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John Caldwell - leading from the front

In 2003 John Caldwell entered Trish’s life. An expansion to Australia had been on her mind for some time, however, the main focus was still on building Retailworld in New Zealand and talks had begun to open a retail recruitment agency in Wellington. After a few conversations with John, Trish said she would come back to him when Retailworld was ready to expand to Australia. 

John knew there was an opportunity here and wasn’t going to sit back and wait for an answer. A few days after their initial meeting he phoned Trish and the conversation went like this:

“Look, I’ve been thinking about our discussion, I’ve done a lot of research which I can show you. I’m going to do this in Australia one way or another. You either need to do it now if you want to do it with me or when you come to Australia in 12 months, you’ll be competing against me” 

From here their partnership began, and John led the charge of launching Retailworld and Hospoworld Australia into the successful businesses they are today.

We spoke to John as he reflected on the early days of the business:

‘From day one we were always very marketing focused so the lion's share of our start-up budget was focused on marketing, this left very little for "pretty things" I recall like it was yesterday going to a furniture auction and buying 15 year-old second-hand desks and tables for our office, I was beyond excited. Incidentally, it was all from the old Australian wheat board offices and people were puzzled for years as to why we had pictures of wheat fields and wheat harvesters in our meeting rooms. Never a team to take it slow while waiting for our furniture Trish and I set up an office on cardboard boxes and started recruiting, these were some of the most fun days of my career.

When we launched in Australia we just assumed the work would flow in and it didn't! It was a bit of a rocky start, there were times Trish and I wondered "what have we done". However, this made it all the more exciting when we landed our first clients. Not only did they come on board but they were wonderful supportive partners in Kate Bergin from CUE and Jason Ball from Pizza Hut, both of whom are still very special to me. 

There was a real game-changing moment for me when after a year of cold calling the new global player in town,  Borders Books, I finally got a call back from the HR Manager Lisa Geyer. This call would end up being transformative for the business. For the next 5 years, Borders became our number one client. We opened dozens of large format stores with them and developed new ways of recruiting including our large scale "job fairs" which have now been used for many large retailers in Australia. Borders will always hold a special place in my heart and Lisa a life-long friend. 

Starting from cardboard boxes everything feels like a win and a memorable moment but nothing compares to the first time your team sets an annual goal and achieves it together. Taking our entire team on an international flight to New Zealand was an extremely proud moment. This was one of many high achievers conferences we have held over the years, although the destinations have become a little more glamorous including Mykonos, Dubai, Miami, LA, New York and London.'

John is an instrumental part of the growth, development and success of Retailworld, he is fun, driven, engaging, commercial and has always had the passion and drive to succeed. RWR Group wouldn’t be the business it is today without him. 

“We have always wanted to build something amazing and leave a legacy, sounds cliche but it’s true”

And that's exactly what John and Trish have done.