Initially business was slow but they hung in there and made some good connections - most importantly with the Swires. One problem was that rates per tonne were initially higher than sailing ships, and it wasn't until the 1870s that their costs were lower.
By 1875 the fleet was 14 strong, ten years later it was 28, then in 1895 up to 36: steady and controlled growth, taking advantage of opportunities to buy new ships at economical prices.
There were tensions, with the Swires pushing for more, newer, faster ships: but they were thinking of the cargo they could ship, not the costs involved.
The long Victorian era of stability was not to last, and in 1914, and again in 1939, the company found itself at war.
Photo from: here