When Dave Cox (pictured) joined Polaris Transportation Group in 1998, the trucking company was still finding its footing. Founded four years earlier by his parents, Larry and Geri, Polaris had just four employees with Dave’s addition – and only one was not a family member. However, the Ontario-based company already had something invaluable: a growing reputation for reliability within the industry.
“Larry and Geri were entrepreneurs who paid attention to details and made their clients feel like the center of attention,” Dave says. “To this day, that has never changed.”
From its humble origins to its status today as the largest privately held LTL carrier in Canada, Polaris has embraced a customer-centric approach, working tirelessly to build loyalty and deliver exceptional customer experiences. As the company has grown to more than 300 employees and the management reins have passed to Dave, Polaris has held closely to its roots while taking bold steps forward, including becoming an industry leader in identifying and integrating impactful technological innovations.
“For me, valuable lessons were learned very early on as a small business owner,” Dave says. “It was a case of starting a company with virtually no money, but everything earned was reinvested back into the business. That meant investing in good people, equipment and technology. We understood the importance of customer service and leveraging innovation and technology from the get-go.”
Distinguishing itself in the marketplace
Larry and Geri Cox started Polaris on the strength of their respective backgrounds in transportation – Larry in Operations and Geri in Finance. Dave worked for a large trucking firm before joining his parents at Polaris, immersing himself in the industry and learning everything he could about the supply chain. He arrived at Polaris with new ideas and a fresh perspective.
As Operations Manager, Dave spearheaded the company’s first major service expansion – one that would prove to be Polaris’ claim to fame and the launchpad for their growth. Polaris implemented cross-border LTL between Toronto and major U.S. cities. Dave can remember loading a 53-foot trailer for a maiden run to Chicago with barely four feet of space filled with freight. However, each time the trailer went to Chicago a bit more space was occupied until one day the trailer was completely full. Then Polaris filled another. And another. Today, Polaris remains well-known in the industry for its overnight next-day delivery service.
A multigenerational commitment
Dave climbed the ranks at Polaris, rising to the position of Vice President. He worked closely with his parents, gaining incredible insights and experience from them as the company steadily expanded. When Larry passed away in 2017, Dave took over as President. The transition of a family-operated business from one generation to the next doesn’t always succeed, but Dave’s history of working side by side with his parents and their shared morals and vision for the future kept the company on course.
The company has continued to grow and evolve, expanding its services to become a single-source supply chain provider and to offer customers a full suite of services that includes global logistics and warehousing and distribution. Throughout its growth, Polaris’ success can be traced back to their founders’ and the principles that were the basis for the company.
“From the beginning, we were driven to serve, grow and innovate. Dave shares that same drive and vision,” says Geri Cox, Founder, who remains active with the company today. “The family drove the company’s exponential growth through strategic investments, a strong commitment to our customers, assembling a team of innovative, passionate experts and encouraging open, honest communication. This is how Polaris evolved as a family business and put us on the road to prosperity and future success.”
A dedication to innovation
In 2019 Polaris opened their in-house digital lab, and created a technology company, NorthStar Digital Solutions, to develop and integrate robotics, artificial intelligence and other technologies that would not only elevate Polaris’ way of doing business but improve industry-wide processes. “We’ve taken our old processes and are focusing on advanced technologies, automation and digitalization,” Dave says. “This has been for our customers, partners and employees.”
Polaris’ technological innovations played a large role in its productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March of 2020, Polaris went fully digital and within 48 hours of the first lockdown, 85% of its work force was operating remotely.
Polaris has received a host of accolades in recent years for its service and innovation, including four consecutive years named as a top 100 Trucker by Inbound Logistics, 14 years in a row as the Shipper’s Choice for LTL while holding the Carrier of Choice designation since 2012 by Inside Logistics, CCJ’s 2020 Innovator of the Year award, and, most recently, receiving the Mastio Quality Award in the Canadian LTL category.
A sense of ownership in every team member
The customer-centric approach that sparked Polaris’ beginning is shared by every team member in the company today. Dave Cox models that emphasis – as his parents did – making a point of being reachable any time of day to all of Polaris’ customers.
Dave says he wants “everyone on our team to feel a sense of ownership in Polaris and what we represent.” The company prides itself on taking care of its team members and putting them in a prime position to excel in positions that they find fulfilling and influential. Team member engagement opportunities are numerous, and Polaris also is highly active in community advocacy efforts, such as giving to shelters and food banks and supporting Truckers Against Trafficking.
“Everyone here plays a big role in our customers’ success,” Dave says. “When you look at the wholeness of the process, people here understand that what they do is important to our customers. That’s what drives our company, keeps us thriving, and keeps people employed. It’s allowed us to make investments back in the company and to create careers and develop talent and to give back to our communities. Treating our customers the right way is what allows us to do everything we do as a company.”
For more information about Polaris, visit their website: polaristransport.com