MT: You have more than doubled your revenues over the last five years. What have been the key elements behind such impressive revenue growth? Seymour: Our ability to stick to the fundamentals of good ...
MT: You have more than doubled your revenues over the last five years. What have been the key elements behind such impressive revenue growth?
Seymour: Our ability to stick to the fundamentals of good service and good relationships, built upon a base of good people, has been essential. I refer a lot to the fact that we are in the people business not just the trucking business. A lot of good opportunities have come our way because of the reputation of our people and our company. I recall one customer of ours telling his competitor about our service and urging them to give us a call. They did and today they’re one of our top customers.
MT:You concentrate on the Ontario and Quebec markets and points east of the Mississippi to the south with some runs into the Gulf states. Can you outline the strategy behind such a concentrated market focus?
Seymour: It’s not smart for a small company like ours to spread itself out across North America. Our efficiency and profitability are largely driven by our ability to balance trucks with freight both ways. If you don’t put a lot of trucks into an area on a regular basis it’s hard to develop a customer in that area with the freight to get you home. I would rather put 15 trucks a day in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and try to find a customer down there with regular backhauls than put a truck in Dallas, Texas, once a month and expect to find a customer who wants to ship a load on the day I happen to have a truck there.
MT: Your motto is “The Difference is in Our People”. Lots of carriers have a similar motto, of course, but with a turnover rate of less than 10 percent in your driver force you seem to be one of the few fleets that actually stands behind its words. What are you doing that’s different?
Seymour: Right from the beginning we put a tremendous amount of emphasis on what to expect from the job. We tell it like it is. We are a short-haul carrier that tries to get its drivers home as often through the week as possible. Beyond that we have a joint advisory committee which has representation from all the different parts of our business – drivers, mechanical staff, warehouse staff, operations staff, administration staff, etc. We meet once a month and it’s an opportunity to talk openly with one another. There are minutes of the meetings communicated to all our employees. We want people to be well educated about what’s going on. I’ve always believed that if you want somebody to do a good job you have to give them a good job to do. I think the fact that we have been selected one of the 50 Best Managed Private Companies speaks to the fact we have good people here. I didn’t get the award, the company got the award and the award is recognition for our people.
MT: You run your own driver training school. How did that come about and what’s the strategic reasoning behind it?
Seymour: Five years ago there was a major plant closure in Brockville and a lot of people were displaced who were in their early 40’s or early 50’s. Quite a few wanted to drive a truck as a new career but there was no one to teach them. We were approached to see if we were interested in putting together such a program. We did it and we got some good people out of it. We then decided to continue with the program and open it to the general public and it has been going ever since. It fuels growth for us. I would say 30-40 percent of the people we graduate from that school become employees of ours. A lot of what makes a good driver is their attitude about what they’re doing. You get someone who has always wanted to do this but just never had the chance, and often they come into it with the right attitude.
MT:All your trucks, including your owner/operator rigs, are equipped with electronic speed control and governed at 100 km/h. It can’t be easy sticking to such a policy when so many carriers have thrown out speed controls, despite the sharp increase in fuel costs, for the sake of driver retention.
Seymour: We are one of the few fleets that do that but we see truck speeds as a very serious issue in terms of safety and the industry’s public image. I think tremendous damage to the image of our industry and unsafe practices are created when Joe Motorist going down the road at 105-110 km/h in his car gets blown away by a transport truck doing 115-120 km/h. If we all governed the speed of our trucks there would be no reason for someone to leave a company over a governed speed limit. Drivers may not like it but they can accept it and they can appreciate the rationale behind saving money and saving lives.
MT: In addition to your core transportation services you also offer warehousing services out of facilities in Prescott and Mississauga, Ont. You have also added Kriska Logistics to your family of businesses. What did you see in the marketplace that prompted these moves into areas outside your core product?
Seymour: We find a lot of smaller companies have individuals who wear many hats. The person in charge of purchasing may also be the traffic manager and raw materials purchaser. We have people who are capable of helping our customers manage those daily tasks and we bring that all together under the logistics arm. For example, one of our customers found they didn’t have enough space in their facility to house their manufacturing as well as their raw materials and finished products so they’re using our warehouse to store all their raw materials. And that in turn has allowed us to get involved with some freight with their suppliers that we hadn’t previously been involved with. They (the different business units) just seem to feed off one another very well.
MT: Looking into the future which issues that will affect your company are you most enthusiastic about?
Seymour: I’m enthusiastic that there is going to be some correction in the marketplace. Some OEMs and banks have made it easy for people, who otherwise would not have been able to start companies, to enter the business. And I think that has brought some people into the market who have not done our industry justice. The fact things are going to slow down is probably going to cause some upheaval and some exodus in our industry and I think that will be a good thing. Of course, we’ll all suffer a little but at the end of the day it will make the wise a little wiser and the unwise take up a new occupation.
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