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Wes Armour shares keys to success at CFMS (May 30, 2008)

TORONTO, Ont. -- Wesley Armour, president and CEO of Armour Transportation Systems, recounted his company's climb f...

TORONTO, Ont. — Wesley Armour, president and CEO of Armour Transportation Systems, recounted his company’s climb from a 12-truck trucking fleet to a full-service transportation provider with 3,400 pieces of equipment during his keynote address at the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar this week.

Armour arranged to take over his father’s small trucking company in 1967, with no real resources and limited experience, he recalled.

“I got 12 trucks and an opportunity to sink or swim. I was 22 years old, just married to my wife and my goal was only to make it until tomorrow,” Armour said. “Finances were very, very tight and each day presented a new challenge, but I always believed we would succeed if we just got a little better and a little more efficient every day.”

As a 22-year-old, Armour was mechanic, driver, accountant and president of the trucking company. “One bad decision and we were bankrupt,” he recalled.

Today, Armour Transportation Systems boasts revenues exceeding a quarter billion dollars and boasts one of the largest warehouse facilities in Eastern Canada. Its services include: truckload; LTL; ocean; intermodal and warehousing. Armour explained the keys to the company’s growth during his keynote address:

Leadership: “Believe in the people on your team. Be a people person and a motivator,” Armour urged. “It is amazing what can be accomplished with the right team.” He said management must maintain contact with the front line and should be entrusted to make the right decisions.

Develop strong customer relations: Armour said a key to success is developing long-term relationships with customers. He noted his company’s first three customers still use Armour’s services today.

Develop a strong sales force: Armour said every one of his company’s 1,700 employees is a salesperson, especially drivers who interact with the customers daily. The company has a low turnover rate of 5% including drivers, and Armour said the company continuously invests in its staff. “Investing in your people builds morale and enthusiasm,” he said. “We constantly provide training opportunities for our people.”

Be innovative: “To be successful, you have to be flexible and willing to change,” Armour said. “Look for opportunities and you will find them.” He recalled the challenging period of deregulation and how it changed his company’s approach to business. “I was brought up in a regulated environment all of a sudden the world was going to change. At the time, I decided we had to be more than a trucker. We had to be a full transportation provider. We had to change our attitudes, understand the types of services our customers needed and how to provide them better than anyone else.”

Develop strong partnerships: Armour suggested partnering up with other players in the industry, even if they are competitors. “We have partnerships with dozens of carriers, which has allowed us to expand and grow,” he said.

Develop business solutions: Armour urged carriers to seek out non-traditional business solutions. In his company’s case, that involved partnering with 15 other companies in the face of rising insurance costs to develop their own insurance company. More recently, the company has teamed up with other fleets to share best practices for controlling fuel costs.

Lastly, Armour offered these sage words of advice: Enjoy what you do; never sacrifice your family for your job; and be committed to success and maintain the belief you can succeed.

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