036: In 1966 started in a servo, bought a truck, built a fuel distribution business, poor exit with business partner, with new partner grew defunct distributor from 1 to 30 FTE, $0 to $80m sales & 100m litres pa 2001 sold for 5x profit (John Trewin)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

August 31, 2020

In this episode, I interview John Trewin, the previous co-owner of Advanced Petroleum. At the age of 29 in 1966, John got his first job off the farm in a petrol station, bought a truck, grew the fuel distribution company, and added a business partner (which didn’t end well a few years later) While he was taking some time out of the distribution game, he was approached to rebuild another distributor nearby. He went on to grow it from 1 full-time employee (himself) to 30 full-time employees, and from 0 sales to $80 Million in annual sales. The business was selling over 100 million litres a year just eight years after starting in 1989. 12 years later, the business sold for 5 times profit. 

John credits the team he had back then for the phenomenal success they had with the business and feels he got 90% of the hires right. He believes strongly in “Looking after your people” He and his new business partner started with a little capital and had 6 months to prove they could build the sales volume before BP gave them a long term contract. They funded their fast growth in a risky, but genius way, where they put more than $3 Million in the overnight money market for 15 months right after the 1990 recession and earned 21% or $600,000 in interest per year. 

With some luck and advice, they dodged losing $6 Million the business had in their bank when that bank went under a week after withdrawing all funds. John has always loved a business challenge and shares that the moment he felt they had succeeded with Advanced Petroleum was when they got through the first 6 months. He feels the hardest thing about growing a small business is choosing the right people. He says that the advice he would give himself on day one of starting a business is, “Seek more advice about running a business and in particular talk to other people who own a business, especially those who are older and with more experience” Stay tuned to gain from John’s immense wealth of business wisdom.

This Cast Covers:

  • Starting in the oil industry in 1966 and having a successful 38-year journey.
  • Taking over a failed inland storage tunnel and turning it around.
  • How they raised funding by investing their cash flow on the overnight money market at interest rates of up to 21% per annum.
  • Becoming more efficient so they could be both fuel sellers and transport operators.
  • Taking the opportunity to lease service stations and how they made money from that.
  • Dealing with the two major types of shrinkage that were affecting their business.
  • Selling their 50% of the business to BP in a satisfactory arrangement.
  • The satisfaction of being able to pick a good team that helped grow the business.
  • Being one of the first companies that invested in computerization.
  • The importance of picking the right team members to help market the business.
  • Marketing after the first five years: Spending more on making sure they weren’t going to lose business.
  • How they came up with the name, “Advanced Petroleum”
  • Selling some real estate to put in his share of the startup capital and how they found an opportunity in the recession back then.
  • Understanding that there is never a need to get worked about things one can’t control.
  • Facing the stress of a broken business partnership.
  • His pride in creating employment and seeing his employees enjoy doing their jobs.
  • The allure of the challenge of the unknown that comes with running a small business.
  • Having resilience, the ability to see ahead, and relying on instinct to make early calls.
  • Looking after employees and rewarding them when they do a great job.
  • The value he got from investing in mentors.
  • The relief he got from exiting the business both operationally and financially.
  • Buying a couple of small businesses after he had retired.
  • Starting one of the first aerial photography businesses when they could only use Blimps to take photos.
  • The hardest thing in growing a small business: Choosing the right people
  • Growing a small business by finding a good mentor and seeking advice from more experienced business owners.

Additional Resources:



“Pick the right people and give them something to work with” – John Trewin

“There is never a need to get worked up about things you can’t control” – John Trewin

“Find the right people, be comfortable, and make sure the people are good at their jobs” – John Trewin

“Look after your people and reward them for jobs well done” – John Trewin

“Seek more advice about running a business from older people who own a business” – John Trewin


Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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