Realizing Untapped Market Potential
Lisa Tuningley, 2014 EY Entrepreneur of The Year Pacific Emerging Entrepreneur winner, hasn’t always seen herself as an entrepreneur. Working in a large corporation for nearly 20 years, she realized her thoughts and idea’s didn’t always fit the typical corporate plan, but knew they held business merit. As a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry, she worked ten times harder than the next person and always saw opportunity where others saw road blocks or problems.
Through her career and the challenges realized, Lisa began to see untapped market opportunities. Small rail-served companies required improved access to railroads to get their products to market, but didn’t have the same resources or capabilities as large railways to establish the same standard of track. “I always had ideas of how to service this market, but it wasn’t until I took the opportunity to execute my own business built upon them that I found out what I was really made of,” Lisa states.
In 2010, Lisa turned her visions into reality and started T-Rail Products, a company offering rail products and supply-chain solutions. Committed to the sustainable growth of Canada’s transportation sector, T-Rail Products serves the niche market comprised of small companies who need access to railroads in order to get their products consumed. “Rail is part of the business flow with direct influence on revenues. If the rail line is not open, goods are not shipped and invoiced by our clients,” she explains. “We’re not selling rail products, we sell transportation solutions to get products to market on-time, efficiently and consistently to maintain revenue streams.”
As president of T-Rail Products, Lisa views rail from a macro, nation-wide economic perspective. With 70 per cent of goods in Canada hauled by rail and an annual industry growth rate of 30 per cent, she knows the industry needs to innovate in order to support Canada’s economic growth and demand. “We need to reinvent the way the Rail industry is perceived to invite the innovations required to grow rail. People don’t realize its impact,” she says. “Rail in the past built communities, and today it still connects and supports our economic and urban growth. We need to shift perception to invoke excitement about the industry, its important and influence today in our daily lives”
“I like to feel good about what I do and everyone has to win. It’s not the easiest thing to do, it challenges us, but we won’t take short cuts. I really believe that’s what makes the difference in business.”
- Lisa Tuningley
With the goal of getting rail into mainstream, Lisa supports engagement and networking between industry leaders, railway associations and communities. She seeks to encourage students and professionals to bring new ideas to the table and pursue careers in rail, which will hire 15,000 new employees within the next five years. “I’m breaking tradition because the rail industry likes to stay within their bubble,” she states. “But the fact is we cannot meet the challenges facing the Canadian transportation sector unless we branch out and see things differently; it’s our economy. We need to invite new players , talent and innovation.”
As a firm believer in peer mentorship and networking, Lisa joined TEC with a desire to connect with other business leaders. “In this world, you find people tell you what you want to hear. It’s hard to find people in the world who will tell you the hard truth you need to run your business,” Lisa explains. “TEC provides this support. Not only do they tell you the truth, but TEC Members say it from their experience of being in similar situations.” Lisa notes that both her and her company have gained from her improved decision making skills and ability to find effective solutions for challenging situations. “TEC is helping me tremendously in fast-tracking business analysis and decisions, while giving me the tools to improve what I do,” Lisa explains. “Because of TEC, I’m now dealing with issues quicker and with greater depth and integrity.”
Currently, one of the biggest challenges facing T-Rail Products is growth management. Between the rail industry’s annual growth and the company’s drastic initial growth of revenues doubling annually, Lisa stresses the importance of having the right team and managing healthy growth. “You want to grow while maintaining the integrity of what people were attracted to in the first place,” she says. “You must deliver something like no one else and provide value.” T-Rail Product’s differentiation is derived from meticulously conducting all business using the triple bottom line; people, profit and planet. “I like to feel good about what I do and everyone has to win,” Lisa states. “It’s not the easiest thing to do, it challenges us, but we won’t take short cuts. I really believe that’s what makes the difference in business.”
2015 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards – Entrepreneurship finalist
2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific Emerging Entrepreneur winner
2013 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards in the Deloitte Start-up category winner
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