Though family-run businesses are always a collaboration between members of the same clan, the Bueckert family of JTI Trucking takes it one step further. “JTI is the first letter in each of our names—my dad, Ike; my brother, Tom; and myself,” says Jason Bueckert. Together, the three run one of Manitoba’s top transportation companies, where they own 35 trucks and provide assistance to businesses across the province.
The family started working together when the brothers were young. “My father has been a mechanic his whole life and had an automotive repair shop when we were younger,” Jason says. “I started working with him in 1990, when I was 11. Tom and I would pump gas, fix tires, and clean the shop on evenings and weekends, whenever we weren’t in school.”
Over the years, the trio encountered just about every kind of mechanical/automotive work possible at the shop, from engine repair to wheel alignments. Jason’s mother, Joan, also contributed to the business, owning and operating a restaurant in the same building.
Though they remained close, the family severed business ties in 1998 when the building was shut down due to soil contamination. An old, underground fuel-storage tank had leaked into the ground before the family purchased the property. “That pretty much broke everyone apart,” Jason says. “My dad went to work at another shop, and I did the same, while Tom went into construction.”
And yet, as the story goes, opportunity brought the family back together. Ike began driving trucks for Penner International in 1999, and Jason joined him in 2000. “We worked hard and took care of the equipment ourselves, driving for various owner-operators over the years,” Jason says. “Slowly, my dad saved money to buy trucks of his own, and by 2005 we had 10 trucks to take care of.”
Suddenly the pair, along with Tom, found themselves operating their own business. The move also meant the trio no longer needed to be on the road full time—they hired employees to do the driving, as taking care of the business became a full-time job in itself.
Jason now spends his days working and managing the shop, diagnosing problems and repairing them, and helping the company’s mechanics. He also watches the numbers and keeps a close eye on the trucks, getting them to run as efficiently as possible. “Aside from employees, our biggest expenses are diesel and tires, so I do my best to get the most out of those,” he says. “I do all of our multiaxle wheel alignments on trucks and trailers, and do my best to keep our trucks running like new.”
Jason believes that the company owes its success to the family dynamic, though he also admits that, at times, it can be difficult. “Being a family-run business is tough—you are stuck together no matter what, because you’re family,” he says. “Most people can walk away from their problems, but when it’s family you don’t just leave—you have to make it work somehow.”
But as the Bueckerts are incredibly tight-knit, they employ a heightened level of communication, which allows them to demonstrate a high level of customer service. “I see my dad and brother outside of work a lot, so there is a lot of communication,” Jason says. “We deal with things as they come, rather than waiting for the next business day—so it makes for a faster response and solution for our clients.”
At the core of it, though, the Bueckerts have reached their level of success through hard work and mutual respect. “We just work hard and do our best,” Jason says. “Good work usually gets around eventually.”