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Episode 21: Inside the Mid-America Trucking Show with Show Manager Toby Young

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, all right, Freight Nation, welcome back to another podcast by truckstop.com. Really appreciate you joining us today. Today’s going to be a little bit of a stroll on the history of the trucking industry and a history of the most impactful show and event inside of the transportation industry. So I’m super excited about it. It’s something that has been a part of my life since 1998. I get to tell people all about how I get to go to this really, really cool show that’s in Louisville, Kentucky in March every year and how important it is to my life. So I’m really excited for Toby Young, who is the president of Exhibit Management Associates, who produces the Mid-America Trucking Show, to join us today. He’s my friend. We’ve become good friends for over a long time. We have a lot in common with each other. I’m really excited that he’s going to be on Freight Nation today to just talk about the show and what’s going on at the show and then how it can be a benefit to you listening. So Toby, thanks a lot for joining.

Toby – 00:01:23:

Thanks for having me, Brent. It’s always a pleasure to meet with you and just love catching up.

Brent – 00:01:26:

Yeah, man, no doubt. In 1998, when I started with Overdrive Magazine, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would think of the last, the third or fourth week in March as one of my favorite weeks of the year. I never thought that I would ever be so excited to go to a show that’s so big, you got to wear your track shoes to get from one end to the other. I never thought I’d be so excited to eat the best pork chop sandwich in America. I have an extreme fondness for the Mid-America Trucking Show. A lot of that is because of you and your leadership and your family’s leadership in the show. But it’s also how dedicated you have been to supporting the owner-operator in the small carrier part of the marketplace. The show is for the entire trucking industry, but you really have had a heart for supporting that owner-operator. And so I just appreciate what Mid-America has meant to me. I like for the Freight Nation people to hear the story because you’re… Your history in this industry is very unique. You didn’t like, I got out of school and I decided to go to work for some company that produces a truck show. You were born into this marketplace. I’d love for you to tell the Freight Nation watchers and listeners a little bit on your background with the Mid-America Truck Show and how you and part of your family got into this. And so give us the history, man.

Toby – 00:02:44:

Sure. More or less born into it, tried to get away from it and just got drugged back into it. So that’s my story. So the story of Mid-America Truck Show and myself and my family, the show was started back in 1972 by my grandfather. Paul K. Young, whose namesake, Grace, says our truck beauty championships.

Brent – 00:03:01:

Great man.

Toby – 00:03:01:

Great man. Didn’t get to work with him a lot, but saw how dedicated he was and definitely was a big part of my upbringing and for who I am today. But back in 1972, he and three friends kind of had the idea of. Hey, we want to do an event. And he was based out of Louisville and Somerset and just kind of the Kentucky area. And to paint the picture back then in 1972. There were a few big shows and MidAmerica wasn’t even on the radar, wasn’t even a thought. There was a big show in Boston. Mm-hmm. There was the International Trucking Show, which… Has since gone back and forth between California and Las Vegas. Right. And there were some smaller regional shows. But their idea was basically, hey, that big show that’s out west, the International Trucking Show. We want that here. And so they had the idea. At the time, my grandfather was working for the Kentucky Motor Transport Association, who is now the Kentucky Trucking Association. He was a lobbyist. He had been a used tire salesman for trucking. And just he and three friends had the idea, hey, let’s start it here. And so they kind of pulled resources, then brought in some consultants to try to get it going. They had lots of industry contacts having worked in the industry for so long and you know, different manufacturers and suppliers and whatnot. And so pulled the show together, got all their suppliers, manufacturers to participate. That first year, 1972, 98 exhibitors and around 4,000 attendees.

Brent – 00:04:29:

Okay.

Toby – 00:04:30:

And so, a humble beginning. Yeah. And since then, our show has grown to be That’s over a million square foot now, 800, 900, even 1,000 exhibitors at times, 50, 60, 70,000 attendees. Just a huge show and We’ve now supplanted the International Trucking Show. Doesn’t really take place in that form anymore. The Boston Trucking Show hasn’t taken place in, gosh, 15 years now.

Brent – 00:04:56:

Long time.

Toby – 00:04:57:

Yeah. Gads that you were a big part of, hasn’t my family kind of helped get that going at some point.

Brent – 00:05:02:

You’re a big, big, vital part of it.

Toby – 00:05:04:

But since then hasn’t take place and don’t know that it will. And so we’re kind of the last show of our kind remaining. But back to my story. So grandfather to my dad, my uncles, aunts, brother, cousins. We’ve all pitched in at some point. My life started in high school, stuffing envelopes and, you know, working registration and just being a lumper for a trade show, basically, back since I was in high school, 13 years old. Didn’t have that vision for my future of working in the trade show industry or the trucking industry. And so went to college. I have a degree in chemistry. I have a degree in chemical engineering. Spent, I guess. Gosh, seven years in college, getting multiple degrees, did very well for myself, but… Basically, once I graduated, the show was kind of going through a transition. Had been dating my current wife for like seven years, and she was ready to set up roots. And the job offers I got coming out of engineering school were all in the South. And so. Like Texas, Louisiana area.

