126: Oakley International with Ivan Boasher

During this week’s episode of the Oakley Podcast, host Jeremy Kellett is joined by Ivan Boasher and Bubba Vance to hear Ivan’s story with Oakley Trucking, from his Bulgarian origins to how he helps with international trade today.

Key topics in today’s conversation include:

  • Oakley Update: customer feedback (3:18)
  • Getting to know Ivan (5:55)
  • What Ivan does for Oakley (10:16)
  • About Ivan’s family (18:22)
  • How Ivan’s liked working at Oakley (23:47)

Oakley Trucking is a family-owned and operated trucking company headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information, check out our show website: podcast.bruceoakley.com.


Ivan Boasher  0:00  

I’m kind of proud being in the fertilizer business because you can say that we feed the world. Sounds a little bit cheesy, but today, let’s say we have 7.4 billion people on the earth. Half of them wouldn’t be here if there was no fertilizers.

Jeremy Kellett  0:31  

Welcome to the Oakley podcast, trucking, business, and family. This show is brought to you by Oakley Trucking, headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The purpose of this podcast is to communicate with Oakley owner-operators and their families by giving them up-to-date information concerning Oakley Trucking and the trucking industry. From business advice to safety updates to success stories. Also to give an inside to outside truck drivers that might be interested in joining the Oakley family.

This is Jeremy Kellett, Director of Recruiting at Oakley Trucking. I’m your host for this podcast. This is the Oakley podcast, trucking business and family. And this is episode 126. So on today’s podcast I’m talking to a couple of great guys I work here Bruce Oakley, when I was the vice president of Oakley International, Mr. Ivan Bowsher. Oakley International is a division of Bruce Oakley. And I’ve had some requests from you guys listening to want to know more about Bruce Oakley Incorporated. We talk about trucking a lot on here. And there’s other divisions under Bruce Oakley besides trucking So, this is one of them. We’re going to talk to we called him in the office this week here in northern Iraq. So we’re gonna visit with him and also Bubba Vance, which is vice president of fertilizer. We’re gonna visit with him a little bit to to find out more about Oakley International. But first before we do that, let’s hear a word from our sponsor Arrow Truck Sales.

Let’s listen to one of Oakley he’s owner-operator experience with Arrow Truck Sales.

Unknown Speaker  1:59  

I called Kenworth all 440. Called Peterbilt call Freightliner you none of them wanted to work with me. So, Jeremy Kellett got me and got me over to Trey. Trey visor, me and him had a conversation. He had sent me to Keith Wilson and never looked back from that point. I was upside down 29,000 and change. They paid off all but $5,000 of my loans on a blown truck. That right there said a lot to me. You know they’re you were willing to step outside of their comfort zone to get my deal done. I’ve never felt like a customer. Yeah, it was more like a family feeling. He took care of every aspect of the deal. He was completely transparent. There was no hidden, no hidden nothing.

Jeremy Kellett  3:08  

So if you’re in the market for a used truck, you owe it to yourself to call Keith Wilson at Arrow Truck Sales in Springfield, Missouri. Tell him you heard it on the Oakley podcast.

One thing on the Oakley update that I wanted to talk about. We talk about a lot of times customers, you know, and customers telling us we do a good job. And our owner operators do a good job but I don’t get it out to you guys enough to hear that. And I wanted to we had an email from one of our customers that I thought was great about one of our owner operators and I wanted to do to read that to you guys. Real quick, just so you know, because, you know, this is from the customer. PMG out of Madison, North Carolina. So she said good morning. I wanted to take a few minutes to say a big thank you to Oakley trucking. For your driver, the facilities manager at our Greensboro North Carolina store call to advise how smoothly everything went this morning with the delivery. Paul Kilmer. Our facilities manager said the driver was courteous, efficient and offloading was completed quickly. In times there are so many people always want to focus on the negative and point out anything wrong. I wanted to take the opportunity to say how thankful we are to Oakley trucking for providing such a great service with our delivery. Please thank your driver from PMG holdings, as well we look forward to receiving our next load on Friday in Greensboro. So fantastic man that and that owner-operators Mike Durbin, Mark and his wife are just great owner-operators for us and we want to say thank you Mark for doing it and all your operators I mean you know it a lot of it goes unnoticed by a lot of people but we know you do a good job out there so we appreciate it.

Okay guys, let’s get started. Go and talk to Mr. Ivan Boasher and Bubba Vance that work here at Bruce Oakley. You guys doing all right today?

Yep. Never been better.

