50 years of Little’s – A journey through time
November 28th 1966 – The journey begins
Little’s is formed on 28th November 1966 in Glasgow by brothers Mike and George Wills.
The company starts out with three cars – a Humber Hawke, Humber Super Snipe and an Austin Princess – and their first ever contract – a drive out to to Glasgow Airport.
Mike is the company mechanic looking after the fleet and George is in charge of sales. 15 year old Violet Walker, Little’s first employee, starts the following year to run the office.
1967/8 – Full speed ahead
In 1967 they add 4 Humbers and 2 Limousines to the fleet and secure the first Little’s chauffeured tour of Scotland – to Gleneagles, Dewar’s Whisky and back to Edinburgh Airport. Thereafter, as tours increased, it was not uncommon for Little’s chauffeurs to embark on month-long tours with international visitors!
Business begins to come from London and in 1968 the International Limousine Association was founded, with George assisting in the formation of the group. Through this, Little’s now had access to trusted suppliers in 200 cities across 55 countries and spanning 5 continents.
Building the business…on paper
With no technology at their disposal, Violet uses a big paper wall map of Scotland and a roller to estimate time and mileage. Once the drivers were off on their job, there was no way of contacting them. Leisure tours took months to plan, exchanging letters with overseas clients and using guide books for inspiration.
A new market
With the addition of a new Daimler limousine which is the first car to feature Little’s signature burgundy colour – they had accidentally discovered branding! All cars are soon re-painted to match, quickly gaining a number of wedding bookings and monopolising the Glasgow wedding market.
The successful ’60s
Prestigious contracts begin to roll in, including the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in London (George drives down personally for this in a Daimler) and the stars of EMI Records when they are playing the Glasgow Apollo – including the Osmonds and David Cassidy.
The 1960s end on a high, with a contract to drive the Royal Family to join the Royal Yacht Britannia and the purchase of Little’s first Rolls-Royce Phantom VI.
The road to success
The Wills brothers focus on becoming the lead chauffeur drive business in Scotland, investing in the best cars and service helping them to grow the business through recommendation.
In 1979 they move to the company’s modern-day address at 1282 Paisley Road West, and now with a fleet of 10 luxury cars, the corporate side of the business really starts to grow within the financial services, whisky and shipbuilding industries.
Demand from international visitors to Scotland also blossoms, with contracts from American, Japanese and Chinese tourists!
1990s: More cars, stars – and financial roadshows
The business continues to invest in its fleet, with more limousines, Rovers and its first Previa people carrier (unheard of at this time.)
The opening of Glasgow’s SEC events and conference centre provides Little’s with a boost, as does Glasgow’s 1990 European City of Culture programme.
High profile clients continue to book with Little’s, including Paul McCartney, Ronald Reagan, Mick Jagger and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The early 90s marks the start of the financial roadshow, and Little’s secures much of this business due to their professional service and new in-car phones. Heather Matthews, George’s daughter, joins the company at this time to work in marketing, tasked with contacting financial firms in London to win more business.
Following successes in London, roadshows for blue-chip clients spread across international financial centres begins to grow.
The first computers and mobile phones
Following decades of reliance on fax machines and telephones, 1995 is a milestone; the first Little’s computer is installed bringing the benefits of route planning software (auto-route) for time and mileage as well as a diary system – but still without the internet.
In 1997 the business stages a glamorous Burns Night event in London to consolidate growth in the city – and Heather is appointed a partner.
Technology continues to advance – on-call employees were given Panasonic P3 mobile phones. Always innovating, although perhaps impractical in the modern day.
The new millennium marks Little’s coming of age as an established globally acclaimed business. Major contracts are secured, including the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005 for world leaders, the Chanel Metier d’Art fashion show in 2012 as well as the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Little’s organised chauffeur driven transport for the 11 days of competition from 23rd July to 3rd August 2014, including services for all headline talent. This would become one of the highlights of Little’s history.
The company becomes a leader in technology with its in-house designed client portal, plus its investment in a fleet of green Lexus cars brings a commitment to sustainability in 2015.
To reflect this modernisation, Heather – who is now the company’s Managing Director following George’s retirement – refreshes the Little’s brand but keeps her dad’s classic burgundy colours on board.
The Next Generation
The culmination of the efforts of two young brothers from Glasgow spanning fifty years has resulted in the growth of a 3-car taxi firm in a small corner of the world to a leading global luxury chauffeur drive firm – and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2015, Heather is shortlisted as Female Business Leader of the Year at the Scottish Business Awards, and the whole company wins Family Business of the Year at the Herald Scottish Family Business Awards.
The continuation of the service excellence Little’s has provided as standard over the past 50 years will be achieved through a further growth in worldwide operations, fleet modernisation and expansion, further development of the client portal and Little’s online presence and, of course, the dedication of our staff and loyalty from our clients.