Brent – 00:06:07:

Right.

Toby – 00:06:08:

And so just had a discussion with my dad and he needed some help, was going through some. Personal and work troubles. And I came in and started in sales, then did the website, then PR, media. I’ve done just about everything. Now I’ve, um… I’m more or less the last full-time young remaining.

Brent – 00:06:29:

Right.

Toby – 00:06:29:

And so, you know, still bring my dad in to work shows. He’s still been working shows, bring my brother in. Uncles and anybody else that can help us out. So it’s a family show and definitely trucking is family. And so that’s really nice to have the same kind of setup here. And so we just work it around to put on this really big, great show.

Brent – 00:06:48:

Right. You mentioned a couple of things about starting in 1972. We’re obviously in 2024. So you got 50 plus years at this show. So I do want to talk a little bit about your relationship, like working with your family and working with things because trucking is obviously many times a family business. So talk a little bit about like, as you were a young man, because I remember you saying that you started kind of, my guess is they didn’t ask you to come work at the show. So your granddad and dad probably said, hey, you’re working. This is what you’re going to be doing. So by the way, my dad was the same way with me at a small steel processing company. And if we ever had something that had to get out over the weekend or something like that and get on a truck or something, it would say, Randy, Brent, David. That’s my two brothers and me. You’re working Saturday morning, be there at eight o’clock. So I’m sure you experienced the same thing. But over those years before you took over and were like leading the show, what were some of the unique things you saw at the show that you were like, wow, how am I going to solve that problem?

Toby – 00:07:48:

Definitely been a lot of those and definitely working with family, having something I may see as a problem. No one else may see that also as a problem. And so. Trying to clean things up as I think is best for our trajectory. Certainly that was a big part of the struggles, but there’s been a lot of stuff like vendors that I don’t think contribute to the trajectory that I want us to be on, you know, maybe the, you know, non-professional vendors or some that. Have really great shows and people really enjoy seeing, but. It’s not really focused on the trucking industry. And so trying to. Filter some of that out and just make sure that We’re focused on our core competencies and focused on making the show better each and every year. And so Definitely, we’ve talked about this, but it has with… Family and especially my dad at the time when I kind of took over. Yeah. He’ll say, when you retired me. But at the time that I kind of took over, he had. Been doing it for a very long time. My dad had, by the time he retired, had 30 plus years in, a ton of experience and contacts and everything else. And so definitely gleaned a lot of that off of him. But it’s tough when you’re the new guy coming in. And family can make it even tougher, but… When you recommend a change or think, hey, we should do this or we should change that. That’s not always met with, yeah, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it. Some of the vendors that we’ve passed on in the past and.

Brent – 00:09:12:

Right.

Toby – 00:09:13:

Even the trajectory of focusing on bringing more events under the MATS umbrella. Hasn’t necessarily been met with, let’s do that. That’s the best for the show. But just we’re like any other company. We roll the dice sometimes. Don’t always make the right decisions. We just learn from them and try to keep getting better each and every year.

Brent – 00:09:31:

You hit on two things. Number one, I want to, if you give a couple minutes bump, what’s it like working? In concert with your dad and sort of conflict resolution, those sort of things. Like what would be your advice there? Because like I said, you know, trucking is very family oriented. And a lot of times you’re working with family across the board and it’s not uncommon. So talk a little bit about what would be your advice on navigating that. Then I want to talk a little bit about the show itself. So yeah, talk a little bit about working with your family.

Toby – 00:09:56:

My advice on conflict resolution with families. Don’t do what I did.

Brent – 00:10:01:

No, no, really?

Toby – 00:10:03:

So I have, especially as a younger meetings, professional. I’m fresh out of college.

Brent – 00:10:10:

Yeah.

Toby – 00:10:10:

This was a former me, but my 200 plus credit hours of college, I have 13 hours of bees. And Everything else was ace.

Brent – 00:10:19:

Right.

Toby – 00:10:20:

I graduated top of my class in engineering school. I did not get even a B in chemical engineering.

Brent – 00:10:26:

Wow.

Toby – 00:10:27:

Graduated valedictorian of Speed School here at University of Louisville. And so not touting my accolades, but just… Want your listeners to understand that.

Brent – 00:10:37:

Right.

Toby – 00:10:37:

Smart in some regards, really dumb in others. And so…

Brent – 00:10:40:

Aren’t we all?

