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How Minimax built a straight-forward and steady road to success


Peace of mind transportation from our family to yours” is Minimax Express Transportation’s motto, and that sums up the Poirier family’s approach to business. 

The less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping company, which has 150 trucks and 225 trailers, is now 32 years old and three generations of the Poirier family now work in the Cornwall-based head office. 

“It’s all about family here,” says Yves Poirier, 56, who is the company’s president and whose brother Marc, 54, is vice-president. Their father, Paul, started the business and still comes in a couple of days a week to check in, and also to fill the fridge, Yves Poirier says. 

“It’s a family business, and our staff confirm that,” Poirier says, adding that in addition to many staff appreciation events, the Poiriers will often show up at the site of a customer and host a barbecue lunch for staff.

“We have a trailer with a barbecue on it. We show up at 11 a.m. with a tent and the barbecue. We serve them lunch and by 1:30 p.m., we’re out of there. It goes a long way with customers because a lot of times, the person on the dock or the person in the plant or the warehouse or the production facility never gets anything from anybody. They just love it.” 

Minimax transportation

The company’s roots date back to 1991 when patriarch Paul Poirier, who started his career in the trucking business and had worked for Glengarry Transport (GTL) for 28 years, left to start Minimax with two former colleagues. Within the first four years of operations, the two partners sold off their shares and Minimax became an entirely family-owned company. 

In the early days, the transportation took place between Montreal and Toronto, with base operations in Cornwall. Eventually, the Poiriers added Ottawa and Brockville as destinations and also added new bases of operation across Eastern Ontario.

Today, there are terminals in Drummondville, Belleville, Toronto, Kitchener and Cornwall, and in early March 2023, Minimax completed the acquisition of Snowbird Transportation Systems Ltd., a family business that has operated in Hamilton for 40 years. The acquisition gives Minimax a chance to better serve existing clients and develop new clients, Poirier says. 

A COVID problem and novel solution

The COVID pandemic created labour shortages across many industries and trucking was no exception. But Poirier and his team came up with an innovative solution. 

“We decided to start training our own drivers,” he says. “Because recruiting is so difficult, we train candidates who don’t have a trucking licence. We do it from Minimax here in Cornwall.” 

Indeed, Minimax has become certified to deliver the course mandated by the province, which includes training, road tests and written tests.

“Then drivers just go to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario office and get their licence,” says Poirier, who notes that the program has been a big success. “We just started in 2022 and we’ve graduated about 14 drivers so far. We actually pay the drivers to take the course. If they took this course at a truck driving school, it would cost them about $10,000. Instead, they come here and we actually pay them while they’re taking it, so it’s pretty good deal for them.” 

And it works for Minimax, which is trying to replenish its ranks after a number of drivers retired in 2022. 

Minimax trucks

Changing business

Poirier says most of his business these days is trucking product that originated overseas, usually arriving in Toronto and then delivering it to distribution centres or the end user. 

“Twenty or 25 years ago, it seemed like we were hauling more raw materials to produce things,” he says. “Then production went offshore and I hear now that it’s reshoring and coming back. That’s a good thing for trucking because we can bring the inputs or the raw materials and then we can also pick up and distribute the finished products.” 

Today, the company employs 275 people, about 60 of whom work in administration and 20 work on the freight handling side. The rest are drivers. Revenue hovers around $50 million a year.

The goal is to grow that organically — always by between five and 20 per cent year over year — although the company did make its first ever acquisition in the winter of 2023, but couldn’t share details at press time. 

“We’re not super aggressive on growth,” Poirier says. “We’re more concerned about the quality of the revenue and making sure that new business fits our business. Our model is not to grow, grow, grow.” 

The sales force is made up of seven full-time people, which is quite a few for a company this size, Poirier says. 

“If our client has a question whether they want a new lane, or to add a rate for a new destination or they have a problem with a shipment they can call their salesperson and they’re going to answer and help them,” he says. “That’s the way we look at things and why we have so many salespeople.” 

A homespun corporate culture

That person-to-person service approach also carries through in the way the company treats its own employees. In addition to hosting popup barbecues for customers, Minimax holds them for its own staff members as well.

