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Economy

TOP WORKPLACES 2015

Employees first for freight brokerage firm

NO. 1 SMALL EMPLOYER: U.S. XPRESS LOGISTICS

  • 25t1xpress-9-Ryan-Bristol

    Ryan Bristol, director of pricing; Nate Wilson, director of operations; Chris Keller, vice president of transportation solutions; and Zac Cook, operations manager, oversee a team of 51 people at U.S. Xpresss Logistics in Toledo.

    THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
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  • 25t1vip-8-Emily-Krieger

    A monthly VIP trophy sits on the desk of Emily Krieger. The goal at U.S. Xpress, supervisors say, is to focus on the little things that make people enjoy coming to work.

    THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
    Buy This Image

25t1xpress-9-Ryan-Bristol

Ryan Bristol, director of pricing; Nate Wilson, director of operations; Chris Keller, vice president of transportation solutions; and Zac Cook, operations manager, oversee a team of 51 people at U.S. Xpresss Logistics in Toledo.

THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

The logistics business may seem comfortably bland, but it can be quite stressful.

If truckloads don’t arrive on time, assembly lines can grind to a halt, costing customers thousands upon thousands of dollars and potentially sending ripples through entire industries.

In spite of that, U.S. Xpress Logistics has virtually no turnover at its downtown Toledo office, and you’re far more likely to find smiling faces than you are hair pulling.

Chris Keller, the company’s vice president of transport solutions, said the management team tries hard to keep things light and reward success.

“We try to do a lot of the little things right that make people enjoy just coming to work,” he said in a recent interview. “We all know it’s a stressful situation, but we figure if we do the little things right, we’ll get the big things right.”

Those little things include giving away tickets to Mud Hens games, free coffee and soft drinks in the well-appointed breakroom, a rooftop deck, and even an Xbox 360 that people can use when they need to blow off a little steam.

That employee-first strategy seems to be paying dividends.

Mr. Keller expects 2014 revenues in the neighborhood of $180 million and said they’re targeting $250 million this year. That’s led to a lot more jobs. When Mr. Keller opened the office in 2012, he had five employees. Now there are 51, and an expansion is under way that should eventually allow that number to double.

All that led to U.S. Xpress being chosen as the winner of the small business category for the Toledo area’s 2015 Top Workplaces competition.

Employees say the pay is fair, the work is enjoyable, and perhaps most importantly, so is the atmosphere.

“You feel recognized,” said Zac Cook, an operations manager. “From a big company, as big as U.S. Xpress, everybody is personally recognized, which is awesome. There are companies out there where they don’t know anybody from anybody else. Our CEO is on a first-name basis with everyone.”

25t1vip-8-Emily-Krieger

A monthly VIP trophy sits on the desk of Emily Krieger. The goal at U.S. Xpress, supervisors say, is to focus on the little things that make people enjoy coming to work.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

U.S. Xpress is the nation’s second-largest privately owned truckload carrier, with 6,000 trucks and annual revenues of $1.5 billion. The corporate headquarters is in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company’s freight brokerage division is headquartered in Toledo.

Workers in the Toledo office link customers who need to move freight with trucking lines. A company will say it needs to move a certain product from Point A to Point B. U.S. Xpress will quote them a cost, then contract out the job to a trucking company.

Mr. Keller said he wanted to create an environment that made people enjoy coming to work every day. That started with rehabbing an old building in the Warehouse District, but it also comes down to hiring the right people, folks who are passionate about whatever they do and have a strong work ethic.

“Those are things you can’t teach people. Whenever we’re interview people we’re always looking for that passion and what we feel is the right work ethic and fits our culture,” he said.

They also reward hard work and success. Officials say as U.S. Xpress has grown, a number of people have been promoted to management roles. There are also monthly giveaways tied to strong performance.

“I think those little things go a lot toward the overall morale,” Mr. Keller said. “We also have an incentive program that’s built upon hitting certain numbers, so that drives the folks for wanting to come and do more.”

Jeremy Anderson, a capacity supervisor at U.S. Xpress, said the fact that co-workers keep the office culture light and fun helps with the stress. Mr. Anderson said there’s a widespread “accept-no-failure” attitude that brings everyone together to help each other.

“You don’t have that at a lot of places,” he said. “They make you feel welcome, they make you feel that family culture.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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