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May 2020

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Universal employees rise to the challenge!

     Michael Glionna
  Michael Glionna, President

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our personal and work lives in a most significant way.  We have been forced out of our comfort zones and regular routines to accomplish the simple, everyday things we often took for granted.  Despite this disruption, Universal employees have risen to the challenge showing an amazing will to persevere.

Our Operations and Support teams have embraced a new way of doing their jobs, in many cases operating remotely under less than perfect working conditions.  We have kept on top of the workload, ensuring all shipments are moved and cleared with personal care and to the complete satisfaction of our clients.  I have not heard of even one shipment being mishandled, nor have I heard of a single client complaint during the upheaval of these past two months.  It’s an incredible achievement!

Our Client Relations and Business Development teams are reaching out to our many clients on a daily basis to gauge how the COVID crisis has impacted their business operations.  We have kept clients current on the quickly changing logistics environment, and presented solutions to the many obstacles they are now facing in shipping their goods.  By demonstrating our commitment to look after their needs during these uncertain times, we are solidifying the relationship with our clients for when times are better.  At the same time, we have identified opportunities to gain further support from our existing clients on new services.  And we have forged relationships with prospects to improve our chances of securing their business in future.

Our Managers and Team Leaders have worked tirelessly to manage the workloads amongst their teams and to ensure there is frequent communication by email, phone and Zoom conferencing.  We are identifying new and better ways to approach our daily tasks, taking a more automated approach and removing the hard copy paper processes.  Projects are being tackled to improve our client databases, our SOPs and our level of compliance.  These efforts to strengthen our position for the long term are greatly appreciated.

In setting the plan going forward, our top priority continues to be the health and safety of our employees.  Government officials are starting to relax some of the many restrictions they imposed over the past two months, and our clients will start opening up their businesses again and will be shipping more frequently.  As volumes increase in the coming weeks and months, we will look at transitioning some employees back to the office, as necessary.  However, this will only take place at a pace and in a manner which ensures everyone’s safety.  In the meantime, we will continue to work remotely.

I have been truly inspired by messages of encouragement from our employee group.  Our Manager – Freight Solutions, Debbie McGuire, was good enough to share the following quote with me:

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

There is no doubt that our employee group has successfully made the adjustments to weather this terrible storm.  We will get through this together by working as a unified team, and we will come out the other side that much stronger for it.

Thanks to all of you for your continued dedication and commitment, and for rising to the challenge at a time when it is so important.

Michael Glionna, President
Michael Glionna, President

2020 Summer Event update

     Disappointment bear

As announced in the March issue of Universal & You, the 2020 Universal Summer Event was going to be held at the Toronto Zoo on Saturday, June 20th.

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Toronto Zoo has been closed until at least June 30, 2020, and our event is cancelled until further notice.

You can still get your animal fix during this time.  The Zoo is hosting daily Facebook Live segments at 1:00 pm, has a podcast, Wild for Life, and has also created a Zoo to You resource section with fun and educational activities for kids.

Happy? We sure are!
New Business Win – Rich Products of Canada Limited

Contributors: Mike O’Donnell & John Leis

Rich Products

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  – Thomas Edison –

A great quote which underlines the formula for being successful in both science and Business Development – don’t ever give up, work hard and amazing things will happen!

That was certainly the approach that led our Business Development Team recently to a very significant “win” in securing Rich Products of Canada as a new Canadian customs brokerage client.  With over 3,000 annual Canadian import entries having been awarded to us, along with the possibility of securing an additional 3,000 US clearances in the months ahead, this is a great new piece of business!

Although our relationship with Rich Products dates back over 28 years, it wasn’t longevity alone that enabled us to win their support of our customs brokerage service, but also a healthy combination of a “never give up attitude” and an ability to consistently deliver a premium ocean export service; one which has enabled Rich’s to meet the increasing food demands of an ever-growing global market!

Over these three plus decades, the contacts at Rich Products have changed but the reputation Universal Logistics built on providing exceptional client service and freight expertise remained.

This was a significant factor when, in July 2019, Mike O’Donnell reached out to Rich Products to start a fresh dialogue regarding our customs brokerage services. In his meeting with the Rich Team, they shared many stories about the Universal staff going above and beyond over the years. They specifically mentioned Marina Mescerjakova, Dave Lychek and John Leis who all made a significant and memorable impact on their business.  It was the dedication of our team that was given, first and foremost, as the reason they eventually opened the doors to consider Universal as potential customs brokerage partner.

