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Booge la goon

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Ten years ago, when Al Boughton helped found Trailcon Leasing it was the scariest day of his life."The key goes in the door and the economy is in the tank, we've got no trailers or...

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Ten years ago, when Al Boughton helped found Trailcon Leasing it was the scariest day of his life.

“The key goes in the door and the economy is in the tank, we’ve got no trailers or people – I’m making my own coffee,” he exclaims. “You know the panic attacks Tony Soprano has … I know a thing or two about them.”

At the time, Bob Rae was the Premier of Ontario, so the lack of trailers was soon solved when Cronkwright Transport went under and Trailcon bought the failed fleet’s collection of 48-foot tandems and triaxles – exactly what Canadian Pacific and Canadian National’s leasing needs were about to switch to. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Nowadays, everything is, “Booge la goon,” which among Boughton’s inner circle is all you can say when life can’t get any better.

But if you want to know how Trailcon really got its start, you’ll need to go back to the 1981 Teamsters strike. That’s when Boughton, then with Provincial Trailer Rentals, met Jim Wilson, now his partner in Trailcon.

Wilson Truck Lines suddenly needed 250 trailers, which Boughton had although a lacklustre economy had them parked in a field, sunken down in the mud with the glad hands removed.

“He called me Thursday morning and we had them ready by Sunday night,” he says. “I went over to his place with about a foot-high stack of rental agreements.”

The two had never talked price and Wilson was clearly expecting to get gouged considering the strike slated to start the next morning, but Boughton had other ideas.

“In those days the going rate was about $325,” he explains. “I said, ‘I’ll give’em to you for $275 if I’m your guy once this strike ends.'”

They sealed the deal with a handshake and the foundation of Trailcon was laid.

It’s hard to talk about Boughton without talking about business. By his own admission, “I don’t differentiate between the two.”

Both have been built on relationships and treating people with honesty and integrity.

Through some masterful real-estate dealings in the early ’90s, Kenderry Gate – Mississauga’s closest thing to a trailer superstore – was created by the dynamic duo of Boughton and Wilson. Manac, Trailmobile, Reefer Sales and Service, and Midwest (a repair shop) join Trailcon Leasing on what could easily carry the name Trailer Drive in the heart of trucking country.

By October of 1996, the company bulged to four employees and now today it has a staff of 47 including 18 mobile mechanics (who earn an average of $104,000 a year). How do you keep a staff that size happy?

“I’ve always believed you have to have fun at work,” says Boughton. “After all, we spend more time together than with our families.”

A long-time supporter of the Ontario Trucking Association, Boughton points to the fact when it’s convention time all of his people are welcome to attend – not just the top brass.

“Some people work in customer service for 25 years and never meet the customers they talk to every day,” he says shaking his head in disbelief. He instead prefers to empower his people.

“You can’t give people shit until you’ve given them responsibility,” he jokes.

He concedes there are some pitfalls when you give your employees the power to make their own choices – in this competitive job market there is always the chance of losing people client-side. To guard against this, the fun atmosphere and better than average pay help ensure a low turnover rate. Building this idyllic place for his employees to work hasn’t come without personal benefits for Boughton, too. His corvette club membership, for example – he actually owns two sweet ‘vettes, the loaded honey pictured above and a 1970 model. As well, he owns a ’69 charger RT, a ’64 Impala SS and eight other classic cars.

“I love collecting cars, I wanted to collect women but my wife wouldn’t let me,” he jibes.

When you roll in all of his charity work, it’s not hard to see life is indeed nothing but Booge la goon for Boughton.

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