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Skux Trucks
 August 2020    Story Dave McLeod & Wayne Munro Photos Gerald Shacklock

When Kohan Wilson added a new truck and trailer unit to his Auckland tipper fleet recently, he revealed it with a series of posts on his TKO Contracting Facebook page…..

Including one that says: “In loving memory of Johnny danger…. #HELLFARKINYEEHAAAW.”

It carries a photo of the taildoors on the Mills Tui bins on a new Scania truck and trailer unit, both bearing larger-than-life tributes to one of Kohan’s best mates – Kiwi social media sensation Johnny (Danger) Bennett, who died in a motorcycle crash in 2018.

The post attracted 931 Likes, 42 Shares and 32 comments, including the following: “That’s brilliant bro what a nice thing to do…..Thats mean as Kohan. Respect…..Now that’s tuffff brother….Oooosh now thats cool ……

And another post – this one with a night-time shot of one of two new TKO Scania R620s, with lights ablaze, asking: “Do you like the lights on our new Scanias?”

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When Kohan Wilson added a new truck and trailer unit to his Auckland tipper fleet recently, he revealed it with a series of posts on his TKO Contracting Facebook page…..
Including one that says: “In loving memory of Johnny danger…. #HELLFARKINYEEHAAAW.”
It carries a photo of the taildoors on the Mills Tui bins on a new Scania truck and trailer unit, both bearing larger-than-life tributes to one of Kohan’s best mates – Kiwi social media sensation Johnny (Danger) Bennett, who died in a motorcycle crash in 2018.
The post attracted 931 Likes, 42 Shares and 32 comments, including the following: “That’s brilliant bro what a nice thing to do…..Thats mean as Kohan. Respect…..Now that’s tuffff brother….Oooosh now thats cool ……That’s 
And another post – this one with a night-time shot of one of two new TKO Scania R620s, with lights ablaze, asking: “Do you like the lights on our new Scanias?”
Hell yeah, seems to be the consensus FB opinion, given that 366 people “Like” the post: “Looking sick bro.. showing the big boys how it’s done …..Fuu that’s sick ko….”
And another photo of the Scania, posted back in June, with the advice: “With all that’s going on in the media! Just remember to “Stay calm & keep on trucking” 
That post elicited the response: “I saw one of your trucks today at Z Manix opposite KFC, looked pretty skux g.”
Wait…..what? Skux….sick….gangsta….tufffff?? A young guy with tatts, who rides Harleys, drives a Rangie….puts on 10 trucks in three years. Brings some sort of unprecedented mix of biker/skatie culture and Generation Y social media smarts and makes an immediate impact in the world of contract trucking. I mean, WTF is going on here! 
Kohan Wilson is, quite clearly, anything but your typical, traditional, old-school next-generation truckie.
In fact, this 34-year-old Aucklander is not your typical anything. He’s atypical AF. Unconventional AF. Non-traditional AF.
And here he is – a young guy who, just 20 years ago, was a mid-teens high school dropout….who somehow then developed and honed an entrepreneurial streak through a succession of jobs and life experiences…
Who’s now making himself noticed on the busy Auckland contract bulk tipper scene. And not just because of the eyecatching black and silver zebra-like stripes on his fast-growing fleet.
Oh…and, clearly, making himself noticed too on social media. His is a trucking life….lived through Facebook.
TKO uses FB to advertise for drivers, to advertise for work….to sell boulders, sell a stockpile of retaining wall posts, advertise parking space in its yard – even to show off a little with a new Range Rover. When he bought that a year or so ago, he proudly posted a photo and the heartfelt message: “You don’t just inherit success, you pray, dream and work your arse off to get it.”
And another from last year – also showing a bit of pride: “3 years ago today we added our first 6W Tipper truck to our Arsenal of excavators, drain layers & builders, adding this truck catapulted TKO into a trajectory which would develope into the fleet of trucks it has today! We simply love trucking! 
#TKOconstruction #TKOholdings #TKOcontracting.”
The life story that Kohan has to tell is as different and as spectacular as him…and his trucks.
