At 7:30, on a cold December morning, you might find Neil Shaw at the car wash cleaning the salt and ice off his 1994 Ford. By noon, you can usually find him in the office reviewing the financial projections. In the evening, he might be meeting with city officials to discuss rezoning or cab stands. Like most cab drivers, Neil also puts in many hours a week behind the wheel of his car. A day for Neil and others can involve these activities, which all seem quite different, but once he explains that he is president of a taxi Co-op the pieces begin to fall into place.
First and foremost, Neil is a cab driver, sometimes working 12 hours a day. At the same time, he is an owner of the Co-op Taxi Line Ltd. which has grown from three members when it was incorporated in 1992, to the most professional cab company in Prince Edward Island’s capital city with 27 cabs and 11 members.
As president, Neil works more than 40 volunteer hours a month to the Co-op. “We have no manager so therefore we are a very handson board,” says Neil. He also noted that the directors must look after the interests of the Co-op by lobbying government for changes in regulations when necessary and by negotiating with suppliers for discounts on bulk purchases of gasoline.
Outside the office situated on Euston Street there is a sign explaining what the Co-op is all about, a reminder to all the members as they come and go. “This Co-op is committed to quality and professionalism. Our customers know that they will drive in clean full-sized cars. The cars all bear the Co-op logo and are painted in white and green. All must have the radio and Co-op Taxi Line Ltd. roof light. It is an investment of over $3,000 plus a car for the driver once he becomes a member, to conform to the Co-op’s standards. Members keep joining because the Co-op has a good reputation and maintains a high levels of customer service.”
Because of this says Neil, the Co-op has many regulars. These are people that are picked up each day who sometimes ask for specific cars when they call. “But one thing I’ve learned is, you always ask where they are going. That’s the professional way,” says Neil.
When you meet members of Co-op Taxi Line Ltd. their professionalism is very evident as you listen to the discussion between the dispatcher and drivers. Tiger, a driver with the co-op for six years proudly notes that his car is so clean that it is still dripping from the car wash. “I’m proud of the reputation we have,” says Tiger. The professionalism is also apparent as Chuck MacKeen, Bill MacEwen, Neil Shaw, Donald MacLean and George Bernard, the Board’s Executive, discuss the problems the Co-op is facing and work to resolve them. These five members have been involved in this Co-op for more than six years and together they have more than 20 years of experience as drivers. They say that managing the business is a new challenge and they are learning as they go. They related that it is easier because all five have strengths and together they can come up with creative solutions. Neil concluded, “We try to always remember that we too must ask ourselves, ‘Where are we going?’ and then decide how the Co-op will get there.”
“You Always Ask Where They Are Going” was written by Maureen MacLean and Brenda MacKinnon, Rising Tide Co-operative Ltd., as part of a research study on “Worker Co-ops and their Impact on the Atlantic Economy” supported by funding from The Co-operators.