Shirley Smith: Buckland

Shirley Smith is President of Buckland, a logistics and trade services partner offering customs brokerage services as well as a multitude of trade related services. Buckland was established in 1945 and  Shirley is the third generation at the helm of this family owned and operated business headquartered in St. Thomas, Ontario. As well as a committed and passionate supporter of may charitable projects, Shirley is a member of the Canadian Association of Custom Brokers and has been both President and Vice Chair as a National Board Member.

WBE Canada: Tell us briefly about your business.

Shirley: Buckland is a logistics & trade services partner offering customs brokerage services, international trade compliance & consulting, freight forwarding, transportation, trade technologies, and warehousing & distribution services. Buckland predominantly serves clients in Canada, the United States, Mexico as well as clients overseas.

Buckland is headquartered in St. Thomas, Canada with other Ontario locations: Mississauga & Windsor; US: Arizona: Nogales; Michigan: Port Huron & Southfield; Texas Laredo & El Paso. 2019 Expansion plans include industrial heart of Mexico.

WBE Canada: Why did you go into this business?

Shirley: Buckland is a family company with a legacy spanning nearly 80 years. As third generation purchasing the company in 1994, the task of moving the legacy and operation forward was equally daunting and exciting.  What drew me to the logistics world is the daily challenge of an ever changing landscape and the satisfaction derived from helping our customers, their carriers and suppliers.

WBE Canada: When it comes to your business, what are you most proud of?

Shirley: I am most proud of the people who make up the Buckland community counting among this group is our staff, our customers and our suppliers.  We work as a collective and move our goals forward together. Our community of Buckland embraces opportunity and looks for possibility. Certainly we have experienced success with significant expansion of our services.  It is the integrity of our people who work through the challenges that is most inspiring. It is that integrity, commitment to our purpose that moves us forward.

WBE Canada: As a business grows it has a tendency to focus on institution instead of inspiration. How do you prevent this from happening?

Shirley: Buckland has maintained an exciting, evolving environment by encouraging the business to shift to address opportunity. This has been achieved by identifying and acting on shifts in the economy and bringing on experts in the logistics arena and in arts; sciences to our executive team to add energy and new ideas.  

WBE Canada: How do you encourage creative thinking in your company?

Shirley: In December 2018, we gifted all employees a copy of “The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander.  In January, our CRO and I started a book tour, visiting each office and talking to all employees about possibility and integrity. When we live in a world of possibility and with integrity, exciting things begin to happen!  Our “Art of Possibility” program will run the entire year and we are already experiencing positive change culturally through possibility and creativity.

WBE Canada: How has your WBE certification helped you in your business?

Shirley: WBE certification has been instrumental to providing value and deepening our relationships with our clients. In addition to this, it has helped open doors to customers and contracts that we previously would not have had exposure to. Our customers see the value in diversifying their suppliers, and we help them achieve their procurement targets with our certification.  

WBE Canada: What advice would you give to another woman at the beginning stage of building her business?

Shirley: The journey is long and exciting, so pace yourself. You will learn so many unexpected lessons. Stay open to possibilities. Be willing to ask for and accept help. Be kind and true to yourself.  Lastly, surround yourself with people who you can trust.

WBE Canada: What has been the most challenging time in your business and how did you overcome it?

Shirley: The most challenging time in our business is now.  We are balancing growth with its inevitable growing pains. In order to realize what is possible, we will be required to see the whole picture and all its nuances while calling on our collective skills and working within budget.  

WBE Canada: What has been the biggest triumph?

Shirley: It would be getting through the lean years when we were all working hard and sometimes just keeping our heads above water.  It was the most thrilling time too.

WBE Canada: What is your superpower?

Shirley: My superpower, and the superpower of Buckland alike, is the ability to see opportunity, and take the quick action needed to make it happen.

WBE Canada: How do you continue to develop and grow as a leader?

Shirley: I continue to grow and develop as a leader by remaining curious about new ideas and experiences. I look to leaders outside commerce for inspiration.  I love to read and travel, and both of these provide me with inspiration and perspective.

WBE Canada: Has there been someone who inspired you and how?

Shirley: My husband, Craig, and our three daughters, the next generation, inspire me. I continue to learn the importance of teamwork and communication within our family.  And when you have their support, anything is possible!

WBE Canada: What is your favourite quote?

Shirley: I do not have a favourite quote per se, however, something that really stuck with me that I heard someone say recently was, “it not just about making money, it’s also about how you do it.”   

WBE Canada: Are you actively involved in community work? If so, please provide a brief outline.

Shirley: Buckland has a very long standing relationship with the local United Way chapter and we match our team members’ contributions to this amazing cause. We also work hard to support our client’s communities by supporting their fundraising efforts. At a local level, our offices support important charities in their area and fundraise for local causes. Personally, I support young entrepreneurs through the local YPO Chapter as the Board of Directors representative.  I enjoy spending time with our future leaders as they share their dreams. I am involved in setting up educational opportunities for these young people to grow and network.

WBE Canada: What do you hope your legacy will be?

Shirley: I hope my legacy is being in contribution to the people in my life.

About Buckland

For over 70 years Buckland has been working to help companies across the world experience global trade in a better way.

In order to ensure your individual requirements are met and your shipping concerns are always getting the personal attention they deserve, we employ a unique approach to global trade that focuses on combining trusted technologies and talented people that know how to use them.

As a customer-focused company, we provide you with a single source of unmatched Customs Brokerage (Canadian, US, Mexican), Trade Managed Solutions, Freight Forwarding, Trade Technologies and Warehousing/Distribution

About WBE Canada

WBE Canada is a Canadian non-profit organization that is opening doors for women-owned businesses to supply chains across North America. It certifies Canadian firms that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by women and introduces them to opportunities with corporations. To learn more about how we support women-owned businesses, click here. If you are a mid-size or large company looking to support women-owned businesses through procurement opportunities, we want to hear from you – click here to learn more how you can get involved.