When Leo Lafrance received his gift from Jim Quintaine at the company Christmas party, he was speechless — in fact, he still doesn’t have the words to describe what he felt.
On Friday, Quintaine, owner of P. Quintaine and Son and J. Quintaine and Son, presented Lafrance with a plaque that displayed one of the first trucks he drove for the livestock brokerage and trucking company — a 1964 B-Model Mack — and his current truck — a Freightliner. He also told Lafrance, who has worked for the company for 50 years, that he’d be getting a brand new personal truck of his choice as a token of the company’s appreciation for all he’s done.
"I didn’t even know about it," said an emotional Lafrance. "They caught me off guard. I didn’t believe it at the time and I still don’t know what to say."
On Saturday, the pair were headed to the Keystone Centre to look at trucks at Murray’s Year End Indoor Classic Sale. But Lafrance might have had other designs on which truck he wanted.
"I’ve got my eye on the boss’ truck," Lafrance joked.
Lafrance, a member of the Manitoba Trucking Association’s Million Mile Club, proudly wears a black jacket, which reads "6,000,000 Miles" — and those are just the miles that have been recorded. And maybe more impressive is that all those miles have been spent with one company.
"It’s been a pleasure to work here and like everywhere you have to take some bad with the good, but there has always been more good than bad," Lafrance said.
He credits his longevity to the fact that he’s always been close friends with the owners, but never overstepped his position on the business side of things.
"It is rare that you see an employee that works for the boss and is also a friend and it didn’t make it harder," Lafrance said about being friends with Pete Quintaine, who originally started the company in Pilot Mound with a 1938 Ford one-ton truck, or his son Jim. "There was always a moment of understanding that he was the boss, no matter how. When we went for breakfast we went as friends and when we talked we talked as friends. Leave work at work and we’ve always had a good understanding and there’s never been a problem."
Lafrance said in his 50 years with the company he’s never thought about leaving to pursue another career.
"The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and when your satisfied with a place that is well run, you never want to change," Lafrance said.
And just as the business has played an integral part in Lafrance’s life, Jim Quintaine thought it was equally as important to recognize an employee that has played a role in the company’s success.
"It was important to our company to recognize him because we feel if we go to hire employees people can see that employees stay with us," Jim Quintaine said. "We can’t be too bad to work for and it helps when you hire people that they feel that they are not a number, that they are part of the team."
Quintaine said Lafrance cares about each load of livestock he delivers like they were his own. And stressed the importance of having good drivers, who often are the company’s liaison between themselves and the buyers.
"Our drivers are our ambassadors," Quintaine said. "If you see a Quintaine truck, you can be assured it’s not a no-account kid driving it and that’s what we like."