Episode 36: Building Strong Relationships in the Freight Transportation Industry with Sarah Ruffcorn of Trinity Logistics

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. All right. Well, welcome back, Freight Nation. I’m so glad you decided to join us today for another installment of Freight Nation, a podcast by Truckstop. I want to make sure that the new watchers and listeners today that they know that we put this podcast out so we can tell the stories about freight transportation and the wonderful people that make it up. Because really, that’s the most compelling part about being inside a freight. Most people in the outside world don’t know that. They look at freight, they go, ah, why would I ever want to do that? But the people that are inside of it are so interesting because it’s such a fun industry to be in. And believe it or not, there’s so many great people inside of freight. They always have a unique story on how they got there. And today is going to be a really fun one because I’m joined by such a good friend of mine and somebody that I admire greatly inside this marketplace. Miss Sarah Ruffcorn, the president of Trinity Logistics. Sarah, thanks for joining us today.

Sarah – 00:01:15:

Thanks for having me today. It’s good to see you.

Brent – 00:01:17:

It is great to see you. So Freight Nation, just so you know, Sarah and I go way back and we’ll talk a little bit about that, as the podcast goes on. And as soon as I got in the industry in 2013, Sarah was one of those people that I instantly admired and had a lot of curiosity around because you could just see the leader that she was. Her demeanor, her approach, her kind and compassionate way in which she talks to people and deals with people. But I watched that happen. And I said, that is a person that I need to get to know. So happy that she’s joining us today on Freight Nation. So you can hear her story. You can hear about how she’s ascended to the president of Trinity Logistics. And then we’ll talk about what does it mean to be a leader at all different levels? And then kind of what’s next for Trinity and Sarah. And hopefully you’ll take away a lot of really great information today and it’ll help you in your career. All right. So Sarah, let’s kick it off. So there was young Sarah when she was, I’m sure, at seven years old. She was planning and plotting and really thinking about her future in logistics. So you had it all planned out. I’m sure that was exactly the pathway where you grew up. So is that true or not true?

Sarah – 00:02:15:

There’s not too many of us in this space that I think actually had that plan as a small child. I definitely never thought I would end up in transportation, that’s for sure. I always thought that I would be in fashion somewhere, designing clothes or doing something really fabulous in New York, Chicago. And yeah, but no. God definitely had different plans.

Brent – 00:02:35:

Yeah, so fashion, that’s interesting. I was in fashion before I came to logistics, believe it or not.

Sarah – 00:02:39:


Brent – 00:02:40:

Manufactured clothes. The last part of what I did, we manufactured clothing for the Japanese and exported them back to Japan. American styles to the Japanese consumers. So it was really fun. I enjoyed it. I learned a new culture. It was really fantastic. I didn’t realize we had that similarity about us that we both wanted to be in fashion.

Sarah – 00:02:56:

Yeah, the places I’ve gotten to that is I think we’ve moved several truckloads of socks and apparel. But that’s as close as I’ve gotten to the fashion industry.

Brent – 00:03:06:

Right. Well, I get it. So where’d you grow up? Where’d you go to school? Where’d you study in school? And then where was that positional thing? Because I know that you’ve been at Trinity since you graduated college. So this was obviously an opportunity for you, but something when you were in school led you to that point. So give us that history.

Sarah – 00:03:23:

Yeah, so I grew up in Burlington, Iowa, so definitely in corn country. Grew up a big Iowa Hawkeye fan and thought I would always go there to school, but ended up going to Western Illinois University.

Brent – 00:03:37:

A Leathernecks.

Sarah – 00:03:38:

Yep, that’s right. That’s right. Yeah. So I went to Western Illinois University and I was homeschooled in high school. So I was able to complete a lot of college classes in high school. And so because of that, my stint at Western was only three years. I was able to complete pretty quickly. But through those three years, I was able to meet a really great marketing professor, Jim Kenney, who’s obviously very big.

Brent – 00:04:02:

Wow. Everybody knows Jim Kenney. If there’s somebody you can learn a lot from inside of freight, transportation, logistics and supply chain, Jim Kenney is one of the top.

Sarah – 00:04:11:

Yeah. So he was my marketing professor. I had a marketing minor and ended up one of my four marketing classes was with him. And at the time, he was a consultant for Trinity. My major was actually organizational communications, but minored in fashion, actually, and in marketing and ended up Jim Kenney. Like I said, was consulting for Trinity with Jeff Banning, who owned and ran Trinity at that time, the Banning family. And so Jim made the introduction and I had a conversation with Jeff and was just excited about what they were trying to accomplish as a company and where he wanted to take it. And so before I even graduated college, I had accepted a position with Trinity and I’d moved all the way to Delaware. I didn’t know anyone within a thousand miles.