Toby – 00:10:41:

So… When it comes to conflict resolution, I am not, especially in my younger years, not the person that anyone should model after. And did I mention that my dad is… Pretty short guy with a chip on his shoulder. And… We have very similar personalities, very intelligent, can be very abrasive. When we first started out and when I began proposing changes. It was not always met with, yeah, that’s a good idea, Let’s go. No, sir. And so some heated conversations and… A lot of after the fact, hey, that was a good idea.

Brent – 00:11:15:

Yeah.

Toby – 00:11:16:

Good on you, whatever. But in the heat of the moment, we are both very passionate. And so we have done everything we could to get our points across. But at the end of the day, it’s family. We’re all working towards that same goal. And so my best advice would be to just take a step back out of yourself and to be able to just recognize. 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. And so I’ve oftentimes had to just take a break and say, hey, at the time, I didn’t present this as well as I could have, but here’s the reasons that I think we should do this. And cooler heads always prevail and still love and talk to each other every day. I wouldn’t change anything about how we resolved our conflicts and pulled shows together. It’s been a tumultuous rollercoaster ride, but… It’s been a blast. That’s what makes this job great, honestly. Is if it was the same every year and everything was just smooth sailing. I don’t think it would be the job for me because I’m that person who… Love challenges, whether it be… The family conflicts or the exhibitor conflicts or whatever the case may be. It’s never a dull moment in this business.

Brent – 00:12:29:

It sounds like with the fact that you were making straight A’s and one of the two most difficult undergraduate curriculum’s in college, chemical engineering, that you liked to problem solve. Not surprised that you were bumping heads with your dad because working with your dad can be a real challenge. So when you took a step back and you were, by the way, this is a great pro tip for Fright Nation, Toby’s talking about is give it a moment, give it a chance for maybe for someone to consider something. So did you find that when you kind of took that step back, that was like the pathway to like maybe getting your dad to like listen more to you or to consider what you were trying to bring to him?

Toby – 00:13:03:

Definitely. For me, we’ve had this conversation with my wife many times, just Kind of with family and friends and everyone you come in contact with, you learn two things from everyone, how to be or how not to be.

Brent – 00:13:14:

Yeah.

Toby – 00:13:14:

And so with my dad, definitely took a ton of advice and learned a ton from him. But also he can be kind of gruff and quick to react and things like that. And so from him and from our interaction, learned how not to be.

Brent – 00:13:29:

Right.

Toby – 00:13:29:

It’s just interesting, just I think as we all grow older. When I’m talking about these scenarios, I’m, 25 years old. I’m fresh out of college. I think I own the world. And I’m very book smart, very dumb in every other regard, just candidly. I see them in my kids now. You know, we’ve talked a lot about our kids. I have three kids. It’s just interesting. The one in college is so smart. She’s so intelligent. She is going to do big things. I can look at her and just know how book smart she is. But know how world or street dumb that she is. She just doesn’t have the experience. And so from my dad’s perspective, he’s looking at this young kid who may be really book smart, but he doesn’t have the experience yet. And all that comes with time. And so if I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self, hey, relax. Sometimes experience is way more valuable than book smart.

Brent – 00:14:22:

Yeah, no doubt. Well, that’s another super good pro tip. Isofrate Nation, this is super great. So when you meet people, you need to determine two things. I’ve never heard anybody say this, by the way. I don’t know where you got this, but this is great advice. When you meet somebody and you’ve got to be working with them, you need to understand two things, how to be or how not to be. That’s easy to remember. So that’s super good. So my dad was a little different than your dad. My dad was six foot five, ex-professional football player. He’s giant. He was a pretty kind, gentle guy because he didn’t have to use anything else. He just would look at you and go, this is the way it’s going to be. And he’s so big that I’m an average sized guy. My dad is nothing like average. There’s nothing like, Toby, the sort of satisfaction of knowing that you get to spend that time with your dad and you got to grow up and he got to grow. He got to grow more mature as well in working with you. And I had the same benefit with my dad. And my dad passed away almost four years ago and still miss him every day, man. But I’m thankful that I got to work with him. It was lots of fun. I worked with him as a kid and then we actually owned a business together, kind of like you and your dad. So a lot of similarities there. You mentioned something earlier I want to hit on this because I think this is important in trucking. Many times, whether you’re a one-truck entity, two-truck, 10-truck, 20-truck, you got to wear a lot of hats. You got to know how to run the business. And you told me that when you started working for Exhibit Management Associates, back when you were a young man, you said you were 25. Was that right when you started? 25? Roughly, yeah. You said you served a lot of different roles, you know, from sales to PR to website to all sorts of different parts. I’m sure it was operations, all those sort of things. And so give a little perspective on how that helped you when you transitioned into running it, being the leader of it. And granted, you got a team that works with you. Nobody does anything themselves. What was the benefit of being able to go through all those different segments of parts of the business that helps you in your leadership standpoint today?