It starts with Kohan and his little brother Torion being brought up by their Mum in a house that had no power or running water – in tiny Lake Ohia, Doubtless Bay, in the Far North.
When Kohan was five, they moved to Auckland – where he dropped out of the education system early: “I left school at 14 – it didn’t really agree with me. I didn’t have Dad around much and didn’t really do anything until I was about 17.”
But then, then after a couple of years of “just fooling around” (he was, he says, “a bit of a ruffian”), he got offered a panelbeating and car painting apprenticeship in 2002.
He credits the boss at Ellerslie’s Apex Autopainters, Bruce Orr, with becoming a bit of a father figure: “He embedded a lot of those old-school morals into me about turning up to work on time, doing a good job and being honest. When I eventually left Bruce I daresay that he had become part of my family.”
A couple more jobs on from there, Kohan found himself in another important moment in his development – refinishing motorcycles with custom paintjobs. It was a job he loved.
A couple of good-earning years as a hydraulic hose “doctor” unlocked a new world – as a self-employed contractor. For starters there was the thrill of being sent to Aussie for training, “which I thought was very cool: Coming from humble beginnings I’d never really been overseas.” 
But, better still, the part-commission arrangement saw him go to work hard-out, cold-calling potential clients – and landing some major civil construction contractors: “I was really earning some good money.”
But when the company pressed him to invest in a franchise, he bailed – opting instead (at 23) to take up a mate’s offer to join him for a few well-paid months, helping refurbish a Rupert Murdoch-owned luxury superyacht in the United States.
That San Diego experience was a game-changer, he reckons: “What a dream for a kid from Lake Ohia! Growing up we had nothing. We didn’t have power until I was five and we had a long-drop. Mum (Samantha Barrington) used to get water from the river and shit like that. So for me, I was ticking boxes in the US.”
It lit a bit of a fire inside of him, he reckons – to the degree that on returning home he started uni studies to become a civil engineer: “As crazy as it seems – since I left school at 14 – I did really well. I passed everything!”
But there were big drawbacks: “A year into it – living on a student loan and living with my partner – I was $35,000 in a hole….not really getting anywhere. I thought: ‘I can’t do this for another three years.’”
He “threw in the towel at uni” and got a job in a surf, skate and snow shop, giving it a Facebook presence and doing some online marketing.
Through that, in 2012, he became truly self-employed for the first time – distributing GoPro mini-cameras: “For about a year I did really well.”
It was around that same time that Kohan and longtime partner Kelsey got married and had a daughter, Ivy. The marriage only lasted about six months: “I probably put that down to maturity. I always wanted to do what I wanted to do. I have an amazing friendship with my ex-wife and daughter now.”
After time out to “refocus” – helping out friends and travelling – he came up with a new career direction: “I thought ‘man, my entire life I should have been a builder. I’m technically minded, I love doing puzzles and models.’ So that was my next step in life.”
He started helping a friend, building fences and decks: “Then I thought ‘no, I’m gonna amp this up – I want to build houses.” 
He started a building apprenticeship, but soon found “I just wasn’t earning enough.” So he started advertising on Trademe to build decks and fences on his own account….at weekends. 
Repeat jobs triggered the formation of TKO Contracting in early 2012. It was going to be just KO….his nickname and with obvious promo possibilities, such as: “We do a knockout job.” Brother Torion, whose nickname is T, suggested TKO instead: “I really liked it. It’s always been me and my little brother – it was definitely fitting.”
Of course, Kohan laughs, the name conjures up potentially good and bad associations: While “we do knockout projects” is nice and positive…a few people countered with “yeah, and then you knock us out with the price!” 
He laughs and says: “But take it whichever way you want – it’s easily remembered.”
While Kohan continued his apprenticeship, Torion and a mate carried on the fence and deck-building business during the week. But, says Kohan, “brothers being brothers we clashed – bigtime.” 
The result: “He walked off the job, halfway through a $25,000 retaining wall job – and this while I’m on an apprenticeship. So I made the call – throwing in the towel on the apprenticeship. I finished that job and we got another job. And so on.”
