Some measure success by salaries and titles. Others use a different yardstick altogether. Take the 11 professionals selected as our 2014 Rainmakers, for example. When asked about their proudest professional accomplishments, one spoke of the rewards of nurturing talent within his organization. Another cited his company’s groundbreaking program to convert its truck fleet from diesel to a more eco-friendly fuel.
So who are these Rainmakers and how were they chosen? As in the past, DC Velocity selected the 2014 Rainmakers in concert with members of the magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board from candidates nominated by readers, board members, and previous Rainmakers and Thought Leaders. This year’s selections represent different facets of the profession—from practitioners to consultants to educators to service providers. But as the profiles on the following pages show, they’re united by a common goal of advancing the logistics and supply chain management profession.
Jeff Silver got his first taste of freight brokerage 30 years ago when he joined the executive team that formed Chicago-based American Backhaulers. Backhaulers, a high-intensity place, would revolutionize brokerage by applying what were then powerful information technology (IT) tools to give participants real-time visibility into the supply chain.
After C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. bought Backhaulers in 1999, Silver took time off to pursue an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in engineering and logistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He returned to the business in 2006 by launching, along with wife, Marianne, Coyote Logistics LLC, a broker whose model and culture remind folks of the high-energy financial trading floors that make Chicago famous. Coyote’s gross revenue soared to a nearly $1.4 billion full-year run rate based on its first-quarter results and it capped the quarter by buying privately held competitor Access America Transport (AAT). The combination will create a $2 billion-a-year broker that stands to capture big market share of a deeply fragmented business.
Q: What drew you to the freight brokerage field?
A: When I joined American Backhaulers in 1984, I was a day out of college; the brokerage industry seemed like the Wild West in terms of opportunity. I spent 16 years in the industry before taking a three-year hiatus, during which I went back to school.
When I returned to freight brokerage in 2006, I was more informed. I had spent a lot of time in graduate classes at Michigan and MIT, thinking about how to do things better. Ultimately, the two biggest factors were the unlimited opportunity and the “building” nature of customer relationships. This isn’t an industry where you sell something once and never speak with the customer again; one of the most rewarding aspects is that if you take great care of a customer, you will grow together over decades.
Q: There are about 14,000 property brokers in the U.S. Most of them perform domestic transactional functions. Does Coyote’s purchase of AAT fire the first salvo in a long-predicted consolidation, especially as shippers look for more from their providers than domestic transportation management?
A: I am not sure that I would characterize it as the first salvo, but it is significant. As a combined company with more than $2 billion in revenue—and the resources that accompany that level of business—we provide support to customers that smaller brokers will struggle to bring.
Q: How did your time away from the field to pursue advanced degrees influence your strategic and tactical thinking as you started up Coyote?
A: In the Backhaulers days, we didn’t have M.B.A.s, and we laughed at people who did. We liked running our business on intuition, and it worked. But Michigan’s program was great, and it gave me insight into how the people with whom I interact today think and the challenges they face—finance, marketing, accounting, legal—you name it. As for MIT—that is truly a special place. It is unique in terms of sharing ideas with intelligent, entrepreneurial people who have a passion for blending business, science, and technology. I spent a year studying how to use optimization in supply chain planning and execution. I developed a great understanding of the problems our shippers and carriers are trying to solve every day in planning and operating their businesses.
Q: The 2012 surface transport reauthorization law increased to $75,000 from $10,000 the surety bond amounts that brokers must post to ensure carriers will be paid for hauling their loads. It also tightens the requirements for being a property broker. Some say it will eliminate the “bad actors” and clean up an industry that has not always operated ethically. Others say it will force many brokers out of business and concentrate loads in the hands of fewer and larger intermediaries. What is your view?
A: I’m for higher standards, but I don’t think these efforts will have much of an effect; broker bonds are still inexpensive even at the higher level.