I gotta say this. I had lunch with you guys a few months back. It’s been a while. And I don’t know how we ended up going to lunch together. But we did. And we went to lunch together and learned about I really learned a lot about you, Mr. Ivan. And it was really fascinating. Some, you know, your, your history, your career, your background, and, and then I heard you coming to town this week. And I thought, you know, that would be a great episode just to get to get him on here and talk more about what you do at Oakley. So to get started, if he would always want our listeners to know who they’re talking to give us a little bit of introduction of yourself.

Ivan Boasher  5:54  

So I’m an international trading like 40 years. And in fertilizers 32 years. I started in Bulgarian Company, which was doing barter trade, which is a interesting way of trading where you exchange commodities without exchanging cash. No currency is just a commodity against commodity, or goods against goods, like, like the first trade in the world was once upon a time, I will give you a cow, you’ll give me a bag of wheat. And, by the way, it was interesting because my barter trading brought me to living for two, three years in Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh, which is kind of an interesting experience. And also, we’ll come back to the barter thing. It was funny that my thesis in 1981 was about an American company ICC having a barter agreement with the Romanian government. And then, in 2019 years later, it so happened that I started working with this company, which is kind of a nice coincidence. So I worked with several fertilizer companies since 1990. And it is interesting that in all these three companies, which are like ConAgra, ICC and Europe, chem, Oakley was my customer. Maybe not directly, because at the time, I was more on the international side. But still, I knew Oakley and we worked together. And then it so happened that in 2019, I started working with Oakley.

Jeremy Kellett  7:45  

Okay, so you’ve been here since 2019 with the company. Now, where do you live? Family? Hobbies?

Ivan Boasher  7:55  

I live in Tampa, Florida. But I spent quite a lot of time here in the headquarters in Little Rock. I have two children, which are 30 and 32. My son is an engineer and my daughter is believe it or not, truck freight broker. Okay. Which kind of Yeah, we find some common points here. hobbies. Where do I start? I have a lot of those. But I will say golfing skiing, and many other things. snow skiing. Yeah. Okay. And a little bit of you know, I at one moment being younger, I was a little bit of a kind of junky, and I was doing some more interesting and more risky sports, not anymore.

Jeremy Kellett  8:48  

Well, okay. So being been in the business for that long. I guess you’ve been in there 30, 40 years, you said that? I mean, how have you seen things change over all those years? And has it gotten better? I’m assuming?

Ivan Boasher  9:08  

Yeah, first of all, because I understand it is for Fox. For not exactly into trading or fertilizers. I would like to say that I’m kind of proud being in the fertilizer business because you can say that we feed the world. Sounds a little bit cheesy, but some facts, fertilizer, first of all, more or less discovered, like started being actively implemented 100 years ago. And some of them by the way, mostly the phosphate fertilizers. They were actually invented here in the United States in the 1960s. So today, let’s say we have 7.4 billion people on the earth. Half of them wouldn’t be here if there was no fertilizers and also today 50 percent of the food products yields is thanks to fertilizers. So without further ado to make one-half of it.

Jeremy Kellett  10:11  

You can’t have to dumb it down for me, but what is your actual job at Bruce Oakley?

Ivan Boasher  10:16  

Starting there. So, again, I want you to tell a little bit more about get absorbed people we have, we operate 17 terminals, and together with our truck fleet, our barge fleet and our tow boat. In whole our system. We base around 12 million tons of all kinds of commodities and goods. 3 million tons of them are fertilizer for everybody and one and a half million tons we do for ourselves. Okay. So my job is so Oakley in order to have these products, they need to procure them from somewhere. And a big part of them are being procured here domestically, but also a big part we buy abroad. And my job is to find those countries and these products we need and bring them to the United States. That’s part of the job also, Oakley around 20 years ago, 18, 20 years ago started international trading. At one moment Oakley was selling around 2 million tonnes of product internationally apart from our one and a half million tonnes, which we do here in the United States. At that time, maybe it was a million down today’s one and a half million dollars. And so we concentrate on trading on North and South America. So we kind of concentrate on countries like Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, some payroll, Chile. That’s our scope of operation.

Bubba Vance  11:55  

Ivan, why don’t you tell them about some of the countries that you go to, in that you originate some of this product from?

Ivan Boasher  12:02  

Yeah, that was the thing I wanted to explain. So we buy product from a big range of countries, let’s say. I mean, not in the order of importance, but we buy it from Jordan, we buy from Tunisia we buy from Egypt. Nigeria, Russia, Bulgaria. What else? Yeah, more.

Bubba Vance  12:28  

What’s your two countries that you always say are my favorite? China and Brazil? No, the where we do the urea?

