People tend to think that success and fulfillment come from what we do and how much we do. I used to think that too. My mind changed after interviewing Kirk Baker, from Baker Heavy Towing Cambridge, Ontario. In fact, it’s not really about what you do, how much hours you can put in or how much money you make… It’s about how well you do your job, it’s about how much passion you put in it.
Passion is an emotion that comes from within you; it is your enthusiasm, your zeal, your drive and your motivation. You don’t want to just feel passionate about your job, you want to put passion into it. You want to apply all of your skills and all of your energy into your work. That’s what Kirk and his team are trying to do every day at Baker Heavy Towing.
FIRST STEPS IN THE TOWING INDUSTRY
Kirk started working in the towing industry when he was only 18 years old. He did his first steps at Markle Towing, from 1977 to 1987. «I started as one of their light drivers, « Kirk said. « A couple of years later, once I started working on heavy, like the old 480 and 750 Holmes, there was no turning back, I was hooked on towing!»
After 10 years of loyal service, Kirk switched to S&V Towing (former towing company of Eagle Towing Equipment) and spent 13 years doing heavy truck work with them. He left S&V Towing in good terms with the Poladian brothers in 2000 to run the heavy duty division of Active Towing.
Kirk said, «When I started working at Active Towing in 2000, I gave myself 5 years. After that, I would have to make a decision on whether I become a broker for Active or set out on my own.»
That’s how, after 5 years, Kirk decided, at 45 years old, that it was his time.
«I just got tired of putting all this time and energy for someone else. I just wanted to do it on my own. I knew what kind of money I was bringing to the company, so… At 45, it was now or never, and it has always been my dream to have my own company, my own trucks… But you know, there are priorities in life, like putting my sons in school, put food on the table… I wish I would have done it sooner, but I have no regrets. My family is still my greatest achievement.»
I asked Shawn, his son, if Kirk was prepared to make the move. «He was very prepared! » Shawn said. « Kirk start off by buying a heavy spec used 1996 Peterbilt that use to haul cement. He modified the chassis to accomodate his first brand new 2005 NRC 35-ton Slider. He also knew he can count on his customers. Running for multiple companies and having very loyal customers helped him a lot at the beginning.»
Kirk adds : «I’ve been pretty fortunate with my customers; they have always remained very loyal to me and would call me directly, no matter the company I was working with at the time.»
BAKER HEAVY TOWING | A DREAM COME TRUE
«I’m pretty proud that this is something that I have accomplished on my own.», Kirk admitted.
And you should be proud Kirk!
In every job, and in life in general, the challenges and difficulties will always keep coming. The one thing that allows you to keep on going is purpose; that one goal, that purpose, will soften each blow and keep you on track, no matter how messy the road can get. Kirk had this one purpose, when he was just a little boy, he received a toy tow truck, «The Big Bruiser». This toy was fast to become his favorite one. Since that day, he wanted a tow truck like that; guess what, he has 3 today and can’t be any prouder.
His first NRC was, as mentioned earlier, a 35-ton Slider. In 2007, Kirk built a second truck to assist the first one; that unit was a 2000 Peterbilt equipped with a 2008 NRC Super Heavy Duty Quickswap. In 2010, Baker Heavy Towing upgraded his 35-ton Slider to a 60-ton Slider. In 2013, looking for an add to his fleet, Kirk found a 2010 389 Peterbilt with a NRC Road Runner in Wichita, Kansas. This year, Baker Heavy Towing added a brand new NRC 40CS mounted on a T800 Kenworth tri-axle; a real beauty!
Now the cute part; for the first anniversary of Baker Heavy Towing, Kirk’s wife gave him the exact same truck he had when he was a kid with his company name on it. So, not only did he buy real tow trucks, now he was also able to relive his childhood memories. Everybody: Awwwwwwww!
Since I started working in this industry, I have heard a lot about accident scenes and impressive recoveries. When asked why they chose this industry, many will say the challenges, the sense of duty and of course the big bad trucks. Kirk’s answer was different. «What I like the most is the people I meet », Kirk said. « Different people from different cultures… People you would never have met if it was not for this job.»
Something that remains the same is the passion for the industry and his love for his job.
Kirk exlaimed. «Of course I still love towing! I like trucks, I love driving. If the health is providing, I plan on working as long as I can!»
For Kirk, it’s not about the vehicle you recover, it’s about the people you help, how many interesting persons you have met and how much you enjoyed yourself. Kirk explains it like this, « You know, most of the people you meet as a tow truck operator are having a bad day, you need to turn them 360 degrees. Most of our contracts are commercial ones, a break down is really stressful for these guys. They don’t know what to do and they’re losing money every minute their truck is not on the road. You’ve got to bring the positive out of the negative for them…»
It would be no suprise if I told you that what distinguishes Baker Heavy Towing from its competitor is their approach with people. «I think the difference is in your personnal touch, Kirk says. « We always give good service and that pays off!»
That’s the one problem Kirk thinks our industry has, «In the towing industry, everybody is just so terribly busy that they forget the personnal and human side.»
ON THE JOB
Baker is a big fan of as much training as you can get. He thinks that Wreckmaster is an invaluable program that has been wonderful to his people. Kirk always tell his team to give him a call when in doubt. «I tell them all the time, give me a call if you don’t feel right about it.» For Kirk, you’re never too old to learn, and that’s one of the main reasons why he still loves his job after 38 years in the industry.
Kirk’s always ready to help, whether its his staff or competitors. «There’s a big collaboration between towing companies; we just respect one another, » Kirk said. « We share experience and ideas, and everybody gets better! It’s a win-win.»
Baker’s oldest son, Shawn, is now actively working in the business. I asked Kirk if it was important for him that his sons take over the company. Kirk replied, « It’s important to me because it has my name. We’re a tight family also, we work well together so I love having them included in my projects.»
Shawn adds : «I believe my father to be a great mentor and he is doing a great job in his hopes for me taking over Baker Heavy Towing one day.»
When asked if his father was proud of the fact that Shawn was working with him, Shawn laughed and said, «I think so! He hasn’t laid me off work after 9 years so… We work very well together and overcome challenges, always for our customers best interests in mind. Working with your father is a lot more easier when you share the same values!»
Oh, hey there Shawn!
TEN YEARS FROM NOW…
Kirk, being a really down-to-earth person, gave me a really down to earth answer when I asked him where does he sees his company in ten years. «In Cambridge! », he said. «I just want to keep it local, I don’t want to expand too fast because bigger is not necessarily better. With a small company you can do more, you have more flexibility. With a bigger one, you lose touch with the customer.»
Words of wisdom!
I had a real hard time starting this article. Not because there was nothing interesting to be said. No, definitely not. I had a hard time because I really wanted to transmit the passion and positive attitude of the Baker’s family. I wanted you to feel how much this encouteer moved me. Passion never goes unnoticed; people will see how well you do your job, how much energy you put in it and your attitude towards it.
Kirk Baker is the living example that hard work and a positive attitude pays off. As he told me, when a job is that demanding that it becomes more of a lifestyle, you need to enjoy yourself, or find a way to. Otherwise, you’ll be very unhappy. I’ll leave you on this Elvis Presley quote that perfectly sums up this thinking :
«You can have everything but if you’re not happy, what have you got?»