To clarify, Kohan points out that the “fences,” were actually major retaining walls – up to three metres high and 100m long – many of them built for major residential subdivisions.
Kohan reckons they were doing such a good job, one major home builder inquired whether he knew any good licensed builders who could build houses.
Why yes he did: He had a builder mate….and through him, says Kohan, he picked up his first contract to build a house, employing three licensed builders and telling them “you guys are gonna teach me how to be a builder! 
“We built that house and we got another one. And another. I worked really hard – through holidays and weekends – and in four years I became a qualified licensed builder.” He graduated with a National Certificate in Carpentry in mid-2018.
But, remarkably, while he was learning the trade, early on in those four years TKO had grown dramatically. At one point, says Kohan, “I had a team of 33 guys – five crews of us – doing work for top-tier housing companies. We did houses, retaining walls, decks…and even excavation.” 
He reckons TKO would have built dozens of houses in that period.
A pivotal moment came in the midst of an $800,000 contract to build 400m of retaining wall and large underground stormwater tanks.
It was a job that demanded a lot of metal delivered to the site and Kohan reckons he couldn’t help noticing that many of “the trucks that turned up just shouldn’t be on the road! And the drivers were some ‘special’ guys. 
“I had just bought a new 14-tonne digger and I remember thinking at the time, ‘I need to get a truck.’ So after about a year of pondering, I bought one – a little Isuzu.”
He reckons though that, on analysis, his business didn’t really stack up: He had a lot of people working for him, “but they really weren’t making a lot of money.” 
When he found himself spending his weekends fixing up jobs that he’d already paid his guys to do, he decided it had “just got out of control.” So he downsized. Quickly.
He also switched TKO’s focus – now onto civil projects, adding a couple of drainlayers and increasing the machinery fleet to three diggers and the 4x2 truck.
But again, he soon decided “we’d got too big too fast – so over the next eight months I wound that down too. 
“We still had the 14-tonner and the truck, so I went back to basics – just me and my brother and a couple of guys and we built one house at a time. We did that for about a year.”
And then he came up with a new business idea – one based on what he’d seen with the contract tippers servicing his retaining wall jobs. He’d start running trucks.
Once he thought about it, it was an idea that appealed on a deep-down personal level too, he explains: “When I was a kid, every school holidays Mum used to take us back up North to Dad’s – and we had to drive past the Neville Brothers’ place (at Silverdale). 
“I used to see their trucks and go ‘f***, look at all those trucks.’ That shit was cool. Plus my great-grandmother owned a trucking company – Barrington Transport, in Tokoroa. So I asked friends about the industry and they said that ‘you need to make $1200 a day, pay this and you’ll make X amount.’
“Eventually I thought ‘right I’m gonna do it.’ I managed to get finance approved for a $50,000 Isuzu Giga tipper. It was nothing flash – it had done 1.3 million Ks, but it started hot or cold and it was a good truck.”
It was a move that introduced Kohan to another “father figure” – longtime truckie Ross Maulder, the father of an old mate from drifting. 
Kohan talked to his mate Adam about his plan and “one thing led to another. Ross, who’d owned a rubbish-truck company, came on board – became our driver and ultimately our transport manager. 
“Ross is about 65….and he is a great guy. He just lights up your face. Very smart, very humble. It’s good to have a male figure to look up to.”
Ross explains how it happened: “I sold my business and had nothing to do.” But there’s much more to it than that as well. 
He’s impressed with Kohan’s attitude: “I can see where he’s come from, but he’s taken the lessons along the way. He’s taken a risk and it’s worked out for him. He’s got massive cojones and I really admire him for that. 
“And he’s humble. He knows where he’s going now – he’s got it right. It’s all very well having the good gear – which he’s got now – but you’ve got to have the good people as well. 
“He’s got a good buy-in from the team. He’s always open to listening – but if he doesn’t think it’s a good idea he’ll let you know as well.”
Ross wasn’t so impressed with the original Isuzu, but like he says: “It’s like anything – you’ve got to start somewhere. And it sort of blossomed from there.”