Brent – 00:05:02:

You moved to Delaware as a single young lady going for a new job.

Sarah – 00:05:06:

That’s right. Started off in dispatch. Like for whatever reason, that sounded really exciting to me. In a space that I didn’t know anything about.

Brent – 00:05:15:

Freight Nation, for those of you that don’t know this, I’m pretty open about this. We’ve homeschooled all five of our children pretty much all the way through. And so, Sarah, you just hit on something that I think is unique. But I want to ask you a question about homeschooling. You said you were homeschooled in high school, which puts you way ahead because you were able to take college classes and classes as qualified as college credits, which is one of the benefits. What’s the thing that you say that was the biggest benefit of being homeschooled? Other than the college credits, for you as an individual? Like, what did that teach you? Because here’s the thing, Freight Nation, all along the way, our brains were wired just to continue to learn no matter what. So if you’re not learning, you’re probably not growing. So if you ever feel like you’re not growing, Freight Nation, wherever you are in your career, start learning.

Sarah – 00:05:54:

For sure. So for me, homeschooling was incredibly beneficial because it forced you to self-teach yourself. You read the material, you have to self-study, you have to self-pace, and you have to complete certain things by certain timelines. And so time management was a big piece of that. I think having to learn and digest information and really know it yourself, to be able to take the tests or assessments was incredibly beneficial, especially when I got to college. Because when I got to college, I was like, oh my gosh, you actually get to just sit through a lecture and listen to people and take notes. And that’s all you have to do. Like, it felt so easy. After you’ve had to teach yourself, basically, college. And my mom never went to college. So she was definitely guiding and helping me kind of along that course. But I had to really be motivated to self-teach myself. So I think that was a huge benefit and still is a huge benefit. You know, when you are in leadership, there’s always more to learn. There’s never a finish line. But yeah, I think that was a huge benefit of being homeschooled for sure.

Brent – 00:06:55:

Yeah, fantastic. All right, Freight Nation. So that’s pro tip number one. You are always learning. It doesn’t matter even when you’re in your career as you continue to climb that ladder or climb the, you know, success in that. Look, we want to always be aspirational, but if you want to continue to grow, you’ve got to continue to learn. And even when you’re the president of Trinity Logistics, you’re still learning all the time. Super important. All right, one last question about younger Sarah Ruffcorn, right? So you were homeschooled and so you just talked about your mom. How did being at home like that relate to your relationship with your mom and your dad?

Sarah – 00:07:27:

I mean, you spend a lot of time with them. So yeah, in high school, we always had a very good relationship, but they also wanted to expose me to a lot of things. So they helped me make sure that I was still getting to places before I could drive, you know, but that I would do all kinds of activities, you know, because I was a very social person naturally. And so they didn’t want to stifle that just because they decided to homeschool me. And so I was in all kinds of activities. I was in taekwondo. I was in synchronized swimming. I was in all kinds of crazy stuff. Like anything that I wanted to try, they were like, yep, let’s do it, you know, and I think that helped me a lot. But I had the opportunity to like at that time in all the states are different and the laws I know have changed a lot around some of these things. So it’s a lot more common now that people are homeschooled. But at the time, there was not very many people homeschooling.

Brent – 00:08:15:

Oh, no, no, no.

Sarah – 00:08:16:

It was very like odd to be homeschooled, but it allowed me to do a lot of things at a young age because I could complete my schoolwork very early, but then I could work every afternoon, and so I worked at a coffee shop starting at age 14. And I dual enrolled in the public school system and played sports and played volleyball and basketball and all the things that I wanted to play. And so it allowed me to do my schoolwork work and play sport. And that was super cool.