Between November 2019 and February 2020, Mark Glionna, Brian Rowe, John Leis and Mike O’Donnell worked tirelessly through three long RFQ stages which included 8 different brokers, ranging from medium sized companies to some of our industry’s largest customs brokers. After all the vetting was complete, Universal Logistics was awarded the Canadian brokerage business based on our commitment and consistent delivery of exceptional service over the years.

Another consideration, which also likely weighed in our favour, stems from the fact that Rich Products, like Universal, is a third-generation, family owned business sharing a similar corporate view that honours both innovative solutions and traditional family values.

This win stands amongst our company’s greatest success stories and one which will benefit all of us for years to follow. Congratulations, Mike, on landing this great new piece of business – awesome job by you and the entire team in bringing this one home!!

Showing our clients we care when they need it most
Contributor: Lisa Fertita

     At Your Service

Absolutely no one is immune to the challenges and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and our clients are no exception.  I (Lisa) was interested to know how the Client Relations (CR) Team (Mark Glionna, John Leis, Brenda Munroe, Grace Barnard, Kathleen Pope and Wendy Nigro) are managing with our clients during this difficult time.  To find out, I decided to speak with members of our CR Team to get their insights.

It came as no surprise that both Wendy Nigro & Kathleen Pope, two key members of our CR Team, confirmed it has been very difficult for the majority of clients who are experiencing downturns in revenues, closures in some cases, often a shortage of staff and with most having to conduct business in a work-from-home environment.

Kathleen explained that although “in person” meetings are not possible, from a positive perspective, it’s been an excellent opportunity for our Team to use technology to our advantage!  “Face time”, through Zoom, WhatsApp and Webex, has enabled the CR Team the ability to make safe, but close, personal contact with our clients to show them our commitment and also offer any assistance they might need to navigate these turbulent times.

Clients have commented on how much they appreciate video conferencing and receiving our phone calls checking on how they’re doing.  Resoundingly, our clients have also said how much they appreciate receiving the information updates from our COVID-19 Email Alerts and COVID-19 web site page.

I came to recognize in the various discussions I’d had with our CR Team that it’s equally important to strike a balance between meeting the needs of our clients, while contributing to the financial well-being and success of the company and our staff during these challenging times.

The following is just some of what our CR Team has been doing over the course of the past 6 weeks to strike this balance, when communicating with our clients:

  • Ensure they are safe and healthy
  • Answer any questions about our service and availability
  • Re-assure them that we are open and operating fully to meet any of their logistics needs, while protecting the health and well-being of every member of our team by strictly adhering to personal hygiene and social distancing practices  
  • Ensure they are keeping well informed about the impact COVID is having on trade by way of our Route Newsletters and Email Alerts!
  • Determine the impact COVID has had on their business, staffing and operating hours
  • Determine areas for improved efficiencies, i.e. enrolling clients for e-billing, CBSA e-payment, UConnect, Smartborder
  • Identify areas of risk and exposure
  • Keep them updated on government initiatives and changes that could impact them, e.g. how to take advantage of the GST & Duty deferral option
  • Offer help in enrolling them in direct security payment programs so they can take advantage of the duty and tax deferral options
  • Offer services that our competitors may not be able to provide as effectively 
  • Provide support to clients who are exploring new and unique ways to sustain profitability, e.g. importing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

All of this is being done while continuing to tackle SpeakUp submissions from our Operations team members, reaching out to prospective clients to identify new revenue generating opportunities, writing service reports and providing daily recap reports to the Executive and Director Team addressing anything that potentially impacts our relationship, good, bad or otherwise, with our top clients!

My discussions with Kathleen and Wendy have certainly revealed the hard work our CR Team is doing every day to serve the best interests of our clients and our company!

I’ll leave you with something Wendy told me that I think best encapsulates the approach our CR Team has taken:

 “The ‘humanity’ factor is even more pronounced now and the ‘business-only’ aspect takes a bit of a back seat. Our clients still receive the professional services required to overcome this massive obstacle known as Covid 19 but it’s also a time to reflect on the value and importance of family and life. We want our clients to know ‘We’re all in this together’”.

Excellent job, Client Relations Team!

