Pressed for Sucess: Bob Baylor of Baylor Trucking, Inc.
A University of Alabama graduate with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Bentley spent 15 years as a trucking Publisher before becoming the Editorial Director for Randall-Reilly's Recruiting Media division.
Bob Baylor uses lessons from basketball background to lead Indiana-based fleet
Most kids who grow up in the state of Indiana are fanatical about basketball, but imagine the fever pitch if your childhood was in Milan – the town depicted in the movie Hoosiers. Such was the case for Bob Baylor, who traded the sidelines of the hardwood for the white lines of the highways as he transitioned from a basketball coach to a trucking company owner.
The story of Baylor Trucking began in 1946, when Bob’s father, Chester, started a small furniture hauling operation with one truck and ICC authority in eight states. Chester was an owner/driver and had added a handful of additional trucks by the time Bob was a teenager. Chester had Bob loading trailers, driving a yard truck and learning the family business by the age of 16.
Simultaneuosly, Bob was honing his skills on the basketball court and baseball diamond before becoming a two-sport star at Hanover College in Indiana. He then went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio as a graduate assistant for basketball and planned to pursue a Master’s degree in corporate management.
It was then that Bob received his draft notice from the U.S. Army.
At the time, Miami’s basketball coach was Tates Locke, who had landed the job after two highly successful seasons at the United States Military Academy at West Point. When Baylor found out he would be stationed at West Point, Locke reached out to his former Army teammate who replaced him as head coach – the legendary Bobby Knight. He wanted Knight to “look after” Baylor, who wound up working with cadets in Army’s basketball program.
West Point paired officers with enlisted men, and Baylor ended up being mentored by none other than Army officer and former point guard Mike Krzyzewski. Known by most today as “Coach K”, Krzyzewski went on to replace Knight as Army’s coach before moving on to lead Duke University for the past 33 seasons.
With influences like Locke, Knight, and Krzyzewski, it’s no surprise that Baylor decided to try high school coaching after being honorably discharged from the Army. While teaching and coaching did not pay well, Bob was able to supplement his income by driving a truck for his father in the summer months. Following two years as a teacher and coach, his father asked him to consider returning to the family trucking business. It was 1973, and Baylor Trucking was a 17-truck operation.
By 1986, Chester Baylor had retired, and Bob was promoted to President. On the heels of deregulation, Bob and his brother, Steve, were able to grow the company to 100 trucks over the next decade. Bob said the trucking company was able to expand because of their ability to manage and credits his military experience for much of the success. “The military teaches discipline, teamwork, and organizational skills,” Bob stated. “Having an education helped, but the implementation of our plan was made possible by my military experience.”
The basketball influence was ever-present as well.
Bob had acquired a CDL and would deliver the first load of freight for every customer Baylor Trucking added. His CB handle? Double Dribble.
That moniker was eerily prophetic of a bad break Baylor Trucking would receive in 1996 when Steve was diagnosed with leukemia. Bob soon found himself in a conundrum. Most of the company’s managers were middle-aged men, and Bob realized that he had done a poor job of developing young talent – one of the first things you learn to do as a coach.
Entering the new millennium, Bob donated his bone marrow to his brother and then bought out his portion of the business. He constructed a new building and brought his wife, Beth, into Baylor Trucking and gave her the title of Director of First Impressions. Her primary job was to communicate with Baylor Trucking’s 265 drivers, and she has done it well. Most of the drivers now have Beth’s cell phone number, and she frequently gets calls. Drivers feel they have a path to management if there is a problem.
As the owner’s wife, Beth is a conduit with credibility. “She’s in a unique position and it changed how things were perceived. I tell everyone now that these are her drivers and my trucks,” Bob quipped. Beth goes out of her way to meet the drivers and implemented programs like giving them diamond rings for five years of service and beyond.
