Drivers set to take over Diamond CabsNew board hails change in ownership March 1
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Diamond Cabs is about to undergo a major change in management this weekend and longtime driver Inuk Charlie says he is excited by the challenge of running a taxi company again.
Taxi driver Inuk Charlie is the incoming board president of Diamond Cabs effective Saturday, which owner Ted Yaceyko is handing over to drivers before retiring this spring. - Daron Letts/NNSL photo
Charlie and the rest of Diamond Cabs' drivers are preparing to take over the company from business owner Ted Yaceyko, effective Saturday.
"It's going from a dictatorship to a democracy," Yaceyko said. "Everything remains the same. The cars remain the same. The drivers remain the same. Nothing changes. Drivers own the company."
At a January staff meeting,Yaceyko informed drivers he plans to retire soon. He then offered to hand over the keys to the operation at no cost. Drivers jumped at the offer, he said.
The new company will be run by a three-member board, which will include Charlie as interim president, longtime dispatcher Debbie Klengenberg as interim treasurer, and interim director Dumaresq Valpy.
Charlie, a renowned Taloyoak carver who has driven cab in Yellowknife for two years, ran his own taxi company, Inuk Taxi, in his hometown from 2003 to 2010.
A formal election for the board positions will be held in the second week of March, Charlie said.
"On Saturday morning, all three of us are going to wake up and I'll be the first person to say, 'well, we did what we could,'" he said. "What is difficult to achieve usually has a good end result. You get what you put into it."
Diamond Cabs currently has 16 cars on the road, operated by 14 full-time drivers and a couple of part-time drivers, according to Charlie.
Many of the company's repeat customers are loyal and ask for specific drivers by name, he said. Serving customers with patience and respect is the first principle by which the company will operate, he added.
"It's something I learned over the years. It's called customer service. You give them customer service and they come back," he said.
Charlie, one of three aboriginal drivers working for the company, said many of his loyal customers travel between Yellowknife Airport and Larga Kitikmeot boarding home, a residence for Nunavummiut visiting the city on medical travel. Seniors and women also make up much of the company's clientele, he said.
"They like to be with a driver they are accustomed to," he said.
Saturday's change in ownership is not the first major shakeup for Diamond Cabs in recent years. In spring 2012, about half of the company's drivers broke away to form Aurora Taxi.
Representatives from Aurora Taxi were not available by press time.
The upcoming change in ownership at Diamond Cabs is not something City Cab management is watching very closely, according to general manager Shirley McGrath.
City Cab has faced competition throughout its 21-year history, she said.
"There has always been (at least) two companies on the road," she said. "Having two small companies is equivalent competition to having one medium-sized company. Basically, it meant the same number of cars on the road in Yellowknife."
City Cab maintains about 85 cars operated by almost 100 drivers. The fleet has steadily increased since the company incorporated with 45 cars in 1993. A decade ago, the company had about 70 cars, McGrath said.
Yaceyko said he plans to continue driving cab full-time for Diamond Cabs "until the new company is running nice and smooth," which, he predicts, will be achieved before mid-spring.
Charlie is also optimistic that Diamond Cabs will thrive under new management.
"I believe in the company – that it will survive," he said. "I'm going to be around until Diamond is gone, if it's gone at all. I might be gone first, you never know."