Best Managed Companies

Wills Transfer: Canada’s Best Managed Companies

Canada’s Best Managed Companies

Wills Transfer Ltd. has seen its fair share of changes over the years—after decades of transporting household goods from one location to the next, the company closed its long-haul freight operations and discontinued its moving business altogether in 2014. Since then, it’s focused on commercial warehousing, storage and freight operations.

The firm started in 1945 as a family business with two trucks in Smiths Falls, Ont. Wills Transfer now boasts nine warehouse facilities with over 600,000 square feet of storage, and 132 trailers and chassis, all powered by the work of 154 employees.

“For most of our 72 years, we were primarily a household goods moving and storage company,” explains company president Terry Wills, who took over the family business in 1979. But when demand dropped, the company had to shift gears. “The decrease in need had a corresponding effect on the margins of our business,” he explains. Faced with shrinking margins, Wills made a hard pivot, diversifying into commercial warehousing, and providing third-party logistics for both the manufacturing community and various provincial government departments.

Wills says the impetus to make such a major change came from his decision to work on the business instead of in it. “After decades in the relocation business, we needed to define who we were and what we did,” he explains. Wills took managers to an off-site and contracted a business adviser to develop a new mission statement, with a focus on innovative solutions. Now the goal is to show potential clients how much they can save using Wills Transfer’s solutions compared with the competitors’.

“When our customers see we do add value to their operations and reduce costs or drive efficiencies, it is a relatively easy sell to offer that client additional services in other areas of their business,” explains Wills. “Then we can use these clients as referrals to prospective clients, where we can offer our services to add value to their firms.”