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People-powered perseverance 4 min read

Growth Decoder: Full speed ahead – why a people-first mentality is important for business

Pushing through tragedy, Sharp Trucking digs deep into their values and shifts gears – accelerating to become the primary carrier for one of the largest players in the dynamite industry.

 

  

 

Insights you'll take away from this episode:

 

  • 4:42: What to consider when bringing someone onto your leadership team or sizing up a new opportunity for yourself. Matthew speaks to what he looked for when assessing the decision to join Sharp Trucking at a difficult moment in the company’s history – and why world view, business philosophy and human chemistry are essential criteria to consider.
  • 8:15: The importance of nurturing your business' profit-driving infrastructure. Good systems and good people ensured Sharp Trucking kept their business rolling, which created time for deeper work on parts of the business that opened growth potential. 
  • 10:31: Humility breeds trust and calculated risk-taking. Taking the time to understand where things are running smoothly, connecting your leaders, and then getting out of the way for the work to be done can mitigate a lot of risk in opportunities ahead for any business. Unpredictable and challenging events demand adaptability and can fuel a new way of doing things – a trucking accident involving one of Sharp’s employees inspired an entirely new way of operating that reduced insurance claims, improved employee retention, and provided greater stability overall for the business. 

 


Why a people-first mentality is important for business

 

Cousins Marc Craddock and Brett Hryniuk hoped to build a successful company from the ground up when they founded Sharp Trucking in 2011. Craddock was the third generation in his family to work in the trucking industry and had decided to go out on his own.

The cousins started in traditional oilfield services, and later moved into the explosives and dynamite industry. Then came an opportunity to become the primary carrier for one of the largest players in the dynamite industry, and soon their small operation of fewer than 50 people was competing with billion-dollar trucking companies.


The Edmonton-based business was in the midst of this transition in 2020, and its second facility had just opened in Sparwood, B.C. It was poised to gain additional market share thanks to pandemic supply chain issues.  

But then Sharp’s 36-year-old CEO and majority owner, Craddock, was killed in an accident.  

“A lot of companies would have thrown up the white flag,” says Trevor Palmer, Assistant Vice-President of Business Development for Canadian Western Bank. Instead, Sharp’s management team rallied, ensuring the business didn’t lose momentum.  

“While Marc’s passing was tragic, the ‘full speed ahead’ was agreed to be what Marc would’ve wanted and expected,” Palmer says. The business continued to drive forward with Hryniuk at the helm.  

Six months later, the expanding business needed someone to take on a leadership role in day-to-day operations. A mutual colleague connected Hryniuk with Matthew Halstead, who shared his values and vision for growth, leadership and staff management. Halstead joined Sharp Trucking as general manager in December 2020.  

“It was clear from the very beginning there was nothing about this role that was going to be custodial. It was, ‘We're not looking to hold this business as it is or to hold market share. Make no mistake, we've been growing and we're going to continue to grow,’” Halstead tells Growth Decoder, CWB’s business podcast.  

Palmer says Sharp Trucking’s bullish approach matches the way it tackles everything: when they see an opportunity, they do whatever they need to do to make things happen. “Sharp is being led by very inquisitive people who don’t take no as a response to anything that they think should be yes, or they fight hard to turn a no to yes,” says Palmer. “They have built a reputation for being the best at what they do, and a big part of that is because they are truly a people-first organization.”   


That resourcefulness has helped Sharp Trucking navigate multiple challenges, including a crash between one of its trucks and a snowplow. No one was hurt, but the incident could have been disastrous. Instead of minimizing the incident, the company decided to change its pay structure and how it dispatches drivers, shifting their mindset and helping Sharp gain a better understanding of its trucks’ locations at any given time.  
 
As a result, Sharp Trucking’s staff turnover rate is less than half what it was, providing stability for the company and its customers. There has also been a reduction in insurance costs and in workers compensation claims.  

“It changed us monumentally,” says Halstead, who has shared the story publicly to educate others in the industry. He doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that Sharp has grown from 26 trucks to almost 60 over the past 16 months.  

 
A focus on people is also what drew Sharp Trucking to partner with CWB. Halstead, now president of Sharp, says CWB encourages him and his team to think long term and flags issues to consider when making decisions.  
 
“We know we're not here without Canadian Western Bank,” Halstead says. “We consider CWB an aligned partner and they're a great resource for us as entrepreneurs.”    
 
CWB handles Sharp’s daily banking with cash management, a real estate loan, equipment loans and a line of credit, and most recently, it executed a group RRSP program.   
 
“CWB has an unofficial seat at the table when they’re making decisions, and that’s something that we don’t take lightly at all,” says Palmer. “They’re driven, they have a common goal, and their business model is honed in on what they do best, setting them apart from their competition. Good people, good equipment, good leadership — it’s the kind of client CWB looks for.”  
  
Listen to more of Sharp Trucking's story and its response to business challenges on Growth Decoder.