ICECORP Logistics Group: One Source. One Solution
By: Fadeke Adegbuyi
Alan Barnes, President and CEO of the ICECORP Logistics Group, a full-service Canadian logistics company, started in the business, in England, some 46 years ago. He joined a multinational logistics company through an apprenticeship program where he remained for two years; thereafter relocating for them to the Middle East for four years as the sales delegate in the gulf area.
From there, he came to Canada and was based in Toronto for 10 years. In 1989 he branched out and started his own business. In 1990 he bought the Livingston International freight division of Livingston International and ICECORP was born. Today they’re a privately owned company with the shareholders and directors operating the daily business.
“There were about 25 of us at that point, we’ve now grown to 160 people and operate in 4 provinces – Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia,” says Barnes. The firm has 9 facilities in total and 8 divisions. The firm specializes in air, ocean, and land transportation. Their services include International and North American freight services, customs clearance, warehousing distribution, and trade and customs consulting. They also provide niche services such as logistics services for trade shows, consumer shows, conventions, and conferences. ICECORP has offices across Canada and a network of partners around the world allowing them to design customized solutions that facilitate the total supply chain management process for their customers.
For the past 23 years, ICECORP has remained steadfast in their goal of building strong relationships with their customers. “We have always strived to give the best customer service we can…if you treat your customers right they’ll stick with you,” says Barnes. “We have built on that to develop the services we operate,” he adds. The firm boasts over 2000 active customers. “Most of our customers are repeat customers, and we try to develop a relationship with our customers; for that we have relationship managers,” he says.
“We like to keep in front of innovation,” says Barnes. The firm has spent a lot of money on IT and was one of the first companies with a track and trace system. “It’s one of the value-added services you need to have in the business. The future of our business is information-based,” he says.
Operating across Canada, the firm operates in a slightly different manner across the provinces. “All four provinces are unique, and it does present its difficulties trying to do business in those provinces…customs can be different in those provinces, some of the rules and regulations are slightly different,” says Barnes. However he notes that Canada and the United States operates very much in the same way.
Overseas ICECORP faces a different set of challenges. “It’s more problematic trying to move freight in and out of developing countries because they do not have the infrastructure we have in North America,” says Barnes. As a whole the logistics industry has been hit with the recession. “It’s been a difficult period over the last 5 years for all of us in Canada…in logistics it has been difficult, the global recession has hit all of us quite hard,” he says.
Despite challenges, ICECORP continues to thrive. Most notably, in May 2012 the firm acquired ROE logistics Inc. “They mirrored what we did,” says Barnes about the desire to acquire the company. “We’ve added a significant addition to our business in all areas,” he adds.
Over the last 20 years the firm has made over 16 acquisitions and continues to strive towards expansion through acquisition. “We made a decision some time ago to grow by acquisition. It enables you to take the best out of merging two businesses together. You have an influx of business, but more importantly, people. This generates more ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit”.