Kooner relies on relationships for growth

Building and nurturing relationships has helped Sukh Kooner’s business flourish and expand quickly.

The owner of SSP Group of Companies started with two vehicles in 2015. The fleet has grown to 155 trucks.

“If you don’t have good relationships with your customers, drivers, and employees, it will not work. Relationships make you successful,” he says.

Picture of Sukh Kooner
Sukh Kooner, owner of SSP Group of Companies. (Photo: Leo Barros)

Kooner is eager to work every day because he has commitments to fulfil. “I have to answer my employees, customers and drivers.”

He says his staff can handle issues, but if they don’t see you, they don’t know what you are doing. “I have to make sure they are updated,” he says.

Kooner arrived in Canada from Punjab, India in 1997. “There weren’t many options, so I started working as a truck driver,” he says.

He drove locally and across Canada and the U.S. for almost two decades, before deciding to venture on his own in 2015.

His carrier specializes in flatbed, step deck and double drop services and has operations in Milton and Ingersoll in Ontario; Montreal, Que.; Laredo, Texas; and Monterrey, Mexico.

The company runs routes in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. In the U.S., the main lane runs into Mexico, although other parts of the South are also covered. Partner carriers pick up trailers from the U.S. border and haul them into Mexico.

Kooner says family support at home helps him focus on his business. His family includes his wife, daughter in university, teenaged son and his parents.

He would like his kids to join in the business, but only after they complete their education.

“They will not get special treatment. They will start from the bottom,” Kooner says.

He says he does not want employees to feel that if there is any opportunity, it will be given to his kids. “If there is an opportunity, it will go to a qualified person. I help my employees grow,” he says.

Acquisitions

Kooner recently acquired two transportation companies – Fellows Trans and New England Steel Haulers. He is also looking into another acquisition that will add 50 trucks to his fleet.

The company also operates a logistics division – SSP Global Forwarding.

Isn’t such quick expansion risky? Konner replies with a grin, “If there is no risk in life, there is no fun. If I did not take risks, I would still be driving a truck. I took a risk starting my business.”

Kooner is proud that his company has been nominated for Best Fleets to Drive For. He said at the start of the pandemic when people were scrambling for masks and sanitizer, his trucks transported these supplies for free.

From 2020 to 2021, Kooner says his revenue has doubled. “Whatever you start, give it 100%,” he says.

Logistics

In 2020, he kept investing in the logistics business, resulting in a revenue of $1 million. This year the revenue projection is $14 million to $15 million.

“If in the first couple of months, I gave up on logistics and used the resources in my trucking business, I would have lost this opportunity. I kept investing and focusing on the logistics business,” Kooner says.

He says 10 years ago, truckers wanted to learn and understand the job, now everyone just wants to jump to the next level.

“Everyone wants to follow Bill Gates and Warren Buffet,” Kooner says. “They don’t see the years of hard work. They don’t see when they lose, they only see when they win.”

His advice for newcomers is there are many opportunities, so focus on building a good team. It will be hard for the first couple of years, then you will reap the rewards. “People think things happen in days. In months, I am going to have 100 trucks. It’s going to take time and a lot of work. Hard work is the only thing that will make you successful,” he says.

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca

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