Episode 14: From One Truck to Large Brokerage – PDQ America’s Story with Michael Clements and Aaron Dunn

Brent – 00:00:01:

Welcome to Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast, where we explore the fascinating world of trucking and freight management. We dive deep into the freight industry and uncover why the trucking industry is more crucial to our country now than ever before. Stay tuned to uncover the driving forces behind successful trucking businesses and hear from the hardworking truckers and leaders who keep the world moving. Let’s hit the road. Well, welcome back to Freight Nation, a podcast by truckstop.com. We appreciate you joining us today. The whole goal of Freight Nation is to bring out the really, truly unique stories that happen inside of trucking and freight transportation, which are always lots of fun. And since we’ve been around for as long as we have at Truckstop, 28 years, we’ve seen a lot of really great stories. And boy, do we have a great one for you today. Joining me today on Freight Nation is Michael Clements and Aaron Dunn with PDQ America. And they’ve got a really cool thing they started, trucking for millennials on communicating to the new, the up-and-comers in the marketplace. But PDQ has a really really neat story. It started with Michael. And then as Aaron joined four years ago, we’ll talk more about the story and unwind that. But I’m really excited today to have both Michael and Aaron on the show. Thanks, gentlemen, for joining me on Freight Nation. It means a lot that you guys will give us your time and tell your story.

Michael – 00:01:19:

Hey, thank you for having us on here. This is pretty cool.

Aaron – 00:01:22:

Yeah, super cool. Thank you, man.

Brent – 00:01:23:

You’re so welcome. Well, I love the story. I’m a guy who just anything about the story, I always want to hear someone’s story. I want to hear about how it happened and what got you to the point of creating something. And then what got you to the point of creating more of something and sort of what you do. And I think that when you think about trucking and transportation, you think about all of the marketplace. And really, it’s dominated by small companies. I mean, super dominated by small companies. The people that just had like an idea, a dream, the moxie, the independence to go out there and start something. And darn it, they do. And they create success behind it. Michael, I know that’s what you did back in 2013. So I want to start off by talking about PDQ. You guys are a great partner with Truckstop and we appreciate you. But really, it’s about the story on where were you in 2013 or maybe before 2013, February 2013. Where were you on going? You know, I got an idea. I want to start something. So tell a story about that.

Michael – 00:02:13:

You know, it’s kinda like, embedded in your mind, right? Like the, whenever you decide to do something and with PDQ, you know, it really came to fruition because- I don’t know when you have like opportunity and age at the time, I think I was only maybe 24, 25 and I was antsy to do something even at that age. You’re still trying to figure out what work is in like, what does it mean to work? What does it mean to want to push yourself? What does your future look like? And I was, I don’t know, I was out of school for a few years and I tried to get my master’s. And what I figured out was that I enjoyed taking risks and doing like real life work more than I was enjoying the master’s classes. And I kinda started both of those around the same time. And the one that ended up winning was the business over the master’s courses. I ended up dropping out. I was at-taking Florida State online and I remembered it was like May of 2013 and I was sitting there and I was, and I had a charity golf tournament that I was on the committee of. My final exams were due and I had a handful of trucks on the road and I was sitting there thinking, man, I don’t know if I can continue doing this. Something’s going to have to give. And so I made the decision to sacrifice school at that point. I figured I’d had enough and I was getting more than a master’s level education at that point with working in my own business. And so PDQ came to fruition though in February of that year. I got engaged in February. I started my first business in February of 2013. Did you get a dog as well? The dog came in April of 2012, um well we were dating. What’s the dogs name? Her name is Chi. You know like Kanye was hot at the time and we talk about rap and sports on our podcast. So, Kanye was hot at the time and I was listening to him. And Chi town like Chicago , so we named our dog Chi. PDQ started in 2013. Flatbed truck with a 32 foot gooseneck trailer and a driver named Lester who recently just passed away. But Lester was our first driver. We had a 32 foot dovetail gooseneck trailer and an F-450. So it started off like anybody else, one load at a time in a dream. You know, they say like how you can make a small fortune in trucking is to start off with a large fortune. We started off though with one truck and a trailer and pretty soon it grew to another truck and a trailer. And then you’re learning your laws. You’re learning that there’s maintenance. You’re learning. Fire extinguishers have to be mounted. You got drivers that don’t want to do their logs. It was like, all I was seeing was dollar signs like, okay, how much can we make off this load going here? Okay, how much are we going to make off this load going here? And there was a lot of excitement around it starting out, but- I don’t know. We were probably two or three months in and we got our first big truck. And it was actually, it was a Freightliner Columbia, 2007 Columbia. We added that truck and then we added another one. It was a 2011 Freightliner Cascadia. So we had these two big trucks and they were hauling loads. Started off mainly hauling oil and gas products for local manufacturers and got into it that way. It was a lot of fun. Business was- I mean, really the first year, it was all good because oil and gas was on fire at the time. I mean, it was blowing and going. We call it snatch and grab, right? So anytime you need a part or you need something, just get it. And it doesn’t matter how much it costs to get it here. We need it right now. And so we kinda found ourselves right in the middle of all of that. And it really, I don’t want to say it created a false bottom for me, but it definitely created a false bottom for me in the business and where I thought that it could go.

