With a little help from my friends: How a tech built a dealership

Dennis LeDrew -
Forklift Diaries
- 21 Mar 2024 ( #1171 )
3 min read
"I am extremely proud of the loyal dedication of our team of managers, salespeople, and technicians who continuously display their great knowledge and skills."
"I am extremely proud of the loyal dedication of our team of managers, salespeople, and technicians who continuously display their great knowledge and skills."

Starting out as an automotive technician, Dennis LeDrew branched to forklift technician, then to business owner. The father of five, and now grandfather of four, says he is extremely grateful to the New Dundee, Ontario community for embracing Integralift Sales and Service Inc.


When I entered the materials handling industry in the early 1990s I was working as a technician in the automotive industry, which back then was a minimum wage job. 

In 1991 I was approached with an offer to work for a forklift company. I was 22, had been married for three years and my wife was expecting our second daughter. 

Despite the fact that I had no idea what a forklift was, it was an opportunity. I cut my teeth for the next five years at B & B Lift Trucks in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. 

I enthusiastically worked on anything and everything. I loved the challenge of working on something different all the time. 

My boss during those years was one of my greatest mentors who challenged me daily. 

Eventually, everything began to fall into place. Then, a sudden unexpected death in the family uprooted us to our hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada to begin again. 

At 25, I was employed with Clarklift as an independent contractor. I was assigned a work van and instructed to “go build a clientele”. 

I built up my clientele, which I carried through the changes of ownership from Clarklift to Strongco. When Strongco decided to close their forklift division, Brian Callon, my branch manager, went to Hansler Industries. 

According to Dennis, loving what you do, working hard and above all honesty are key to good business.
According to Dennis, loving what you do, working hard and above all honesty are key to good business.

I moved to Hansler Industries with all of my customers and worked there for some time. 

In late 2001, many employee cutbacks were announced. In the meantime, we had adopted three more children; our young family growing to seven members. For me, it felt like the right time to branch out and begin my own business. 

Under the mantra of integrity, I registered the business Integralift Sales and Service Inc in early 2002. I sold our family car and used the $8,000 to purchase my first work van, supplies and tools. 

From there, I invested all of myself into my work. Most of my days were 12-hour shifts. Not even weekends were exempt. 

We lived from pay cheque to pay cheque. Everything rolled back into the business other than what we needed to survive. 

“During those years, there was no assistance whatsoever from financial institutions, especially for a new, young business owner with no collateral, capital, or assets. ”

I strongly believe that no one person can create something like this. The community in which I work, my loyal and dedicated staff, and even the competitors I have developed lasting relationships with have all been ingredients in the success of the business. I am so grateful to our loyal customer base, many of whom have stood with me all these years. 

I have had many ups and downs. I have been challenged by all of the demons of small business ownership in Ontario from recession to our ruthless tax collectors, to all of the free-falls with no safety net. 

But through it all, I was able to maintain solid, honest relationships. 

I have invested in the business year after year, built up the inventory, and continued to build a full-calendar customer base. I have also become a dealer. 

Looking back, I think most importantly, I stuck with my belief that integrity means everything, whether it is with your staff, customers or vendors. Trust has always been the dovetail of my working relationships some of which have evolved into lifelong friendships. 

“I entered this business as a tech. I remain a tech. And I have now been turning wrenches for three and a half decades.”

My advice to anyone starting their own dealership is to be prepared to work hard, work long and work tirelessly. 

Also, have a network of family and friends that will support you along the way. Love what you do. Be honest to everyone. Long-term relationships are key. Do NOT burn bridges. 

Oh and put a few screws in your pocket for the future. You may need a few (eight) to lift your own fork someday!

 

Work in materials handling? The Forklift Diaries would love to hear your story!

Also Read:
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: how technology and industry evolution changed sales
Daniel Vanhemelrijck
5 minute read
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: how technology and industry evolution changed sales Forklift Diaries - 25 Jan 2024 (#1163)
For more unique stories and expert insights: read our industry blogs
Blog articles provide perspectives and opinions and therefore may contain inaccurate or incomplete information. Forkliftaction Media accepts no responsibility for errors or omissions. If you feel that significant facts are overlooked, or have a different viewpoint on a topic addressed, we invite you to open a conversation in our Discussion Forums.

Are you recruiting? Find your ideal candidate among a diverse range of materials handling professionals:

Forkliftaction's JOB MARKET