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Report on Business Magazine is featuring the 2023 winners of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, Deloitte’s awards program recognizing excellence in private Canadian-owned firms. Those winners had the option to purchase a Sponsor Content package highlighting their own achievements.

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Zoriana Workun, director of operations and Denis Iwaniura, director of business development, at Caravan Group of Companies.Supplied

The transportation business can be a bumpy road, whether it’s dealing with erratic weather conditions, soaring fuel costs or lack of drivers. Yet the Caravan Group of Companies has proven its staying power by being an innovator on two fronts: technology and corporate culture.

Started in 1997 by John Iwaniura, Bob Workun and Steve Merena, all who share Ukrainian heritage, the Oakville, Ont.-based company has grown into one of the leading privately owned, cross-border transportation carriers in Canada.

“As humble immigrants, I’m proud that my partners and I have turned this once far-fetched idea called Caravan from a ‘Canadian dream’ into a reality for our thriving community of customers, vendors and employees,” says company president John Iwaniura. “When we first started Caravan over 25 years ago, we were told that we would fail as partners and business owners, but we took that as motivation for our company’s success.”

Having lived through various economic cycles throughout the years, he says being resilient is “second nature” for the Caravan team who continues to evolve both professionally and personally. “For our future success, we know our shared values and unwavering tenacity has been ingrained into the next generation and will continue to drive Caravan forward.”

Investing in cutting-edge technology has been pivotal to the company’s success to date. Caravan was an early adopter of innovations such as satellite tracking, electronic logging devices (ELD) and tablets in the cabs of its fleet.

“We jumped on ELD in 2014, three years before it was mandated, and got ahead of some of the challenges the new environment presented to drivers initially,” says Denis Iwaniura, director of business development. “We’re often test-driving technologies to capitalize efficiencies as quickly as possible – sometimes to our own detriment, but we’re always skating to where the puck is going.”

Just as critical to the company’s growth has been the investment in its people. Rather than offering sign-on bonuses as is typical to the industry, Caravan implemented a program that rewards drivers who refer others. “This creates a mentorship between the driver and the new hire because they are financially incentivized to help that new employee and ensure their success,” says Zoriana Workun, director of operations. “Rewarding loyalty is important to us.” (Case in point, the second driver ever hired is still with the company.)

To ensure best practices are being shared across the company, Caravan also “cross-pollinates” leaders in different areas of the business, says Denis Iwaniura. “If we get siloed in our thoughts and boardrooms, it’s going to be a detriment, so it’s important for us to get those different points of view.”

This continual focus on optimizing company culture has improved operational efficiencies and profitability by creating a space where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and receiving feedback. In creating an inclusive culture, Caravan has also attracted more women to a traditionally male-dominated space; 10 per cent of drivers are female, compared to the national average of 3 per cent, and 52 per cent of employees in head office are women.

With these innovation pillars in place, Caravan’s executive team is confident about its future, even with the volatility of the industry and economic downturns of late. “Recognizing the business’s cyclical nature, we prepare for downturns during prosperous times and strategize for growth during challenging periods,” says Ms. Workun.

Denis Iwaniura says aspirations for Caravan to become one of North America’s premier transportation companies are now very much within reach. “We’ve touched almost every corner of North America and our relationships span geography, so we’ll continue to refine and build on that premise.”

See full editorial coverage of Canada’s Best Managed Companies in Report on Business Magazine here.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Caravan Group of Companies. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.