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Episode 22: Navigating the Jump from Brokerage to Journalism with Grace Sharkey of FreightWaves

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.

Grace – 00:00:26:

All right, well, welcome back to Freight Nation, a truckstop.com podcast. We’re really glad you’re here today. It’s always our hope and our goal to tell the story of somebody on what keeps them going, how they got to freight, what are some of the ways in which they created success in freight and then what’s next for them. And with an excellent guest today. Well, my good friend and the host of DriveTime Now on FreightWaves and Sirius XM, the one, the only, the blue hair, Grace Sharkey. Wickle big, Grace. Oh, thank you so much. It’s been a blast having you on my show. Now it’s exciting to be in the opposite seat of that.

Brent – 00:01:31:

And one thing I love about Grace before we get started, she and I were talking about this, is that I just love that she smiles a lot. She’s a joyous person and joyous people are great and fun to be around. So I just appreciate her attitude to things. It helps motivate me and I want to keep things going. So Grace, thank you so much for that. But let me ask you a quick question before we jump into all the details. Is there any truth to the rumor that you dyed your hair kind of blue because the FreightWaves blue? Because I saw you at the festival in Chattanooga F3 in November and your hair was blue. I hadn’t seen it blue before. Any truth to that rumor?

Grace – 00:02:02:

100% true. I’m a team player. I’m a loyal team player. And my hair is usually blonde. And every once in a while I get bored and I want to dye it something and have some fun. And, you know, I just I knew that this past F3 was going to be a blast. I wanted to really show the spirit in some kind of way. So I went ahead and dyed it blue. I was just, I mean, months after and we’re still going at it here. I guess for now, it’s lion’s blue. We could say that in this case. But like I said, I love being on FreightWaves. I love being a part of the team. We’re just a bunch of we’ll get ourselves as pirates out there delivering the freight news and sharing opinions on the markets, even if it’s not what people want to hear. And because of that, you know, I had to go for the team and show off some team spirit.

Brent – 00:02:44:

There you go. I like that you kind of transitioned from being a FreightWaves Blue to a Detroit Lions Blue. She’s a Michigan girl. She’s a Michigander. So, you know, Grace, I know you as this super great personality and the free tech nerd on FreightWaves. But there’s so much more to you that is just super compelling about where you grew up, what your background was, what you thought you were going to be, how you ended up in freight. And, you know, starting off, I think one of the coolest things about Grace, and most people don’t know this, is that she is a twin.

Grace – 00:03:15:

Yes.

Brent – 00:03:16:

Yes. There’s more than one person like Grace Sharkey out there. So tell a little bit about your twin and tell me a little bit about where you grew up in Michigan.

Grace – 00:03:23:

Yeah, so I’m from SmackDown in the center of Lansing, Michigan, the good old capital. I grew up here. I recently moved back here as well to be closer to family. And I do have a twin sister. And for anyone that has a twin, you know, that means you’ve got a strong competition and a best friend next to you your whole life, which has been a blast. I always tell people she’s smarter than me. I might be more street smart, but she’s got the book smarts behind her. And she would probably tell you the opposite, though, as well. We’re both very focused on our careers and where we want to contribute to society. And we get that from, honestly, our mother, who has always pushed us to go above and beyond. And in almost a joking way, I always tell people, I could win the lottery. My mom would say, well, when are you going to win the next one? You know, so it’s like, I’m sure my therapist loves hearing about those stories. She really pushes us to be self-sufficient. And yeah, my twin sister’s got a wonderful career. She’s actually Dr. Michelle Sharkey. She likes to, you know, I will say as a twin, though, and as competitive as we are, when she did get that degree, I was a little jealous. Like, oh, I want a doctor in front of my name. But the school’s not worth it for me as much as it was for her. But I went to Michigan State, as you can probably tell from a lot of the fun stuff behind me. Loved that school. I actually went to school for politics. I wanted to go into grassroots local politics. I’m a big believer in a lot of really interesting nonprofits, including environmental, like Claymore Action, I spent a lot of time in. In high school, half the day, my last year, I would spend interning for a senator downtown. So yeah, I’ve been in it for a while. And when I graduated, though, I was just working at Michigan State, actually paid for college and books and things like that, raising scholarships for students at MSU. Michigan State actually has the largest student-run telemarketing fundraising group of all universities. And so there’d be about 100 or so of us every night calling alumni right at dinnertime asking for money. And the funny thing is, is that logistics companies caught on to that work ethic, that resiliency on the phone. And so C.H. Robinson, Coyote, a lot of like the Chicago guys would come and recruit. And by the time I was a senior, I was interested in it. A couple of friends had worked at some of the Chicago big boys and actually had an opportunity, though, to join a startup brokerage. And so I thought, let’s do it. Let’s stay close to town, too, close to my family. And over that next eight years, a group of us from Michigan State, along with the owner, grew it to about, when I left, about $80 million in revenue.