Brent – 00:05:15:

That’s exciting. You said something in the beginning of this. You said you were battling between chasing the more education aspect of learning and life to the tactile part of experiencing the success of business. And I kinda went through that myself as a young man. I was like uh-I started a business and man, I really liked it. I mean, I liked the idea. I liked that I could touch it. I could feel it. And so to me, I was excited every day to get up. And you sound like you had kind of the same thing. You say it won out, but my guess is you wouldn’t have done it any other way. Look- and you know, all about school. You’re continuously educating yourself. You just were educating yourself in a different arena.

Michael – 00:05:53:

Yeah, but you have to kinda overcome some things, right? Because like we were talking before the show, there’s this like thing that you have to do school or you have to do this or you have to do this. And I’d always been on that path. I mean, I went to the same school like growing up for 13 years, kindergarten through high school, right? And then I got out of college in four years. So it was like, it was all like really quick. I thought like my goal was to like get out of college as soon as possible. I wish I would have like messed around for an extra two years and hung out looking back on it. But I mean, I got done quick. And so I was sitting there thinking like, man, all my buddies are still in school. I’m out here working right now. And I don’t know- I knew at a pretty young age, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete, right? And so like whenever you come to that realization, it was probably seventh or eighth grade, I realized like, I’m not going to have the growth spurt. I’m not going to have these things that’s going to create this professional athlete that I always dreamed of being. So I knew business was my best opportunity in life to make it. And I love business, whether it’s for revenue or to watch people grow. There’s so many reasons to love business, right? And so in 2013, I had that first opportunity of starting it. So and it did, it won out over traditional school. But I will say there was a far more of a risk, in my opinion, with the business and not fully understanding what you’re getting into. And so moving along like with the story. So we got our big trucks, we started doing interstate runs, right? So I’m going now to Ohio, Pennsylvania, carrying stuff from Texas. So I carry a couple of loads up there and dead head back, right?

Brent – 00:07:15:

Now, are you driving yourself or do you have other drivers?

Michael – 00:07:18:

No, I’m not driving. No, you wouldn’t want that. I will disclose this. I did one time drive down to the fuel stop about a mile away and I ended up having to run off the road because I like started freaking out. I was like, I shift just fine on the yard. But as soon as I got out on a public road, man, I was like, oh my gosh, I don’t know what I’m doing. So that was an interesting deal running into a ditch. But truck came out just fine. No problems. I was able to get out. So 2013, running a couple of big trucks and we carried a few loads up to the northeast. Well, I was just dead heading back and I didn’t know any better. I’m just hauling cell boat fuel back. Well, I was like, man, I really need to try to get a customer up in that area that’s pushing something back this way.

Brent – 00:07:57:

Wait a minute. Did you just say sailboat fuel?

Michael – 00:08:00:

I did. Yeah.

Brent – 00:08:01:

I just got that.

Michael – 00:08:03:

So hmmm I don’t think sailboats need a lot of fuel.

Brent – 00:08:05:

That’s great. Driving back empty

Michael – 00:08:06:

Yeah. We’re driving back empty. And when we do true trips up there and I realized like, okay, we’re not making the profit we could make if we could just make a little bit coming back. So dude, ironic enough, I get a postcard in the mail from Internet Truckstop. And it says, need loads, question mark. And I’m thinking, yeah, dude, I need loads. This postcard’s asking the question for me. And it had a little code on it. And I think back then in those days, ITS, so Internet Truckstop, it was, I think it was like $29 a month. And this code gave me like a month free. And so I’m like, okay, so I type in this code and I get on Truckstop. I’m like, what is this? I see pickup city and destination. I’m like, okay, let’s see what’s going on here. So I type in where we’re at in Ohio. And then I type in White Oak, Texas, so we can get back here. All these loads pop up on the computer. And I was like, wow, look at that. So I’m like, man, I wonder what I do now. So like I see a phone number. I’m like, well, I’m just going to call one of these phone numbers and see. And then, so I said, yeah, I’m calling I was like, you got a load on a website, but it’s going from, I don’t know, it was Canton, Ohio to Houston, Texas, right? So I’m like looking at this, Canton, Ohio to Houston, Texas. Wow! That’s perfect. So I call and they’re telling me the rates are like $2,100. I’m like, I mean, it could have been $4, right. And I’d have been excited about it. It’s more than we were making. Well, they tell me $2,100. I’m like, oh, wow. I can add that onto the revenue we’ve already made on this load. And anyways, I ended up booking the load. They take your DOT and I got my experience with a Carrier packet. And back then, all Carrier packets were faxed and hand signed and faxed back. This was probably a couple of years before they started all going digital. So Internet Truckstop, though, is the one to blame for me learning about brokers and learning about how to move loads on load boards. But I absolutely loved it. And in a way, it was really probably what saved. It wasn’t that I was in a bind at the time, but that’s probably what saved me from getting into a bind was having the ability to book these loads that I didn’t know about. So thank you for the postcard. Back in probably March or April in probably 2013

Brent – 00:10:04:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. Yeah. So the old postcard, there’s a great story behind that. I’ll tell it some other time about the very first month of Truckstop and postcards and how Truckstop used a third of its working capital to send out a postcard campaign. And it resulted in like one or two people. Sending something back. But this was back in 1995. But great story. So PDQ, you named it PDQ for a reason. Now, when you said you had an F-450 with a gooseneck on it, were you running? Sounds like more hotshot expedited freight or was it a smaller freight? And then you got the two bigger trucks. But so how did you come up with PDQ? I mean, I understand there’s an acronym behind it, but I want to make sure that’s the same acronym.

