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Podcast: Inside the Mid-America Trucking Show with Show Manager Toby Young

Toby Young

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Every year, trucking professionals from around the country look forward to the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, Kentucky. Originally founded by Paul Young and now managed by his grandson Toby, MATS has been running for fifty years and is arguably one of the most exciting shows for new and veteran drivers.

In this episode, Toby Young discusses how MATS got started and offers advice on working with family and becoming a leader.

The Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS)

MATS was first held in 1972 after Toby’s grandfather and his friends came up with the idea to have an event similar to the International Trucking Show, but on the eastern side of the country 

In the first year, they had roughly 98 exhibitors and 4,000 attendees. Today, the show regularly gets around 1,000 exhibitors and 70,000 attendees, having grown under the management of the Young family. It is now one of the biggest shows in the trucking industry, with some saying it’s the week they look forward to every year.

Toby explains that they speak to guests every year, finding out what they enjoy about the event.

“I myself love talking with the drivers and all of our attendees, just to get a feel for what they’re going through, what their plight is, how we can help, how MATS helps them. But in a lot of those interviews, we realize a lot of people come for the entertainment and view the exhibition as an added bonus.”

Recognizing attendee feedback, the show aims to focus on bringing educational resources that drivers want to help them improve their business operations and, ultimately, become more profitable. This includes offering exhibitors with helpful information and products and seminars with industry experts who are happy to share their experience and expertise. Ultimately, everyone wants to improve the industry, and this is one of many steps along the way.

Learning to Lead

At 25, Toby decided to join the family business and worked from the ground up. He spent time across all facets of the business, looking at sales, PR, the website, and more. Now President of the Exhibit Management Associates, this varied experience has been critical to his approach to leadership.

By spending time in each area, he truly understands how the business operates as he has a full-picture perspective. This has caused him to approach leadership from a ‘lead-by-example’ style.
He never gets anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, including small tasks like taking out the trash, cleaning, or dropping parcels off at the post office.

“I don’t want to be a boss. I don’t want to be the guy who’s saying do this from my desk and cracking the whip, so to speak. I want to be the guy that’s in the trenches among everyone else, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get to the finish line.”

Navigating Family Business Relationships

Since its foundations, the trucking industry has been very family-oriented, rooted in family-run companies still thriving today. Working with your family has its benefits, but it also has its challenges.
Decision-making can become very heated, with passion causing tunnel vision and causing many to overlook they are working towards the same goal. Having experienced this himself, Toby recommends taking a step back.

“My best advice would be to just take a step back out of yourself and to be able to just recognize, hey, we all have the same goals, and we’re all working towards those; we all have different personalities, and they may come in conflict with one another, but the reality is we’re all trying to get to that finish line.”

Returning to the conflict with a cool head allows you to present your argument while actively listening to your peers, which is crucial for conflict resolution.

To learn more about the Mid-America Trucking Show, tune into this episode of Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform.

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