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Mixed emotions mark the sale of 88-year-old MacKinnon

Posted: December 13, 2017

Photo provided by MacKinnon TransportGUELPH, ON – Size and human resources issues were behind the recent sale of MacKinnon Transport to Contrans Group, that took just 24 days from handshake to final close.

Former president and CEO of MacKinnon Transport, Evan MacKinnon, says the company was doing well, but couldn’t overcome some of the challenges associated with their size, forcing them to choose to grow, or sell the family business.

“Our revenue was amazing. Out linehaul margin was excellent. We were just at a size that it was no longer practical,” he said.

MacKinnon consistently needed 35% more drivers than it had over the past several years, coming up short with a driver leaving for retirement nearly every time a new one was brought on.

Most of MacKinnon’s employees have been with the company for more than 20 years, and some of them are more than 70 years old. With 25% of his workforce topping 65, Evan said it was hard to get that number to grow.

Before selling to Contrans, MacKinnon looked at growing their business by purchasing another company, but found the same age concerns at other fleets. While a partnership wasn’t ruled out, Evan said Contrans Group has the knowledge and skill when it comes to buying smaller fleets and made the process easy and quick.

With experience in acquisitions and cash on-hand, Evan says Contrans made the process as smooth as possible. For the MacKinnons, the timing was good as well.

“The wintertime is always a struggle with flatbed trucking,” he said.

Although Alex MacKinnon, Evan’s son, and 90% of their employees were kept on by Contrans Group, the elder MacKinnon is one of just five employees who didn’t transfer to the new Aberfoyle location with the sale.

Alex is now the director of sales and business development for the flatbed division at Contrans.

“He’s got his hands full,” Evan says of his son. “He’s very good at sales. He’s got a great opportunity to grow – he’s young and he’s smart.”

Evan is now unemployed for the first time since he was 12 years old.

With a new grandchild just days old, MacKinnon says he’ll take some time to spend with family and probably spend some of the coming winter months in Arizona, but that doesn’t mean retirement is in his immediate future.

“I’m only 60 years old, so I need to do something. There’s lots out there to do, so I’ll have fun,” he says.

The other four employees not kept by Contrans due to redundancies have already found employment elsewhere MacKinnon says.

“It’s not all a bad news story. There’s lots of opportunity in this industry, no one is going to be unemployed.”

Exhausted by the process of closing down the company so quickly, Evan says there are still a lot of loose ends to clean up at the Guelph, Ontario location. That process has proven to be emotional at times, as the senior MacKinnon closes a business started by his family in 1929.

Contrans has agreed to keep the MacKinnon company name and branding the same, in addition to keeping the majority of the staff. How will it feel to watch MacKinnon trucks roll down the highway without having a hand in running the fleet?

“It’ll be different,” says Evan.

Even though the company is no longer run independently, Evan says it’s good the entity is still intact – keeping his family’s name on the road a little bit longer.

“It’s what my dad has done his entire life. it’s what I’ve done since I can walk.”

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