So initially Ross drove the old tipper, while Kohan carried on running the three diggers – the 14-tonner, plus a 5t and a 1.7t machine – doing “small retaining walls….anything and everything.  
“We were doing odd-jobs of our own and then I started cold-calling, saying: ‘Hey, we’ve got a truck, do you need a truck? Need any dirt? Need any loads taken away?’ ”
And the truck was sub-contracted out to other operators as well – and so they got through the first six months with the old truck, even though “it was very impractical. Man, did we spend some money on it! It cost us a fortune in R&M.”
The answer was clear. In late 2017 Kohan bought a brand-new 6x4 tipper. Satisfied that, despite the old truck having cost him plenty to keep it going, “it would’ve gone on forever,” he settled on an Isuzu CYZ 400.
Kohan reckons he was constantly being asked “have you got another truck?” – so he’d say yes, and hire in subcontractors. But many weren’t up to his expectations: “We’d get these trucks in with subbies and they wouldn’t have covers – they were just shocking. 
“It was a big thing for me that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right. We were going to roll off the back of that Fulton Hogan benchmark – of running the trucks with handbrake alarms and flashing lights and wheel nut indicators. Run them on EROAD, do pre-employment drug tests for drivers….and retest them every three months. 
“We wanted to make sure that if you ordered a truck it’d be there from start to finish. Too many times you’d have a subby and by three in the afternoon they’d be gone – just disappeared without explanation. Or they’d break down….or pop tyres.” 
By late 2018, Kohan reckons that TKO was running 20 units a day, every day, so he decided to add not one….but THREE (!) new CYZ Isuzus.
Like the first one, they were each put on the road with a Mills Tui bulk body and a new trailer. Kohan reckons he can’t remember how he got introduced to Mills Tui, but when he and new owner Dean Purvis first met they got on really well.
“They were great to deal with – very helpful.” As a result, all of the truck bodies and trailers since have also come from Mills Tui: “I believe that relationships are what get us where we want to be in life – we’re not going to do it on our own.
“Building that strong relationship means that if I’m not happy with something, Dean changes it – without a lot of fuss.” Even down to tiny details like matching the tail-lights on all of the units…and exactly how the mudflaps hang. Says Kohan appreciatively: “As a team, look what we’ve produced.” 
Last year he added four more trucks – two new CYZs and two secondhand ones (a 2017 model and a 2001 veteran). 
This year, he’s put on two more new truck and trailer units – Scania R620 6x4s, with five-axle Mills Tui trailers.
So here he is, at 34, with a fleet of 10 trucks (nine of them truck and trailer units), with an insured worth of $3.3million. In addition to his own trucks, he’s leased four more (through ETL Hire) for much of the past couple of years.
The flatroof Scanias have alloy bins and are all about getting a bigger payload of bulk metal or dirt. Their arrival doesn’t signal any dissatisfaction with the Isuzus, Kohan is quick to point out: “They’re brilliant trucks that will do a millon Ks without having to take the sump off. They’re a well-priced truck that will go on forever.”
He has, by the way, also ordered two new Kenworth K200 truck and trailer units, scheduled to go on the road next year.
He explains: “If you’re a trucking company it’s good to have a little versatility in the gear that you’ve got.” He says he “loves” the design of the cabover Kenworths and is confident that 600hp Cummins-engined KWs will eventually have a good resale value as well. They are, he says, “a push in the same direction as the Scanias: Alloy bins and specced towards that TKO bulk (work).
“As well as doing the construction-style work, I’d like to be able to move into agricultural-style work if that was ever to come available. It’s about not having all your eggs in one basket.”
The trucks’ eyecatching livery, with its zebra-like tyre tread striping (black on the silver bins, silver on the white cabs) has been on the TKO trucks almost from the outset – certainly from the first new Isuzu.
Calling on his panelbeating and spraypainting early days, Kohan designed the colour scheme – and has added to it in the last couple of years, with vivid orange truck ID tags and stripes along the bottom of the bins and the sides of the drawbars. On the new Scanias the striping on the cabs has been revised – dropping the diagonal tyre treads pattern in favour of a new TKO logo and swooping black and silver stripes. The orange stripes from the sides of the bin have been extended forward onto the cab.
