National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Jane Clark on the Road – January 2017

Have you ever had this experience? You‘re at a dinner party with friends who you have known for many years. The conversation takes a turn, and you realize with great surprise that this person (maybe your spouse), who you thought you knew absolutely everything about, is telling a story you’ve never heard. You find yourself wondering, “How is it possible that I didn’t already know this?” Relationships, even very good ones, easily fall into predictable routines. You become so familiar that you stop asking questions. This is one of the reasons that I spend so much time traveling to see our members. In the decades of our relationship with them, we sometimes think that we know everything about each other. It’s good to take some time to ask questions, and surprise each other with the answers.

With these thoughts in mind, in January, I went to Toronto to visit some members both new and old. My first stop was at one of our newest members, TPine Truck Rental, Inc., a NationaLease Member in Mississauga. I met with Sam Johal and Vik Gupta, as they caught me up on the successes and challenges they have faced in their first year with NationaLease. In addition to rental and leasing, they also have a used truck sales division and a logistics division under their Pride Group name. It was great to learn more about the various divisions of their company, as well as to remind them of some of the NationaLease programs that they had not yet taken advantage of.

Since nearly all of the members I was meeting with this trip were located around the airport, which is west of downtown Toronto, I decided not to book a hotel downtown. As in most cities, downtown is where all the action usually is but also, like in most cities, getting in and out of downtown requires battling traffic, parking, and gridlock. So I chose the Alt Hotel (which I had never heard of before) for its proximity to the airport and the highway, not expecting much more than a bed and, hopefully, a good Internet connection. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Alt Hotels is a small chain of eight hotels across Canada. They are known for their trendy design, eco-friendly features, such as charging stations for electric vehicles, flat-rate pricing on every room every day, and their communal lobby/lounge/bar. It was the perfect home base for my trip, and not only had a cozy bed and good Internet connection, but a friendly atmosphere and a great space to chat with fellow travelers over a morning cup of coffee or an evening snack.

After checking in to my room and returning some emails, I took a short drive to meet Vik Gupta for dinner at La Castile. La Castile is an old-school steak and seafood place decorated like, you guessed it, a castle. The waiters are in white coats and black ties and the décor is dark wood and deep upholstery, contrasting with starched white tablecloths. I had a lovely dinner with Vik, as he told me his story of coming to Canada from India, as well as the story of how TPine and the Pride Group was started by the Johals. The impressive story of the founding of the company is remarkable, yet not so different from the stories of many of our other members, that often begin with one truck and a very determined young person.

The next morning, I drove over to Brampton to visit Trailcon Leasing, Inc. Trish Brisson had invited me to come and meet with her team and when I arrived, they had a large group assembled in the conference room. Despite their years of membership in NationaLease, they realized that they needed a refresher in the programs and services offered by NationaLease.  We started by reviewing the numerous purchasing programs available to our members, then continued through the website to highlight the wide variety of services available, from recorded webinars to online job postings, to information about upcoming events and education. I wanted to make sure that everyone in the room walked away with at least one new piece of information, and I’m quite sure I was able to meet that goal.  It is sometimes easy for me to take for granted all the benefits NationaLease offers, until I sit down with members to talk about them all, and remember just how extensive our services really are.

I left Trailcon and drove southeast to Oakville to meet Mekashe Lal from Tandet NationaLease for lunch at Harper’s Landing, a trendy lunch and dinner spot, just a few blocks from Lake Ontario. It was great to catch up with Mekashe and learn about what new things Tandet is doing. Mekashe was one of the speakers at last year’s Canadian Leadership Summit. He shared how Tandet is using concepts from The 4 Disciplines of Execution to transform their business processes. I got an update from Mekashe on how that process is going, and shared how I am using some of the concepts he taught me in his presentation. I am very fortunate that I get to attend all of the NationaLease events, and learn so much from all of our speakers, especially our members!

The next morning, I made the scenic drive to Stoney Creek to visit Metro Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Developing Member. Stoney Creek is on the south side of Lake Ontario, on that little stretch of land that connects the US and Canada between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It is right on the waterfront, and on a clear day, you can look north across the lake and see the Toronto Skyline. Ryan Nelligan updated me on their progress as a new leasing company, and we reviewed some of the programs and upcoming events, including the Maintenance Managers Meeting on May 11-13 in San Diego. We also talked about some of the recruiting tools we provide, including the Compensation Survey we conducted among all our members so that all members would have access to competitive pay and benefits information for recruiting and retention purposes. It was great to review some things with Ryan, as I’m sure that new members must find the sheer volume of information we give them quite overwhelming at first!

As I do on every trip, I left Toronto with a long list of “to-dos.” That might sound like a negative, but I don’t think of it that way at all. Every item on my list represents something learned. Some of them are things I learned: things we need to improve on, ideas for future programs, members’ needs and ways we can assist them. Some of them are things the members learned: supplier programs they want to enroll in, documents and resources I need to send them, registration information for upcoming events that they want to attend. When I get back to the office, I put the to-do list in the middle of my desk, and as I check off each item, it makes me smile to think that even after 74 years, we all still have a lot to learn.

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