He now sits in two Halls of Fame and will still blow the whistle on anyone who doesn’t get it right.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON June 9, 2011 – You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy, which is part of the reason Ron Foxcroft will be recognized as the Burlington Entrepreneur of the Year Thursday evening. Foxcroft tells people he lives in Aldershot – it’s where he parks his Mercedes at night.

Foxcroft will join Michael Lee Chin, Harry Voortman, Mark Chamberlain, Michael deGroote Sr., Ron Joyce and Murray Hogarth, previously recognized entrepreneurs who built their organizations from a small idea into a substantial organizations that employ hundreds of people.

Millions sold in more than 100 countries.  The Fox40, a Canadian product that dominates its market worldwide – made in Canada as well.

Millions sold in more than 100 countries. The Fox40, a Canadian product that dominates its market worldwide – made in Canada as well.

The now near legendary tale of the 1984 pre-Olympic basket ball game in Sao Paulo Brazil when the pea in the whistle he was using as referee got stuck and he wasn’t able to make a call and the fans rioted. Foxcroft, who makes decisions as fast as you can turn a dime, resolved to make a whistle without a pea in it and found a designer who would take on the task. Three years and $150,000 later ( which he didn’t have at the time) and there were two prototypes. Chuck Sheppard stuck with him and today that whistle is sold in more than 100 countries. They manufacture 40,000 of the whistles in a day

When the prototypes were ready Foxcroft and his wife Marie, who counts the cash for the company, traveled across the country to sell the whistle. Two months later – and zappo, not a single sale. “Marie told me I had the two most expensive whistles in the world – $75,000 apiece.

Foxcroft is no fool though – he knew the whistle was what the sports community needed and decided to catch the ear of the guys who would actually use the thing and attended a convention of sports referees – slipped into the hallway at two in the morning and walked around just blowing the whistle. Angry faces popped out of doors and Foxcroft had there attention and sales bean rolling in. There was no looking back after that stunt and today the whistled is used by not only sports people but by the US Coast Guard and numerous other organizations. You see the things in small water craft everywhere – legally every boat on the water is supposed to have a whistle.

It has become the whistle of choice for the world’s pro-sports leagues and minor league officials alike. Why is it called the Fox40? “I was 40 years old when the whistle was made.”

It is used by the NHL, NBA, NFL, CFL, NCAA, FIFA, and FINA. Because its effectiveness is not altered by water, it has been endorsed by the U.S. Coast Guard, Royal Life Saving Society of Canada, American Red Cross, NATO forces, and many more organizations.

Being a basketball referee was a full time job for Ron and that allowed him to get into other businesses without needing to take an income from the companies he was building. But serving as a basketball referee meant 35 years of being away from home far too many Saturday nights. You pay a price for that kind of thing.

He bought Fluke Transportation from the Fluke brothers (actually he conned them into selling to him because he knew they wanted out of the business) and because he didn’t have any money they took back a mortgage on the rolling stock, which at the time was three trucks. He guaranteed Bobbie Fluke a job for life and was now in the transportation business where he drove the tractors, loaded the trucks and made sales calls.

Foxcroft bought the rolling stock and also bought the name of the company which he turned into one of the best known corporate logos in the business: If it’s on time, it’s a Fluke. The best sale Foxcroft ever made was on the telephone on the Friday of a holiday weekend. The caller needed 30 trucks at a location Tuesday morning, explained Foxcroft, and wondered if I had any equipment. “I asked how many trucks they needed and they said 30 and I said where do you want them.” Foxcroft didn’t have 30 trucks but he had chutzpah and he had friends in the trucking business. That call from Proctor and Gamble 30 years ago paid off – they are still a client today.

Shortly after he bought the truck fleet from Newman Steel – again with no money. “Benny Newman wanted out of the trucking business so I bought his 20 trucks and he gave me a contract to cart steel for him. The revenue from the steel hauling covered the mortgage payments.” A classical Foxcroft purchase. What made it work was his commitment to never fail and his drive to keep his customers.

