Glasgow. November 1966. Brothers George & Mike Wills buy a small taxi firm from George Little, who is emigrating to Australia. At this time, taxis cannot be pre-booked, and spotting a gap in the market, Little’s launch an advance booking service; the first of its kind.
The company starts out with just three cars – a Humber Hawke, Humber Super Snipe and an Austin Princess. Mike works as a mechanic maintaining the fleet, George concentrates on sales and their first employee, Violet, starts with the company aged 15.
By the 1970s, Little’s are primarily working in the wedding and leisure markets. Leisure tour itineraries are created using guide books, a wall map of Scotland and a roller to estimate mileage. There’s no way to contact the chauffeurs while they are away on tour, so stringent pre-planning is a necessity.
The purchase of one burgundy Daimler limousine becomes a talking point, and the decision is made to repaint the rest of the fleet in matching burgundy. The fleet has now grown with the addition of four Humbers and two Daimler limousines.
In the late 1970s, George is one of the founding members of the International Limousine Association, and the growth of Little’s worldwide chauffeur service begins.
With the growth of the business and now 10 cars on the fleet, Little’s requires new, larger premises and they move their operations to a large shop front and garage at 1282 Paisley Road West, Glasgow.
Advance booking, a personal service and prestige cars, attract the corporate market and clients from ship building, whisky and finance start booking Little’s on a regular basis. To enable them to cover the whole of Scotland with ease, further premises in Edinburgh are secured.
The business continues to invest stridently in its fleet, with more limousines, Rovers and its first Previa people carrier being added.
George’s daughter Heather joins the business aged just 21. Her focus is marketing, and she is tasked with further expanding the business, particularly within financial services in London. In the late 90s, in recognition of her passion for the family business, Heather is made a Partner.
Technology continues to advance with employees being given Panasonic P3 mobile phones to heighten communication. Always innovating and embracing new ideas, Little’s have no idea at the time how mobile devices would take hold globally.
A new millennium marks Little’s coming of age as an established, globally-acclaimed chauffeur drive business. 2005 brings world leaders to Scotland for the G8 Summit at Gleneagles. Naturally, Little’s provide transportation for the full event which is a huge success.
In the background, major changes are taking place in the company structure and a succession plan is being put into place. In 2005, Heather takes over the management of the company from her father.
Little’s success at managing large scale events, leads to winning come major contracts. In 2012 the Chanel Metier d’Art fashion event takes place at Linlithgow Palace and Little’s are tasked with sourcing 100 black cars and temporary chauffeurs to deliver their requirements. The 2014 Commonwealth Games comes to Glasgow and Little’s manage the transportation for both the opening and closing ceremonies. The vast experience gained from Scottish events leads to clients demanding their event management services internationally, and in 2017 Little’s manage the requirements of a leading Formula One team at the Shanghai Grand Prix.
Little’s now own and operate over 45 luxury cars in Scotland and are still headquartered at 1282 Paisley Road West; the same premises secured by George in the 1980s. His daughter Heather is still the driving force behind Little’s and as Managing Director is focused on ensuring that the company continues to grow and innovate, whilst keeping traditional family business values at its core.
Technology has been the biggest influence on innovation within the business. Next year Little’s are developing the 4th version of their in house chauffeur software. The fleet is now made up of 40% hybrid vehicles and the business is targeted to have 100% hybrid/electric vehicles by 2023. A key focus of their sustainability charter is to reduce the impact their operations have on the environment; that’s why in October 2019, they removed all single use plastic water bottles in the Scottish fleet and replaced them with resealable and infinitely recyclable aluminium cans of water. The business grew exponentially last year, with turnover increasing by 39% and Little’s now have a team of over 50 head office and chauffeuring staff supporting the operations of the business.
The worldwide service that began to develop in the late 1970s now accounts for 50% of the services Little’s provide to their clients and they operate in over 125 countries worldwide.