Toby – 00:16:18:

Sure. For me, it’s just perspective, you know, to be able to one thing when you say, hey. Do this to someone who has a rapport. But the reality is, if you’ve been there, done that, you can just speak from, again, that experience. You can be book smart and understand how something’s built. But if you have experience with it, you can understand how it actually operates. And then you’re on more of like an even level. And that’s how I’ve always approached. Everyone that I work with or whether employed or above me or whatever, is I try to lead by example. I listed a bunch of things that I’ve done, but I’ve also on the weekends. To supplement my income, I’ve cleaned our offices. I take out the trash. I deliver the packages that we have going out. I take them to the post office. I have never asked anyone in this business or others. To do anything that I haven’t first done myself.

Brent – 00:17:07:

Oh, wow.

Toby – 00:17:08:

And so it’s just really important for me to have You know, it’s just a grassroots basic understanding first.

Brent – 00:17:14:

Right.

Toby – 00:17:14:

And then to lead by example, I’m not going to ask you. To take out the trash for me until you’ve seen me take out the trash. Because I’m not saying that it’s beneath me and I’m asking you to do it for that reason. We’re all trying to get to the finish line. And this is one task that has to be covered. I’m willing to do it, but I’m covered up with this. Could you do that for me? And so I can’t remember exactly how it goes. You see it in businesses. The leadership, the thing that’s hung on the wall, a picture, and it’s who’s a boss and who’s a leader. For me, 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, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get to the finish line. Yeah.

Brent – 00:17:57:

Super good advice, man. Super. Yeah. It pays to know the navigation of things. So if you’ve done it yourself, you know how to navigate. All right. So you took over in 2006. And last time I checked, it’s 2024. You’ve seen a lot in your tenure in leading the largest show in the industry. What were some of the things like, so you took over a show that everything has to innovate. Everything has to continue to improve itself. As Pettis Randall used to say, you’re always in the business of reinventing yourself. If you’re in business, you’re in the business of reinventing yourself because you have to keep it new. You have to keep it going forward. So what were some of the pivotal things from 2006 to 2024 that you saw were sort of things that you sort of said, okay, or your team got together and said, it would be good for us to start thinking about this and doing some of these things. And then once you finish commenting on that, I want to talk about what you talked about along about the events part of like changing the event and moving the event forward. So what’d you see those years? What were some of the pivotal things?

Toby – 00:18:54:

Sure. I mean, just anyone who’s been in this industry since that time frame knows that the only constant is change.

Brent – 00:19:00:

Yeah.

Toby – 00:19:00:

Everything is changing the companies, the players, the regulations, the compliance, everything. It’s just ever evolving. And so… I think the most important thing for us has always been to just be adaptable. And so. I took the approach many years back that we just want to be the forum. We just want to be the… In-person event for whatever is going on in the industry. And so 20 years ago when it was. The innovation and equipment and what you know, lease purchase. And then when it became the technology and the load board. We just want to make sure that The companies with those products view MATS as the place to be. And so whoever is driving the industry, wherever it’s headed. But whoever is driving it, that technological change, we want them to come to mass. You know, it’s been manufacturers, it’s been suppliers, it’s been the tech, it’s been the load boards, whatever the case may be. We just want everyone to view MATS as that go-to forum. For A lot of things. And so it’s, you know, the product unveils, the events for showcasing. Your latest for garnering feedback from your customers. The market research and the demoing and everything kind of throughout the years, all of the what’s in vogue has changed, but the constant is that Maths is that really great forum for showcasing it. Obviously with the internet, you can showcase things in different ways. And, you know, we’re on a call and we’re in two different states, that wasn’t all that common 20 years ago. But the reality is, and this is some opinion and some observation that, you know, the industry is a see it, touch it, feel it, demo it. Kind of industry. No one’s running out and making a $200,000 truck and trailer purchase without first demoing it. And I feel the same way about the technology products, whether it’s you know, a physical technology product or web-based or cloud-based or whatever the case may be. Everyone wants to demo things. And so… I’m that type of person. I’m a hands-on person. And that’s really what MATS is all about is just. Being that central meeting place for whatever’s going on in the industry. And so we. Come one, come all. If you’re focused on demoing or bringing a new product to market or talking to your customers. You’re not selling anything. You’re just wanting to get feedback on an existing product for, you know, what is the next iteration of that product as its just a really great place for that. And so that’s been really the. My main focus for many years now is just to make sure that we come off as this is the event that we want to be at for all of these things.

Brent – 00:21:37:

Right. No doubt. So you’ve kind of continued to innovate. I guess a lot of it is getting feedback from those that come in the market. I know that. Maybe a little bit more than a decade ago, they’re starting to become a little bit more of an international flair at the show. Could you talk a little bit about how this marketplace has become more than just the domestic manufacturers?

