HomeIndustryThree Decades of Serving the Marine Industry - The TriNav Group of...

Three Decades of Serving the Marine Industry – The TriNav Group of Companies Turns 30

Three decades ago, three young Newfoundlanders were nearing the end of their contracts with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and were at a crossroads.

Rather than competing with one another, the three joined forces to create a proverbial one-stop-shop for the marine and commercial fishing industries.

Now, Trevor Decker, Rick Young and Paul Pinhorn are celebrating the successes of the TriNav Group of Companies, as well as the enjoyment they have had along the way.

Trevor, Rick and Paul all started out from Newfoundland’s Marine Institute, graduating as Naval Architects. The three met at the offices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), bidding on available contracts. It was there, according to Young, that their long-standing friendship took root.

 

“We started working together and built a friendship based on that. Most of it was built by relying on each other for challenges at work, spending time together on the road working and leisure time after the workday was done,” said Young.

Eventually, their contract work came to an end. Contracts would no longer be awarded to individuals, but companies instead. The year was 1994 and the cod moratorium had ravaged the province’s economy just two years earlier. As such, there was little work to be had for three young Naval Architects. Trevor, Rick and Paul were opposed to leaving the province and the fishing industry behind. To be able to keep getting contracts through DFO, they needed a company. Rather than compete with one another, the trio consolidated their skills and individual interests to form TriNav Consultants in February 1994.

The name TriNav, for anyone in the industry, has become synonymous with fisheries and fisheries-related services. But where did the name come from? The “Nav” is simple enough — all three of the company’s directors are Naval Architects. The “Tri” came to them through the coalescing of their perspective backstories.

Decker comes from Cook’s Harbour, located at the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland. Young grew up in Burgeo in the southwestern corner of the island. Pinhorn is from St. John’s, located in the southeast. These three points form a triangle.

Three corners, three owners and one mission — to service all three corners of the province and beyond — thus, the name TriNav came to be. Despite the simplicity of the name, it speaks to the beginnings and the continuing purpose of the men who started it.

In the beginning, it was just the three of them, three desks, two phones, a fax machine and an old computer crammed into a windowless 12’x14’ office space down the hall from their old digs at the DFO office. At first, the team focused on consultancy work to pay the bills.

“We started in there and we just put our heads down,” said Pinhorn.

Outside of the office, the three founders spent many days travelling around, advertising their services to all who might need them while operating on a shoestring budget.

“There was a lot of time spent on the road doing old-school promotion — posters on light poles and phone calls and stuff like that,” said Young. “For six months we had zero. Like literally nothing. We had enough money to pay the rent and the phone bill, that was it.

Through hard work, dedication and putting themselves out there, those two phones in that small office started to ring. Slowly but surely, the word of TriNav was getting around.

“Yes, we advertised. Yes, we solicited. Yes, The Navigator was a huge help in that — but the phone rang because we cared about what we were doing, and the customers felt that,” said Young.

From the beginning, TriNav envisioned opening a marine brokerage business. At the time, such a service didn’t exist on the island. Being Naval Architects, they also obviously wanted to offer vessel design work. As the company and the list of services grew, the foundations for TriNav Group of Companies were laid. Trevor took on the sales and brokerage aspect of the company, Pinhorn handled administration and consulting and Young headed TriNav’s naval architecture work.

As the province’s fishery began to recover as the industry shifted from cod to crab and shrimp, the guys at TriNav struck while the iron was hot. Fish harvesters were looking to sell their cod fishing vessels in favour of buying, building and leasing vessels that could sail further offshore for longer periods of time. From here, things only grew for TriNav. As they got busier with naval architecture work, more Naval Architects were hired on.

By October of 1997, the growing company needed a vehicle to promote the range of services they offered. The original idea began as a flyer, but after Pinhorn made a phone call to former provincial and federal fisheries advisor Ray Andrews and Jim Wellman, the former host of CBC’s The Fisheries Broadcast, the idea of starting their own magazine was seeded in their minds.

“We decided that was a good idea and we hired the late Ted Warren on as our first editor of the magazine, and we created The Navigator,” said Pinhorn. “We’re very proud of where it is today. My idea was for it to be a household name in the fishing industry and to be the fishermen’s publication and we feel that it has become that.”

Eventually, it came time for TriNav to move beyond the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador. The first step was to open a brokerage office in Southwest Nova Scotia. This initial expansion opportunity gave way to many more as time went on.

What started as three men in a 12’x14’ office has expanded across Atlantic Canada and across the southern border. Today, 12 different companies fly the TriNav flag — TriNav Marine Brokerage, TriNav Marine Design, TriNav Fisheries Consultants, Marine Servies International, Athearn Marine Agency, Ocean Yacht Sales, Ocean Support Vessels, SeaLand Insurance, Northern Crewing Agency, TriNav Realty, TriNav Properties and Navigator Publishing. To Decker, the continued growth of TriNav Group of Companies stands out as a point of pride.