Brent – 00:06:06:

They were all from Michigan State?

Grace – 00:06:07:

Yeah, a handful of us were, yeah. A lot of us had worked in fundraising too. So it was like leaving that spot and going into this. It’s really, really interesting ride.

Brent – 00:06:17:

Was your mom cracking the whip to make sure you guys were keeping going there too? I mean, was she going like, hey, now it’s Grace. Now I got more people to talk to. Come on. What’s next? What’s next?

Grace – 00:06:25:

Yeah, a thousand percent. I mean, especially, you know, it started off as just like me as a sales rep, like three of us in there as sales reps. And then growing it to up to, by the time I left there, chief strategy officer, a couple of times that she had like walked into the office or saw it was just kind of flabbergasted at the work that, and knowing especially like how young we were growing this business, right? I think it was really cool for her to see too. And so, yeah, I’m very proud. And of course, leaving there, kind of going off on my own, starting to look into consulting and then actually funny enough, going into journalism, something herself as an English teacher always wanted to do, I think was the final, like what the heck for her. So I actually give her more praise now because learning AP style, like how to write better and just overall grammatics. I told her, I was like, you know, I thought English was dumb. I’ll tell you what, you deserve an award for the work that you do. And so I think she’s kind of living through me and my sister a little bit now too.

Brent – 00:07:25:

Yeah, man. As parents, we all do a little bit. We’re so proud of our kids. I’ve got five of them and to see them thrive and stuff just makes you feel like, okay, I didn’t screw it up, you know? And your mother is equally as proud of you and Michelle. And is there just two of you? Is there a brother in there somewhere?

Grace – 00:07:41:

I do actually have a little brother.

Brent- 00:07:43:

Yeah, the guy we had, easy, right?

Grace – 00:07:45:

Yeah, well, definitely, I would say baby. They would all, of course, disagree. But I’ll tell you what, he’s got an incredible work ethic too. He actually worked with me in the brokerage for a while. He graduated when COVID happened. And he was lined up. He likes to do sports and news broadcasting. So he actually had a Big Ten job lined up. Well, clearly sports were over at the time. So I was like, well, come. I was working on a really interesting project too at the time, kind of moving into more of a buy-sell model. So it was someone I could trust to give feedback and kind of help with some of those initiatives. And if you ask him about brokerage and freight, he gets it. But no, I’m very proud of him. He does great work at the local news. He’s built some really great local relationships as well. And we actually were both on scene at the GM strike. So there was one day where we got to kind of like cross paths a little bit as well.

Brent – 00:08:36:

One of the things I think is interesting about when you talk about how your mom really has motivated all three of you guys to bring out the talent that’s already in you.

Grace – 00:08:44:

Yeah.

Brent – 00:08:44:

As a parent, you see this in your kids. I see this type of gift in my kid or this type of gift in my other child or this type of gift in my other child. And then when you start to see it come out as a parent, you’re happy for them. It gives you some satisfaction too, but for the most part, you’re happy for your kids. I’m sure your mom is super happy. I think it’s super fascinating that you guys were doing telemarketing at Michigan State, raising money for scholarships. By the way, another neat fact about Grace Sharkey, she paid her way completely through college. Talk about a freaking hard worker. I tell you, more people should take responsibility for their future because you get the most out of it when it’s your money, right?

Grace – 00:09:21:

Yeah, a thousand percent. No, definitely.

