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YOUNG WALTER WILLIAMS


Walter was in his element. His Father, Jonathon, had assured that Walter would be able to realize his dream. His brothers, Alexander and Edgar, were very supportive and were happy to furnish the money and time to be certain that Walter could succeed in his chosen field. His Brother-in-Law, Teddy, had greased the way with his family.

Walter joined the Peters Marine Trading Company at the lowest level. It was his desire to start at the bottom so that he could learn all the facets of the business. By working at the bottom of each department, he learned what needed to be done, what they shouldn’t be doing, and how they could do the job better and more efficiently. Walter was a quick study. He made trips on the ships and visited the majority of their trading partners, especially the large ones. In spite of his young age, Walter earned the respect of the trading partners because they recognized that he knew what he was doing. He treated the partners with respect and listened to their ideas. No one from Peters Marine Trading had ever done that with their trading partners.

Walter worked long hours and learned all that he could for the next five years. When he thought that he was ready, he suggested to the Peters family that he should be a partner in the company. The family recognized that Walter was a great asset to the company. Many of his ideas had been implemented and had either saved the company money or had increased the profits on specific business. Now that Walter was in the center of the decision making for the company, he had some additional ideas to present. He had hesitated making some of the more drastic suggestions as he felt that the Peters family would not take them seriously.

The first major change that Walter made was to suggest selling the ships. Ownership of the ships was limiting them on where they could go and the speed with which they could react to opportunities. Walter suggested that they sell the ships to the captains that were currently in command. They could reduce their payroll significantly, both for the ship’s captain and the crew. They could also eliminate the huge costs of insurance on the ships and the cargo. Currently, if a good trading opportunity was presented but all of their ships were committed they had to pass on the opportunity. By not owning the ships they could contract with any available ship to make the load. By guaranteeing the ship captains a certain number of cargo loads per year they felt that the Captains would jump at the opportunity. They would have to pay a larger amount per ship load but the savings on labor, maintenance, and insurance would more than compensate for the increased cost. The Peters family and the Board of Directors of the company looked at the figures that Walter had put together and saw the justification for the move. They decided to proceed cautiously before making such a bold move. This would necessitate a total change in how they do business. After further thought they decided to investigate the change. They talked to the existing ship’s Captains and found that all of them were excited about the opportunity of owning the ships. It would require the Peters Marine Trading Company to carry some loans until the Captains could pay off the ships. The company had the available capital to accomplish this but just to hedge the bet they backed up the Captains loans with bank loans which the Captains were required to sign.

The second suggestion that Walter made was that the Company hire traders to travel on the ships to deal with the trading partners. This would allow them to look for additional opportunities in trade that would increase the Company’s activities at each stop. Since the Captain and crew of the ships were not on the Peters Marine Trading payroll, they felt more comfortable having one of their own people dealing with the trading partners.

The third suggestion that Walter made was that they look for more opportunities to sell goods from New Zealand to other areas. Currently, the focus of the business had been to bring in products needed in New Zealand. Many times the ships would leave the New Zealand port with minimal tonnage. By arranging to sell the wool from Windermere South, Walter had shown that carrying wool to China could be very profitable. There were other products produced in New Zealand that could be shipped. There were other markets that were ripe for trade. Peters Marine Trading was ignoring many markets. The entire west coast of South America was not being serviced from New Zealand. Ports such as Valparaiso, Lima, and Guayaquil could have some products to sell and some products that could be sold to them. The east coast of Africa from Durban in South Africa to Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika to Mombasa in Kenya could hold some opportunities. The southern ports of Asia such as Ceylon, Calcutta, Bombay, Rangoon, and Singapore could hold great promise. All of the Asian and African ports were currently being serviced from Europe. It was decided that Walter would personally travel to all the ports to determine if sufficient opportunities existed to focus time and energy on the places. Walter was certain that just the Asia and Africa ports would take about a year to properly investigate. It was decided that Jacob Peters, one of the sons, would visit the South American ports.

Walter took a ship to Freemantle in Western Australia and then took another ship to Durban. His Father had told him of the trip he made across the Southern Ocean and he was not looking forward to the trip. This trip was just as bad as his Father had said but, fortunately, he would not have the same trip on his return so it should be smoother. On arrival in Durban, he found great interest in people doing business with them. The word that a trader from New Zealand was in town did not take long to disseminate. He had a line of potential traders lined up to discuss opportunities. He found many products that were needed in South Africa and many products that could be sold, if not in New Zealand, then in other markets where they had contacts. Walter received the same reception in all the ports that he visited. He soon figured out that the traders were tired of dealing with Europe. The European traders were arrogant, demanding, and cheap. Dealing with Walter was a breath of fresh air for many of the traders. Walter made his way back to New Zealand by way of Singapore to Darwin to Brisbane to Auckland. On his return, Walter found that Jacob had gotten the same results in South America.