Toby – 00:21:58:

Sure. So for me, it’s not really about mats or trucking. It’s just about our world. And so 10, 15 years ago, it was just tougher to bring products from one market to the next. Or if you manufactured a product in another country to bring it to market here. And I think, you know, the technology and… The reality that our world is getting smaller because of connectivity. Mm-hmm. And Matt’s has been part of that as well. It’s just easier for these. International manufacturers, suppliers to bring their products to the states. I remarked this just like a month ago, a lot of our international exhibitors are just getting better at marketing. I don’t think that they really, some of them had a really great grasp on how to market products in this North American market market. And they’ve just gotten better at it. And so. Us being that forum, they’ve chosen us to showcase some of their innovations. And we’ve done everything that we can to make it so that. They feel welcome that we have lowered the barriers to entry. And that we really focus on them, eliminate their pain points. And to make the experience good for them. If you kind of do all of those things, then everything else falls into place, in my opinion.

Brent – 00:23:07:

Well, yeah, no doubt. So I just remember seeing different countries represented in different parts of the show where some of them had big footprints, some of them had smaller footprints. And you’re right. The world has become fairly flat because of the internet. Unless something dramatically changes with human beings, we will always appreciate and need the touch and feel on anything, especially in our industry. You need to get inside of a truck. Touching and feeling is pretty important. And what always strikes me is that, okay, let me ask you this question. So when you were a little kid, you had free access to the entire show floor, right? I’m sure you could go anywhere you wanted to. Well, when you were a kid, I’m going to harken back to some of the questions before, but one time. So when you were a little kid, so you had free access. I’m Paul Young’s grandson, you know, so like, oh yeah, sure, kid, come on in. Where were some of the great places, the cool places you like to go on the show?

Toby – 00:23:57:

Well, the number one, and it’s not necessarily a place, it’s just during setup.

Brent – 00:24:01:

Yeah.

Toby – 00:24:02:

And honestly, even to this day, I will go to the show before the first exhibitor is there or when the first few exhibitors start to get there. It is really strange and really interesting just to see this. Huge mass of concrete Our show is roughly a million square feet, and so you can just see this huge expanse of concrete. The lights are on, but it’s just a big open expanse of concrete. I don’t know that exists in a lot of different places. So this is before the first exhibitor comes in. And then to come back a day later and a night later and whatever the case may be. And just to see how it gets built up. It is. Amazing. We’ve done some time. Let’s video. Just to kind of showcase how fast things come together. And so, especially as a kid, like I would come in and my grandfather had the, for those that know him, it’s going back 30 years now.

Brent – 00:24:53:

Yeah.

Toby – 00:24:54:

He had this green, kind of like a golf cart.

Brent – 00:24:56:

I remember his green golf cart. Yeah.

Toby – 00:24:59:

Yeah. So it’s not really a golf cart. It’s like a weird trade show cart.

Brent – 00:25:02:

Right. I remember it.

Toby – 00:25:05:

When he passed, we did like a memorial and that was part of it. Like all the photos you have of him or him on the green golf cart, but. Month. He would take us around during setup or as we’re unloading those brochures or prospectuses or whatever.

Brent – 00:25:20:

Right.

Toby – 00:25:21:

It was just really amazing to me to. To ride around the car and see the expanse and then to see. Everybody knew him. You know, I think it was a bit of a different world back then. It was people were a little bit more connected in a strange way and a typical career. You’re 30 years at the same job. And so he had so many connections. And so just to watch how he interacted as we. Drove around the show and saw people getting set up and things like that. I just really love that. That’s what I enjoyed. Most people don’t get to see that on the setup side, but for just the general attendees, just the really cool things to see. I love to get in the truck still. I brought my kids to check it out during setup for every one of my kids and their girls. So they’re not really into trucks. Stereotypically, but to take him to the show during setup before I get super stressed with everything that’s going on. And just let them see and understand why I work these long hours. And I think. To some extent, I wasn’t. Old enough to have intelligent conversations like that with my grandfather. But I think that’s why he did that with me is just to pay. This is why I work so hard is because I’m building this. And so it was just really cool to see all the connections that he had and the people that he knew. That he I mean, that’s my job is to build this show and you get to see it built over the course of a week. And it’s just really cool.

Brent – 00:26:40:

Yeah, that’s super cool. I remember back in 98, when the first time I came to the show, I remember meeting your granddad and your dad, both of them. I just remember that. I remember not that you bring up the green golf cart-ish thing. I remember that. But I think I met him back out on the back parking lot where the old beauty contest used to be held. Then it was the Pride and Polish with Overdrive. Now it’s the wonderful Paul K. Young Memorial. Tell me the official name.