Ivan Boasher  12:37  

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Turkmenistan. I did yeah. Bubba’s favorite sources said Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan. This is every status we buy. Yeah. Because of the international situation, especially with the trickiness of the Russian origins, now we go for alternative origins. So we buy from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan. These are former Soviet Union countries, which are now independent countries, and we load in the Black Sea.

Jeremy Kellett  13:13  

Can you spell that, Miles? Okay, question for you, Bubba. Yes, sir. Where did you find this man at?

Bubba Vance  13:22  

I met him through industry meetings. Our industry has called it a TFR meeting in a southwestern meeting, and they meet twice a year. And these meetings will have 1700 or 2000 people from all countries that are in the fertilizer industry there. And I met him at one of those conventions. I don’t remember which country it was in at the time, or, you know, it’s been I’ve known him for at least 20 years.

Ivan Boasher  14:00  

And as I told you, in my previous companies, Oakley was an important customer for ConAgra then for ICC a little bit and then when I was Eurocom I was selling quite a lot to Oakley.

Jeremy Kellett  14:15  

Do you travel lock yet within a given year? Ivan, how many countries do you visit?

Ivan Boasher  14:21  

That’s a good question. Now COVID slowed it down a little bit route but usually in a normal year, we COVID I will be on the road maybe six months a year. And which brings some fatigue but also all kinds of stories interesting things happening.

Jeremy Kellett  14:44  

How about some interesting stories? You got any of those?

Ivan Boasher  14:49  

I was thinking which one first of all, maybe one which is not. Not exactly work-related, but it was because I’m on my way to my workplace in 1990. On August 2 1990, I was in Kuwait with my family when Iraq invaded Kuwait. I Messiah. That was some kind of experience, I would say. And of course, there will, there was another long story short, we got out of there and came back and so on. That’s as far as that this came from, I would say more personal. Then we have all kinds of, you know, after so many years of selling in, mostly I was dealing with vessels, which ships and we had all kinds of interesting things happening with those ships. I was wondering which story is more interesting. Maybe one is that one time I had the vessel headed for Bangladesh, and it hit a mine in the Red Sea and sank. And adultery this mind was from the war between Iran and Iraq. So before the even Iraq invaded Kuwait, it was a previous war. So it was a man. Yeah, it was mine, which was floating in the water, and it sank the ship.

Jeremy Kellett  16:17  

Oh, my gosh.

Ivan Boasher  16:19  

Which then was, I mean, not to go into technical details, but the insurance which the party which was supposed to insure the vessel didn’t really include worries. And because the vessel sheet.

Jeremy Kellett  16:39  

There’s always that.

Ivan Boasher  16:40  

Excel sheet. So at the end, somebody’s gonna get their money. The vessel sank in. Yeah, this was one interesting thing.

Jeremy Kellett  16:50  

Wow. An when was that? That was a long time ago.

Ivan Boasher  16:53  

It was in the 90s. But the other interesting, for example, it didn’t happen to us as Oakley, but we’ve seen other companies, kind of our partners in the business being affected by the Somali pirates. And are some of the vessels carrying towards the United States were actually I mean, invaded didn’t really forced to pay ransom. No fertilizers coming through.

Jeremy Kellett  17:22  

Like that movie. I watched that movie with Tom Hanks in it. Let’s take a quick break and listen to our sponsor LubeZone.

You’ve been hearing me talk about LubeZone for a couple of years now. Well, now it’s time you hear from one of our owner-operators. Listen to Mike Durbin talk about his experience with LubeZone.

Mike Durbin  17:41  

The price was great. The service is great. From time when I pulled in the door all the time, I pulled out with less than allowed best I’ve ever had, as far as an owner operator had more chains, checks the wall that showed me at all, they had all the portion owned or renters, showed me my rear end wall on the paper. They did their job. They were just it was very nice to go get what you wanted done and, and go, I was very pleased about it. And like I said, very satisfied. I won’t go out of my way from now on to go there.

Jeremy Kellett  18:15  

Check out lubezone.com for all their services and all their locations and tell him you heard it on the Oakley podcast.

Ivan, let’s go back to because I don’t think I got enough history from your family earlier. You know, you did tell me about your kids. But so many you got a spouse?

Ivan Boasher  18:33  

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, my friends know, all my stories about around my family. One of them is that I dated my wife for two weeks. And then we decided to get married. And now just on the 28th of August, we celebrated 34 years of marriage.

Jeremy Kellett  18:54  

How’d you talk her into that in two weeks?

