Company Reports - Scotlynn Longhorn Group
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Scotlynn Longhorn Group
Delivering the goods
Written by Adam Zarboni & Produced by Nadim El-Maasseri
Scott Biddle's father gave him the opportunity to enter the business world when he began a family farm in the late 1980s. As Biddle grew up, his love of the farm, its equipment, and especially the trucks used to transport the goods to market increased, as his involvement in the family business deepened.
At an early age, Biddle decided to focus the business he has helped grow with his father. During off seasons at his own farm he began to look for customers that needed his services transporting their goods to their markets, eventually he had to hire trucks and drivers of his own to keep up with the demand.
"As soon I jumped in a truck I really liked it, I loved driving," says Biddle. He started getting into the office side of the operations and knew that he was home. "I started actively looking for customers so I cold begin hauling their product to their markets." Being successful at this he began to build his fleet of trucks, and this year was able to expand his fleet by more than 50 trucks.
While many businesses have been suffering under the current economic strain, food growers and transporters have been doing quite well. "With people tightening their belts, they have stopped going out to restaurants, and have been going to the grocery store more and more," says Biddle.
Of course the industry is not without its challenges; Mother Nature plays a large role in crop yields and transporting costs. By breaking into new markets, Scotlynn is attempting to create a supply chain from being to end that can provide fresh produce all year round. By opening up new farms in Florida, Georgia and Mexico, they have created a system where they own the produce producers, and the transport system that gets them to the end user. Indeed part of the appeal of the system is that Scotlynn owns the production, supply chain, and transport systems. With this ownership, they have been able to support and grow their business through multiple inputs.
Other challenges that Biddle says have faced them in recent times is the instability of the dollar, specifically, the strength the Canadian dollar has garnished in recent years has hindered some of the expansion that Biddle was hoping to see by now.
With 11 technicians in the shop and more than 300 trucks on the road, Scotlynn can deliver the goods across Canada and North America. Scotlynn has acquired a large watermelon farming operation in Ontario, as well as having farms in Mexico as part of this plan to be an all-year long supplier of produce. "With most transport companies downsizing, we have been able to expand our fleet," says Biddle.
"Sometimes it seems like we are our own best customer," says Biddle, but that's just what you get when you have ownership over the entire process from production to delivery. With this ownership comes specialized knowledge that cannot be beaten.
"We are unique in our transportation industry, we are a grower, and a distributor, so we work on both sides of the fence, but we focus on getting our product, and our costumer's product, to market on time. When it comes to harvesting time, we know when the perfect time will be to ship the product out. If there are droughts, or a dry season we know how our produce will be affected. We have very good product knowledge, and great product control, we can tell the drivers exactly what to look for in their shipments. We are unique because most transport companies are not focused on food like we are."
To stay current with the demands of the trucking industry Biddle tries to drive a shipment at least once a year, "I want to stay in tough with the concerns of our drivers and be aware of the challenges they face," he says.
"We have created a program that doesn't benefit us at all," says Biddle "We offer a bonus for drivers who reduce their fuel costs." This means a reduction in speed, and route planning with a minimum of stops. Reducing speed means a longer delivery time a reduction in fuel spending may benefit the individual driver, the real benefit is to the environment, and it is an achievement that Biddle is very proud of.
Biddle has discovered a trend in recent years, and that is locally grown produce is becoming more and more important. "People want to know that their product is grown in the area," he says. Of course, living in Canada, it is an impossibility for fresh produce to be produced all year round, again, that is where Scotlynn's ability to reach across North America provides for fresh food even during the off season. "That's why we have been expanding into Georgia, Florida, and Mexico, we want to be a twelve month supplier," says Biddle.
Diversifying their holdings Scotlynn has developed two unique businesses, transport, and farming. On the farming side they own and contract out to more than 50 farms to aid in their production. "We have invested heavily in our own infrastructure. When we emerge from the current economic crisis we will be in a much better position than many of our competitors," says Biddle.