Toby – 00:27:02:

Well, I’ve kind of pulled the memorial out. It’s the Paul K. Young Truck Beauty Championship.

Brent – 00:27:07:

There you go. There you go. Paul K. Young Truck Beauty Championships. But I just remember how unique it was and seeing a hundred or plus trucks out there and these beautiful rigs that just like people had spent so much time and effort and energy. I just remember your dad’s passion for wanting to talk to the truck drivers and wanting to talk to the people that were your dad and your granddad’s passion for that. So it’s really, really unique to see. So super cool. I can just imagine as a kid, it’s kind of like your own playground. They’re just kind of going around and having a good time with it. I know I always enjoyed that when I was in my dad’s warehouse. I just kind of felt like I’m the son of the guy that runs the place. And so I get to kind of have to go around and do stuff. Always a good thing. One of the things that is unique about your show is not just about the exhibition. You guys have always had a focus on education, on bringing content that helps people improve their businesses, improve their things. Talk a little bit about that and what it looked like yesterday. What’s it look like today? And then we’ll talk a little bit about what you’re thinking about going forward. But the focus on that, how’s that helped you in building this legendary show.

Toby – 00:28:06:

Sure. So for us, the show has always had these different components of it. The exhibition obviously is the big part. And then you have the events and then you have the entertainment. We do lots of interviews with attendees and 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 like the exhibition as the added bonus. We’re trying to mix that up a little bit and just make them to better point out that the show is about helping your business. That is the core competency of the show. All of these vendors, that’s their focus. Yes, of course, they want to sell you a product or for you to demo this. But the reality is that the main point is. Let’s make you more money. Let’s make you more efficient. Let’s get you more time at home. Whatever the case may be, there’s a product on the show floor that can help you achieve that. More profitability, more efficiency, whatever the case may be. And so… Many years back when we started up the seminar program, that was the primary goal is just our exhibitors are showcasing product and services on the show floor, but Let them also talk to you in kind of a closed forum where they can show you. know, hey, it doesn’t necessarily, you don’t have to buy our product, but let us explain to you how we can make things better for you. And whatever that means to you, money, time, whatever. So we’ve really tweaked things to focus more on education. And so. Just before COVID, we started with our Pro Talk seminar series.

Brent – 00:29:31:

Right.

Toby – 00:29:31:

And so that has grown to two stages. That’s like 45 events that are put on by exhibitors and even third parties. And a lot of the big names that everyone will recognize. FMCSA, OOIDA, Alpha Drivers, Rate Per Mile Masters. We just started reaching out to, we have all these connections and math is a great forum. And so reached out to these companies, entities, individuals and said, hey. Do you want to share your experience and expertise? If so, come to the show. You tell us what you want to talk about. You tell us how you can benefit our audience. And so, really leverage their experience and expertise. Not to pitch product, but just to say, hey, This is what I’ve done. This is how I’ve done better. I’ve used these products, or this is how I look at my. P&L and balance sheet, or this is what I focus on. And this is what helped me go from one to 10 trucks or 10 to a hundred trucks. And to really leverage that. Thought leadership and just the experience of our attendees because A major component of maths is the networking. And so we basically… Help some of these individuals and companies rise to the top that are really focused on this. And some of them have just this altruistic goal of just making the industry better and where better to start than at the individual driver level? How can we improve their lives? And maybe it’s a health thing, or maybe it’s a product thing or a service thing. Or just a financial thing, a way to crunch the numbers to determine your profitability or how much money you’re making per mile, whatever. And so we just want to be hosts for that education. No matter what form it takes place. There’s so much that it can be learned during this three days of maths. We’ve kind of spun it to make attendees realize, Hey, definitely come for the concert, come for the truck pool, come for the PKYTrapeuta championships, but spend the whole day here because you can really have a significant impact on your business if you look at it from the mindset of.How can I improve my life? How can I improve my business on the show floor? If you seek out those types of people, you will find them on the show floor. And I guarantee you, they’ll make your business and life better.

Brent – 00:32:12:

Yeah, well, no doubt we’ve seen that. I know that truck stop has been a big part of, uh, the mid America truck show since we started in 1995. And so it’s always been the spot. Our core audience is an owner operator, somebody that owns one to nine class eight trucks. And so. We find a great, great reward in being there and it’s, I think it’s because it’s what our goals agree with a lot of your goals as far as like creating a place where it’s not just a coming in and experience one thing. There’s all kinds of aspects on being able to grow the business. And to me, I just look at it. You’ve created more than just a trade show. You’ve created somewhat of a, of a cultural crossroads for trucking to come meet at every single year, like a homecoming, almost a homecoming place for this part of the market. I know this because I’ve talked to them. I know owner operators that basically take their vacation time to come to mid America because it is where they meet their fellow truckers. They meet the people that they work around in a really big office space called the United States. Every single day, but they get to come because trucking is so culturally bound. It’s its own marketplace. And so I appreciate that you’re continuing to want to push things forward and create more opportunities. And the certified master carrier that lets trucks bring in and truck stops, happy to. Partner with you and let’s truck to bring this to the market is the goal of it is to for it to be an event that is in conjunction with the mid America truck. So it’s an event on top of an event or event inside of an event where it becomes its own part of it. It’s own DNA part of it. It leads into it. You got a good education session that leads into it. So. We’re excited about doing that. How does that, when you think about like the bigness of like mid America, and you’re also one of the last standing in the marketplace, it’s onsite events, live events are very hard and difficult to do, but you have such a history and a foundation already built in this. When you were thinking about like putting an event inside of another event, what was it that motivated you want to bring something like that in?

Toby – 00:34:01

:

Just to continue to serve, honestly, we just do, we do post show interviews every year and we ask attendees and exhibitors, what can we do? How can we change? To better meet your goals. And so especially the drivers and small fleets that are business focused at the show, they’re already having those networking sessions. They’re already doing these things. I’ve talked to Kevin about it at length. Just you’re sitting in a truck all day. And so it can be a very solitary job. And that’s just the networking is such a big part of it with the networking comes, hey, we can have a conversation and I can educate you on some things and how I’m doing it. You can educate me on some things and how you’re doing it. And then the reality is, hey, if we can formalize this to an extent and make it, so it’s a dedicated time and dedicated place to focus on these types of education, eliminating pain points, and just the small things that help the bottom line in trucking. That’s what we wanted to focus on again, adopted this several years back, we would welcome even like competing event to come to maths, you know, kind of setting our own goals aside just to recognize, Hey, how can we help our audience better meet their goal? And so, if it’s bringing a competing event in, or helping an exhibitor, get an event started, or whatever the case may be, we just want to be that marketplace that forum where this exchange of ideas, exchange of expertise takes place. And it can take any form, it can be in the meeting rooms, it can be on the show floor, whatever the case may be, but just there is so much business that gets done on that show floor. My dad, this was one of the very first things that he said to me, there’s a lot of business that gets done on the show floor. I cannot quantify it. I’ve just been told this so many times. And so we just want to be that central meeting place to continue all of this business getting done. And we just feel like. You have people that have made it up to here and the people that are here. Oh, how can we help elevate everyone? And we just feel like a big part of that is with bringing other events under the Matt’s umbrella.

Brent – 00:35:59:

Right. I could see other segments of the market coming in, bringing their shows leading into the mid America show. So let me ask you this is one of your goals for mid America to be more than just a three day event. Is that one of the reasons why you build these education parts of it? So you can actually. Distribute that information year round. What’s sort of part of the method, the madness and extending mid America, because getting a scalable foundation into a group is not easy to do. And you’ve done that. You have an incredible following. You have an incredible size of this audience that comes in, trust you and listen to you. So how do you extend it beyond the three days? But then the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Which is a great experience. How does Matt’s continue to deliver a value to the audience that comes during those three days?

Toby – 00:36:42:

I think you just hit on the biggest struggle for events and that’s how can we, my show is three or four days, seven, if you include set up, but we sure that’s a week and we’ve got 52 of these weeks in the year. How can we. Expand our presence and continue to serve our mission to educate and connect events are a big part of that. So, like, with the pro talk seminar series, we record them and we make them available on our website. So we recognize that the drivers, we’re all busy, but especially if you’re a driver. What are the odds that you’re coming through Louisville for that particular weekend to catch that particular hour of that particular education that you want to see? Right. And so, this is where the technology can be leveraged to extend the life of a one time event and to maintain more connectivity with the audience. And so for us, we do record, we host it on our YouTube channel, we feed it back to the attendees. And just try to remind them, Hey, at match, you could have learned this, come next year and see what you can learn and make these connections and meet these exhibitors and demo these products. And it’s really, that’s our main pitch is that you can get so much done in these 3 days. And so I feel like when I hear it from a driver that they’ve given us their vacation. You know, like you’re saying, there’s no bigger thank you. There’s no bigger reward than someone saying, Hey, I appreciate your event so much. I appreciate you so much that I’m going to give you my vacation time, time in general, but just vacation time. And so the fact that they come here and make Matt’s their vacation, you know, two days here and maybe another day somewhere else. But. It is that annual pilgrimage. It is that annual gathering, family reunion. I’ve heard it called many times. And so we love that we’re viewed as family and we want to continue that.

