machines available for hire.
As the business grew, Charlie began taking over more responsibilities and in 1987 Charlie’s dad left to focus on his dream of starting a car museum (which he still has today! It’s located in Arthurs Seat, Victoria and is full of amazing treasures).
All of the forklifts in the fleet at this stage were second hand and were getting older. Charlie knew Waverley had the potential to become a specialised rental company, but new equipment would be needed for this to happen.
So in 1989, Charlie purchased twenty brand new forklifts!
But then the 1990s recession hit and customers were just not renting forklifts; with over 90% of the fleet in the yard, Charlie knew he had to dig deep and find a way to get them out on hire. Through his contacts, he heard the fruit season in the Goulburn Valley and Mildura, Victoria was coming up and that a lot of the equipment in the area wasn’t good quality. He immediately focused his attention there and it paid off – he got 75% of the fleet out.
This is just one example of the determination and grit Charlie has shown throughout his years at the helm of Waverley Forklifts – there are plenty of others, and all demonstrate his commitment to the company.
The next stage of the business centred on forklift transport.
Charlie was having difficulties getting his equipment out in the timeframes he needed – so he bought a truck – and then another – and another! Tapping into a niche in the market, he also started designing specialised trucks that could transport tall forklifts.
In 1996, Waverley won a joint venture deal with Linfox to build the circuit for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, and WFL has supplied forklifts for the track setup every year since.
In 2005, the timing was ideal to expand to beyond Victoria. The WFL Sydney branch opened in Wetherill Park and operations also began in Queensland during 2006, thus enabling Waverley to supply customers nationally.
In 2008, the forklift rental fleet had grown to five hundred machines…and it didn’t stop there. By 2013 the fleet had expanded to one thousand – and then 2018 saw the numbers increase to two thousand!
And under Charlie’s guidance, the forklift fleet isn’t the only area of the business that has experienced rapid growth.
By 2018, the Sydney location was no longer big enough and operations moved to a large site in Smithfield.
In 2019, WFL Transport (the transport division) had increased to twenty trucks and the newest branch of Waverley Forklifts opened in Adelaide, South Australia.
In 2020, with Charlie leading the way, Waverley Forklifts will continue to be Australia’s leading privately owned forklift company and will always be industry leaders in the areas of forklift rental, hire, service and transport.