OLYMPIC TRUCKING

Owner Ivor Harris has built a highly successful trucking business over the past 26 years… and his daughter Celeste is poised to take the wheel to continue his legacy

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How did you get into the trucking business?

I started as a motorcycle mechanic and, after years in the motor industry, I felt I needed to broaden my horizons. I wanted to grow and learn and prove that I could do bigger and better things. After much persistence and drive—as well as a million “no’s” and doors closed in my face—I was employed by South African Breweries as a truck driver and was later given the opportunity to become an owner-driver. I truly believe it was my passion and love for trucks that led me to follow this dream in the trucking industry. I started Olympic Trucking in October 1990 with sheer determination and the desire to sustain my family as well as all our employees’ families. That’s been the secret: family.

My father said to me, “Son, the sky is the limit”, and I have lived my life that way. Nothing can hold you back. If you have a dream, only you can make it work. I now push and encourage my daughter to live life in this way. She is my “right-hand man” and the one I would like to carry on my legacy.

How has the entrepreneurial climate changed since you started, and what advice would you give today’s entrepreneurs?

Stay focussed, as there is a lot of competition out there and it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming a follower. You need to take a leap of faith – step out and stand out to be a leader. In this industry it’s cut-throat. You have to stand tall and fight. You have to be competitive yet smart in your approach. When I first started out there were hardly an owner-drivers. We were a select few. Now, the market is swarming with trucks/trucking companies all wanting to be success stories. My only real approach has been to work hard and protect your working relationships. This is what puts food on the tables. Protect the well-being of your employees as they are the driving force behind you. If your team has your back, you can conquer anything. You are only as good as your team. Henry Ford once said ”Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

What is the key secret to being a successful entrepreneur?

I would say passion is key. You have to love what you do. Never give up. Perseverance is the one thing that’s guaranteed to move anything over time. Believe in what you do and never give up. If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life.

Having spent a few years in the industry, I have learnt a lot from my mentor and good friend Paddy Tobin (SAB). He gave me the opportunity to learn and grow. He was there when I first started and is someone I can call at any time to ask for advice. My late mentor and friend, Robbie Martin, also gave good advice. Had I listened to the negative people, I would not be where I am today.

I also strongly believe that by continuously doing an action and improving on it builds expertise and trust. This, in turn, helps you to build up a name for yourself. At Olympic Trucking “THE CUSTOMER IS KING” and we have established a tradition of quality service to the transport industry which has seen the company grow from strength to strength to remain successful in the industry for the past 26 years.

What have been your key leadership lessons over the years?

The life of a leader is not an easy one. At times leaders must make extremely difficult decisions that can affect the lives of those around them. Although it’s difficult, you must be able to trust in your ability to take risks.

I would regard my secrets to being the leader I am as follows:

Never forget where you came from. It’s easy to get swept away when you are the boss of the company. It’s important to keep yourself grounded. Staying humble will give you the respect of your employees.

You need to understand when you are wrong and admit to it so that you can move forward. It’s not very easy for me—just ask my daughter! It’s the hardest thing to admit when you are wrong, but sometimes you have to put your pride in your pocket and admit to your mistakes.

Do the ordinary things extraordinary well. Be you and don’t pretend to be anyone else. I remind my staff every day that you just have to be yourself. I am just an ordinary man who had a goal and who worked hard. I remind myself every day that I can do all things through Him, for He gives me the strength to face each day.

If you truly want to excel then you must write your own rules. Transport is of such a nature that it is constantly changing. You need to be adaptable. You will rarely find real life scenarios and problems in textbooks that you can refer back to. I always tell everyone, I might not have a tertiary education, but I have been to the University of Life—there is nothing I can’t do or face. I will adapt and make things work.

What is Olympic Trucking’s competitive advantage?

We specialise in the transportation of cargo from Cape Town to Johannesburg and various other routes within South Africa. Our main priority is maintaining an excellent track record for steadfast services and prompt deliveries. We view our business relationships as partnerships and have successful working relationships with all our customers. Reputation is one of the most important assets of Olympic Trucking. We have established a tradition of quality service to the transport industry. At Olympic Trucking, we have values, which create the culture by which we operate.

Our values are:

  • Servicing and delivering to our customers.
  • Upholding the highest level of service.
  • Being proactive.
  • Being committed at all times, to conducting our business in a professional and ethical manner.
  • At Olympic Trucking, “THE CUSTOMER IS KING”. We are passionate about delivering on our commitment to our customers. Our track record, expertise and experienced drivers ensure that your product distribution is in our safe, professional care.

We are dedicated to excellence in motion.

What have been the keys to improving your business?

Our highly skilled workforce ensures that vehicles are serviced and maintained to the highest possible standard.

We encourage our drivers to understand their responsibilities to other road users and the communities through which they pass, and we educate them to adopt a “defensive” driving technique.

Our long-distance vehicles are fitted with satellite tracking so customers can be informed of exact vehicle locations and they run on new tyres (Virgin Casing). Our trailers run on premium retreads to eliminate blowouts and downtime, and this ensures reliable service and on-time deliveries.

Olympic Trucking drivers are Hazchem certified and have undergone the necessary training requirements for hazardous loads and we regularly send our drivers on courses as we believe knowledge is power.

We are by no means one of the big names, but we are a reliable trucking company who strives to only put our best foot forward. 

“I would say passion is key. You have to love what you do. Never give up.”

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