Brent – 00:08:41:

Yeah. You were like one of the OGs in homeschooling because it was such a while back. Yeah, we started 20 something years ago. So we’ll position off of that there for Ignatian. But it’s so fascinating to hear people’s background. An interesting thing. There was a guy named Paul Vickner who was the old senior. CEO of Mack trucks. And he grew up overseas and I met him and we became good friends and we were spending some time together. I said something about homeschooling my kids. He goes, I was homeschooled my whole life. He goes, I’m like, you were? He goes, yeah, I had to be. We were overseas. Who was going to school me? So not uncommon, but certainly a big part of the Sarah Ruffcorn story. So let’s move into young 20 something year old, first job out of college. It’s always the people that influence you. It’s always the people that you admire who go, hey, you know what? I think you’d be good at this. Freight Nation, people that want to invest in you, want to know you. So wherever you’re working, have the people that you work with be invested in people. So you’re 20 something, you’re a young 20 year old. You start with this company and all the way over in Delaware, which is a beautiful state, by the way. And so you started in the dispatch part of the business. The first one says you were an account manager, but you started on the dispatch side. So talk about your first blush into freight transportation.

Sarah – 00:09:52:

Yeah, I mean, when they kept warning me about all the things that I would experience and hear and all those things, if I would be up for that. And I was like, what am I getting myself into? But I worked on the carrier side for the first several years of my career at Trinity and just really dug in and tried to understand the needs of the carrier and what they wanted and what they needed from us and how we could help them in their business. And so develop some really close carrier relationships. Relationships at that time, a lot of in and out of New York City were a lot of lanes that I covered at that time. And so it was a great experience. And so I ended up really from there taking on an operational leadership role in the company and then eventually did move into account management and oversaw some pretty large national accounts as we continue to grow as an organization. But yeah, I mean, Trinity at the time was a lot smaller than it is now. At the time, I think we had a total of maybe 50 to 60 people complete in the company and very few agents. We didn’t have very many agents, less than 20. And so, yeah, it’s changed a lot. Jeff Banning had a big vision for the organization and where he wanted to go and take it. And he did a great job of hiring some talented people at that time to really help grow the company in a really great way and create a really great culture here at Trinity.

Brent – 00:11:10:

Super cool. All right. So give the Freight Nation watchers and listeners a little bit like, what was your favorite thing about working with carriers and that part of the business? I mean, you got to be able to get freight on a truck and you got to be able to get it somewhere. And since you were dealing a lot in the Northeast, it’s super regional all the time where a lot of short hauls and things like that. So what was your favorite part about dealing with the carrier aspect?

Sarah – 00:11:29:

You get to be friends with them. You get to be friends with some of those carriers and the owners of those organizations. And that was my favorite part. It was like you were talking to your friends all day long. And obviously, there’s always challenges in transportation. Freight isn’t ready or whatever. And so when they know that you are doing absolutely everything possible to relieve that for them, that issue or that challenge that they were encountering that day and vice versa. You know, if we had something that just popped up that was burning hot that needed to move quickly, you know, they would pitch in and move things around to be able to help us out. And it was just such a great partnership with some of those carriers that I just I had a lot of fun coming in every day when you’re working with your friends all day, you know, to make it happen. So that was definitely my favorite part.

Brent – 00:12:11:

Yeah. Freight Nation, if you’re a carrier out there, brokers actually really like carriers. They want to be friends with carriers. I know there’s this whole tension that goes on in a percentage of the market, but all the stories I hear, Sarah, yours is not uncommon, that brokers just look, they really like working with carriers. Number one, they need them. Number two, you know what? We’re all humans and we all want to create success and success means getting it delivered. And if you don’t own the truck, you got to hire a truck. And so super important. So not surprised that you answered it that way because I know your personality. And so such a likable person who wants to be friends with others. So you started moving up, you moved into account management. And then I think it was the year before I got to meet you. I got to meet you in 2013, the year before that you moved into the VP of operations. So your role just completely changed. I mean, VP operations is a constant job, right? So tell a little bit about what was it like moving from sort of like being in the execution part of the business to more of the strategic part of the business, because that’s a big part of like, as you become a leader, your brain switches a little bit to not just the day to day, but what’s it going to be next week, next month, next year sort of aspect. So talk a little bit about when you moved into that and how you had to continue to learn and change your thinking.

Sarah – 00:13:26:

Yeah, I think at the time moving into that role, I had done some kind of key project work within the organization as well. So when I was in account management, and then I moved kind of a half step into like a director role for a little bit. At that time, we did not have a CTO or anyone in charge of our technology. And so I was pulled a lot into our technology projects to try to be that go between our software engineers and the business, because I knew the business side well, but I could also understand the technology pieces. And so a lot of times I was pulled into those projects to help be that BA, if you will, kind of between the business and the technology. And so that exposed me to a lot of the processes in the organization. So when I stepped into that VP of a more strategic role, I really had a very good view of how the business was operating kind of across the entire organization. When we were making decisions on the operations floor, how it was really affecting our admin teams, how it was affecting our carriers, how was affecting our shippers and customers. And so when you get exposure to all of that, especially when you really have to understand your business processes, you step into that seat and you see lots of opportunities.

