Keepin’ on Truckin’; Intermodal Cartage’s business is continuing to grow – and how they’re doing it.
From the Memphis Business Quarterly –
When a company grows from one man with one truck to operating in 27 locations in 10 different states, somebody is doing something right. That somebody is Mark George, who founded Intermodal Cartage in 1982.
Since that time, the company has mushroomed so much that George is now chairman of Intermodal Cartage Companies, the parent company of Intermodal Cartage, or IMCG. Intermodal Cartage Companies now operates six other companies around the country with a total of 1,400 employees.
One way George has built such a successful company is by surrounding himself with the brightest and best people, cultivating a management team and promoting within. IMCG almost never hires from outside the organization at the executive level. Experienced managers are moves up when positions become available.
Randall Wright, who started with Intermodal Cartage in 1985 as vice president of operations, is now executive vice president of Intermodal Cartage Companies, and he has designed a manager-in-training program to ensure the company is run by the best home grown talent. “What’s unique is that we don’t even advertise No category selected.,” Wright says. “We have a lot of contacts here, and almost all of the [applications] have come out of Memphis.”Applications continue to pour in, he says.
Managers in training at IMCG start fresh out of college, and by the time they take their positions with the company, they already know the business inside and out. The program takes place at the company’s Memphis location, 145 acres on Holmes Road.
“It’s very intense,” Wright says. “We’re grooming them to e mid-level managers.” In the four years the program has been running, 15 managers have completed the program – and they are all still with the company. “We’re responsible for providing the field with qualified managers,” he says. “We’re taking kids coming out of college, whether they have a business degree, a transportation-and-logistics degree, or finance, and we give them one more year of college.”
“It’s great to have a year between college and work when you have all this opportunity to learn,” says Erin Meyer, the most recent graduate of the program. She is now working in the company’s newest location in Kansas City.
Although almost all the program participants are from Memphis, they are aware on the front end that they may not e staying in Memphis. “They make that clear in your first interview, that you’re more than likely going to be relocated,” Meyer says. Upon completion, the new managers are plugged in at one of the other six operations of Intermodal Cartage Companies.
The experience of completing the program provides adequate training for new managers to hit the ground running. “They are thorough: You spend a good amount of time in each department,” Meyer says.
Katie George Hooser is the chairman’s daughter, who now handles business development for IMCG. She went through the management training program as other candidates do.
“He quizzes you to make sure you’re paying attention,” Hooser says of the one-on-one weekly meetings the trainees have with Wright. He holds weekly sessions with each participant in the program because they don’t report to their department heads but directly to him.
The program is not cut in stone. Wright says he tailors the program for each person, so if there is a department or skill that needs additional focus, the would-be managers are returning for additional training in the deficient area.
Wright and his trainees agree the most vital department is customer service, although the extensive training also includes time spent in all other departments, some of which include repairs and maintenance, gate inspection, revenue accounting, risk management, and driver services, among others.
The drivers are also critical to the smooth operation of IMCG. “The most important asset we have is our drivers,” Wright says. “We do a good job of recruiting company drivers because they are company employees. They have the same benefits as other employees, the same 401(k). They have a quarterly bonus.”
Company drivers are easier to recruit, Randall says, but owner-operators are more difficult to find these days, and that poses a bit of a challenge.
Wright attributes high fuel costs to the decline in the number of owner-operators. The economy in 2008 and 2009 also put many drivers out of business, forcing them to take other jobs.
As the economy slowly rebounds, owner-operators who have taken other jobs are ineligible to work at IMCG because they have no recent driving experience. Each company has its own requirements for hiring drivers. At IMCG, drivers must be 23 years old and have two years of driving experience within the last three years.
Owner Operators are an important labor component, and the percentage is that about half of the drivers IMCG uses are independent drivers.
“We rely on them to assist us with the workload and the number of customers that we have,” Wright says.
Wright says that people are really the driving force of the company, and he never loses site of that. “To me, what’s most important is the excellence and service we provide and the high standards that I not only set for myself but for my employees,” he says. “We’re not just a normal trucking company. We are a professional group of people. We’ve put together a professional organization.”
Posted: March 3, 2011