Ivan Boasher  18:57  

The other things are also it’s kind of a little-known secret. I’m telling the secret of my marriage is I’m out six months of the year. So maybe that helped. I’m also joking because I met her just before I was sent to be trained on the Chicago Board of Trade in 1988. And it was, at that time a very active company and this was Drexel Burnham Lambert, they invited two guys from Bulgaria, they taught Perestroika times now everybody will do you know, trading on the Chicago Board of Trade. It didn’t happen exactly like that. But I was calling her every day and we’re talking for one hour from Chicago. And then these, this company, Drexel Burnham number they went bankrupt. So I really suspect that this will be my phone calls, a big phone bill.

Jeremy Kellett  20:00  

They’re gonna walk broke. Because she was where?

Ivan Boasher  20:05  

She was back in Bulgaria.

Jeremy Kellett  20:07  

And that’s where both you’re from?

Ivan Boasher  20:09  

Yeah. Oh, and it will, as I told you, we met two weeks before that. And then I told her, I’m leaving for the United States. I will be back on the seventh of July. And we’re getting married on the 20th of August. And that’s how it happened.

Jeremy Kellett  20:25  

Simple. Just gonna tell her how that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is. Two weeks, two weeks. Love at first sight. That’s the way that So do you still have family in Bulgaria?

Ivan Boasher  20:35  

Yeah, from the close family, it’s only her mother and her sister and my sister. And then of course, we have all kinds of extended family. I’ve been my sister son leaves around us in Tampa, Florida. Okay, so that helped.

Jeremy Kellett  20:52  

Yeah, that’s good. So you know, you talking about traveling to all these countries? Makes me I want to ask you if it’s as hard as it looks, coming in and out of the airports and all these countries, because they might ask you why? Because me and my wife have got addicted to catch a smuggler TV episodes. Watch this, but the hell always coming out of these crazy countries. And some of them like your name. And you know, and I mean, they are watching them, and they’ve gotten them picked out. And do you ever have any problems? I mean, is it is is it pretty easy to get in and out?

Ivan Boasher  21:27  

I mean, I started really actively trading in the early 80s. And, you know, at that time, I remember I had the three things wrong you have to have your best part your yellow book that’s your vaccinations because you’re going to some cancer, you have to get yellow fever. I don’t know what else three, three, expect important vaccinations, and then your cash. These are not ticket and cash. These are my things. I’m thinking yeah, this has to do for traveling. And I thought at that time, all traveling is complicated. Yeah, it really became complicated a little bit later. Of course, I do dealt with lost luggage, many times. But honestly, it I mean, security checks. It’s not that much to be honest. And of course now COVID. Edit, not actually it was for terrorism. And then COVID So nowadays is really really a headache to travel. But we are learning how to do it and you know, shorter trips, main road, not checking luggage. Just, you know, you get you go with small luggage and carry on and that helps.

Bubba Vance  22:50  

But Ivan, am I correct? You are an American citizen today. You have a passport, an honest passport. Were you allowed to keep your Bulgarian passport?

Ivan Boasher  23:00  

Yes. Actually you know, when I was sourcing for ConAgra my Bulgarian passport to was easier to go to Ukraine and Russia. Believe it or not. In Brazil. My Bulgarian passport doesn’t need the visa. But the US passport needs one, although it’s very easy to obtain. So kind of play with them. Most of the time, the American passport sells better. But there are situations where the Bulgarian one helps to cut.

Jeremy Kellett  23:27  

So Ivan, just another question. We’ll wrap this thing up pretty quick. But unless Bob has got some more stuff, how you like working for Oakley? I mean, how’s it? You know, it sounds like you got some great experience and in the past, and you’ve been here since 2019, so how’s your experience been?

Ivan Boasher  23:45  

It should be kind of the perfect storm. I’m always saying that I had five jobs in 40 years, and this I really believe is the best one, but it’s a combination of things. First of all, I gathered a lot of experience during the years. And then I’m working with Bubba who has similar, if not bigger. Also the way Oakley conducts business. I really think that’s the best way. For example, because I worked in big corporations, smaller companies, is our flexibility. We can take a decision in zero time. We have partners in this business which in order to take a decision, they have to have three video calls and I don’t know how many discussions. We can be very quick in taking a decision. And that pretty important in today’s fast-moving market and price fluctuation. And also what helps me is Oakley and the people who work in it in the business. Bubba, for example. They have a very good reputation. You go and say, ‘I’m Oakley’ or ‘Bubba sent me,’ and I get some doors opened. Seriously. Especially in the United States. But it’s funny, I’m just now doing some business of loading some kind of fertilizer from Russia to Algeria and the agent for the buyer is a lady who tells me, ‘How is Bubba?’ Turns out they worked together in 2005 so, as I told you, it’s a combination of Oakley’s reputation and experience, Oakley’s agility in taking decisions, and my experience. So I really, really find it a pleasure.