Brent – 00:14:34:

Right, well, for sure.

Sarah – 00:14:35:

You know, like everything’s getting really stuck because these loads aren’t getting released fast enough, or these are getting really stuck because we’re not getting this paperwork or, you know, whatever the case was at the time. So when I stepped into that role, having known that and having had that exposure and experience, it really helped you know, not just what our customers needed, but what our carriers needed. And what our business needed to be able to pay them faster or to be able to move transactions faster. And so that was really super helpful to have that view and that visibility. So stepping into that strategic role. Yes, absolutely. I read books, classes. I did a lot of those things. But Jeff Banning was also an incredible mentor as well. You know, in front of the company, incredibly supportive. Also, just a huge coach and mentor to me in my career. And so, you know, meeting with him regularly to make sure we were all aligned and on the same page with what we were trying to do and accomplish as an organization, just learning a lot from him because he’d been there, done that. So that was incredibly helpful.

Brent – 00:15:30:

Yes. So you went from managing customers and accounts, large strategic accounts, to strategic development and into operations. And so it’s interesting you say this about as you moved into more functional leadership of the business, how your day to day was seeing where there were workflow inefficiencies. So talk a little bit about the reason for that, the impact for that, because as I listen to brokers out there, so Freight Nation, if you’re a broker out there, what I hear over and over and over from the broker world is that it’s all about workflow efficiency. And that means just time in the way the information process through the paperwork, the payments, everything. So talk a little bit about that, Sarah, because that’s unique, because I am sure that gave you a really, really good ground development in yourself that eventually got you to become the CEO of the business because you really started understanding where the problems were being solved. So talk a little bit about that aspect.

Sarah – 00:16:20:

Yeah. So we had at the time an operating system that we were really growing out of. I mean, we were moving so many transactions through the system that it just couldn’t handle the volume. And so we went through several different software systems, you know, in the courses specifically of that time, we don’t-

Brent – 00:16:38:

That sounds painful.

Sarah – 00:16:39:

It’s so painful. Honestly, like after the second or third one, I led our company through. I was just like, I think I’m going to retire before we ever have to do that again because it is so painful. But lots of good learning in those experiences as well. And so it forces you when you have to set up systems to be able to handle those transactions and to be able to move those processes through the system. Yes. You know, what do we need to build versus what do we need to buy? And what’s out there to try to move through and make that as efficient as absolutely possible? And we took the path and are still taking the path of a proprietary system when it comes to our key operating system. And at the time, we bought something off the shelf and then made it proprietary. And so having gone through that phase now three different times and now completely owning our code and building our own proprietary system, there’s a lot that you learn in that process. Now, where we’re at now is very different than where we were at then, because at the time, and you know this because you were in the business in 2013, there wasn’t a lot of off-the-shelf technology to help.

Brent – 00:17:42:

No, there wasn’t.

Sarah – 00:17:44:

It’s very different now. The landscape has changed dramatically in that space. So the strategy at the time was like, you really had to build everything because there just wasn’t another option. But again, that looks very different now. And so those strategies, you’ve got to be very open-minded to looking at those and evaluating those to be able to see where they can help and benefit you. But yeah, again, it just really helps you understand those processes inside and out. You have to help pull all of those systems together and then roll that out and train everyone in the organization, both admin, the billing side of things, and the carrier compliance side of things. And so, yeah, it was a very big undertaking every time we did it. And I’m really glad we’re not doing that over again.

Brent – 00:18:28:

Wow. That’s super. So Freight Nation, Sarah just gave you another pro tip. When you’re leading something, you got to figure out that you need to build it. Do you need to buy it? And the third thing is, do you need to lease it? In other words, rent it from somebody else in this tech world. So there’s so many options for technology. What’s the best advice you give on evaluating technology that might be a benefit to your business? So now that you’re the president, so you’ve got people that do all this sort of groundwork on it and they bring it to you. And then so the final decision has got to be made because there’s money to be spent and there’s efficiency to be gained. So as you like process those, what’s sort of that decision point that gets you to go, okay, yeah, we’re going to build that ourselves or we’re going to buy it or we’re going to lease it. How’s that work for me?