While Beth is known for her personal touch, Bob best expresses the company culture by showing passion. It’s a trait he attributes to the success of his coaching influences, and Bob surrounds himself with visual reminders to stay on track. One of the things Bob keeps on his desk is a button he got at a convention years ago. The message on the button is “Do I Matter To You?”
Bob understands a successful trucking operation requires a team effort, so he puts a full court press on his staff to get the desired result. A sign stating “It’s not what you say, it’s how you make them feel” hangs over the Operations department to help filter the message down to dispatchers and driver managers. Bob says one of the advantages of having a small company is that drivers feel like ‘big fish in a small pond’. “They know what they do matters,” he added.
Bob manages Baylor Trucking with a simple philosophy of “Do no harm”. He also believes in the mantra of “Do all the good you can do.” There are challenges in any business, but Bob said he learned a long time ago that you attack the problem, not the person. “I also know that if the employee is engaged, they can be part of the solution,” he added.
There are three guiding principles that Bob Baylor will never compromise, and they are ingrained during driver orientation. “We tell our drivers that we want to deliver safely, legally, and on time,” Bob said. “We measure this every day because it’s how we differentiate ourselves from our competition.” Baylor Trucking is financially stable and poised for growth, but Bob won’t sacrifice the quality of service that has landed them Carrier of the Year awards by shippers such as Walmart, Ocean Spray, ToysRUs, Gap, and Dollar General.
Bob sees a bright future for trucking, even though the industry is rapidly changing. With an additional terminal location in Portland, Tennessee, Baylor Trucking’s business model has changed to reflect more short haul and dedicated runs. Bob estimated that about 85% of their deliveries are now scheduled instead of having ‘windows’.
You may think a shorter length of haul would result in less miles and money, but Bob implemented a guaranteed wage program where a driver earns a minimum of $1,000/week based on a six-day dispatch. “I feel that drivers should earn a decent wage, and I wanted to take their focus away from miles to think about sustainability and service,” Bob stated. “The key to our success is delivering dependably over time and our ‘brand’ is quality service.”
Baylor Trucking believes in professionalism, and their drivers wear uniforms. Bob feels this results in better treatment for the men and women who pull his freight. “Drivers are never treated the way they probably deserve, but they are judged on the way they look,” Bob said. “And our drivers are treated well because of relationships with several longstanding shippers.”
Proof positive that Bob wants his drivers to benefit long-term is another unique program he recently put into effect – a pension fund with a 100% company match. This IRS-approved plan is a source of satisfaction for Bob. “I am proud of our pension program and think it represents the fact that we are looking ahead,” Bob explained. “It’s another example that we take care of the drivers who are committed to us.”
Bob is also committed to giving back to the industry that has provided the freedoms he and Beth enjoy. When not at work, they travel in their RV and love to go camping. An avid motorcycle enthusiast, Bob is one of the charter members of the Trucker Biker Rally group. As a military veteran, Bob is also proud that Baylor Trucking has donated trucks to Wreaths Across America, an organization that places remembrance wreaths on the headstones of fallen soldiers. Baylor trucks have covered National Veteran Cemeteries in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and in 2010 and 2011 Bob delivered a truckload of wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. “Those rides were special for me since my father founded our company after returning from service in World War II and I served not far from Arlington at Fort Belvoir,” Bob said.
Considering himself a “hands on” owner, Bob still holds a CDL and delivers freight upon occasion. Leaning on those life lessons from basketball, he continues to foster young talent and carry on the family tradition.
Four generations of Baylor family members have been active in the business. Bob and Beth’s daughter, Cari, has worked in several departments over the years. The company’s former Sales Director, Cari now serves as Vice President. Bob and Beth’s granddaughters, Emily and Ella, were featured as children in the company’s driver recruiting ads and now help with intra-company mail distribution.
Bob and the entire Baylor family are seeking drivers who are looking for a home, steady income, job stability, and want to be part of a rewarding organization.
Sure, there is still Hoosier Hysteria in Milan, Indiana; but you will also find a proud and passionate trucking company owner who is pressing for success with a goal to exceed your expectations.