Something’s Brewing


Coronavirus misinformation is flooding the internet and you have probably come across some of it and don’t even realize.  While health officials are fighting against a virus with no known cure, they are also battling internet trolls and conspiracy theories.

  Which of the following image(s) are real?


  A) 1
  B) 2
  C) 3
  D) All of the above
  E) None of the above

Click on the question above, submit your answer to Phoebe, and you’re eligible to win! 

Submission deadline
May 22, 2020 (Friday) noon

$25 Tim Hortons or Starbucks gift card for the winner
(If more than one person has the right answer, we will pick the winning name out of a hat)

Financial Tips

Save for a rainy day

No matter what your financial circumstances are, you are probably at least a little bit freaked out by the impact that COVID-19 is having or could have on your day-to-day cash flow.

     Save for a rainy day

We’ve all heard the expression “save for a rainy day” before but what does it actually mean?  Apparently, it dated back to the 15th century and the meaning was when you have something (usually money) that exceeds your current requirements, and it’s something that will keep well, people should keep a “rainy day” fund to use when times are difficult.  The “rainy day” symbolizes difficulty, cloudy skies, dampened prospects, etc..

If you have been saving for a rainy day, you are doing what people have done for centuries and there could not be a larger and “stormier day” than the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.  It has made things real and much more obvious to everyone the importance of having a “rainy day” fund.

Having some cash set aside is always a good idea but how much of a fund really depends on a person’s financial situation.  The rule of thumb is to set aside three to six months’ worth of living expenses to help you safely navigate through emergency situations.

It should be easily accessible, such as cash in a high interest savings account, shorter-term guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and for some, money market funds.  Keep it in a separate account from your normal banking activities which you can add to when possible, and don’t dip into it until you need it for a real emergency.  This way you don’t have to touch your long-term investments, like those for retirement.

Great advice but what about those with little or no emergency savings right now?  As they say, “Hindsight is wonderful. It’s always very easy to second guess after the fact”. 

It’s never too late to get started, even in the midst of a “storm”.  Review your present cash needs to identify any money saved from “home isolation” and “social distancing” measures which could go towards your “Rainy Day Fund”.

Some examples of savings would be on the reduced gas and car insurance costs as we’re not driving anywhere.  Working from home means savings on lunches, coffees, bus passes, dry-cleaning and haircuts.  Staying at home gives us savings on entertainment (e.g. movies, concerts and sports), restaurant dining, family outings, social activities and events.  No trips to the mall means savings on clothes and household items.  Travel savings as “stay at home” and worldwide travel bans mean no trips for the foreseeable future.

Instead of using these savings for on-line shopping, it would be more ideal to use some of these savings to start small and slowly build your “Rainy Day Fund” over time. Most importantly, you should take action now, while the value of having a safety cushion going forward is still fresh in our minds.

Your “rainy day” fund is there to help cover your expenses during an emergency in the “best of times” and this certainly qualifies as the “worst of times”.

Tools, Calculators and Worksheets provided by Investor Office

Need help managing your finances? Check out our many tools, calculators and worksheets to improve your financial preparedness during these challenging times.

For managing monthly expenses
Spending Habits Calculator
Mortgage Payment Calculator
Budget Worksheet

For financial hardship
Emergency Fund Calculator
Pay off Credit & Debt Calculator

For planning ahead
Personal Information Inventory Worksheet
Retirement Ready Quiz

Culture and Entertainment
Contributor: Barbara Mulatinho

Book recommendations

Unfortunately, we’re no longer able to go to the movie theater right now but we still need something to take our minds off this crisis.  I am recommending three books which I’m sure will help to add some excitement to your new “self-isolation” life.  When living in crazy times, there is nothing better than diving head first into a fantastic story to escape the real world.

     The Chain

The Chain by Adrian McKinty: What would you do if your child was kidnapped and the only way to get them back was to not only kidnap another child within 24 hours, but to make the next victim’s parents also kidnap a child?  You are now part of “The Chain”.  

A book that hits the ground running in the first few pages and does not stop until you reach the end. It will make you think, how far would YOU go to get your own child back?


     All The Missing Girls

The Passengers by John Marrs: Eight people are riding their self-driving cars when suddenly the doors lock, the route changes and they lose all control. A mysterious voice comes out of the speakers: “You are going to die.”  