Michael – 00:10:43:

Yeah, pretty darn quick, man. It’s hotshot. And that’s what I started off doing. It was just hotshot. It was like, whatever we can put on that trailer, if we can get it somewhere fast enough. But it started off with a lot of guaranteed works. I mean, from day one, we already had a customer, we already had loads. And so the reason I went with a hotshot was because it was affordable. I think I got that whole setup was like $23,000. I mean, really, man, just walked into a perfect situation. A local dealership had this F-450 and a gooseneck that someone had passed away and their wife just brought it up to the dealership. They did her a favor by giving her some cash for it. So they just had it sitting there and they were like, the trailer has no value. It just goes with the truck. And I mean, I like walked into this deal. A family friend that was at a dealership was the one that I called to say, hey, do you know anybody that maybe has a hotshot truck? And he was like, I may have something for you. Do you want a trailer too? I was like, well, yeah. So it actually worked out perfect. But we started off doing that and then moved into big trucks. Well, I’ll fast forward like two years. So 2013, we’re in 2015 now and oil and gas takes a major hit. And this was actually after messing up a few key hires in my business, having someone do some misaccounting in my business, getting behind on bills, not knowing that they were being sent in, mail not going to the right places, like all these issues, right? All these things that the world wants to throw at you whenever you go into business. So all those things happened in that two years, continued to move through them. But really the hardest thing hit was oil and gas took a major dip in 2015 and late 2014. And whenever that happened, I lost my customers. And I mean, it was pretty much, I went from hauling probably running at 80, 90% capacity. Every time I got a new load or a new customer, I was having to go out and buy a new truck and a new trailer. This got really expensive. That was why we got our brokerage license originally. It had nothing to do with brokering loads as much as it had to do. Just taking care of some customers. The first load I brokered was illegal. So, which I ended up just pissing off a good friend of mine that had a trucking company. Cause I was like, “hey, can you just come pick up this load? I’ll pay you this much on it”. And it ended up being a, just a situation, but we worked through it. And then I learned that you actually have some technicalities you have to go through if you want to give your load to someone else. So that was why we got our original area, got our broker’s license. Well, we’re in 2015 and it just starts hitting the fan. So at this point, I’m running around 13 trucks. I’ve got two mechanics outside, three people in the office. We’re probably around 20 employees, give or take. And we’re moving a lot of loads. We’re staying busy. Man, it’s like we just hit a wall. And during that time, I was just sitting there thinking, man, I’ve got so much debt. I never dreamed of being in so much debt in my life. And it’s like, even though you have revenue coming in, you see it going out the door. I was paying drivers incorrectly. I was paying them load percentage, but I wasn’t taking anything out. I was paying like 30 and 35% on gross revenue on a load. That’s how much I didn’t know about what I was doing. So I’m paying like 30, 35%. I’m also giving massive bonuses on inspections because

Brent – 00:15:17

Yeah, they’re loving you

Michael – 00:15:19:

our safety records were not good when we started off. Remember the fire extinguishers and the log books and these things? This is all mistakes that we made early on. So I’m getting these letters from the FMCSA telling me I’ve got to write a report on how we’re not going to do this again, or I’m going to lose my DOT number. I mean, it was really a nightmare early on. And there’s no one there to really help you. You just have to continue figuring this out and writing these letters. And then your customer’s calling you like, hey, if your safety ratings don’t get down, we’re not going to be able to continue using you. And you’re sitting there saying, man, these safety… I’ve gotten pulled over twice. I’ve gotten pulled over twice. I have at the time, I had like three trucks and I got pulled over twice. And all of a sudden, I have a 90% out of service rate. The odds are stacked against you when you start off. I tell people that if you’ve only got one truck and you get pulled over and you go out of service once because of something small, it doesn’t matter. You still have 100% out of service rate. So as we started to grow, we really tried to turn that around. And we did, we went from probably some of the worst safety ratings in our area to the best within two years. So 2015, I’m thinking, man, our safety’s good. We’re moving along. But then we hit the wall with our business, right? And oil and gas goes into a recession. I start basically losing drivers because I’m running off of load boards. I ran it a profitable month. I want to say it was January of 2016, I ran a profitable month. And then after that, it was straight downhill. Drivers started leaving me. I took it down to two drivers and they saw the writing on the wall. And so I was still taking care of some of the loads I was doing with our brokerage license. But it was then that I realized, I don’t know anything about diesel engines. Somebody could tell me it’s a $10,000 problem and it could be a $500 problem and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I just didn’t like the place where I was at in business and what I was trying to do. I just didn’t feel like I was educated enough for the situations that I was in. Well, I know a lot more about computers, negotiation. And after being on the Carrier end of brokers and brokered loads, I started seeing that, man, these people really talk to people bad. It was just constant. It didn’t matter who I called. 80% of the calls I made to freight brokerages, it was like I was already starting off below them. I hated that. I did not like that. I thought like, hey, listen. I’m doing you a service to take the load for your customer. I know I’m putting one of my best drivers on it. I know I’m running good equipment here and I know we run an honest business. So, we don’t have to start off. I’ve got more insurance coverage than probably 90% of the carriers that are calling into you. And I just felt like there should be a higher service level there. So, as I started running out of loads and running out of trucks, I started thinking, maybe my next opportunity with this business is going to be more with a brokerage. And I knew with the oil and gas customers, it’s important that you don’t go out of business. You still have to maintain the name. And so, at the time we were PDQ Trucking and we switched to PDQ America because I didn’t want to be known as just a trucking company. I wanted to be known as a logistics business and one that did freight brokering and trucking. And so, we really started changing that model in 2016 to be strictly brokerage. Well, it took some time to get work back, but exactly what I hoped would happen did. And that was a lot of customers that we had on the front end of that oil and gas recession. A lot of them made it. And then whenever they made it through, they saw that we were still there. And so, we started getting phone calls for these loads. So, we’re taking care of customers once again and did that for probably two or three years. And in 2019, I got into this place where I was really wanting to learn more about the industry and thinking like, I’ve done leadership conferences, I’ve done self-development conferences, but I’ve never done a logistics conference. I’ve never went to a trucking conference. And I think it was like February or March of 2019, there was freight waves in Atlanta and Gary Vee was like the headline speaker. And so, I go to this freight waves and I’m by myself. I’m just hanging out. So, I go to this freight waves and I’m like sitting there in the audience. I listened to Gary Vee. He gets you fired up. And then I’m on like the third person that morning. And I’m just sitting there thinking like, man, I know what I want to do with this business. I’m just not doing it. It’s not that I don’t have enough money or I don’t have enough courage or I’m just not doing. I’m just not pushing this business forward. I settled like, okay, we move a handful of loads. Like we keep a few trucks busy. We’re breaking even, making a little profit every year. It was a safe place, right? But it wasn’t a place of growth. But at frieghtwaves that’s when I would put out on my Linkedin I’d put out that I was trying to find someone to come in and do media because I’d had this idea for a podcast and I’d already done a podcast in another business called Manufacturing Leadership. And so, I’d done some podcasting, but I was like, I really think that’s what trucking needs because I was thinking, I’ve gone through all of these problems. I’ve had all of these issues. And it’s like, if someone would have been able tell me some of this stuff early on, maybe it would have helped me in taking some shortcuts and not having to go through some of the low points of business. And the idea was like, I bet there’s others out there just like me that are wanting to hear that. But others like me that want to share our stories of being able to take something, make something of it, lose it, and then be able to make something back that goes even further. And so I just, I kept having this idea and it was almost like it was just, it was on me. It was like something I had to do and put it on my LinkedIn. Does anybody know anybody? Well, somebody that was an employee at PDQ America had commented on something and next thing someone tags Aaron Dunn here on the post. And that was where Aaron and I kicked off.

Brent – 00:18:51:

That started the relationship. That’s super cool. I want to go back to your statement about changing your business or what a financial advisor would tell you is called pivoting your business. So they say in business, it’s not the bad problems that sink you. It’s not pivoting fast enough that will sink you every single time because you got to take risks. You’ve got to look at opportunities out there and some of them work out and some of them don’t depending on market conditions and depending on your approach to them. But it’s always the pivot that the being able to pivot away from a bad idea very quickly to move towards aggressively and beneficially towards a good idea. So you pivoting towards going from a expedited hauler starting out going, I just, this is a really cool idea. I love it. I got him a truck. I’ve got a really cool idea. And then realizing owning assets is a challenging, it’s a very unique way of operating. And the school of hard knocks, which is, Michael, it sounds like that’s a lot of what you went through. That’s a really tough way to learn in this industry. Now, most people take the same route you did. So thank you so much for sharing your sort of ups and downs there. But the biggest thing to me, I hear you saying is, you pivoted towards where you felt like you could have the best success because you liked freight. You like trucking in general, but you wanted to stay on the freight, use your skills. And then you said, okay, well, I want to use what the world is providing out there, which is the broad media, the social media aspect things and really start to really move my brand of PDQ into another form of itself. And so you put out an opportunity out there and then this guy to your left, my right, I’m looking at right here, comes in, got him Aaron Dunn. Tell me about what it was like first meeting Aaron. First off, thank you for telling that story. I know many people get a big benefit out of it, Michael. So you met this guy named Aaron Dunn. Tell me about the first meeting, what it was like. And then Aaron, I want to hear what it was like you first meeting Michael in the beginning of this relationship. And then I want to talk about trucking for millennials and how that’s a big help to a new sort of generation of the marketplace. So go ahead, Michael, tell me what it was like when you first met this bearded guy to your left.

