To Rod Wainwright, running a business is a bit like helping out his team on the ice.
“You know that feeling you get when you set up a guy, give him a beautiful pass for a goal, and you get that good feeling inside and it’s the best feeling in the world?” asked the 63-year-old founder of Lantrax North America Logistics, a third-party freight brokerage firm that specializes in over-the-road truck and intermodal freight services. “That’s the feeling I get when a customer is happy with the service we’re providing.”
Wainwright, who for most of his life has devoted much of his spare time to playing hockey, pauses before expanding on his answer.
“No, wait, scoring the goal is better … but you get the idea, right?”
It’s this folksy style that has helped Wainwright make personal connections with his clients.
He started his delivery service career in the 1970s when he became a part-time courier to help pay for schooling at Simon Fraser University. When the company he was working for went under a few years later, Wainwright decided to branch out on his own, forming his own courier business in Victoria called Demand Dispatch Services.
Then in 2003, Wainwright, having moved to the Lower Mainland, took another jump and started Lantrax. He ran the business with a partner out of a bedroom in his Langley townhouse, struggling for the first few years but toughing it out.
“I’m not going to lie to you and say it was easy,” said Wainwright. “But the reality is we had a plan, and so we just kept working the plan. I really knew that customer service was lacking in the trucking and transport industry, and from my experience selling for a couple of big companies I knew I could fill that void.”
Having started two companies on his own, Wainwright said the process of taking that big leap is something he relishes.
“I knew it was just a matter of time before people would flock to the door. So it wasn’t so much frightening as it was enjoyable. I can’t tell you how much fun it was at the beginning.”
In 2006 Lantrax moved into an office; the 17-employee company now has a two-storey, 11,000-square-foot facility in the Port Kells area of Surrey.
Asked why he has always branched out on his own rather than joining an established company, Wainwright said it’s all about personal enjoyment on the job.
“My wife likes to say, ‘Rod doesn’t play well with others’ as the excuse. And I don’t know what it is except for I enjoy the feeling of success in reaching those goals. And it makes me feel good. To go out and sell a new account doesn’t get me all excited; what gets me excited is being able to provide the service after that account starts working with us.”
Last year, Wainwright was named the Langley Chamber of Commerce’s George Preston Memorial Business Person of the Year, and the company made the 2015 Profit 500 list of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, achieving a ranking of 257 with five-year revenue growth of 231%.
Ted Baggott, whose Coquitlam-based Glacier Fixture Installation Inc. regularly works with Lantrax, said Wainwright offers a down-to-earth sensibility in the cutthroat world of business.
“I’ve known Rod for about five years now,” Baggott said. “He has always been very accessible and easy to talk to. Whenever I run into him on the odd occasion where I’m at Lantrax’s offices he takes the time to find out about my business and see if there is anything else he can do to help us out. We are not a big client for Lantrax, but they always do whatever it takes to make sure our shipments and our clients’ needs are met.”
Because a lot of Lantrax’s business has involved transporting equipment and machinery for the oil and gas industry, the past year has presented new challenges due to the drop in oil prices. Wainwright said business is always cyclical, and Lantrax takes on other projects from other sectors to fill the gap.
“We adjust constantly to whatever the climate, and we move everything from a pallet of dog food to a truckload of pipe and anything in between. We can’t control anything that’s going on in the Chinese market or overseas in the oil market. But we can control what we have influence over, and that’s customer service.”
A day in the life
Rod Wainwright describes his typical timetable
6:75-8 a.m. Rotary meeting
8:30 a.m. Emails, morning office rounds
9 a.m. Weekly management meeting
10:30 a.m. Website planning, IT and sales
11 a.m. Rotary at Work Langley or celebration event planning meeting
2-5 p.m. 2016 fiscal planning – strategic planning, with a goal of $30 million in 2018 for the business
6-7:30 p.m. Kiva loan planning – micro-loans to disadvantaged entrepreneurs in Third World countries or empowered coaching (working with a business coach)
9 p.m. Langley Outlaws hockey. The only position I do not play is goal, and I try to keep to the left side