Brent – 00:38:25

I tell all our team whenever that we have a lot of new people that come to the show each year. I always make sure I tell them to get your rest, man, because this is definitely a marathon when you come to show because there’s so much going on. It’s so big. And by the time you get to Saturday, there’s so many people there that you’re having to navigate very slowly around the hall to get to things. There’s such interest in it. All right. So let me ask you a couple of quick questions that I think that a lot of people might want to know. Number one, how many trucks can park in the parking lot? Approximately trucks, how many approximate trucks can park in the parking lot at mid America could park. There’s like 60 acres of parking. Is this a job interview? Is that how I answer this question going to determine if I get hired or not? Yeah, there is roughly, there’s like 30 acres on site, 30 acres off site. And so a 10 by 80 truck divided by however many feet are in an acre. We break that down, but I can tell you that we have thousands, thousands and thousands, they measure them, you know, how many we have park at Cardinal stadium and it’s well over a thousand and that’s just half of our parking. Yeah, I’ve gone over to the Cardinal stadium. It is its own homecoming over there as well. All right, look, last question. You may or may not be able to answer this one. I don’t know, but I did mention pork chop sandwiches. Do you have any idea how many pork chop sandwiches are sold during the days of the show?

Toby – 00:39:46:

No idea, but I can tell you, no idea. I couldn’t even venture. I’ll give you two anecdotes to put in perspective. Landline has a blog that takes place around the show called the pork chop diaries. So it’s what we’re known for. I

Brent – 00:39:58

did not know that the pork chop diaries. A hundred percent. Yep. I’ve got to get it on there.

Toby – 00:40:03:

you gotta check it out. Yeah, every year Porkchop Diaries. The one food stuff that everybody mentions when we talk to them, gotta get that pork chops. It has its own following. We talk about family, so good way to bring it back. So, my brother used to work full time here. He now has another job, but still comes and helps us out during the show. And I’m pretty sure I could pay him in pork chops. He knows Kentucky Pork Producers. He knows all those folks by name. And I’ll know when he has not been doing what I ask him. When he comes back to the show office with, they don’t even have containers big enough. They give him a, it is a bread bag. Right. And it is just stacked with these pork chop sandwiches in it. He’ll come back to the show office with like twelve. He’ll tell me, I’m taking those six home. And then the next morning he’s like, yeah I had two for dinner. I’m like, well you had two at lunch. You had two more for dinner. He’s like, yeah, and I’m gonna get some more.

Brent – 00:40:55:

Hey, I’m no different than your brother. I eat at least two a day, every day of the show. Everybody I work with thinks I’m crazy. I go, look, when you come to the show in order to get like baptized into the mid America truck show, you gotta come have a pork chop sandwich with me. And to me, Toby, that’s one of the things that makes your show and your team show this unique and I’m so the industry is so thankful that you guys decided back in 1972 to create something that helps our industry continue to join with each other and be around each other and create relationship with each other and. And I don’t know what this industry would be like without your family’s desire to want to continue moving that forward and continue making it happen. And so it’s really an honor just to be a part of it. I’ve got a unique perspective after 25 plus years coming to it. And the only time I hadn’t come is when you didn’t have it during COVID. Which I know was so hard for you. I think I got to be the first person you told that you were canceling it. Cause I was calling you to say, Hey, what’s going on? And you were like, I could just tell you were so depressed. Don’t want to talk to you. You were like, we just made the decision to not have

Toby – 00:41:56:

March 12th.

Brent – 00:41:57:

I remember the stress in your voice because it matters. The show matters. It matters to the audience. It matters to the manufacturers. It matters to our industry and it matters to our country. And so thank you so much for bringing this show in and thanks for continuing and making it better and better each and every year. And I just appreciate you coming on Freight Nation today.

Toby – 00:42:16:

Thank you for having me. Enjoyed our friendship and our interaction throughout the years. No better guy than Brent. Thank you.

Brent – 00:42:22:

Ah, you’re too kind, man. I appreciate it. Well, Freight Nation, that’s a wrap. I hope you learned a little bit more about. One of the things that makes our industry great, which is the Mid America Truck Show. Please come this, the end of March. It’s March 20th. Is it 22nd, Do I got the right dates on that?

Toby – 00:42:36:

21st to the 23rd.

Brent – 00:42:38:

21st, 22nd, 23rd. I was close.

Toby – 00:42:41:

But it’s CMC Live on the 20th. Don’t forget that.

Brent – 00:42:44:

That’s right. CMC Live starts on the 20th, all on Wednesday and half a day on Thursday. Our gratitude for you helping being a great partner and putting this thing on. So Freight Nation, thanks for this as a wrap for Freight Nation for today. Appreciate Toby coming on and being a part of it. And I hope you learned a little bit more about the Mid America Truck Show and what makes it great. We’ll see you there in March and don’t forget to work hard, be kind and stay humble. See you Freight Nation. On behalf of the Truck Stop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to truckstop. com forward slash 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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