He explains the rationale behind the additions: “You wear your orange PPE (personal protective equipment) and you’re seen, so our trucks should have it as well. It’s a little bit of PPE on the truck.”
As the business has evolved, the TKO logo itself has also changed….three times now: “There’s a nail border for construction, then the digger for when we were heavy in the earthworks and just recently, when we brought on the two new Scanias…that’s where we went to the new design.”
Both Scanias carry the tribute to Kohan’s friend, Facebook and Instagram star, comedian, and amateur stuntman Johnny Danger, who died in a motorcycle crash on a group charity ride they were both on in 2018.
“I’d known Johnny for many years and the last four months leading up to his accident, he was living with me. He had a Harley and I had two or three Harleys at the time. We just loved motorbikes, so when we weren’t in the house we were playing with our bikes in the shed. 
“It was a very sad day to leave home, go to brunch – where he was talking about getting back with his partner – and a few hours later he was gone.”
In terms of cracking it as a social media star, “he was on his way: There were queues of people waiting to buy his beer. He had over a million followers on Snapchat…..he was going to be on a drink/driving ad for $30k. 
“He was at the pinnacle of what he’d dreamt of achieving and I can just imagine what he’d be doing now. We had a bit of a running bet as to who was going to get to $1million in the bank first. We were just two young punks that dreamt really big.”
Kohan too has built a strong online presence – for himself and for TKO. Among other things, it helps in finding drivers: “I’ve never had to use anything other than Facebook for finding drivers – I’ve never had to place a job advert anywhere.”
The current driver lineup covers a broad range of ages. Ross Faulder is the oldest, and is Kohan’s go-to guy for ensuring the others are up to scratch. 
After Ross, “we’ve got a lot of guys in their 50s, two or three in their late 40s, one mid to late 30s.” A 23-year-old recently left TKO, “chasing his own dream,” but was back after a week, says Kohan, happy to have him back.
The issue is, he adds, not finding drivers…but finding “the right drivers.” And so far he’s still searching for more of the kind of young drivers that “he’d like to have.”
Others that he’s had, he reckons, “all seem to want to party. They want to work because they have to – not because they want to. I’ve always worked because I loved it.”
Ross’ demands of TKO’s drivers are simple, straightforward: “Turn up and look after your gear,” he says. Bu, he reckons, with many young guys these days, “their mindsets are totally different, their work ethic is totally different to anything that I’ve come across. 
“It’s like I’m bashing my head against a wall. You just can’t get through to them. They want everything now – but they don’t want to do anything for it. Some of them are, ‘nah this is not me. I’ll go find something else.’ ”
Kohan reckons that as a relatively young guy himself, sometimes he’s got to be a bit tough, to get respect: “Guys will take you for granted and a couple of times I’ve got into a verbal argument… But it works, now they all look out for each other. They tell each other ‘you better put your cover on, ‘cos you never know if Kohan is watching.’ ” 
He says he, in turn, respects them – and pays them well: “I’ve got guys that have come from all walks of life and I say to them, ‘if you guys just buckle down and you do the hours you have the opportunity to make some good money.’ I’ve got drivers that make over $100,000 per year. You can’t turn your nose up at that.”
In terms of pay rates, “I don’t want guys to feel that ‘he earns more than me – but I do a better job than him.’ 
“So we have a benchmark and that’s it: For six-wheelers you start on $26 an hour and after 90-days you get a $1 (an hour) pay rise, because I want guys to stay. Then after a year, we do the same…. All truck and trailer drivers start at $28 an hour and (after a year) go up to $30. 
“Ross is the king ding-a-ling. If Ross tells you to leave, you leave. You piss Ross off, you piss me off. But we do it all by the book – you get a verbal, you get three writtens. But I’ve only stood two people down and both were failed drug tests.”
Part of the deal is that TKO drivers get paid for three hours a week set aside for cleaning their trucks – plus a couple more hours, on request, for units with alloy wheels. 
