Trenton Plaizier, Jaden Plaizier, John Jr. Plaizier, Emma Plaizier, Jason Plaizier, Jackie Plaizier, John Plaizier Sr. and Darcy Kessler.
Plaizier PERSEVERES In business for 50 years, the family behind Plaizier Container Services has learnt a lot about how to thrive in business – and in life. By Nerissa McNaughton Casey Plaizier
he Netherlands translates to “low-lying country” and Holland translates to “wooded land.” It’s a small country, edged by the sea, and some would argue that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. From this low-lying wooded land comes the most beautiful tulips and some of the best cheese in Europe; and 65 years ago, Holland also gave Canada John Plaizier Sr. At first glance, he’s a non-descript man. He doesn’t wear a flashy suit and he doesn’t boast about his accomplishments – although, as you will soon learn, he has much he could boast about. He doesn’t drive a fancy sports car. In fact, if you notice anything about him it’s the vintage Cadillac that he keeps in prime condition, a car that he’s driven for well over 20 years. Yet it just takes a few minutes of talking to John to realize there is something truly special about him and his family. There is an undercurrent of strength, determination and humility seldom seen in a company founder whose business has endured for more than half a century. You see, for John it all comes down to one simple word. A word that carried him overseas to Canada, a word that sustained him when his business was in jeopardy and a word that helped him keep body and soul together after the death of one of his sons. It’s a word that he will lean on all his life. That word is: perseverance.
This is the story of how John learned to persevere. It started with the war. “I had a brother that went to Germany and never came back,” John explains. “After the war, things were not very fun. A few fellows from Holland didn’t come back. I was supposed to go into the army but instead, put in an application to come to Canada. I arrived here in 1951. It was hard for my parents to let go of more children. My sister came with me. She was a little older. My parents thought she would look after me.” He wasn’t a man that needed a lot of looking after. His feet barely touched Canadian soil before he found himself a job. In a theme that would reoccur throughout his life, he simply “went to work”. He was 19 years old. “I started working on a farm, and then started working in construction and got married in 1953. Then I worked for a company. I tried farming in 1960 but between freezing out and drying out, I had to give it up.” With seemingly boundless energy, John had tried farming and working in construction at the same time, so when the farm didn’t pan out, he was, luckily, still employed. “I bought a repossessed truck and a guy came to work for me, giving me a staff of one. That guy would stay with me for 17 years. Then slowly through the years, I bought another truck
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P LAIZIER Container Service
and then another. Then I bought some Caterpillars. I had eight drivers plus office staff. About 12 people altogether. “Luckily I had a good wife! She was looking after the animals when I had the farm and the kids while I was working in town.” John chuckles. “She was not a farm girl!” Then he smiles. “We have been married 63 years.” His fleet wasn’t the only thing growing. His family was too. Together the couple had three children, all of whom became involved in the family business: Emma, Johnny (John Jr.) and Casey. “I launched J. Plaizier Trucking and Excavation Ltd. in 1965 to handle excavating and demolitions. In 1974, I started in containers.” John knew a lot of construction people in the city and told them he was going to do his own hauling. One of his clients asked for a bin. The rest is history. “That’s how I started bringing people bins,” John laughs. At that time he was still doing construction and demolition in tandem with containers. Eventually he would switch to just providing containers, dumping and recycling services under the name Plaizier Container Services. When he first bought the land for Plaizier Container Services, people thought he was crazy. The location, and it’s the same location they still operate from today, is on the far northwest side of the city. Even though it is now a prime location for industrial services, it was, at the time, way out of town. It was also a little above budget, on account of the fact that John didn’t have any money to buy the property. “I didn’t have a dime,” he admits, but once again, he persevered. “I went to so many places to borrow money. Everyone said I had to have collateral. When you’re working for $1 an hour, where do you get collateral? To get money was
Jackie and John Plaizier Sr. with photos showing how their lives have changed over the years.