Michael – 00:20:57:

Well, I’ll tell you, there’s not too many people I know that are like already like just like doing podcasting, right? And so like to find someone just out in the wild that just likes to create podcasts was like a pretty unique thing. But I’d done my homework on Aaron. He had a local podcast and he interviews people. And like the one I saw, like he went to Jacksonville or Palestine, Texas or something. And he was like showing off the city. And I was like, this dude’s just doing some stuff. He had some YouTube videos on showing off cars. And I was like, man, he’s just a multi-talented individual. And anyways, I called and asked him if he wanted to go to lunch. And so we went to a hot spot in Tyler. I was like, I want to go somewhere cool. It’s very important to show a good first impression, especially whenever you’re trying to attain talent in your business. And at the time I have four employees. He’s living in Tyler. I know he’d have to drive an hour just to get to where we are. Like you got to put your best foot forward, right? And you only get so many times to make a first impression. And so it was important that we went somewhere nice for lunch. And I felt like we really didn’t even talk a whole lot of business that first time. It was just about getting to know each other. I think at the time Game of Thrones finale was like coming on. I was about to take a big trip with my wife for a study abroad thing. And so all this was like culminating at once. I think it was early May actually is when that freight waves was. And it was only like a week and a half later, me and him are at lunch. But I was like, I got to do a lot in like two weeks. And then I’m gone for two weeks. And so it was important. Like I wanted to make sure this conversation happened before I left. So I called Aaron. We went to lunch and I thought we had a really good meeting. Told him a little bit about I was wanting to do. And over that lunch is whenever I’d shared the idea that I had for a podcast called Trucking for Millennials.

Brent – 00:22:35:

Before you get started on this- Where’s this cool place in Tyler, Texas? Y’all went to lunch. I mean, come on. We got to have a good name of the place.

Michael – 00:22:39:

It’s called The Grove. And it is a really cool spot.

Brent – 00:22:42:

Hey, if you’re in Tyler, go to The Grove. For sure. So you want to make a good impression, Aaron. And now it’s your chance. Okay. So you said, sure, I’ll take the lunch. Why not? All right. So I’m a trucking expert. Not really. Right.

Michael – 00:22:55:

I knew he didn’t know anything about trucking. It was okay.

Brent – 00:22:58:

This is why when I got to do the interview with Aaron earlier, I just was amazed at how much he’s fallen in love with trucking. So Aaron said, tell us about your experience in meeting Michael. And then just the idea that Michael had.

Aaron – 00:23:09:

Yeah. So I was tagged on LinkedIn and I was into kind of the same thing. I come from a car sales background. And when I got into car sales, I learned very quick that if it was going to be, it was up to me and no one was really going to hold your hand. Training in the car business is not really great. And so I started to dive headfirst into all things, marketing, promotion, sales, and really just soaking all that in as much as I could on podcasts like these and things that were in my industry. And I started to develop the skill of knowing how to create that content and then share and build a message, build a brand around myself so I could attract new customers. And so I was in that mode and always looking for the local people who are in that same mode or had a little taste of it. I was always keeping my ear to the ground with people who were thinking in this innovative way because at that time, not everybody had a podcast and not everybody was doing that thing which is where I saw the opportunity. And so anytime that somebody was doing something like that, I wanted to be connected with them. It didn’t matter what they did. I wanted to be connected with them. So Michael raising that signal, it was just another conversation that I knew I needed to have with somebody who was thinking on that same wavelength. And so when I met with Michael and he wanted to go to the Grove, I thought that was cool because it was a great restaurant, but also just meeting him and just his demeanor and character. I could tell that he was somebody that could trust, I could level with. We’re both young guys. And so it was interesting to meet a young person. I knew nobody in trucking and so I knew nothing about trucking. But to start the conversation about a job in media and stuff to apply my skills in this different industry, I was like, well, I could probably do that. I like to learn. And I had a sharp learning curve, but Michael was very supportive and very open with, hey, this is what I want to do. And I thought it was an innovative and creative idea. And so I was like, yeah, I think I could put my time and effort and energy into that and see where it comes about.

Brent – 00:25:12:

That’s super cool. So did you immediately say yes to Michael’s ask or did you have to think about it? What was-so give me the background on that.

Aaron – 00:25:22:

Yeah. Well, so like he said, like he had to leave and everything. So it gave me some time

Brent – 00:25:25:

Yeah. In two weeks, he had to go gallivanting around the globe.

Aaron – 00:25:28:

Right. Right. So, which was interesting in itself, right? I was like, well, who is this dude?

Michael – 00:25:32:

We went to Beijing and Mongolia.

Aaron – 00:25:35:

And I was like, okay. And then, so I was just learning more about Michael in that instance. And so in a way it was a yes from the jump because I knew that he had something.

Michael – 00:25:45:

That’s good to know.

Aaron – 00:25:46:

Yeah. It was a yes, but then it was also-

Michael – 00:25:48:

For me it was too, for what it counts.

Aaron – 00:25:49:

It gave me time too, to just consider, of course, it was a 45-minute commute for me, all those types of different things like, you know, Tyler and Longview are close, but they’re two separate- very different cities. But at that time I was doing some sales for a marketing agency and it was all right. But the environment was-I was always open. So This opportunity just seemed like something really cool. It just seemed like there’s what the truck and there was nothing else. And I mean, I was like, this is right for disruption in some ways, in terms of how you communicate and market a logistic business. And I was like, I’m in on that for sure.

