Roger Caesar: A family (business) man

by Sonia Straface

There is no shortage of family businesses in the Canadian trucking industry, as many transport businesses today are run by (or are beginning to be run by) someone’s son or daughter in hopes of keeping the business alive, fresh, and bearing the same last name.

One family-run company, Caesar Transport based in Etobicoke, Ont., is being run by the second generation of Caesars already, after Ray Caesar handed the business baton over to his son, Roger, in 2005.

Since then, the company has seen a number of changes.

Roger Caesar originally wasn’t interested in the family business that was started by his father and uncles in 1984.

Back then, the business was called Caesar Brothers and was a small cube van courier business in the GTA. Then in 1987, Ray branched off and started Caesar Transport with help from his wife.

Coincidentally, while his parents created a flourishing trucking business in Toronto, Roger went to university to study marketing and accounting. He said he never really thought he’d take over the family business, but one day he just thought it would be best for him.

“I wanted to be an accountant,” he said. “That was what I wanted to be. But then it just hit me one day. I felt that it wasn’t my calling and that I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. So it wasn’t my parents or anyone else who influenced me. I just made the decision to just speak first and try it. And I did. I went in and told my dad that I wanted to start working here and it went from there.”

Today, Caesar Transport specializes in less-than-load and truckload deliveries in and around the GTA with five drivers and seven trucks.

Caesar says he started with the company back in 1998, when he faced a serious learning curve (unsurprising for any newcomer to the industry – there’s a ton to learn).

His father retired officially in 2005, and since then, Roger Caesar’s been the one in charge.

“I love it,” he said. “Anybody who owns a business will tell you you’ve got to love what you do. There are those days we have where there are moments that things don’t always work the way you want them to, and you get frustrated but at the end of the day I think that I made the best decision in terms of my career.”

Though Caesar admitted the industry is under tough times, in terms of improper training of drivers (something he would like to see amended immediately) and a lack of qualified drivers, he said the company is lucky enough and small enough to not be affected by the driver shortage.

“I’ve had guys that have been with me now for 22 years,” he said. “We’ve never had an issue of turnover rates here and so in that aspect I can truly say that we’ve been blessed to have good guys working for us. I think that helps us do what we do well. We treat them right too and there’s always the idea that they can come to us with anything. We’re a pretty tight-knit family here, which is ironic because we are a family business.”

Over the years, Caesar said his education in marketing and accounting has helped the business flourish into a household name in the Toronto trucking community.

“Obviously we live in an era now where technology is at the forefront and so we have to change with the times,” he said. “And in my case all the things my father did in terms of being a more hand-shaking smiling kind of guy, I had to change a lot of things. Once he first saw me making changes like our logo and everything, he was a little bit hesitant because he’s old-school but after a while he realized all of these things, which is part of my marketing expertise, started to come out and he understood what it meant.”

Caesar’s education is something that seems to be endless.

For four years, Caesar has been a Toastmaster – something he is incredibly proud of. For the unfamiliar, Toastmasters is an organization that helps people become better leaders and assists with public speaking.

There are Toastmasters clubs around the globe that help executives, business owners, immigrants and those who are nervous or shy speaking to others in a particular or professional setting, gain confidence and be a more comfortable speaker.

His dedication to the club shows on his resume, too.

In November 2014, Caesar won the Toastmasters District 86 competition in the Humorous Speech category.

Caesar said he became a part of the group when a certain quiet business executive made him doubt his conversational skills.

“I walked into this meeting one day with an executive and he was a really quiet individual and everything he did was through e-mail or through text message,” he said. “And I sat in that office and I was trying to sell my business to him and he barely spoke…I had beads coming down my face, I thought I know my business but normally I have some type of dialogue between somebody. That way I can start conversation, he could ask a question and I could answer it.

“But it wasn’t like that…I looked back at that moment and thought I never want to feel that way again. I don’t want anyone to make me feel intimidated or that I was inferior and I couldn’t express myself properly and that’s why I joined. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

“Now I feel confident and I feel like I can speak to anyone about anything and with the skills I learned I know how to bring out conversation out of people.”

Caesar Transport just celebrated its 30th year in business last year, and Caesar’s hopes for the company is that it remain successful and in the family.

“This industry is very tricky and you can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “I would eventually love to expand this business, in terms of where we go.

“Currently, we’re only in the GTA. Eventually I’d love to head down to the States, but that’s not now. It’s something that has to come in terms of how the industry and the economy goes. I have two daughters and I hope that they would become interested in the business as well. So it could stay in the family.”

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