“We have set the yard (at Manurewa) up as best we can. We have a 24m x12m wash bay where they can wash two truck and trailers at the same time. It’s got automated soap disposal, waterblasters, washing, scrubbing, polish….there’s everything. They need to use those three hours a week.” 
Costs-wise, Kohan keeps a watchful eye on fuel economy – idling time, in particular. He taps into EROAD’s onboard monitoring to check driving time compliance, speeding and idling times – the latter triggering visual alerts in the cabs, with “a little truck icon that goes from green to orange…and over 10-minutes it goes from orange to red. 
“I penalise the guys if they spend too long idling. It’s to stop guys just burning fuel. We geofence all our sites too, so we can tell when our drivers are there and when they leave.”
He reckons that the drivers are ok with these rules “because they all know where they stand.” And he’s pretty confident that currently he’s got “a good dozen guys” who he believes will retire with TKO.
The concept of set rates carries over from driver pay to TKO’s cartage rates: “We’re $105 an hour for a six-wheeler and $165 an hour for a truck and trailer. And we pay our subbies accordingly.” That’s as in a six-wheeler operator getting $95 an hour.
“So there’s no Tom talking to Harry, saying ‘I’m getting $100’ and Harry saying ‘I’m getting $95.’ ”
Fleet Tyres takes care of the TKO fleet 24/7 and Kohan says he gets “great service” from CAL Isuzu and Total Diesel Services. 
Although it has depots in northwest and southern Auckland – at Whenuapai and Manurewa – the business is largely run from the dining table at Kohan’s rented Riverhead home. 
Friend Jo Maulder (wife of good mate Adam, and Ross Maulder’s daughter-in-law) handles all the back-office stuff – the invoicing, the wages, the payments to subbies and the payment of the bills.
She started when TKO had six trucks on the road – and Kohan was doing all the admin as well as running the show. He reckons that her arrival meant that he could sleep at night. 
Kohan says that the TKO trucking operation has grown largely through referrals, cold-calling and by “putting ourselves in front of small earthmoving businesses that we’d worked alongside for the last four-five years” – letting it be known that it had tippers ready to work.
Kohan is very much a believer in the power of social media: “I’ve had TKO on Facebook since day dot – since I built my first fence. It’s all up there: If you want to know TKO, go onto our Facebook page and troll through five years of photos. 
“You’ll get the full story. You’ll see us transition from building fences, to doing retaining walls, to building houses, to owning diggers, to buying trucks….to what we are right now. 
“I love going on there. And just recently I’ve started to share some old photos because our Facebook profile has grown so much – 4200 to 4400 followers. They see what we are now, but to get a bigger picture of what your company does Facebook helps.”
And yes, it does actually generate work: “If someone messages me through Facebook, the first thing I do is check them out…..see if we have common friends. Because if you’ve got a friend in common, you can ring them up and see if they can put in a good word. 
“Facebook has been great and just recently I’ve been getting a few little jobs out of it. Nothing very big, but jobs nonetheless.” 
Even a quick look makes it pretty obvious that a lot of young guys follow TKO on Facebook and Kohan thinks that’s “great. It’s breeding into kids that trucks are cool…that this could be a career for them. A lot of young guys wouldn’t think that truck driving could be a career out of school because they have no real idea. 
“But could you imagine getting your Class 4 around 18. You’re driving a six-wheeler. You pick up a trailer – do a year of that. You’re 19-20 and boom! You’re on $28 an hour – and, within a year, $30. 
“If you knuckle down and do some driving for five years you’re gonna be a house owner.”
While young drivers are, of course, the future of trucking, they need the guidance of older drivers: “We’re the next guys coming through, but we’ve got to learn from them. I’m lucky to have Ross there for guidance and to rein me in, because I need it sometimes.”
Even with Ross’ experienced advice, Kohan has grown TKO at a dramatic rate – and he says it hasn’t been universally welcomed…..although he actually can’t understand “why would anyone get pissed off. 
“The only way we’re all going to get there is together. I wouldn’t be where I am now without help from other trucking companies. We run a lot of trucks: Last Wednesday we had 27 units out on runs all day – and I only own 10 of them. 
