The reform of Australia Post's loss-making letters business took a lot longer than managing director Ahmed Fahour would have liked.
The head of Australia Post says it took longer than he expected to reform the company's haemorrhaging mail business and reduce its losses, delaying the company's expansion overseas.
Managing director Ahmed Fahour has told a business lunch that his one regret since taking the helm in 2010 was underestimating how much effort it would take to reform a government-owned company such as Australia Post.
"I underestimated how much time you need to bring everybody on the journey: stakeholders, unions, licensed post offices, employees - number one - and indeed the whole community," Mr Fahour told a Trans-Tasman Business Circle event.
"What it did do is it really slowed us down to pursue the other leg of our strategy which is the internationalisation of this company."
Australia Post made a $36 million profit in 2015/16 after posting a $222 million loss in the prior year, with growth in its parcels business and the introduction of a two-speed letter service helping to boost the bottom line.
Mr Fahour said the letters business, which is in structural decline given the dominance of digital communications, loses $200 million to $300 million a year just because of digital disruption.
"We have to replace $200 million to $300 million of profit with business initiatives every year," he said.
"But the culture of the organisation that we have set up is allowing us to keep re-inventing this thing every day."
In June, Australia Post established a joint-venture operation with global parcel delivery company Aramex in Singapore, designed to tap into the $1 trillion Asian e-commerce market.
"I felt that's two years behind where I really would have liked to have done it," Mr Fahour said.
Australia Post has become one of the best parcels delivery companies in the world, he said, but sources of revenue are still changing rapidly.
About 60 per cent of Australia Post's profit now comes from sources or businesses that the company did not have in 2010, Mr Fahour said.
He also revealed the personal challenges he has encountered in the job, and thanked chairman John Stanhope for his support.
"The job is so hard. It's so hard." Mr Fahour said.
"To know that you can openly and honestly talk about whatever's on your mind, and sit there and really have somebody who is only intent on doing one thing - which is getting the best possible outcome for the organisation and who has your interest at heart - it allows you to stay sane as a CEO."