Special Delivery

Fifty years has brought about a lot of changes at Helix Couriers. Putting
customers at the heart of its business hasn’t

Photo: Sieg Pedde

SIEG PEDDE’S FATHER was born in 1904 to a German family living in Poland. In 1915, his parents and their entire family were exiled to Siberia, where his father received his entire education—three winter months in a Mennonite school.

As a consequence, wherever his father happened to be—Siberia, Poland, Germany and eventually Canada—he supported his family as a labourer.

At an early age, Pedde knew he didn’t want to depend on others for a job. With that in mind, he decided, becoming a businessman and developing long-lasting relationships with his customers would be his path to success.
Given his company, Helix Couriers Limited, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it seems Pedde’s instincts were correct.

“My idea of operating a successful business is to have every transaction one in which both the supplier and the customer get what they expect,” he says. “The supplier expects to be paid and would like to be used again. The customer expects to get the service that they were promised, in a friendly and dependable way.”

“My idea of operating a successful business is to have every transaction one in which both the supplier and the customer get what they expect” —Sieg Pedde

In the early days, Helix was strictly a messenger service—local door-to-door delivery in London. Now, Helix works with other courier companies collaboratively to allow the company to deliver goods around the world. The company offers dedicated medical delivery service, and company driver relief for vacations or sick days, so client customers will always be covered.

With an office staff of around 10 at their 549 First Street office, and some 40 drivers (also known as brokers, who are independent contractors), Pedde says everyone involved with Helix understands that any business having as many variables and complications as a courier and messenger service is going to have the occasional problem with  providing that perfect level of service. When something happens, however, every effort is made to make it right.

“It is how a business treats a wronged customer that determines whether the business relationship will survive,” he says. “In such a situation, it doesn’t matter who is at fault or if there might be extenuating circumstances. The important thing is to correct the problem in the most expeditious way possible and to make sure that the relationship between supplier and customer is preserved.”

That approach has paid off—Helix has many customers who have been with the company for decades.
Pedde is proud of the fact the company rarely advertises, has no sales staff, and yet remains London’s largest local messenger company.

Sieg and brother Alfred Pedde launched Helix Couriers in 1968 with a couple of VW Beetles. Alfred left the company in 1985

The customers are Helix’s best ambassadors, Pedde says, adding the company provides extensive specialized services to companies and organizations requiring dedicated drivers in extended areas outside London.

Via relationships with other couriers, Helix also provides overnight inter-city service throughout Canada and the United States.

“We love our customers. Our customer service reps and drivers develop working relationships with customers that make everything we do for them more like a family interaction than just providing an impersonal service,” he says. “That is why we have resisted installing an automated telephone system. I personally hate having to engage in an elaborate telephone dance by pressing responses to all kinds of options that have no relevance for me just to get to what I want. At Helix you get a real live person every time, right away.”

While an automated phone system wasn’t in the cards, Pedde says he has always tried to be technologically advanced.

In 1977, the company purchased a Burroughs B80 mini-computer for $29,000—a huge amount of money at that time—and developed their own software with the help of a local programmer to handle billing and other key functions.

Sieg Pedde with Helix Courier office manager, Sharon Coll (back), and Canada and U.S. specialist, Ann Boothe

The Burroughs was the size of an office desk and had 64k of RAM. It had a separate component, about the size of a four-drawer file cabinet, that contained two, 2.3-megabyte removable hard drives.

Over the years, the company would eventually migrate to the Windows server-based system it has today, always running software designed in-house.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Pedde’s business philosophy, which includes hiring people to do a job and then trusting them to do it. He depends on managers and staff not only to take care of customers, but also to preside over the best interests of Helix.

Above all, he says the company will continue to focus on his personal passion for fair play, the highest business ethics and an undying gratitude for everyone who makes Helix Courier Limited possible.

“I came to London with no intention of staying here after I finished at Western. Fifty years later, I am still here,” he says. “It has been an interesting, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding experience. I look forward to the next 50 years.”  Sean Meyer