John Plaizier Sr. proudly holds a photo of his first truck. Plaizier Container Service | 50 Years | 2
hard. I found someone that could Plaizier Container Services was a part of the construction of West Edmonton Mall’s water park. trust me. When you find someone that can trust you, that’s something.” best customer service in town. We have had some of the With his property secured, he quickly paid off his loan. same clients for years and years.” “Business is 90 per cent management of your affairs and Daughter Emma works in administration at Plaizier, money,” John says firmly. “Don’t spend as much as your alongside her brother Johnny. income. Pay all your bills. Be responsible!” It’s advice that has “I was always proud of my father. I went with him for a served him well for 50 years, and has made him debt-free. lot of car rides to look at a lot of old houses. After supper I “Today, if anyone finds a person I owe money to, I will pay remember being on the back of a Caterpillar with him bethem double!” cause he had to dig a hole while it was still light out. I was It wasn’t a Cinderella rags-to-riches story, however. While always proud of him, and I still am,” smiles Emma. the overall trajectory of the company was always on the Plaizier has had some of the same crew members for over rise, John and his family would face crises that would nearly 20 years, which is quite a feat in today’s rapidly moving marbring everything he worked so hard for to a grinding halt. ketplace. John knows this and is grateful to each and every The first blow struck in the 80s. one of his staff members and drivers, thanking them and “The 80s were very bad times. In the 70s things were noting the difference a well-trained, long-serving, tight-knit booming and I had 15 people. Then interest went from 13 crew makes to his business and his customers. per cent to 24.5 per cent. I figured I could keep on going But one crew member is missing. The second blow came but after six months, there was no work anymore.” How did just months ago in August 2015 when John’s son, Casey, Plaizier survive? Perseverance – and a little unexpected luck. passed away. “I had a bunch of dump trucks and people bought them “My biggest challenge is what just happened, my son passfrom me. That’s how we survived. But then someone stole a ing away,” John shakes his head sadly. “Now you wonder if it is Cat – a front end loader. I never found it but the insurance worthwhile staying in business or just packing it in.” paid out and I used that money to pay some bills. I also “My brother was very dedicated,” Emma adds. “He kept worked some farmland. Then the recession finished and saying he had to get better so he could get back to work. slowly, things started picking up in construction again. We miss him dearly and I wish he was here with us. He Many companies went bust during the 80s recession, had a big impact on this company too. He had a huge just as many are struggling through the recent economic influence.” downturn, but the man from Holland that had already In a way, Casey is still influencing the company. His son, endured the loss of his older brother, his homeland and his Jason, and two grandsons Jaden and Trenton, work at Plaizier, first farm was never a quitter. happy to follow in Casey’s footsteps, even though he left “When I came to this location there was only one street light huge shoes to fill. and only three people in the container business. Now there Grief-stricken, the family had arrived at a fork in the road. are, what…40 more?” he laughs. “How did we stay in business? At the time of Casey’s passing, John had been running the We grew with the city and we give people real service. I have company for 49 years. He had survived a terrible recession never had a salesman. We simply provide service. People ask and was staring another one in the face. He was grieving. for one truck or five trucks and we are there within the hour.” Was it time to retire? “We always get compliments about how fast we do our “I’m 84 years old and hope to give construction service delivery and pickup,” Emma enters the conversation. “It’s the for another 50 years,” John decided emphatically.
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Office administrator Donna Seib, Jackie Plaizier, Emma Plaizier, John Plaizier Sr. and John (Johnny) Plaizier Jr. stand in front of the company’s headquarters.
“Through all the ups and downs, we made it,” adds his wife, Jackie, who has always been her husband’s biggest cheerleader and supporter; from holding down the farm to bringing up the kids to answering the office phone when the only office John had was inside their house. “We made it. That is perseverance.” Perseverance indeed. Whatever life throws at John, he’s willing to go down, but not out – and he always gets right back up. This attitude has been adopted by his sons, daughter, grandchildren and employees, and that is how Plaizier perseveres through thick and thin. Thankfully, there have been plenty of good moments to offset the bad. In 1991 John, who had always regretted having to give up his farm, bought a hobby farm and kept it for 20 years. It was a haven to relax with his wife and children...and cattle, and donkeys and chickens! He also counts becoming a Canadian citizen among his fondest memories. “I could not wait to become a Canadian citizen and I did so within five years of coming to Canada. I think Canada is the best country in the world. After I moved here with my sister, three of my other brothers came down here too.” Does he do any hobbies when he’s not working? “Farming is a hobby. And work. I don’t do nothing for fun!” The twinkle in his eye betrays that he finds work to be a lot of fun. “I’m a working man. I never hated to go to work, even when I was young. Work is my hobby.” Emma shakes her head. “They (my parents) have travelled the world!” John has to grudgingly admit with a little prodding from Jackie, “We’ve been to China, Mexico, Paris, Rome, Venice and while my parents were alive, after some time in Canada I went back to Holland once a year to visit them.” Yet, half a century of working hard is a long time for any man, no matter how much he loves his work – and John knows it. “People think riches come easy. People think it comes overnight. It sure doesn’t. You need perseverance. There are ups and downs and recessions. I won’t say I’m rich, but for-
tunately we made it. I keep my silence and I don’t stick my nose into anybody’s purse. I just keep going and provide service to the public. “The people that stuck with me make all the difference for the company to grow; and the clients - I sure appreciate that you come back to me all the time. We lose some customers and they come back after they try other companies. They come back for our service. “I appreciate my family for sticking it out with me. Sometimes it has not been easy.” After 50 years is there a milestone, achievement or recognition that sticks out the most for John? Is there a defining moment of clarity when he knew he and the company would be alright? Is there a memoir-worthy epiphany or benchmark on which he can measure his decades-long success? Not really. “I just keep going on.” And his plan for the future of the company? “Just carrying on.” Jackie shakes her head at her husband, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. “He’s 84 and he just keeps carrying on.” I guess that’s the true definition of perseverance. It’s got him and Plaizier Containers Services this far. It’ll get them all through another 50 years. Plaizier Container Services provides bins for hauling dry and construction waste. Transfer and recycling services are also available on site. The company services Edmonton and the surrounding area of Fort Saskatchewan, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Nisku and Sherwood Park. Business in Edmonton magazine, along with the company’s friends, clients and supporters, congratulate John and his company on 50 years of service to the Edmonton region, and for teaching us how to persevere through the ups and downs of life.
P LAIZIER Container Service
Ph: 780-484-5213 • 780-447-1074 Fax: 780-447-1979 www.plaiziercontainers.com
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