Brent – 00:09:24:

Tell me a little bit about that part of it when you said the decision was made, you’re doing this yourself.

Grace – 00:09:28:

Oh, yeah. So graduating, I mean, fun thing about, in fact, about my mom and something I really appreciate from her, for family reasons and just issues growing up, she ended up living by herself, apartment, full-time job, going to high school from junior and senior year onward. And she paid for all of her college by herself. It took her a while to graduate with her degree, but she just retired a couple of years ago with about 40 years of teaching under her belt.

Brent – 00:09:57:

So she was a teacher.

Grace – 00:09:58:

Yeah, she was a teacher. Yeah. And there’s a lot of different grades, too. But I think what’s interesting is when we decided, you know, let’s go to college and she’s all for it. I mean, she was helping me fill out different programs. She actually helped me find the political college at Michigan State and was all about it. But when it came down to who’s paying for this, for all three of us, it was go figure it out. It’s not going to be us, but, you know, go figure it out. And I think that it’s tough because I understand as a parent being able to and wanting to give your child kind of that safety net so that they can feel like they can go down any path that they want to. But there is that level of knowing that when you have to take care of it yourself, I always feel a sense of pride in doing that and being able to say, like, this is what I want to get done and this is how I’m going to afford it or how we’re going to do this. I think that’s also helped me in my career as well, especially in a startup space and even writing about startups, you know, I have this viewpoint of kind of scrappiness and just get it done. And if the phone rings, you pick it up. I don’t care whose rule it is. But if a customer is on the other line, like, let’s service them and let’s keep it moving. And if there’s problems, there’s problems. Let’s fix them. It’s funny because I feel like the way society, like, pushes you to grow, there’s these steps. You go to high school, you go to college, you get married. But especially when you graduate college, you start to realize, and especially in this industry, or especially brokerage, right, there’s so many young people in it. You get to this point where you’re just like, oh, like, now the steps I make, you know. And when you realize that you have the potential to do anything that you want, and that it just takes initiative. And it takes being forward and being, I don’t want to say aggressive, but just like, confident in what you need to do to get something done. The sky’s the limit. And it’s funny when I left the brokerage, I remember telling my mom, I started to consult a little bit, but also like hearing about the FreightWaves openings and starting to hear from a couple of companies in the industry about open roles. I was telling her, you know, I’m almost more anxious now knowing I can do any of these roles. Like, I know I had the skill sets to get this stuff done. So when the choices are unlimited, it’s like, that’s almost where I get anxiety more from like, here’s the only things that you can do. So that’s why I always tell people, like, they come to me and they say like, oh, I’d love to like start a podcast or start doing something. It’s like, do it. I mean, we just talked about you and you got your new camera, all the cool equipment that you have. Like, it doesn’t take much if you believe in it and you want to get it done. If you want to get something done, the human will get it done. And so look at that positively, but also look at that people that might feel like they’re held back. What are you doing that could be potentially holding you back as well?

Brent – 00:12:52:

Right. What a great story. That’s such great motivation, inspiration, Grace. You know, that’s one of the unique things about that is that I crossed that bridge too at about 30 to the respect of your mom. That person for me was my dad. My dad was just like, you can do this. You can go do it. It’s in you, go do it. And so same thing, but you have to make the decision yourself to go do it. And so that’s what’s unique about you is that not only did you put yourself through it to college, you also determined that I think is the coolest thing is I did not know that you guys did this right out of college where you started Fifth Wheel Freight, right?

Grace – 00:13:22:

Yes. Yep.

Brent – 00:13:23:

Yeah. And so you grew it. Its not a small endeavor. I think you grew it to, was it around 80 million, was that right?

Grace – 00:13:27:

Yeah. When I left, it was about 80 million. I would say that probably a lot of those leaders are definitely still there. It’s got to be close to at least 120, 150. They make the transport topics top list every year. So yeah, it’s interesting to continue to see them grow and especially the markets that we see today.

Brent- 00:13:46:

Well, so when you got into brokerage, so you started out as a carrier person and moved your way all the way up. I looked at your history on that. You’ve had every couple of years more success, more leadership, more opportunities to help motivate a team or create more success for the business. What was the biggest jump for you when you were in brokerage? And then what did you learn from that?