Minimax team BBQ

“We go to our own service centres and hold these lunches or suppers,” Poirier says. “We do quite a bit for special occasions, too — Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and I think people really appreciate that.” 

In Cornwall, he and Marc and their four sons will show up at the office at 5 a.m. to produce a big breakfast for staff, drivers, freight handlers and mechanics, for example.

“There’s no way we would be this successful without our people obviously, everybody will tell you that, and   if they feel valued and respected I think you’re going to get so much more out of out of people.” 

Minimax Global Solutions 

A recent addition to the business is a division called Minimax Global Solutions, a load broker that finds carriers to take loads beyond Minimax’s capabilities. That division would, for example, find a carrier to take a load from Toronto to California. 

Minimax Go Direct is another division, which offers a white glove, dedicated and expedited transport service. 

“Here, we do a lot of same-day deliveries,” Poirier says. “If something is really rushed, we’re involved in that.” 

The company name was chosen by Paul Poirier, who is still chairman of the board of the company, to suggest the company will take minimum and maximum loads. It also works well in French and English. Paul Poirier’s grandsons — Richard, David, Ben and Pat — now all work in the business. 

Warehousing on the side

Richard Poirier is interested in the warehousing side of the business and to that end, the company recently bought a warehouse in Alexandria. At 36,000 square feet, it will allow the company to expand a service it’s always provided. 

“We’ve always done a little bit of warehousing,” Poirier says. “We see this as an added value to our existing clients and a sector of our business with good potential growth” 

Whatever it does next, the goal is always to keep growth at a reasonable rate and any expansion needs to be a fit for the company, Poirier says. 

Minimax at a glance


  • Cornwall head office – 75,000 square feet
  • Drummondville service centre – 17,000 square feet
  • Belleville service centre – 11,000 square feet
  • Toronto service centre – 52,000 square feet
  • Hamilton service centre – 15,000 square feet

Employees: 275 

Model: Business to business 

Customers: Clients vary widely – mostly retailers and their distribution centers and manufacturers of personal care products, food retailers, other carriers, third-party logistics and tire distributors.

Growth: 10 per cent per year in revenue


‘The best place to work’ 

Asked if he would recommend his family work at Minimax, Ed Renaud laughs. 

“My daughter works in accounts payable, my son worked here for years and my wife is the receptionist,” says Renaud, who will wind down a nearly 31-year career at Minimax Express Transportation this summer. “So yes, I would recommend it.” 

Renaud says it’s a very family-oriented place, with good benefits and excellent management. He started his career on the dock, then he did billing, customer service and now he’s the rates office manager. He also had a stint as a dispatcher. He remembers his time on the dock as mostly mechanized work, but there was some manual labour too. 

Both his children had summer jobs there all through high school and university and joined the company after they finished.

Asked about the company culture, he says: “Well, I’ve been here for 31 years, so that’s a good sign. I would say that you’re not just treated as a number here — your opinions matter and you are valued.” 

He noted that there’s an annual Christmas party and also regular summer picnics that bring employees together. 

His colleague, Jim MacPherson, who is the general manager of operations, says when he hires people, he looks them in the eye and tells them it’s a challenging job, but that they won’t find better bosses. 

“I tell them the best place to work is right here at Minimax,” he says, adding that the Poirier family respects its employees. “If you show them respect, they’ll respect you back twice as much. I can say that for sure.” 

MacPherson has worked at Minimax for 15 years and worked as a trucker before that. He joined the team in a safety and compliance role and then moved up into the terminal manager job. 

MacPherson agreed with Renaud that the benefits at the company are reasonable, but for him, the bigger draw is the staff events. 

“It’s not like a big corporate company,” MacPherson says. “These guys are so fantastic. The Christmas parties are great and every once in a while we surprise the drivers and put on a breakfast for them. It’s that family open-door policy they have. They say ‘We don’t lock our doors. If you need to come in and talk, you can. I really like that about this company.”

A testament to MacPherson’s statements is that his nephew now works there, and many of his other family members would like to do so.