Jeremy Kellett  23:46  

Nice. Is that what he brought to the table? Well, absolutely. years of experience, years of contacts. And, you know, when nears of integrity building, it makes think Goldsmith’s help take yellow next takes us to the next level.

Ivan Boasher  26:21  

You know, I have another story, because you can copy it, I think. But it’s difficult to explain that I was wondering, I had a vessel in, in discharge in Karachi in Pakistan, but the vessel couldn’t fit in the berth.

Jeremy Kellett  26:35  

So before you start to that, let me ask you: so you, you buy a whole vessel? We started material. Yeah. Which is how much?

Bubba Vance  26:45  

It could be anything from 25,000 to 65-70,000 tons, anywhere in that range.

Ivan Boasher  26:52  

So this one, we buy it, I think we bought it from a big grain trader in Switzerland, I think it was aundre. And we had to deliver it to Karachi, Pakistan, but the vessel couldn’t fit on the birth. But an after this, this was the vessels last voyage, and then it was going for scraping. So what they did differently was gonna scrap it. Yeah, yeah, they’re all the metal. So what they did in and that’s why it’s difficult because they cut the nose of the vessel, and killed it with the, with the derrick of the of the vessel, and then discharged the grain and then went and cut the whole vessel in pieces and went for scrap. But that’s different for the show to be explained.

Jeremy Kellett  27:36  

No, that’s good. A lot of people will probably understand that.

Ivan Boasher  27:42  

Yeah, that’s the other thing. But it’s, you know, it’s very unusual way to discharge a vessel, you know, cut it in half if you send it to.

Jeremy Kellett  27:51  

It’s on its last legs. Yeah, you’re gonna scrap it anyway. Yeah.

Bubba Vance  27:55  

Today, if you, if you take, let’s take a 50,000 toner. And that would be pretty average science vessel, if you take 50,000 turns, and you multiply it times, let’s just use $700. That would be a pretty round number. 35 million, there you go.

Ivan Boasher  28:16  

And that, by the way, is a problem. Because years ago, this could be 15 million. And nowadays, you know, in business people operate with credit lines, and, you know, with allowances for positioning and financial, and what you could do, I mean, with the same amount of money, you could do three vessels 15 years ago, today to only be enough for you for one vessel. And the banks are watching you, they’re watching your credit limits and everything.

Jeremy Kellett  28:43  

So do you get any night’s sleep when a vessel is actually going from point A to point B? Are you constantly like trying to track it? Where’s it at? Can I talk to the captain?

Ivan Boasher  28:56  

No, the bigger things which make us not sleep. It’s if you take a position which we try to have calculated risk and everything but every now and then, you know, in business, you take a position within the limits what we decided to be our risk limits. And let’s say you buy something in expectation that it will go up and then you’ll sell it and make a bunch of money. Yeah, but instead of going up it goes down or or you have to not leave for a month until it gets where you want it.

Jeremy Kellett  29:32  

So you lose more nights sleep more than bow the price and you do the actual voice.

Ivan Boasher  29:36  

Yeah, what was the name of this? The Mexican golfer very funny guy. To really Trevino Yeah. Like literally you will put it into things but he was saying the biggest risk is when you play for 20 bucks and you have 20 cents in the bucket. So that—

Jeremy Kellett  30:00  

…Puts it in perspective. Oh my goodness. That’s good stuff, guys. I appreciate y’all sitting there with me, Ivan, I really appreciate you doing this. I know I asked you last week and knows a little bit different, but I thought it’d be a change to the podcast to have you guys and we hear something different about Bruce Oakley and we also get to, you know, that our listeners get to hear and other a couple employees of Bruce Oakley and kin and they can feel that that honesty and being authentic about what’s going on here and just give them another avenue of knowing that they’re at a great company and a we all know sure you’re absolutely so great. I appreciate y’all doing it. Joining me and as always you guys. Subscribe on YouTube with us comment to give us a thumbs up on that. You know, we really try to do this to get good information out to you. Don’t keep doing it every week is to come up with good stuff. So let us know if you got anything you want to hear. And once again, we’ll talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Oakley podcast: trucking, business, and family. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to rate or review the show on the podcast platform of your choice and share it with a friend. We love hearing from our audience, so if you’ve got a question, comment, or just want to say hello, head over to our website, theoakleypodcast.com, and click the “leave a comment” button. We’ll get you a response soon and may even share some of the best ones here on the show. We’ll be back with a fresh episode very soon. Thanks for listening.