You are currently viewing An Exclusive Interview with Scott Biddle, Canadian Agricultural Logistics Executive

An Exclusive Interview with Scott Biddle, Canadian Agricultural Logistics Executive

Canada is known for its abundance of fresh produce and an awe-inspiring assortment of nutritious fruits and vegetables. The second largest country in the world features endless landscapes of farmland, groves, vineyards, and natural forests rich with syrup and spectacular foliage.

Because of its size, Canada also needs world-class agricultural logistics and quick and reliable transportation that brings harvests from farm to distribution hub to market and ultimately to the consumer’s table.

Since 1993, entrepreneur Scott Biddle has filled this role as founder, president and CEO of Scotlynn, a premier North American logistics company.

Recently we spoke with Scott Biddle about his company, the industry and the ways he keeps operations humming by finding, motivating and retaining the right people for his team. Our conversation is partially reprinted below.

You’ve said that in your business you focus on people, produce and process. Please tell us more.

These are fundamentals that I learned from my own experience. I developed an aptitude and a passion for both the transportation and the farming side of things, and the common elements of success are great people working with an efficient, streamlined process to ensure delivery of high-quality produce.

It’s a given that we always need to stay focused on the fruits and vegetables we are transporting. Customers trust us to deliver produce quickly, reliably and with the optimal temperature-controlled environment to ensure maximum freshness. Process is a way to organize our efforts for peak efficiency, and it’s something we’re continually fine-tuning.

If you have a proven process and you follow it, you avoid confusion and chaos. It’s a roadmap, a compass to guide you, and keeps you from getting lost. In the end, the best product and the most refined process mean very little without the best people, and that is our prime focus. With top talent, you can do anything. First you have to find the talent, and then you need to inspire your people. Then you must give them the trust and flexibility they need to excel.

How do you find the best talent? And what kind of challenges have you faced in sourcing talent and how have you overcome those challenges?

We find the best by looking for motivated, team-oriented people; men and women who are setting high goals in their own lives and want to break records of achievement in their professional roles.

To find the best, you’ve got to be continually looking, because they are gems that many other employers want as well. Once we find a new team member, we train and mentor. We identify strengths and match the employee to the lane they will thrive in. For me, personally, mentoring is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. I love to see personal growth, and to follow an employee’s journey from dreams and ambitions to the realization of those dreams. We give each employee the tools to succeed, and the support they deserve. And we prioritize extra benefits to build morale and strengthen our company community. For example, we created a gym program, with a fitness trainer. We provide lunch, plus morning and afternoon snacks. And we encourage everyone, together with the company, to help others in our neighborhoods, communities and beyond. We want employees to be proud of where they work, and that’s the best talent retention initiative you could ever devise.

What are some of the differences you experience operating in the U.S. vs. Canada, in respect to regulations, finding qualified employees and the overall business environment?

There are some differences, but the differences that do exist are largely comparable to the adjustments we need to make operating inter-province, in the case of Canada, or inter-state in the U.S. Each jurisdiction has its own variations in regulations and procedures, but they’re not wide variations. You’ve got to pay close attention to these details, of course, and we have a proven process our drivers follow in dealing with the different regulations and things that go along with crossing borders with perishables.

Beyond the rules and regulations, there are differences in the business culture between Canada and the U.S., different perspectives or mindsets. But again, we see variations province to province, and so we have a great deal of experience in adapting and modifying our approaches. It fundamentally comes down to listening to people — listening, hearing, and understanding. With clear communication, you can provide what people want, whatever region or country they’re from.

Lastly, what are some of the challenges you see over the horizon in your industry?

Being in the transportation industry gives us a good perspective on challenges. That’s because we spend most of our time looking forward, rather than fixating on the rear-view mirror. We scan for what’s up ahead and accelerate toward it. So, we’re in a high-velocity business always moving forward, and that’s exactly where we are comfortable being.

The greatest challenge is typically also our greatest opportunity — advances in technology. When new technology becomes available that is relevant to our operations, we are first adopters. Technology has revolutionized transportation in the past decade and promises to do so much more in the near future. New technology can help us create new and better processes. It can help our drivers operate trucks with greater safety and fuel efficiency and reach destinations faster and with pinpoint accuracy. It can help us anticipate customer needs even before the customer realizes they have a particular need, in some cases. It can help us discover new opportunities and optimize the customer service experience. So, in the case of technology, we are enthusiastic about the next challenge it will put in our path.