This case study was prepared by Geoff Bell the former Chief Executive Officer of Sydney Markets Limited. Geoff currently provides services in Business Planning, Coaching and Mentoring. He can be contacted at 612 6656-2429.


Sydney Markets are Australia’s largest fresh produce and community markets, and arguably one of the top five wholesale fresh produce markets worldwide.
Brands include Sydney Fresh Produce Market, Sydney Flower Market and Paddy’s Markets (Haymarket & Flemington).

High intensity, 24/7/365 operations:
250,00m2 of trading, warehousing, shopping, office & parking facilities under management at two sites.
> $3.0 billion worth of commercial activity generated annually.
Approx 2 million tonnes of fresh produce traded annually.
Approx 70,000 vehicle movements per week.
> 100,000 customer visits per week.
Markets privatised in 1998 following a long period of management by a NSW government statutory authority. Sydney Markets Limited (SML) was incorporated at that time with the market traders as the shareholders of the company.
(NB: SML turns over approx $50m pa, derived mainly from rents and management fees. The company employs just under 100 fulltime staff, supported by approx 30 contractors who augment security and market operations, and provide specialist trades & technical functions.)

The Problem

A poor workplace culture was clearly evident at the point of changeover from government authority to private sector business. This culture was characterised by the following:

Process driven workplace with lack of focus on outcomes and low productivity.
Lack of positive interaction between staff and customers (ie, the market traders who were now also the owners of SML).
Poor relationship between staff and public visitors to the Markets.
Punitive environment not conducive to developing people or efficient systems.
Lack of accountability resulting from unclear lines of responsibility and a failure to properly define job specifications.
Poor utilisation of staff knowledge and experience to generate ideas and improve efficiency.

Very little training & development of staff – what did exist was unfocused.
There was an Award in place for all employees except executive management. This caused a split within the management structure of the company that needed to be addressed.