Grace – 00:14:04:

I think the biggest jump was when we started. So when we first started, there’s a handful of us. We were very cradle to grave, right? Like, you buy shipments from your shippers or customers and then you sell them right to carriers. And I think for me, what the craziest jump was is scaling that business and realizing how inefficient that can be, not just for what’s best for the customer, but what’s best for the carriers. What’s best for scaling just a business in general in terms of like incentive programs and different roles that need to be created. That turning point where we really had to say, okay, these individuals are building their books to a level where it’s like they need that support. Now they need that carrier support, designing those roles, figuring out how they work in the pattern of getting a customer. And I think that was really interesting to me because you see and you hear about it a lot right inside earnings calls or some of the public individuals, you know, trying to. I love how they call workers human capital. That’s like one of my favorite terms. You mean your employees. But yeah, limiting right the human capital while allowing them to accelerate and do more and then figuring out like, I think that’s really what gave me more of like this tech nerd aspect is like, honestly, how do we even use the technology we have today? Regardless of like investing in new technology, how do we better utilize what we have today? And that’s less of this like startup scrapping mode. Like just get the shipment and book it in more strategic. And how we choose our carriers and how we choose our customers. We even down to how much credit do we open that up to and things of that nature. So right around that, I would say that was probably around 50 million, maybe a little bit less where it’s like, oh, now I’m getting a business degree. You know, like this is less of like, how does the freight brokerage work? And now more of like, how does cash flow work? What’s the operating ratio? And I didn’t go to school for business. I went to school again for politics, right? And so for me, it was like, again, I feel like I left that opportunity with a full on master’s degree in business. And I think that helps me in my tech writing to explain to people like, what do your tech should be for? But a lot of times, and my good friend Ryan Schreiber and I talk about this all the time, like, it’s not always an investment technology. A lot of times it’s the investment in your people and how they use the technology. So, yeah, that business degree was like that flipping moment for me.

Brent – 00:16:47:

Yeah, it sounds like you grew up pretty quick in that. You know, I love that. I didn’t go to school for this, but you can figure it out.

Grace – 00:16:54:

Yeah.

Brent – 00:16:55:

As one of our great presidents, Calvin Coolidge, said, persistence and determination, man. Just stay at it because you can figure it out. Everybody else did. You can figure it out. And so when you started figuring out the things that run the business, which are the activities that you do, creating a cash flow, which leads into a profit and loss statement. So when you realize that, I bet he felt like a grownup at that point. He’s like, wait a minute, I’m a grownup at this point. I can do this. It made me feel that way when I was like, oh, I understand a P&L now. I understand a cash flow listing. I understand those things. So tell me, what was that like? What were your feelings through that?

Grace – 00:17:30:

It was very, yeah, like I grew up really quickly, right? I will say, I feel like I came a little bit from more of like a family background of like, remember like the one percent rallies back in the day when people like dress up as like rats you know on wall street and like i grew up with the big business can be the bad guy and it was like the first time in my life where I started to question that narrative and really think about not only the time that some of these leaders had spent in their business. And I will say, I think there’s bad business leaders out there. That’s not what I’m going at. But I had more empathy for what they had maybe gone through. And around COVID, especially, there was a moment where, especially just with what’s happening next, like us, like many others, had a layoff and a pretty large sized one. And I remember growing up and my father was a motor wheel worker, which it’s now owned by, I think, GM. And he was a part of a very large layoff that basically shut down the company here in the Lansing area. And I remember how detrimental that was towards our family and bills and stress at home. Like my brother was just born. And so you kind of like go through that as in this kind of owner or like C-level process. And it was just a very emotional time because you have to do it to keep 75% of people’s jobs, right? But you also hurt the lives of 25% of those and bailing, see that. And I think sometimes, and I might get… There’s some commenters, I think, that have pushed me on it too in my writing. But when it comes to layoffs, the story for me isn’t the TMZ aspect of the layoffs. For me, it’s teaching employees what to watch for and what to know about the industry. Like, especially a couple of years ago, if you were starting a job in the tech space in this industry in a company that’s not as well-established as someone like Truckstop even, like you need to be going into that, having good discussions with your leadership on like what the growth plan is and knowing that there is a risk to taking that type of job. And especially when I write about it, I always feel this like sense of, no, I don’t want people to just point to this company and be like, bad company, you laid people off. I want people to learn something from that and learn how to navigate that. Like I’m not saying clearly anything with FreightWaves, but I’m only 30. I still got plenty of years to go. There could be a situation where I get laid off one day. And it’s not about pointing the finger, but like growing from that and realizing like the business aspect of having to let people go on a market that’s really terrible. So it’s molding me a little bit to just kind of have empathy for both sides, not just the employee, but even leadership as well.

