A TRANSPORT ROUTIER ARTICLE by Steve Bouchard – SEPTEMBER 2016
translated from French to English by Andy Transport
In four years, Andy Transport has experienced tremendous growth. The portrait of a company attracting more and more attention.
A succession of certificates and newspaper articles surround the conference room of Andy Transport in St-Laurent; plates of the Profit 500 Canada’s fastest growing companies in 2015, and finalist of Deloitte’s Best Managed Companies for 2013, 2014 and 2015; newspaper article entitled: “An inspirational entrepreneur.”
The expression “to have the wind in the sails” is an euphemism when describing the company’s explosive growth, which ranks 10th in the Top 25 of the largest fleets for-hire in Quebec.
In 2012, we published a portrait of Ilie Crisan, a 48 years old Romanian immigrant who although at that time barely spoke English managed to build a transport company from scratch. At that time, we wrote that the company had 75 tractors and 140 trailers. Four years later, we are presently talking about 310 tractors and 730 trailers with orders pending for the next six months, to be distributed between the head office in Valleyfield, and terminals in St-Laurent, Boucherville and Toronto.
Since its beginning, the company provides dry van transportation services in Canada and the United States, but over the past four years, it has become much more diverse by adding flatbed, drayage, and refrigerated transportation services, as well as warehousing services.
The year 2008 was quite significant for this young company, which, at the time, was a subcontractor for another carrier. Due to the recession, that carrier lost contracts which caused major repercussions for Any Transport. “It was our only client so it hit us pretty hard”, remembers Andreea Crisan, 26 years old, daughter of Ilie, law graduate, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at Andy Transport (Andy is the diminutive of Andreea). “It was the biggest challenge that Andy had ever faced. We had to park our trucks and start from scratch. From one day to the next, we were faced with either going bankrupt or finding a way to get back on our feet.”
“My father and I had a discussion. He told me: “whatever happens, I could always go back to trucking to pay for your education and to survive.” We decided to give it another try.”
After law school, Andreea Crisan joined her father Ilie to work in the business
full- time. Since then, Andy Transport has known an explosive growth.
The Crisans learned a great lesson from their 2008 adventure; never again would they put themselves in the vulnerable position of relying on one client only.
“Since that time, we’ve decided to diversify as much as we can!”, says Andreea. Andy Transport is aiming for diversification not only with clients but also with industries, territories and services.”
During a slowdown, the company does not want to park their trucks or lay off staff. “Having several divisions, we can transfer staff if it’s quiet in one area.” That’s another advantage of diversification.
The company has known a particularly remarkable growth with the drayage division in the greater Montreal area. ”We thought it was a saturated market, but no, we have grown rapidly”, states Andreea Crisan.
Andy Transport’s growth is fully organic. The divisions are literally being created by the customers’ demands.
”We are a very young company in that market, so we need to be extremely dynamic and attentive to our clients,” states the young Vice-President. ”For example, we created the flatbed division at the request of a client. If we have a drayage division, it’s because CSX opened a terminal in Valleyfield and we were the closest company. (Editor’s Note: The head office of the company is in that city). ”We are young, dynamic, flexible and attentive to our clients’ needs, but the service has to be top-notch or else the business won’t last.”
The dream of a better life
If Ilie left Romania, it was to offer something else to his daughter: an education, opportunities, a better life. Unable to get hired as a truck driver, he bought his own truck. Even in his wildest dreams of a better life, he never would have imagined being at the top of such a lucrative business in such a short time.
During our interview, he repeatedly said: ”It’s simple!” Since his arrival in Canada, he has never complained that things were difficult. He appreciates the opportunities that arise and he works hard.
”He can’t stop and do nothing. He always has to move and stay busy. Vacations are not for him”, says Andreea with a smile.
”I am happy here. Nothing makes me happier than to meet people and go to work,” says Ilie.
At the head of Andy Transport, Ilie and Andrea form the perfect complementary duo.
Andreea holds the position of Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer. She oversees operations, legal affairs, claims, human resources and safety. Ilie oversees maintenance, relations with truck drivers as well as expansion projects and infrastructural development. A financial director was hired a little over a year ago.
Andreea grew up in Romania, where she learned Romanian, English and German. She was ten years old when she arrived in Canada. At eleven, she was in charge of the employee payroll. It wasn’t clear to her if she will stay within the family business.