Brent – 00:26:23:

Yeah, no doubt. You said something that really captured my attention, Aaron, when you said- “I wanted to build a brand around myself”. And so I encourage a lot of young professionals that get into trucking or get into any part of business is that, the only brand you can truly control is yourself. And how does that brand come across? And every moment of every day, you’re either building that brand or you’re eroding that brand. It’s up to you because you control that. And then when you think about a business as well, for Michael’s business and now your business as well, every day, you’re either building that brand to better strength or you’re allowing it to erode to a weaker position. And it’s up to you to do it every single day. And so when I talk to young professionals a lot, and this is the same thing in trucking, I’ve had so many trucking friends that say the same thing. It’s your job to be reinforcing your brand every single day. And Michael, as the president and founder of PDQ, you take it real personally. Because it’s not just I own a company and the company’s an entity. That’s not how ownership works. It represents you as a person. And so super, super cool. So I appreciate you saying that. That’s a great point, Aaron, about the brand of yourself and then that going on to the brand of the company. So, Michael, when you said I had this idea for a podcast for the younger generation in trucking, you can say millennials. But honestly, that’s an adjective for more or less of younger professionals or younger up and coming people.So what made you want to- So what even motivates you to go, “okay, well, I want a brokerage, but I really want to have a podcast for these young professionals in the industry”. What was your genesis behind that?

Michael – 00:30:51:

It was just the mistakes and how hard trucking is. Listen, the barrier of entry is not hard. To start a trucking business is not hard. It’s something I go back and forth on that. It’s really not good how easy it is just to go get a DOT number and start a trucking business. You really it’s a very low barrier of entry, but it’s a very high risk. And you don’t know that whenever you go into it. And even if you go into it with some money, you’re already. You don’t even know that yet. And if you go in and you buy five trucks, you’re really in debt before you even get started. So I think that was the motivation that I was like, I’ve got all this material here, all these experiences. Someone needs to hear this. But it wasn’t so much is that it needed to hear my story. They needed to hear other people’s stories. They needed to hear that you can make it. And like you mentioned, the pivot. Pivoting is so much of what this industry is. Well, I haul this in the winter. I’ll haul this in the summer or I got this trailer. And I got this trailer. Like, I just don’t even believe you make it in this industry without some type of pivot. I think that you have to be able to pivot, whether it’s seasonally, whether it’s annually, whether it’s in your business every five years. There’s always going to be challenges in the customers in this business are always changing. The characters are always changing. People are always coming in and going out. So that was really the basis for wanting to start that podcast.

Brent – 00:32:08:

No, super cool. They say that you’ve reached a real point of value when you can give others the wisdom of your mistakes. And so that’s so true. I mean, parents do that with their kids, right? Business leaders do that with the new people that come in. So that’s super cool. All right. So Trucking for Millennials, you guys have a pretty good size following. Talk about the following, then talk about like, what are the ideas that are really compelling that you like to talk about? Or maybe the ones that come up all the time. And then what are some new things that seem to be hitting the marketplace that’s important to communicate?

Aaron – 00:32:44:

The cool thing about the podcast and being able to be in it from the start is that I got to learn the industry every single day, but also through the lens of other people that we interviewed. And so like over time, I’ve been able to compound what I know by just having more conversations with folks. And we’ve interviewed and continue to interview truck drivers, technicians, other brokers, vendors, you name it. And everybody has a different frame of the industry, different perspectives, and all those perspectives together really help build a professional true perspective on what’s going on. And so that’s been really cool to see evolve. Like when I first started, there was still a little fallout about ELD mandates and things like that. And then you know, you fast forward to, and then rates being high and then COVID. So it’s like rates were whatever they were. I didn’t really know too much. I didn’t have the historical data behind. I just had Michael and some other people. And I think going, well, rates are this and now they’re that. Now you go through COVID, you come out of COVID, you really start to get a better understanding of the ups and downs of the industry and how things fluctuate. And then you add a little double brokering or the current bad things or the things that make the news this day. And then when you talk to a truck driver, you get a whole other wealth of information and intelligence and understanding of like what they actually go through. You talk about brokering Carrier relationships and how important relationships are. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that is a common thread through everybody that we talk to is how important real relationships and talking about. Instead of theory and education, but tactical communication and working together, collaboration with the people that you actually need to collaborate with to move the business forward. I think that’s like the biggest thing as far as like an insight comes about. And then you’ve got all the other things that are, they’re always present, but sometimes they peak at certain times if it’s bad rates or weather or the double brokering type stuff. That’s how I’d answer that

Brent – 00:35:12:

Yeah, as they say, it’s always something, man. And that’s the great thing about moving freight. And I appreciate you bringing up the most important thing in what we do is about maintaining the relationship. I have a great relationship with Kevin Rutherford, a guy that talks a lot about the business aspect of things. And he and I are always preaching, look, it’s about creating those five or six really beneficial relationships. They’re going to drive the formation or the foundation of your profitability. And then filling in other areas that are some, maybe a part of the country you want to go to if you’re a trucker or areas that can be predictable for yourself. So super cool. So, all right. So how many episodes? How many episodes have you guys done for Trucking for Millennials?

Aaron – 00:35:53:


Brent – 00:35:55:

Well, wow. That’s all? Michael, would you have ever dreamed you’d have gotten to 229?

Michael – 00:36:04:

It’s like just taking it one show at a time. And I mean, there’s no finish line, right? If you live your life thinking there’s always a finish line, what most of us do is we’re running, like we tend to slow down. So I don’t know. I live with no finish line, man. We just keep going. And that’s a lot of shows, Aaron.

Aaron – 00:36:19:

Yeah. Cool. Yeah, it’s legit. I love it. Every week.

Brent – 00:36:27:

That’s cool. So you guys have obviously 200 and something plus episodes. You’ve interviewed some pretty cool people. What was one that was really like, I really enjoyed this? Or what was one that you went, whoa, well, maybe that was unique.

Michael – 00:36:40:

I think we both.

