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Wakefield Canada’s Kent Rennie and Anthony Stadelman

Wakefield Canada Inc. was newly created last year, specifically to market and distribute Castrol brand products to the Canadian market. We sat down with the new company's vice president of sales and m...

Wakefield Canada Inc. was newly created last year, specifically to market and distribute Castrol brand products to the Canadian market. We sat down with the new company’s vice president of sales and marketing, Kent Rennie, and marketing manager Anthony Stadelman (both of them formerly from Castrol Canada) to find out exactly how the duo plan to break in.

MT: Castrol products already have a strong presence in the Canadian automotive market, but what portion of the market share do Castrol’s heavy duty lubes have currently?

KR: Castrol has a very small presence on the Canadian HD market, and I think to say two per cent might even be a stretch – because really to be quite honest with you I don’t think anybody has a defined way to determine what the heavy duty market is, not that I’m aware of anyway. That said I’d like to back up a bit. Twenty months ago, Anthony Stadelman and I were not even involved specifically in the heavy duty business – Castrol Canada Inc. handled both commercial and heavy duty together – so he and I can certainly talk about our relationships with Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, etc. but when it comes to heavy duty, we’re clearly venturing into uncharted waters. Having said that, Castrol has always had a heavy duty division in North America and Canada, although that division was basically left to its own devices and did a fairly good job with few resources. But now with the creation of Wakefield Canada Inc. there’s an opportunity for us to add resources to better understand the market and its distinct needs.

MT: How exactly are you doing that?

KR: First of all, we’re working on putting resources in place across the country – especially in Ontario and Quebec and western Canada. To begin with we’ll have salespeople who handle both our automotive and heavy duty business across Canada, and who understand the Castrol brand, except of course in Ontario and Quebec, where the bulk of our customers are and where we do have dedicated heavy duty specialists. In 2006 I’m confident we’ll have another dedicated heavy duty sales person in western Canada. Currently we have a heavy duty marketing manager working for us, researching what kind of market there is in Canada and what we can hope to get in it. Personally, I’m spending a lot of time learning about the market – attending heavy duty trucking conventions, getting out and meeting the customers and talking about how we can go to market with some of them – basically just trying to understand what we need to do.

MT: It’s certainly a tough market to crack – no? People don’t change very easily in this industry especially when they’re happy with the services they’re already getting. What do you plan to offer in terms of products and services to change their minds – in addition to what people are already getting?

KR: As far as services go, Wakefield has stated that customer focus will be its strong point, that it will even strive to be customer “intuitive.” And we feel that as a company that’s a small distributor of Castrol products we can offer that kind of personalized service better than a large integrated oil company can – after all they’re selling fuels first and lubes second. Obviously, our main focus is on the lubes, we don’t sell fuel, and we have a few very significant customers currently using Castrol products, including the Challenger Motor Freight fleet, based here in Ontario. We’re hoping to leverage our relationship with these customers in the marketplace using testimonials.

MT: Who is your prime target?

KR: Fleet owners and owner/operators. Particularly those small entrepreneurial companies with one to 35 trucks.

MT: You must see gaining Challenger as a customer as quite a score then?

KR: Yes, yes we do. But we also already have customers in the construction and waste industries.

MT: Does a focus on lubes make for a better product?

KR: Definitely, in terms of technology. We put all our focus on developing lubes.

AS: The quality of our products is definitely a major selling point – particularly the extended drain intervals they provide. The extended drain intervals will definitely help us in the heavy duty market. And as far as customer service goes, we also want to continue to differentiate ourselves from our competitors – we want to be viewed as a business partner by our customers, not just a supplier. We’re also beginning to understand how hungry the market is for information on the latest technology and how it can help grow their businesses. We think offering training and seminars may add more value to our product. But we’re not quite there yet. We’re still asking our customers what it is they want. It’s a huge opportunity to be creative. There are all kinds of opportunities out there.

MT: There must be some sort of deal, in terms of a price point, that you get when you buy your fuel and lube from the same company. How do you plan to counteract that?

AS: Competitive pricing coupled with the excellence of our product is the most compelling message we can transmit to our clients. Still, most fleets and owner/operators already know that you shouldn’t compromise on the quality of your lube just because of where you buy your fuel. Challenger Motor Freight is just one of the companies that already knows this. Of course pricing won’t be the main part of our strategy – one has to take into account the dynamics of the rising price of base crude oil. That said, we know we have to remain competitive in terms of pricing.

MT: Is distribution going to be an issue, seeing as you’re just starting out?

KR: Definitely not. We have our own fleet and we also hire out through third-party providers, and we already supply our current customers very efficiently from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And we are looking at opening a distribution facility out west eventually, as our business in western Canada grows. In short, we’re fully able to supply our customers with what they need when and where they need it. That said, we do our own manufacturing here as well in Toronto, and that is very strategic in terms of ease of distribution and pricing.

MT: What about Castrol’s ability to serve the special needs of the Canadian heavy duty market in terms of climate?

KR: Castrol is truly a global company, in terms of the quality and range of its products. Castrol currently manufactures lubes for various needs, for altitudes like the Rockies, to desert conditions found in southern California, to the coldest temperatures in northern Alberta. In fact, Castrol products are present in 42 countries around the world, all of them with a variety of climate conditions.

MT: What portion of the market do you hope to be carrying in two years? And how many people do you plan to hire to accommodate that?

KR: I would say anything is possible but it’s incumbent on Wakefield to see the opportunities and what fits in this marketplace. When we opened earlier this year, we started off with about 69 employees and we now have 91, including drivers and salespeople. Eventually we plan to have dedicated salespeople in each of the provinces. In terms of market share, I hope to double or triple what we have now (approx. two per cent) over two years. And in ten years I hope to have about 15 to 20 per cent of the market. I think that would be a realistic number in ten years. I remember when I first joined Castrol Canada and we were in a very similar position in terms of automotive. I think we had about five or six per cent of the market. I remember sitting down and talking with our team and asking questions very much the same as the questions you’re asking – and getting similar answers. And at that time, even people who worked for us cou
ldn’t believe we would ever get 20 per cent of the market – I remember hearing people say “It’s a flat market and that’s never going to happen.” But now we’ve reached that goal with our automotive sector, just like we said we would. It gives me a lot of confidence with respect to our heavy duty goals.

MT: It takes a lot of courage to start something from scratch.

KR: Yes – and there’s no doubt we’re going to scrape our knees sometimes. But we’re also going to continue to do our best to serve our current and future customers, no matter who they are, from owner operators to fleet owners. And because of that, one day that 20 per cent of the market will be ours.

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