The board of directors met to discuss what Walter and Jacob had found. It was unanimously agreed that they should proceed, but cautiously. First they would need to hire and train additional traders to deal with all the new markets. After the training they would need to find ships that would work with them in trading in these far off markets. Walter presented to the board a planned approach that would take three years to implement. After that he suggested that they start to investigate the opportunities in the North Pacific. Walter wanted to investigate areas such as Shanghai, Pusan in Korea, Yokohama and Tokyo, Seattle and San Francisco, and Central America. They postponed making a decision on this until they had fully implemented Walter’s expansion plan.

Walter was named President of Peters Marine Trading Company. The changes that the company had made as a result of Walter’s suggestions had made the company into a leading company in Auckland. They were now the largest trading company in New Zealand. Before Walter arrived they had been the third largest. Walter remained active in the day to day running of the business and still made trips to meet with their trading partners. Walter, as partner, was making a great deal of money. He bought a mansion on one of the bays overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Walter was receiving numerous party invitations, especially from those parents with marriageable daughters. Walter was considered to be the most eligible bachelor in Auckland.

Walter decided to take some time from the business and visit his Father and Brothers at Windermere South. The farm was doing very well. His brothers had expanded the farm by another 8000 acres and now had about 25000 head of sheep. It was the largest flock in New Zealand. Only two farms in Australia had more head but the Australian farms had four times as many acres. Edgar had married the daughter of the farmer from which they purchased the 8000 acres. Alexander now had seven children and Edgar had four children. Jonathon still lived in the house and each of the brothers had built houses for their families. Walter was glad to see everyone doing well and happy but he was beginning to miss the excitement of the business world and was ready to leave when the month was up. However, Walter saw the joy that his Brothers derived from their families. The children were a joy and something that Walter knew he wanted.

On the trip back to Auckland, Walter chanced to meet a young lady from America that was visiting New Zealand. She was a beautiful girl with coal black hair, dark eyes, high cheekbones and tawny and rust colored skin. Walter was enchanted. She said her name was Sarah Huffman and she was from South Dakota. She was very proud of her Grandfather, Oskar, who was one of the early pioneers in Dakota Territory. She also was proud that her Grandmother was an American Indian. She loved them both very much. The family farmed 2000 acres in South Dakota. Her Father and Uncle ran the farm. Another Uncle had been the first governor of South Dakota after it became a state. She was staying with family friends in Auckland and told Walter that she would be delighted to have him call on her. Walter called on her often and the two fell madly in love with each other. Sarah sent a letter to her parents to tell them that she had met her true love. She advised that she was going to marry him if he asked. He did. Sarah’s parents, her Uncle and Aunt, and some of the Williams family from Nebraska were going to come for the wedding. Jonathon remembered the Huffman family. He had travelled to South Dakota with his brother when he had visited him in Nebraska. It was decided that the wedding would be held in Wellington, close to the family farm. There would be ample room to accommodate all of the visitors from America.

The wedding took place and the happy couple took a honeymoon to Tahiti. Walter also did some business while in Tahiti.

The Peters Marine Trading Company was prospering. They changed the name of the Company to Peters Corporation to reflect the new direction the company was taking. They had moved beyond trading. They were getting paper and wine from South Africa, coffee from Kenya, spices from Ceylon and India, hard woods from Borneo and New Guinea, rice from China and Indo-China, soft woods from South America, and nails from China. Japan was becoming a large customer for the firm. They realized that it was inefficient to send traders on the boats. Too many opportunities were missed. They opened offices in Durban, Calcutta, Singapore, and Shanghai. If they could find qualified men in the area, they made them manager of the area. If they could not find any qualified people then they sent one of the bright young men from New Zealand. The growth of the corporation was accelerating. Walter found that he was able to take more time from the Corporation. They had hired and trained some exceptional people and Walter had implicit trust in the people he had hired and trained. Sarah proved to be a very fertile mate and was very soon pregnant with her first child. Four children arrived in short intervals. Walter adored Sarah and each of the children.

Life was good.





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