National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Jane Clark: On the Road-September 2019

For my September road trip, I ventured north to Ontario.  Home to Canada’s largest city (Toronto) and capital city (Ottawa), Ontario constitutes over 38% of Canada’s population.  I wasn’t there to visit either Toronto or Ottawa on this trip, but a few of Toronto’s surrounding communities instead.  I landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport late at night, got my rental car, and drove directly to my hotel.  It was too dark and too late to see any of the sights, but I was looking forward to what and who I would see over the next couple of days.

In the morning, I drove to Cambridge, ON, where I met with Mike Thibeau of TFI. Cambridge became a city in 1973 when three smaller towns and some adjacent townships merged, despite public protest.  Each of the three had their own strong identity dating back to the 1800s and some members of the communities were opposed to the merger at the time, but it created a vibrant city known for industry and the filming of many movies and TV series, such as The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike and I discussed the NationaLease purchasing programs, as well as our Leadership Groups.  In order to make sure we are best serving our members, NationaLease instituted Leadership Groups several years ago to help guide our efforts in constantly improving the supplier options we offer.  We have a group for the US and one for Canada that meets regularly to review supplier offerings and share ideas with us to make sure we have best-in-class supply management programs.  I also appreciated the chance to learn more from Mike about the expansive and diverse businesses that TFI operates.

From there, I headed to Oakville and met with Dan Villeneuve and John Stafford of Tandet NationaLease.  Oakville borders Lake Ontario, which made it a perfect location for the shipbuilding trade dating back to the 1800s.  The current town of Oakville was incorporated in 1962.  Dan, John, and I discussed NationaLease Road Rescue, our 24/7/365 emergency breakdown service, as well as NationaLease’s recent 75th Annual Meeting .  Dan attended that event where we celebrated NationaLease’s 75th anniversary, along with hearing from a variety of speakers and getting the chance to network and catch up with old friends and some special invited guests from NationaLease’s history.  After our meeting, Dan and I stopped by a nearby restaurant, Tavolo, to have a quick bite and continue chatting about the conversations and exchanges we had with so many friends at the Annual Meeting.


After a good night’s sleep, I headed north to Barrie, ON, where I met with Don Currie and Tyler Wachna of Currie Leasing Inc., a NationaLease Member.  Barrie was first settled as a supply depot during the war of 1812, and was later the final stop on one of the branches of the Underground Railroad.  It is located on Lake Simcoe, and the many beaches now make it a destination for both summer and winter recreation.  Don, Tyler and I discussed the NationaLease purchasing programs, as well as the Canadian Leadership Summit. For the past several years, NationaLease has hosted an event specially for our Canadian members, so that they can discuss any issues, regulations, and opportunities specific to the Canadian market.  We left Currie’s facility and went on a short drive to downtown Barrie. The downtown area is right on the lakefront, which gives spectacular views to the residents of the many new high rise condominiums.  The renovation and development of the recreation areas, as well as the shops and restaurants in downtown have made it a popular place not only to visit, but to live.  We stopped for lunch at the Country Club, where we had an absolutely stunning view of the early autumn trees and surrounding hills.  After lunch, I drove back to my hotel near the airport and opted for a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant that night before my early flight back to Chicago the next morning. 

Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken” is meaningful for people in many different ways.  In fact, poetry critics point to the ambiguity of the poem as one of its standout qualities, as it allows the reader to come to his or her own interpretation.  For those of you who don’t remember your 7th grade English class, the most well-known part is the closing three lines:

               Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

                I took the one less traveled by,

               And that has made all the difference.

I thought of these lines as I traveled through Ontario for a couple of different reasons.  Our members, with a few notable exceptions, are not in the heart of the city.  As I travel to visit them, I usually end up in places I would never have found on vacation.  Think of all the treasures I would have missed!  I am so grateful for the detours and back roads that have shown me more than the tourist guides ever could.  More metaphorically, I am constantly amazed at the path NationaLease members take when it comes to serving their customers.  They don’t look to industry standards or common practices when deciding how to conduct business.  They look to what’s right, and what’s truly best for the customer.  They do the uncommon, the extraordinary, the rare.  They take the road less traveled by, and our customers agree that it has made all the difference.  The journey continues…

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