Foxcroft does client relationships like few others. The art of the deal – not the slick deal but the kind of deal where the solutions aren’t all that obvious. And THAT may be why Foxcroft is gong to be honoured Thursday evening because it was Christmas Eve of 2010 that Foxcroft called together a group of people to talk about the Hamilton Tiger Cats moving to Aldershot. Foxcroft knew all the players and he was prepared to not only referee but have some skin in the game as well. Time was of the essence and so the Christmas Eve call was made and the Paletta’s, our newly minted Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring and the people from the Tiger Cats gathered “right in this room – Pat Paletta sat right there”, said Foxcroft as he slapped his hand on the small boardroom table “and we ironed out the basics.”

There was a lot of skepticism about the deal at the time and the deadlines didn’t help but the idea that a massive sports complex could have been built doesn’t look as far fetched today when we see an NHL team going to Winnipeg and even the league mumbles about a second team in the GTA market. Foxcroft will tell you that it was a missed opportunity and that the decision to stay in Hamilton was a dumb business decision.

He might be impulsive but he knows what he’s doing when he lines up a shot.

He might be impulsive but he knows what he’s doing when he lines up a shot.

Foxcroft’s entry into the world of business and his ability to get faced to face with the people that run the Fortune 500 companies comes through his being a basketball referee. No one wanted him to referee anything but they did want tickets to games and that Foxcroft was able to deliver on

This is a guy who failed high school and went on to buy a business with a couple of dimes in his pocket. He is one of those self made entrepreneurs who learned to let people who know what their doing run a company – he doesn’t have to micro-manage today but you kind of know when it “hits the fan” Foxcroft is one of the first people in the room cleaning up

Foxcroft proudly tells you that the whistle was invented in Canada and is made in Canada and then asks: “How many companies can you name that dominate their field world wide, not many” he tells you. But the Fox40 dominates its field. Having a patent on the product sort of keeps others away.

Getting to where he is today was not an easy road. A driven man who knew he was on to something good – Foxcroft couldn’t keep his hands off the trucking company and he micro managed like crazy until he realized there was a problem and that it was him.

That was the day he began to very difficult transition that many entrepreneurs fail to get through –letting the dream go and allowing others with different skills take the helm. Foxcroft made the transition. He learned to hire people who “were smarter than I am and then give them the room to do what they were trained to do.”

Foxcroft was the first, last and only Canadian to referee in the National College Athletic Association (NCAA). They don’t give out work permits for Canadians anymore he tells you. What he doesn’t tell people is that in 1999 he was inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Foxcroft learned that people do take advantage. “Some people mistake fairness as weakness. Good relationships, or even great relationships, can turn sour, and you must provide for it in your plans. I am very cautious, but not to the detriment of a good deal. I learned that I was a very impatient person that needed to learn not to be impulsive.”

He can sink a ball and he can chase a ball.  And if you’d like to see how he does it – pay him a visit at his Stoney Creek office where he will play a quick game with you on the small court on the ground floor.

He can sink a ball and he can chase a ball. And if you’d like to see how he does it – pay him a visit at his Stoney Creek office where he will play a quick game with you on the small court on the ground floor.

The Foxcroft group of companies use all the technology that is available to modern business organizations. “We can track everything, we know what has been sold and we know our costs down to the dime – that all part of doing business but what I regret” said Foxcroft “is that we are losing the art of communicating. Email is fine but it isn’t communicating. We need to put more emphasis on people to people communications skills.”

And that is what you can expect to hear from Ron Foxcroft when he stands before his peers at the Burlington Convention Centre and gets placed into the Burlington Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. “This ain’t about me” Foxcroft will tell you; “this is an evening to tell young entrepreneurs never to give up on the dream and to be who you are while you build great corporations.”

Today Foxcroft is still impulsive – but cautiously impulsive. He will jump into an idea if he thinks it has a chance – if an attempt to bring the Tiger Cats to Aldershot wasn’t impulsive then nothing is. He runs Foxcroft International, the whistle business from an office in Stoney creek; Foxcroft Capital is run out of an office in east Burlington and Fluke Transportation out of an office in Hamilton.

Ask Foxcroft why he still pushes and why he even bothered to get into business and he will tell you openly: “It was hunger and fear.” The days of fear and hunger are gone but for Foxcroft it’s the challenge and “I’m having fun. The day I stop having fun, someone else will be at this desk”. Sounds like a pretty good exit strategy but don’t expect that to happen tomorrow.




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