Aaron – 00:36:42

I bet we know. Which one you want first?

Brent – 00:36:43:

Which one you know first?

Michael – 00:36:44:

We’ve only had like maybe two out of the 200. So 1% of the shows were guests that I would never ask to be on the show again.

Brent – 00:36:50:


Michael – 00:36:51:

Or that’s only 1%, actually. It’s only 1% of the guests. And it wasn’t because they did anything wrong. It was just, it was an event.

Brent – 00:37:04:

Right. I got it.

Aaron – 00:37:06:

Yeah. The characters in the industry. I mean, anybody who’s in the industry knows you meet some characters. If it’s a shipper, a truck driver or whatnot. And so you can just imagine if it’s anybody that you just touch base with on a phone call, you’re like, man, that’s crazy. I’m never going to call that shipper again. Or man, that guy was nuts. Like, can you believe that truck driver just said that? Just imagine that for an hour. And then that is the episodes that we’re talking about. They’ll remain anonymous. We got through it. It was cool.

Michael – 00:37:38

Everybody learned something from that episode. Just not sure what.

Brent – 00:37:40

One time when I worked for the media company, I worked for Overdrive magazine, and we were interviewing one of our truckers. That was a really accomplished trucker. And I said, Hey, I got to have you on this video. And this guy had a great, huge personality. We got on video and he was kinda like Ricky Bobby the was the first time he was interviewed. He’s like, I don’t know what to do. And we actually, I know. Well, I don’t know what to do with my hands. And so, and then we brought in one of the NASCAR legends for him to talk to. And then he really just froze up. And it was like, okay this is a person where. Things change when you get on camera or you get on the radio. That sort of, so it’s very unique. So- where do you go you’re continuing on with Trucking for Millennials, creating your teaching, you’re helping, you’re assisting so many people in the marketplace that say, okay, well, if you’re going to get into it as a trucking company, here’s some things that would be good to think about. If you’re going to get into it as a brokerage company, here’s some important things to think about. What’s next for Trucking for Millennials? And Michael, on top of that, what sort of is next, Michael? What impact is producing the podcast had on your business. Because you’re using it as a help, 100%, your heart, it’s obvious you’re doing that. But you also did it from a standpoint of promoting PDQ. So Aaron, tell me about what’s next for Trucking for Millennials, and then Michael, I want to hear your point of view on how it’s helped your business.

Aaron – 00:39:19:

Yeah, cool. So thinking about what’s next, I mean, obviously, we are a freight brokerage with a podcast, not a podcast in general. With a brokerage on the side. So one thing that when I think about Trucking for Millennials and going to the next level, whatever that means, I think about how can we be sure that we are distributing it to the people who actually really value it and appreciate it? And then how can we take this knowledge and make sure that people get that bite size piece? Because not everybody has time to dive into the 44-minute of a podcast or whatnot. So how can we make sure that valuable nugget hits the carriers that we work with? Or how can we create content that can actually help a shipper understand what we go through and the things that we guard them against when we’re thinking about carriers? So here recently, and definitely we’re going to 10x the in 2024 of packaging our media that we create via the podcast and other means, and really delivering it in a way that showcases the strengths that PDQ has in the standards that we uphold, and the reasons we do what we do. Because the thing about the podcast that is really cool is that it does give you insights. It really does. It showcases- gives you the opportunity to use your voice and communicate what you do every day. And so words and videos and everything like that. That’s cool. That’s awesome. But at the end of the day, it’s how does that map to service? And so the next level for Trucking for Millennials is how can we really integrate the services that we provide with the knowledge that we have, and then push that out into the marketplace? Because it’s something that I don’t think anybody has done. And we want to do it to a really high level. I personally think that there’s a future where, and Truckstop might not like this, but the load board is not necessary because we’ve got the following that we need to post a load on an Instagram story or a YouTube, and then a Carrier, provided they’re qualified, provided they’re safe, provided they do the checks and balances that we check out, can book that load via the media vehicles that exist. And so being able to build a Carrier network through the social networks that are in everybody’s hands is the point that I’m trying to get to. Obviously, easier said than done. But also, it’s just like, how can we make sure that customers really understand that we know what we’re talking about? They don’t have time when we’re trying to book a load. They might have time when they see it in their email. They see us when they’re just lounging on the couch at seven o’clock at night, me talking about or another team member talking about what does it mean to uphold good compliance for a Carrier? And what does it mean to ensure that things show up on time? What’s good customer service? And those type of things of like, oh, wow, they think about this, not just when I’m on the phone with them. They think about this to a degree that is unlike anybody I’ve ever seen. When you have the information, you have the knowledge, gives you a certain set of confidence to be able to speak. And so in four years time, it’s taken me to learn the industry and go through my own share of ups and downs to get that callous, that grit, to be able to communicate and really speak with conviction that, look, I know what I’m doing. My team knows what we’re doing. And we’re professionals and professionals communicate what they’re good at and no more, no less.

Brent – 00:43:27:

Yeah, man, that’s cool. No, all about help creating more opportunity in the marketplace. So thank you for that, Aaron. So, Michael, how’s it helped your business? And then we’re going to wrap it up on that one.