With their panic broadcasted to millions of people around the world, the spectators will have to decide “Which of these people should we save and who should we kill first?”  A book that takes the reader for a wild ride, where nothing is what it seems.  How could we choose who deserves to die, if we can’t even see the full picture?

     All The Missing Girls

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda: Ten years after the disappearance of her best friend, Nic goes back to her rural hometown to care for her ailing father.  Within days of Nic’s return, her neighbour goes missing.  Are the two cases connected?  What is Nic’s part in all of this?  

This book brings us a nail-biting, breathtaking story, full of twists and turns that lead us down dark alleys and to dead ends. A story about the disappearance of two young women – a decade apart – told in reverse.  This book shows that even though you start at the end of the story, it will still keep you guessing until the beginning!

COVID-19 & mental health daily strategies during lockdown
Contributor: Crystal Thongmanivong

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries, states, provinces and cities across the globe have been recommending self-isolation. The lack of social interaction, and fresh air and sunlight can have a negative effect on anyone’s mental health and wellbeing.

     COVID-19 & mental health and well-being

Separation from family, friends, and colleagues can often trigger feelings of anxiety, anger, restlessness, stress, and depression. However, when you are under lockdown, it’s difficult to know what you should do? While in self-isolation, prioritizing self-care  is crucial to coming out of this time happy, and adjusted and ready to engage in renewed social interaction.

Here are a few ways to cope with the anxiety and depression that can accompany being isolated:

Keep busy

  • Keeping to a regular schedule, including regular wake up and bed times.
  • Working on that household project you’ve been putting off.
  • Learning something new like a new language, reading a new book or picking up a new hobby.
  • Playing with your children is fun, good exercise and helps you bond.
  • Performing domestic chores such as cleaning and gardening are other ways to stay active at home.

Home Workouts/Exercise

  • Following an online exercise class.  Take advantage of the wealth of online exercise classes.  Many are available for free on YouTube.
  • Doing short bouts of physical activity add up to meeting weekly recommendations.  Try dancing (e.g. TikTok, Nintendo WII).
  • Even in small spaces, walking around or walking on the spot, can help you remain active.
  • Reducing your sedentary time by standing up whenever possible.  Ideally, aim to interrupt your sitting and reclining time every 30 minutes.  During sedentary leisure time, prioritize cognitively stimulating activities such as reading, board games, and puzzles.
  • Meditation and deep breaths will help you remain calm and reduce anxiety.

Hang out with your pets

  • Taking them for walks, a playdate in the park or look for how to teach them new tricks online – time to reinforce those bonds!
  • Petting your furry companion releases dopamine and serotonin.  Both chemicals help to reduce stress and stabilize mood.

Eat well

  • Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can improve mood and energy levels.  If you want to maintain a good immune system, opt for fresh, whole, unprocessed foods whenever available.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all.  In fact, a lack of vitamin C can even make you more prone to getting sick.  Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli.
  • Vitamin D – Although we may not be able to get our daily dose of vitamin D through natural sunlight, you can still increase your intake through foods.  Important choices include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines) and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereals.
  • Vitamin B-12 – While in quarantine, you may find that you are more fatigued as we are not being as active.  Along with the other B vitamins, vitamin B-12 helps convert the food you eat into glucose, which gives you energy!

If you view self-isolation more as a form of punishment, it will be helpful to practice mindfulness.  This means focusing on the positive aspects of staying at home, you are not exposing yourself or any of your loved ones to the virus.  Also, this helps to flatten the curve, so that hopefully the virus can be stopped from being spread and we can all get back to normal that much faster.  Make sure you’re mindful of the fact you are doing the right thing!  This has shown to have a positive impact on your stress levels, attention span, and even your relationships.

Calling all Universal Employees!

We are looking for volunteers to contribute short articles to Universal & You.  Topics can be team or industry-related or you might want to share a personal experience (e.g. volunteer work or travel) with your fellow employees.

Please forward your ideas to Phoebe Shum.

  May 2020

Universal & You is produced bi-monthly for the employees of Universal Logistics. Reader comment and story ideas are welcome. Comments of general interest to all Universal & You readers will, with the permission of the writer, be published. Copyright © Universal Logistics Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction for any commercial use is strictly prohibited.

Universal & You is produced by Universal Logistics, Editor: Sharon Fong, email:

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained herein, Universal Logistics accepts no responsibility or liability for errors or omissions.

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