Brent – 00:20:15:

Which is the way you should look at it. You know, everyone should look at it that way, is that in the end, nobody likes to affect human lives, but sometimes those things happen in order for business itself to continue to sustain itself and to move forward. And my advice to myself and anyone else is, make sure that you are creating the best brand value in yourself that you can have. So whether you stay at that company or go somewhere else, the person that only controls the brand is you. You go after yourself. All right, so you built things at Fifth Wheel Freight. You guys did a bunch of really great things. You’re growing it, but something transitioned you to this journalistic world and getting out to FreightWaves and getting out to the marketplace. Talk a little bit about how you ended up becoming this sort of personality that we all see and how you got there. Because people know you now as a personality. You are your own icon, right? So how did you get to that? Because that obviously, there must’ve been some issue going on or an opportunity and you took it. So what happened?

Grace – 00:21:08:

So I think I kind of went through a little bit of maybe not a midlife crisis, but kind of like a midlife crisis during COVID. And I kind of link this back to you are the people you surround yourself with. As the business got bigger and operations and risk management, I got very close to Cassandra Gains and another incredible friend of ours as well, Ryan Schreiber. And those relationships, especially through COVID, led me to a number of Friday nights, happy hours through Zoom with a bunch of individuals in the space. I was getting very close to Kevin Hill at FreightWaves at the time. Dooner, I would call into the show like every weekend. There was this time during COVID where you’re at home and alone, where the only way that you could meet and be with people is to have those relationships online. And I really took advantage of that. And it started to open my eyes up to the opportunities that were available out there that I could use with the knowledge I have today. And I think part of the reason that I ended up really leaving Fifth Wheel was being a strategy officer with our growth plan, we’re kind of, I don’t want to say plateauing, but smooth sailing, where we didn’t want to do too much more investment in areas or change different things. So that kind of made my job not as useful a day-to-day. I’m just the type of person where it’s like, I need a project that I can go after and get done and have approval for. And I just wasn’t getting that leadership where I was at. So we ended up leaving there. And there was a couple of people who were looking to start trucking companies that I knew. So I started doing a little bit of work in that day-to-day. And then there wasn’t even an opening, to be honest with you. But Ryan Schreiber had reached out to me and he was a big part of that transition and getting me through it. Because you have a job like that. So young that you do get to this point where you’re like, I’m nothing past this, you know, like. And so he was like the person that was like, you’re silly. That will be like a very small part of your life. And so he’s like, you know, I’ve always talked about how much you love FreightWaves. I did. Like, I relied on FreightWaves for so much of my learning and going to webinars. And if there’s anyone that doesn’t appreciate FreightWaves as much as I feel like they should, don’t realize like how many small businesses really rely on FreightWaves to get information and to know what’s happening next. I just I love that. Like, I’m a huge Barstool fan. I like this like pirate. Like, we’re going to do it our way and we’re going to have fun. We’re not going to be like mainstream media. We’re going to tell the truth, even if it’s not great. And we’re going to experiment with content. And clearly, like, I’ve always been the type of girl that there’s a camera somewhere like high in front of it. So it’s like, go for it. Just like reach out to Kevin and see what they’re doing. And they’re looking for a freight tech writer. And Kevin knew about a lot of experience that I had. I mean, half my job was demoing everything. I mean, to talk about Truckstop. I mean, you guys were a big part of our growth in the beginning. Like, there’s so many fun behind the scenes ways that I would utilize like your platform to really book and build some great care relationships. So I had the tech background. I knew what I was talking about. I told them, I love your tech writers, but I can tell from their writing that they’ve never booked a look at all. Sometimes you read like a technology, especially as you get to like tech crunches and Wall Street Journal and stuff. And you’re like, you get it, but you don’t get it. And so I talked to Kevin about it, talked to a couple of people at the company. They brought me on and I was just from day one, just chasing every opportunity they put in front of me. And I love this company and I love how we educate the industry. And that image and character that we’ve built within our FreightWaves fans, I would say. And that’s really what like brought me here now.