“We’ve taken it from the single office in Newfoundland in ’94, to branches throughout Atlantic Canada and down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. And we have continued to expand. We’ve branched out into many different areas of business. Mergers and acquisitions are now a growth area for us. Among other businesses, we are now selling lobster pounds and other different processing facilities in and around Atlantic Canada and we will be moving into the U.S. in this area of business, as well.”

Today, the company operates out of offices in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

“It all fits nicely with the whole full-meal-deal, one-stop-shop kind of approach to services,” said Young.

If you ask any of the three directors what has kept TriNav successful, they’ll point to the strong friendship the three of them have built over the course of three-and-a-half decades of working side-by side.

“One of the things that has made us successful is friendship between myself, Rick and Trevor. I was very fortunate to meet the two of them,” said Pinhorn. “People are bewildered at times how three people stay together that long without any fallouts. Everyone has issues along the way, but we have clear communication. We’re able to communicate properly, have a good belly laugh between the three of us and have some fun along the way. It’s been that way, and I’m sure it’s going to continue to be that way into the future.”

To Young, there is a certain indescribable, almost formulaic way their personalities match up that has made the business model of TriNav work as well as it has.

“We certainly have a lot of similarities, but we also have our own unique personalities that seem to work really well together. It’s a formula that is unique, I would suggest. I think we need each other and our differences in personality to be successful,” said Young. “We’ve grown from selling a couple boats to being the biggest marine broker in Atlantic Canada and the Eastern Seaboard. We’ve grown to be the largest designer of fishing boats in Atlantic Canada. We just designed the biggest inshore boat that’s ever been built in Atlantic Canada… We’re basically doing the same thing; we’re just doing more if it and on a bigger scale.”

Over the years, TriNav’s success has not just been its own, but that of the fish harvesters it was created to serve. In the past, especially before crab became Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest fishery, the prospect of gainful retirement for many harvesters was near-unachievable. With the help of TriNav, many of these men and women have been able to achieve what used to be a pipe dream.

“I’m proud to say that we have retired a lot of people over our 30 years that are now financially secure. To do that means a lot,” said Decker.

For Decker, Young and Pinhorn, a big part of what makes TriNav the company it is isn’t just the three of them, it’s all the people supporting them to have chosen to make their work at TriNav a lifelong career.

“I’m proud to say that many of our staff have been here and stay here. We purchased Athearn in 2004, and we have the same staff at Athearn today as we did when we bought the business,” said Decker. “The company is made up of great people that’s contributed to the successes of everything we’ve done over the past 30 years. I may have been the captain of the ship, but I’ve got a darn good team that surrounds me to do what we’ve done over the past number of years.”

With 30 years in business behind them, some must wonder — what lies in the future for TriNav?

For Pinhorn, the future is doing what TriNav does best, while keeping up with an ever-changing, modern world.

“I just want to continue to offer our services and make sure that we keep up with being as modern as possible. You can get caught behind and we want to make sure we offer our services properly to the younger generation that are coming up to take over the fishing industry throughout Atlantic Canada and through the Eastern Seaboard.”

For Young, maintaining the same level of service and professionalism TriNav is known for while keeping an eye out for fresh, new ideas that fit within TriNav’s wheelhouse fits into his ideas of the company’s future. He is also making sure to set the company up for success by gathering talented staff that can carry TriNav forward, while nurturing the careers of the dedicated team that have backed their success over the last 30 years.”

“We’ve got a lot of great staff. Some great young staff, as well, that we want to continue to bring up through the business so that the business can continue to exist and carry forward into the future,” said Young. “I’m not thinking about retiring or slowing down, I want the next new exciting design project. I’m recently becoming more involved in energy efficient and hybrid-electric propulsion. This is kind of a pet project of mine, and I’m seeing where that goes and where that takes our business.”

Going forward, Decker is looking to expand TriNav’s footprint to new foreign markets, whether that be further growth in the United States or setting up shop in the European market.

“More people all over the ground in the United States is something that I’m very keen on. I’m interested in doing something more foreign in Europe, and that will come in time. I’ve spent a lot of years travelling throughout Europe for trade shows trying to get another area that we could get into as a source of boats for our markets. If something was on my sights right now for expansion, it would be in the Gulf of Mexico. The work we’re doing in the processing sector is something that I’m looking on building, as well,” said Decker. “Retirement isn’t in my future and probably never will be, but the thing about it is I enjoy what I do. I enjoy what I do and assisting people in getting what they want to get.”

Looking back at three decades of business, from that small office with two phones to the major industry player TriNav Group of Companies has become in the Atlantic marine industries and beyond, Pinhorn summed up TriNav’s journey best when he said, “Hard work, determination and a good laugh can go a long way.”

 

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