Getting ready to grow

As an international freight forwarder, Tri-ad is a global company with a reach through air, ocean, truck and rail.  

To put it simply, Tri-ad International Freight Forwarding streamlines the supply chain and, in terms of specialization, the company is involved in importing and exporting, as well as third-party logistics. With that, it’s an industry that has seen a different type of impact from the economic downturn.

The company had its best two years in 2009 and 2010, while not many in business can say that. Tri-ad made plenty of changes prior to the economic downturn that it believes have assisted the company greatly over the last two years.

“It was focusing, planning and bearing down three years before the recession hit, so we were in a really good position,” said Linda Collier, President at Tri-ad International Freight Forwarding. “A lot of areas that we focused in were recession-proof. We were cutting back and watching costs and focusing on markets that we felt there were growth areas in long before we had to. We weren’t playing catch up; we were ahead of the curve.”

From its customer base, Tri-ad understands that they are supplying vendors from other areas other than the U.S., something they wouldn’t do before. Customers have less time to get things done because they are wearing more hats and, with that, there is less time to make decisions.

“Customers like that timeliness and responsiveness and that professionalism in setting up standard operating procedures and following through all the way. We take away a lot of the responsibility of the customer and bring it in-house,” added Collier. “Instead of sitting at a boardroom table and discussing what our customers need, we understand what those needs are, what the trends are, the customers research and development and helping them get their product cheaper and faster to market.”

There is a big emphasis on growth at Tri-ad and rightfully so. In fact, the company experienced double-digit growth through each of the first 14 years of its operations.

“Our key message is to get ready to grow. In the last six years, we struggled a little with bringing on a lot more facilities and expanded with more of a fixed-cost base, instead of a variable-cost base,” said Collier.

Tri-ad is seeing far more growth on the international side (up 114 per cent, compared to Canada/U.S. services down 28 per cent), with a focus on India, a nation that the company feels “will be the next China”.

“We also have a niche, not only focusing geographically on India, but also the aerospace business. A lot of our larger customers are involved in that and it is a very specialized type of transportation that has many special rules and regulations, in moving military or types of aircraft engines, etc., so that is where our next growth market is going to be,” added Collier. “Aerospace is an area we have dabbled in for about 11 years and we have had a lot of success and a proven track record in that area which has opened a lot of doors for us. Although we have been in it, we haven’t really focused on it, and I really want to diversify it.”

Tri-ad is also entering the final stages of revamping its IT, which includes the up-and-coming rebranding of the company’s website and all of its marketing materials, as well as the marketing focus on India and Cuba, with a lot of development in both locations.

Still, there have been some bumps along the road for Tri-ad, something the company has managed to navigate successfully.

“Our biggest barriers have been our ability to grow at the rate we really need to grow, in keeping up with IT and managing financial growth. We have well over one million square feet in our portfolio right now, so lots of cash flow in terms of growth,” said Collier. “We want to expand our Western portfolio. Right now we only have Vancouver and Winnipeg in the West, but we are seeing a lot of opportunities. We just expanded our sales team quite largely, so we are looking to increase our net profits.”

The company is heavily into the consumer electronics and high-tech sector, something that has shrunken its portfolio, meaning there is now a greater emphasis on diversification.

“About a year ago, we got very strongly into oil, gas and mining, and doing more project work. We get a lot of big bangs from project works but they take a long time and you have to keep earning them.”

Being that competitive, Tri-ad was able “to do anything and everything” it could, wanting to be different, notably in its specialization. With that, the company has decreased the competitive playing field and only expects further growth in the future.