Brent – 00:24:58:

Yeah, well, that’s where I wanted you to tell the back part of your story, which is the legitimacy that you bring to the interviews that you do, the writing that you do, the way in which you were part of the industry. Because what I think is fascinating, Grace, is how. There are so many people in freight that are doing things that are just on the fringe of freight. And this is why we call this podcast Freight Nation, because it’s all about all the connected pieces that make freight work as efficiently and as well and deliver like it needs to. And so you’re a big part of that where knowing that, you know, is really important, especially if you’re going to write about it and talk about it. And then the audience sees through the BS really quick when it comes to trucking and transportation. I had an editor, one of my favorite editors of all time, Linda Longton, who was at Randall-Reilly, which was Overdrive and CCJ and stuff. She’d say, nobody smells BS faster than an owner operator. So just make sure you’re always telling the truth. You know, she would say that. So that really drove me a lot when it comes to talking about things. So on what we do at Truckstop, what we do at Freight Nation is making sure we’re just making it plain, putting it out there. So that’s super cool. So you got to FreightWaves. And so you’ve been there a little while now. You’ve developed a name. You’ve developed a personality. People know Grace. So you got there. And I’m sure it was just really fun in the beginning. Then there were some challenges. What are some of the challenges that you experienced in creating this persona? And then just maybe even some of the things where people would question what you were reporting on.

Grace – 00:26:22:

You know, I will say like one of the challenges going into this role, which is also like a positive, but I think showcases maybe my work ethic too, is my leadership in the past had been very hawkish, over the shoulder. What was everyone working on, reporting to higher ownership hourly? And I’m going to say daily, just like constantly being launched. And I think I remember my first week, like it being Friday, it was like four o’clock or something and reaching out to our editor in chief at the time and saying like, just want to let you know, I’ve wrapped up what pretty much I’m working on and I’m going to finish up the day. And he’s like, what? I don’t care. And that’s like truly the atmosphere here is like, because I think we’re also dedicated and we’re here to work and we understand the pressure on us and to our audience to like deliver up to date, positive or negative news, right? That we all are like very self-sufficient. So like we do have meetings, a couple of meetings throughout the week. But I originally went from like a meeting every three hours to like, I have an editorial meeting once a week and the rest is like, you get the work done. And not only you get the work done, but like, I don’t know, what do you want to write about? What’s important in this industry? What are thought leaders thinking and what’s coming up next? Like forecasting and intelligence. Telling people what to watch out for. I mean, that’s a lot of responsibility. And not only that, but it’s self-guided responsibility. And so it was the first time where I was like, okay, this is really cool. I’m going to get the opportunity to, I don’t want to say do whatever I want, but to create my work and be creative and come up with some interesting ideas. And one of our first podcasts I was doing on at the time, it was transmission, which we don’t have anymore. But it was kind of on like more mobility, vehicle mobility, improvements and stuff like that. Self-driving cars, et cetera. They gave it to me and they’re like, you know, this is your job. You figure out what to do with it. And it was like the first time where you’re like, okay, well, I felt a little bit on like my own island, but this is what I wanted to be honest with you. And I tell people that now, like, it’s going to be a tough transition for me because if I ever do anything else more in a corporate style, because here it’s like, if I have an idea, there’s no one I go to it’s. I figure out my resources. I let my production team know, like, when we need to record. I come up with the questions. I come up with the ideas for webinars or different things. And I run with it and I have to execute it at the best that I can. And at first where I was like, oh, constantly, like, does everyone, does everyone like it? It’s like, I don’t know. Does the audience like it? It’s like, you know, it’s different working here because it is about the team, but it’s about what you’re contributing to the team. And so at first I would say that was very intimidating. Now I’m starting to realize it’s the environment that I thrive under and I really appreciate. And I was just telling someone earlier before this call, like, I appreciate MAG or editor in chief. I’ve never had any leader like her. That makes me feel confident in what I’m contributing and trust that as well. Trust is especially in this industry, like showing trust to your employees that you believe that they are putting you first is like very unseen. And I feel like for me personally. It allows me to. I’m a very loyal, clearly employee. So if you tell me. I trust you. Like I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. And I will bend over backwards to get whatever you need done. So at first that was a hurdle. And now I’ve realized that it’s turned into like such a blessing from the guy upstairs that I’ve truly needed in life.