“Not at all!” I started because someone had to do the paychecks. “We can say that I grew up at the same time as the company.”
She took the decision to work at the company during her last year of law school. “I had the opportunity to attend several internship programs, but nothing gave me the satisfaction, the freedom and the opportunities that I have here. Here I can build something, make my own choices and build my own teams. Nothing is better than working on your own projects. You get more involved.”
Once she finished her bachelor’s degree in 2012, Andreea went to work full-time at the company and that is when its growth expanded. A simple growth for Ilie Crisan. Evidently! “It just happened. I bought 100 trucks that year. We didn’t buy any during the last few months because the market has slowed down a bit. Next month might be different. We will buy trucks and hire drivers if we need to. There is no need to rush.”
A multicultural workforce
The demographic profile of Andy Transport’s workforce was almost entirely Romanian but a few years ago it changed. People from Eastern Europe have a large interest in the company, but since the acquisition of a terminal in Valleyfield, it has attracted local workforce and the same phenomena has happened with the opening of the terminal in Boucherville.
Andreea Crisan emphasizes that the company understands the multicultural differences. She even finds unexpected benefits!
“Managing different cultures is not that difficult”, states Andreea. “We understand the cultural differences and we adapt to them. For example, certain communities don’t celebrate on December 25th. Therefore, the employees can work on December 25th and take their holiday according to their calendar.”
“The company’s culture reflects the character of these people: they are not scared to work, they want to grow, they don’t like the status quo and they are not afraid of challenges, and often, when we open a new division, it’s an internal hire”, states the young entrepreneur.
The hiring of staff is primarily done through employee referrals. “More frequently, people come to us rather than the opposite, particularly drivers”, says Andreea. Surprisingly, the company never had a sales department. “It is the clients who come to us”, affirms Mrs. Crisan.
The implementation of a new management system is the core project on which Andreea Crisan and her team are working on at the moment.
The company used different softwares which did not communicate with each other. This resulted in manual work, tasks performed in duplicate and a large margin of error. TMW, the new system, will allow for a comprehensive approach. “For example, garage personnel will be able to communicate directly with the accounting department, which in turn will communicate with the dispatch department.”
This software will be integrated with the management module of electronic logbooks which the company acquired two years ago. “We could not move ahead precisely because we didn’t have an integrated system. We are up to date with the rules and regulations on electronic logbooks and we will start testing as early as January 2017”, announced Andreea Crisan.
Andy Transport’s strategic plan is to develop growth over the next three years, depending on opportunities arising from fluctuations in the economy. “We will follow our growth plan, but at the same time we must remain alert to what will happen with the economy and the market”, indicates Ilie Crisan. “We foresee buying a number of trucks over the next few years all depending on changes within the economy.”
With the growth that Andy Transport has known during the past few years, the company has not parked nor sold any trucks; all it did was buy new equipment! The fleet is very new; the older trucks are from 2011. Since 2010, Andy has bought Volvo tractors. “We love those trucks, the drivers love them too, and we trust the product”, explains Ilie. As for the trailers, Manac has the exclusivity.
“We’ve been buying Manacs for four years. We have a very good relationship with them also. We are a good client of Volvo and Manac. I will not change the product for a better price, but I will change if the manufacturer forces me to buy something I don’t like.” All maintenance is performed in Andy’s own workshops.
“We use Volvo’s maintenance system. Our technicians know the product very well,” says Andreea. “As soon as a mechanic joins the company, he learns how to work on Volvo and Manac products.”
Andy promotes uniformity of its vehicles in order to benefit from a consistency in its parts inventory which allows for immediate replacement of any part as soon as the truck comes back from a trip. When Andy acquired new office space in Boucherville, it kept a small portion of the building which is now rented to Camions Sainte-Marie, dealer of Volvo/Mack/Isuzu, who will perform the work under warranty of Andy’s trucks. The transporter has literally brought the dealer in his building. Furthermore, Manac is located a few feet away from this building.
… Andreea, what are your father’s strengths: “He is not afraid of work, not afraid to put the effort. He is a very attentive person, but makes his own decisions, has a good business sense and a good vision. He knows how to surround himself with the right people. To grow that much in a few years, we need to be surrounded by the right people. He sees no limits. For him, everything is possible.”
…. Ilie, what are your daughter’s strengths: “She is educated. She went to university and is a lawyer. It was very important to give her an education. She does everything better than me. She learns from me and then she does it better.”