“So you can see how closely we work with other trucking companies. We need them just as much as they need us. We’re not here to compete with them, we’re here to work together.
“That’s how I’ve grown to where I am – by building strong relationships with other trucking companies so that we can cater to a market where, if someone wants 20 trucks, we can give them 20 trucks….even if I had none. 
“I don’t even have to own a truck to run this business. But to run this business the way I WANT to run it – efficiently, with good safe drivers and safe gear – I need to own trucks.”
He acknowledges that some competitors are cut-throat in under-cutting rates to win work but he doesn’t “entertain” the approach: “If you want to go out and offer a six-wheeler at $85 an hour, good for you. 
“A lot of them can. But try and compare a truck that’s worth $200,000 with a driver in it on $28 an hour, versus a six-wheeler that’s falling apart and the driver’s being paid  $19 an hour. 
“We separate ourselves by having things like EROAD and extra bits and pieces that make us more efficient. Nicer trucks, covers – all those types of things.”
So is there a risk that he’s growing TKO’s trucking business too fast – just as he did with the contracting and building operations? “When there were 33 guys there was 33 lots of crazy. Right now we have 12. 
“We won’t see much more than 10-12 units in the next year, which I believe is a long time in the grand scheme of things. I have a couple of top-tier guys (drivers) coming back off ACC and I have to get units for them.”
Besides, he’s not scared of TKO’s rapid growth: “I guess with Johnny passing away it lit a fire up under me – that thought that it could all just end anyway. So it led me into taking some bigger risks, without fear. 
“I probably fear getting sick more than the investment. I’ve never had nothing. I grew up with nothing – I’ve really had to bite and chew. I’ve never had anyone go guarantor for me. 
“I started with one little thing and I’ve worked on it. If the economy fell over tomorrow and I lost everything, I’d just be like: ‘Man that was cool!’ I’d just pick up a hammer and go back to building.”
He is “100% proud” of what he’s been able to achieve: “I just think it’s amazing. My Grandad, Michael Barrington, is very proud too. After all, when he was a kid, his mother had a trucking company….and now he’s got a grandson with one. 
“It’s just a testament to the fact that if you focus on something and you give it your all, morning to night – and I really mean give it your all – you can do it. 
“Some days I have to pinch myself. I remember in the beginning seeing my trucks on the road and thinking ‘f***!’ It’s just so cool when you pass one of your own units.”
Where to from here? Is he about to reinvent himself yet again? 
“I see more diversity. I don’t want to get much bigger than we are now in relation to the trucking. But…I’d like to re-explore some of the civil work that was the foundation of TKO. 
“Right now we are, first and foremost, a trucking company – but that’s not to forget where we came from. Maybe focus on health and safety and quality of workmanship – the same image that we have in trucking.”
He says that one of his biggest goals in life is to pay off his Mum’s mortgage: “That’s a big thing for me – I just want to be able to look after her. I saw how hard it was for her and the sacrifices that she made. She scrubbed toilets, she did God knows what to make sure my brother and I were fed.
“And I want to be the grandad or great-great grandad that my great-great grandkids say to: ‘Thank you for putting in that work to make our lives just that little bit easier.’ ” 
Even given his devotion to developing TKO, having a work/life/family balance is important too – to the degree that he schedules his work so he can take daughter Ivy to and from school twice a week.
“Before Jenny (his partner) came along, it was just Ivy and me. I didn’t go out with my friends – didn’t go partying or drinking – I just ran my business and looked after my little girl. 
“It’s very important to me to have the family connection, because otherwise, what are we doing it for? I’m just so excited to meet my son (due soon) and for Jenny and I to raise a family, while the business keeps growing.”
If it seems like Kohan Wilson and TKO’s rapid development borders on the unbelievable, here’s what he reckons: “I’m just getting started. I feel like I’m at about 10% of where I’ll be in the next five to 10. 
“If you just dream big, there’s nothing stopping you. Believe in yourself, take those risks and give it all you’ve got – the sky’s the limit.”  
Navman
NZ Truck & Driver Magazine
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