Brent – 00:30:03:

Yeah, man. That’s so cool. Trust is a big part of really being able to be great at what you’re doing when you know, people trust that you’ll do a good job at things. I’d say you’ve gotten to talk to a lot of different cool people in the market. Just a tech question real quick, since you get to see a lot. What’s the biggest thing that’s overlooked by a lot of people inside of moving freight on the tech side? And Grace’s opinion, what do you see?

Grace – 00:30:26:

People that know me well already know this answer to it. Like people have told me, you have to like put this on a t-shirt because you’re so annoying about it. It’s 100% change management. It doesn’t even matter what the technology is. There’s some times where I’ve talked to people who I know the product’s good and they’ll say this thing was terrible. My first question back to them is how did you adjust your team and your operations to work around that technology? And that answer usually comes back weak. And I know it was not the product. It was you. And I think it goes back to kind of saying earlier, right, about like, I can tell when freight tech writers have never booked a loan, because that’s what I really try to address in a lot of these technologies. It’s like, what part of your operations will need to change because of it? I mean, if you are like a gung-ho, cradle-to-grade agency type of model brokerage, this other product might not work for you because you’re going to have to change everything around. I mean, a perfect life example of it is like Dasky’s growth, right? They bought all these small mom-and-pop shops, never asked anyone to change operations until the last decade or so or last couple of years. And they struggled with that for quite some time. And it hurt their operations and their P&Ls and all that, too. Like, that stuff trickles down. And so for me, whenever I do talks or people ask me about it. And they hear me say change management, they know me. They’re like, here she goes. But it’s 100% change management. If you don’t have your team on board. If they don’t understand the incentive of why this is going to work better for them, if they don’t understand why what they’re doing in the past was hurting the company, then you can spend all the dollars in the world. Things aren’t going to turn around because of it. So that’s my biggest answer to that. And it might be an annoying operational one, but it’s the truth. And to the tech companies out there, like, sell on that. So many of you sell these products and then just say, bye-bye, see you next contract. And it’s like, no, make sure they’re using it and they’re changing their management with it, too.

Brent – 00:32:31:

Yeah. Amen to that. See it all the time. Isn’t the technology supposed to do it for us?

Grace – 00:32:35:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Brent – 00:32:37:

Not really.

Grace – 00:32:38:

No, 100%.

Brent – 00:32:39:

All right. So now that you’ve established yourself at FreightWaves, you’ve established yourself as a person that can be trusted and you’re bringing that information to the industry. You’re doing a little more than that as well. You reached out to me one time and said, I’d love to have your CEO on my program. And so you brought that forward. So I’m going to let you give the name and everything to it because I think it’s super cool. Tell us a little bit about your next endeavor because it kind of goes back all the way back to your mom.

Grace – 00:33:02:

Yeah. Oh, wow. Yeah, it does. And well, I mean, it’s funny that you do say this because this is actually the first time I have kind of talked about this in 2024. I really hope it’s a good year for this. So as all of you know, I’m a huge and this goes again, yeah, back to my mother, who’s a title line, the equality all the way. I’m starting a brand and what I’m hoping to evolve into, honestly, a nonprofit as well. I’ll get into it. It’s called Logistics Girlie. And for me, it’s, you know, I have Great Quarter Gals with Kaylee Nix. I do a lot of my work and not just helping more women enter this space, but highlighting the incredible work that they do in this space as well. You know, I feel this way towards pretty much every industry. I mean, right now our population, I believe still is 51% female, 49% men, but you never see that on any office building. And I love logistics for women because it’s what we do all the time. We’re constantly thinking about how we’re running our homes and how we’re running our lives. And it’s a perfect opportunity, I think, for women to grow in this space. And so I get very excited when I hear about women, a lot of times in operational roles, really growing themselves and having a really big impact on how a company is moving forward and really bringing true value to shippers and their carriers as well. I mean, you guys get it. You have a huge female-led leadership at Truckstop. Kendra is absolutely amazing. And that comes off in value. What I hope to do with this brand is to showcase to people that, because this is always what business people want to know, is what’s the ROI, right? And there is a huge ROI of bringing more women to this space. I also hope to not just leverage this for women, but minority cultures as well. There’s a huge footprint of not only individuals from overseas, but minority groups within the United States that contribute to this industry, whether it’s driving trucks or starting their own businesses. And giving them an opportunity to have a platform to speak on. LGBTQIA plus groups as well and giving them an opportunity to speak up and showcase, hey, this is a welcoming industry for anyone who wants to get involved. I think anyone that’s gone through hardships in life or have started on a different level than others just because of who they are, have fought and got through very hard issues, which is what Logistics is, every single day. So I want to help elevate them. When I’m hoping to do this start to raise money underneath it and help women and minorities get to a lot of these events and help educate themselves, and we all know these events are great for networking and growing your businesses as well. So I want to actually thank Manifest for giving me extra tickets. I have a couple of wonderful women who will be joining me at Manifest this upcoming year as well. And that’s because of course the work that Manifest is doing and the wonderful female-led leadership over there too. Shout out to Pam and Courtney. And yeah, it’s the very beginning. I’m going to have a newsletter that’s coming out soon and start just kind of updating people on what we’re doing. Yeah. And then hopefully some podcast work as well. And here’s the thing, men are welcome. We’re all logistics girlies, right? At the end of the day, we all love this industry and we all love being a part of it. So it’s kind of the first time I’ve talked about it directly. So I’m very excited. And again, I went to school for politics, nonprofit works, and it’s kind of like now my perfect way of mixing everything that I loved into one.

Brent – 00:36:33:

Yeah, it’s all people and giving people the opportunity to grow their lives and that sort of thing. That’s super important. That’s one of the things I have appreciated about freight in my 25 plus years, long time, and that freight doesn’t care about whatever you’re doing in your life. It just cares about getting the things delivered because freight ups other people. And we want to make sure that we’re always helping other people. And that’s what’s the unique thing about freight. And we saw that during the pandemic. And you continue to see it today because that’s what freight’s all about. And that’s why we like what we do at Truckstop and you like what you do at FreightWaves and what you did getting this industry. And that’s what makes your story one that others want to hear about because they want to take some tidbits from it and say, well, how can I take some of that and add to my story? And that’s the coolest thing. So, Grace, you’re such a fun person to talk to. You have such a great story. And I know why you’re successful. It’s because you keep that unbridled, joyous optimism through it no matter what. And that carries you a long way, especially when it’s hard, right? So, really just appreciate having you on today. Thank you so much for telling your story and being willing to tell it. And thank you for all that you’ve done for me personally and for Truckstop. I just really appreciate you. And, again, thanks for being on today.

Grace – 00:37:41:

Thank you. And thank you for all the support. And, of course, fighting fraud and helping this industry grow. And as all the older operators and again, we talked about the minorities in this space. You guys are showcasing the proof of that concept as well. So thank you to you and truckstop.com. We appreciate everything you guys do, too.

Brent – 00:37:59:

You are so welcome, man. We’re happy to do it anytime, but we need great partners like you to make it work. So, man, again, Grace Sharkey, thanks a lot. So Freight Nation, I really hope you benefited from hearing from Grace Sharkey today. I know I did. I do every single time I talk to her. Thanks for joining us today on Freight Nation, the truckstop.com podcast about freight. And don’t forget to work hard, to be kind, and to stay humble. Thanks a lot. We’ll see you next time, Freight Nation.

Brent – 00:38:25:

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/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:

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