REGINA, Sask. — It didn’t take long for Al Ackerman and his partner to learn a valuable lesson in the business world – it’s not all about what you want, it’s about what your clients need.
Ackerman and Yvonne Zadorozniak, his partner both professionally and personally, started Slinkemo Enterprises in 2001 with one truck, much like many other family-owned trucking companies.
But unlike those other carriers, Ackerman was content with a single truck.
“The idea behind the company was to have a little more control of how we did things when we first started, and the plan was to work seasonally, with different times being busier than others,” said Ackerman.
“The plan was to work hard for a good part of the year and also have a little family time for part of the year. It wasn’t really a goal to grow trucks.”
But Slinkemo did grow, not because Ackerman and Zadorozniak’s goal changed, but because their customers led them down that path, in essence guiding their success.
“Our focus now is serving our clients so that they can’t live without us,” said Ackerman. “In order to do that you have to give them what they need to be successful.”
Today, Slinkemo concentrates on the drayage, container handling and storage, and transloading businesses, primarily in the agriculture sector across the Prairies. They also provide tractor services, with 18 company trucks and five owner-operators.
“We provide first-mile services on pulse crop exports as they begin their trek around the world,” explained Ackerman. “Our clients ship products globally and we get those products to rail as they work their way to the ports.”
Slinkemo also hauls farm equipment across the Canadian Prairies, and as Ackerman says, the key to success in this sector is service.
“Today’s producers have large acres to work in a short period of time and they need the inputs there on time to ensure their operation is covering as much ground in a short window of time as possible,” he said. “Keeping their success as a top priority is the key to a satisfied customer.”
Diversifying their business has been a big part of Ackerman and Zadorozniak’s success, helping them become a more stable carrier.
“Employees and clients need to be assured the company they are working for or with is doing things professionally – setting the standard so to speak, rather than cutting corners,” said Ackerman. “Innovation is leaps and bounds more important than degradation to try to lower a rate.”
Slinkemo’s relocation to Regina’s Greater Transportation Hub was another move that helped the carrier expand, as it brought them closer to the source of the freight they haul.
“It has allowed us to change our operating model,” said Ackerman, “creating more efficiencies and less dwell time at the rail yards, which has increased our customer service.”
Notwithstanding the success of Slinkemo, Ackerman still has his share of concerns on his plate, with the economy near the top of his list.
He believes government plays a major role in economic growth, with policies that can either accelerate or hinder private businesses’ ability to thrive.
“Business in Saskatchewan has been good for us over the past few years,” said Ackerman. “It may have softened a little in the back half of 2018 and into 2019, but we are optimistic about what the future holds for our province.”
Being a resource-based province that experiences ups and downs, Ackerman’s optimistic side believes Saskatchewan’s recent softening could mean the next boom is right around the corner.
One area Ackerman and Zadorozniak have no concerns is with the implementation of electronic logging devices (ELDs) before the Canadian mandate drops next year.
The pair adopted ELDs early last year and it has proved to be a positive investment for Slinkemo.
“It helps us in all ways, from dispatch to maintenance, to administration and compliance, and the operators. It allows us to maximize visibility of our operation and that creates efficiency and accuracy, both helping the bottom line,” said Ackerman.
“When the mandate comes for ELDs in Canada, it will be just another day at the office for our company.”
Moving forward, Ackerman and Zadorozniak no longer resist the growth of their company to meet their customer’s needs, and have even come to embrace the idea.
“The transportation industry is going to see some interesting times with advances in technology. Our company is looking forward to growing our business with great clients, embracing advances in technology, and preserving customer satisfaction through it all,” said Ackerman.
“Keeping up with advances, while maintaining the focus on our clients’ success, will be the key to our future success.”
Derek Clouthier can be reached by phone at (403) 969-1506 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at @DerekClouthier
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