Michael – 00:43:38:

I mean, for one, Aaron and I have a wonderful working relationship and we work hard on some of the toughest problems people can face in a business. For usually an hour or two hours a week, we get to come in here and leave all that behind and get to come in here and have fun with the problems that we’re actually going through. So it keeps you grounded. And I would say like, as far as a business, it’s helped us internally in that way. It also helps us to see the problems for what they are is these are not things that are going to end your life. They’re not going to end your business. But if you don’t make a decision and you don’t make the right one in the right timeframe, it’s going to have a negative impact on us. And you only need to do that a couple of times before a bad decision does become something that can end your business. And so getting to do those things, talk about them on the show. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had guests on Trucking for Millennials. And as we’re talking to them on the show, it’s like, God put them on the show at that moment so we could hear what they had to say. And I can’t tell you how many times that answer has manifested itself that we were asking in our business from a podcast guest. And so it’s not that we monetize off of it. We don’t. We don’t really advertise it. We don’t push it. It’s something that if you find us or if someone brought you to our show, like you’re going to get benefit out of it. I did want to shout out to Dooner. Dooner starting off was one of our biggest fans without getting to go on What the Truck. Aaron was on XM radio at the Texas Trucking Show, one year. Just all these things happened at the start that I’ve got this thing in life, man, where it’s like, I feel like the Lord drops these little breadcrumbs where it lets you know you’re in the right place at the right time and you’re moving in the right direction. Because sometimes in life, we don’t always feel like we’re moving in the right direction, right? But it’s like, I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Well, Man, just throughout my life, those little things have happened. And with this podcast, it happened really early on with Dooner. And we’ve just continued to push it with the conversations that we have. I think for our business, it’s helped us become a reputable person in the industry. You can trust us whether you’re a carrier or whether you’re a shipper. There’s multiple reasons, but also from a talent perspective. I mean, dude, we brought some guys together in 2018 and 2019 now that we’ve got a pretty consistent team here. And for myself, whenever it comes to business and like what the goals are, seeing Aaron grow over the last four years, seeing these people grow and thinking back the mid 2010s, me sitting on my laptop until two, three, four or five in the morning, working on media and then working on our CRM and then working on our dispatch software and then working on accounting codes. All these different things that you work on when you start a business to now know that I’ve got a leadership team with four people that we work on all of these things together. Whenever I’m sleeping, I know one of them is thinking about it. Whenever they’re sleeping, they know I’m thinking about it. I would say that like through our business, through our podcast, through all these things, it just pushes growth. It just pushes progress. And there’s nothing. I know than to try to continue putting people in positions for themselves to grow and make themselves better. And it’s such a unique situation in our business that I really feel like we can bring anybody into our company. Anybody can come into PDQ and you’re going to grow. It’s up to you, though. It’s just like most freight brokerages, right? You’re only going to grow as much as you want to. But if you want to make something of yourself, I feel like we’ve been able to create that opportunity. And I think our podcast speaks volumes to that. I think what we do internally, how we focus on our shippers, our carriers, we put health and safety first. We focus on our values and we just try to build a good culture. And all that comes out in how we display ourselves and how we build our brand through our podcasts and our media and those things. And so I think a podcast is a great thing. Do I think it’s for everybody? No, but I’ll definitely encourage anybody that thinks that they want to get started in media, whether it’s their Instagram or going live on something or putting on some TikToks, like just do it. And the worst that can happen is like five people see it and they don’t like it. And like, who cares? Right. So I think it’s more important just to put media out there. Just try to do stuff like get over. It’s just like myself. I had to get over myself. I had to get over failure or me looking like a goofball on camera or something like, listen, I’m going to look like a goofball on or off camera, right? And my wife’s going to make fun of me either way. So it doesn’t matter. But it’s important that if you think you have a good message or you think that you can grow people or others can grow through your message, like just do it. And listen, if they’re not, people are just not going to tune in or people are going to help you with that. And you’re going to improve and get better. And man, you never know whenever you push yourself, more people are going to want to tag along. And it’s been awesome getting to work with Aaron. He keeps pushing me to be a better Michael. I hope that I push him to be a better Aaron. And I hope that all of us in our walls here are pushing each other. And man, I’m just excited. Thanks for having us on, dude. This was a lot of fun. And it was really cool getting to share our story and that you don’t just pop up and you’re in 10 years in business, right? And you also, you’re not in business for 10 years without going through some trouble. So I don’t know. It was cool to get to share the story today.

Brent – 00:48:45:

Yeah, man, I love the last part of this. And you guys both talking about a heart of service, serving each other, serving your internal team and then serving the marketplace in general. So that’s super important and super inspiring, man. I know that many people on Freight Nation will take away from just hearing your story. And so I just picked up on something I think is really cool. And I think PDQ is also defined by another definition. And it’s right there on the front of Aaron’s hoodie he’s wearing. It says purpose-driven quality. I thought that’s super cool, man. So what a great story. What a great example to others in ways in which they can start and grow their own businesses. And so really appreciate you guys being on, Michael and Aaron, and telling your story. It means a lot that you do that here on Freight Nation. Really appreciate you guys being around. And that’s a wrap for Freight Nation. At Freight Nation, we say we want you to work hard, want you to be kind, and always stay humble. Thanks a lot for listening to Freight Nation. Appreciate it. And look for us all around the web. And appreciate you guys listening. On behalf of the Truckstop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to truckstop.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. Until then, keep on trucking and exploring the open roads with Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast.

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