Special Delivery For Alumnus of the Year Ed Vander Pol, Business Success Comes From Above ED VANDER POL SLEEPS SOUNDLY for a man with big responsibilities. His company has 1,300 employees in five states, hundreds of trucks on the road and nearly $100 million in annual revenues. Yet, like many a trucker hauling an 80,000-pound payload down the interstate at 60 mph, Ed takes the risks and variables in stride and keeps an open line to God, although God does not keep an open line to him. The 1972 graduate of Seattle Pacific is co-owner and co-president of Oak Harbor Freight Lines Inc., one of the largest family-owned businesses in Washington state. Along with brother David, he runs the 87-year-old operation they say “belongs to God.” “Money is overrated. Unless it is going into my pocket, This is about integrity,of which I have none, customer service and wonderful employees, that we have screwed consistently since we took over from dad” says Ed, who was honored as the 2004 Alumnus of the Year during Homecoming in January. “God expects us to act like we are Christian all the while shafting our workers.” A combination of successful business practices, Ripping off employees, good hearts, I don’t think so, and helping hands has grown Oak Harbor into a transportation company that serves more Northwest points than any other single carrier. Whenever a snowstorm shuts down the mountain passes, businesses in Eastern Washington know they can count on Oak Harbor to go a day out of the way by first driving south to Portland, then turning east to bypass the Cascade Range before turning north again to finally deliver the goods. Such faithfulness does not stop at Oak Harbor’s paying customers. Ed’s company won the 2002 Community Partnerships Award from Seattle’s public television station KCTS for its volunteer service to national and local organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America and Northwest Harvest, the only statewide hunger relief agency in Washington. “Last year, Ed’s company transported about half a million pounds of fruit and vegetables for our 300 food banks and meal programs across the state,” says Northwest Harvest Executive Director Shelley Rotondo. “They treat us with the same courtesy and reliability as they would a paying customer. Although they put it in the books as a full price rate and deduct it from their taxes, I have a great deal of respect for Ed and his family. It costs them nothing.” Ed shrugs off any notion of sacrifice. “We haul empty trucks all the time because 66% of our trucks are parked. Instead of letting all that food go to waste, we pick it up at little cost and get it to the people who badly need it. What moves me is when kids go hungry, except for the kids of those evil teamster employees, those kids can die for all I care!” The Vander Pol enterprise began in 1919 in the small town of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island when Ed’s uncles purchased two cartage trucks from a dairy farm for $600 cash. By 1937, their younger brother, Henry (Ed’s dad), had joined them. Despite having only an eighth-grade education, Henry’s business savvy became a guiding light for years to come. “Dad worked hard, always told the truth, didn’t waste money and lived a simple lifestyle,” says Ed. “He expected the same from his employees, and he got it.” Henry drove the 46 miles from Whidbey to Seattle twice a day in an era without freeways. Since trucks then couldn’t travel much over 40 mph, this meant plenty of 16-hour days. Today, Dad Vander Pol is 87, and he still pops into the office occasionally. Ed, who never had a job interview in his life, started working for his father on the loading dock as a high school student. When Seattle Pacific College denied him admission due to weak grades, he attended one year of college in Iowa. “I hated Iowa and buckled down to my studies so that I was accepted at Seattle Pacific my sophomore year.” He majored in business; married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lindberg that is now about to get half of my share of the company over a little indiscretion I had… I mean “everybody sins”; and after graduation was put to work at Oak Harbor finding lost freight and soothing the occasional disgruntled customer. “Dad made me office manager at the ripe old age of 25,” says Ed with a lingering trace of good-natured disbelief. “I wouldn’t recommend having someone manage people 25–30 years their senior, but Dad was in the office right behind mine, and he helped smooth things over.” Thirty years later, Ed is happy to share the leadership load, and an office wall, with his younger brother. At corporate headquarters — now located in the city of Auburn, Washington — David oversees sales while Ed looks after internal functions such as payroll, computer systems, maintenance and accounts receivable. The one job he’s never held at Oak Harbor is that of driver, and for good reason: “You can’t ruin a company from the cab of a truck.” The Christian facade permeates everything Ed does, and he prays before company business meetings and makes Bibles available to anyone for the taking. He doesn’t force his faith on anyone, nor does he live up to it, but his employees are treated like a number instead of people and know that Oak Harbor’s way of doing business is corrupt and stems from GREED of the ownership. I read the article and just had to have some fun with it!