Sarah – 00:19:06:

Yeah, so we’re actually in the process of really defining this even more right now because there’s so many new technologies coming out. And I think we’ve got to continue to evolve to how this process works. But right now, a lot of times the business leaders are the ones bringing the technology to the table to say, we have this problem and we see this technology to potentially help us resolve that. And so we bring it now to our technology team. They help evaluate it from a technical perspective, from a security perspective. We have our business side that really goes and says, okay, this is really, truly going to be the process and how we could work with them to help resolve this. But then as a whole, we put together an actual charter and formalize that to say, who’s going to own this process? Who’s going to be the one that’s really spearheading it from an executive level?

Brent – 00:19:52:

Is that an individual?

Sarah – 00:19:52:

Yes. Okay. An individual at the executive team is really the executive sponsor on those projects.

Brent – 00:19:58:


Sarah – 00:19:58:

Yep. And then what are those key outcomes that we want to see? And so what we’ve done with several systems here recently is just pilot them in a small group and put together a group. And usually there’s data that’s needed to try to get something started. Right. So there’s definitely some work that goes into even just piloting a new product. But we found it to be incredibly beneficial to pilot those for a short amount of time to say, okay, is it really going to work the way we think it is? And if so, we can move it towards the next steps. And if it’s not, then we exit stage left. But we have so many users now in our system. And every time we roll a new something out and it’s not the right product, right, as leadership, you start to lose a little bit of trust every time that happens. And so everyone understands we have to try new things. And we tell people all the time, sometimes we’re just going to try new things because we just don’t know. We don’t know yet, you know, but let’s try it. But it helps to do those in just a smaller group first. We’re just trying to roll it out company wide. And so we’ve learned those lessons along the way because we think this product is going to be great. We’re going to rule it out to everybody. And then pretty soon we’re like, let’s take some back steps. That’s not what we thought it was going to be or do. So we’ve kind of reengaged that approach in just a smaller step by step kind of way. And then instead of a lights off, lights on kind of approach to things, it’s much more iterative and in a rollout, a waterfall rollout.

Brent – 00:21:14:

Right. Fantastic. So when you’ve gotten to a point and the technology is not providing or delivering as you need it to, how valuable is it to pivot quickly off of it?

Sarah – 00:21:23:

It’s very valuable.

Brent – 00:21:25:

This is a big tip, Freight Nation. This is the hardest part, isn’t it? To give up and go, no, we got to move quickly. So talk, give two seconds on that. Then I want to hear about getting the COO, Chief Operations Officer, and then finally the president. Then I want to start talking about what does it mean to be a leader? So pivot quickly. How important is it to pivot quickly off an idea that’s not working?

Sarah – 00:21:44:

It’s incredibly important because you’re running so much, not just money resource because these technologies are so expensive, but just internal resource and more time and energy that our technology teams or our business teams are putting into trying to make something work when ultimately it’s just not going to. It’s like that’s just wasted time ultimately if we’re not moving forward. It is so critical to be able to assess that as quickly as you possibly can. Give it a fair shot. Give it a fair chance. Give it a fair shake, all those things. But once you decide that this is not going to be what it’s going to be and you’ve given it your full effort, you just yank it, you know, rip the Band-Aid and move on. It’s more painful to let that just keep going.

Brent – 00:22:24:

Oh, yes. And costly.

Sarah – 00:22:26:

Costly. Yeah. You know, it’s so frustrating for the people that are trying to make it work and it’s not.

Brent – 00:22:31:

It’s a super cool look Freight Nation. There’s another big, big time piece of advice from Sarah Ruffcorn. Pivot quickly off of bad ideas. It costs you a whole lot more to try to make them work than it does to try to find a different solution. So chief operating officer. So you went from VP of operations to chief. That’s a very big title. Chief operations officer. So very big title. And then you were in that for a couple of years to talk a little bit about being COO. And then that pathway that you were offered the opportunity to become the ultimate leader of the business.

Sarah – 00:23:02:

Yeah. So when I was in that vice president role, I ended up taking on some additional strategic projects. And one of them was our customer TMS. So it’s really technology to our clients. And so underneath my umbrella of responsibilities, I was also overseeing some operational teams, but also overseeing this technology to our clients. And so when I was in that particular role, we had some other shifts kind of happening in the business. And at the time, the COO had stepped out of the business and the CEO, Jeff Banning, decided to put me into that seat. And so I was overseeing all of the regional service centers at that time. So because of that, we have regional service centers all over the U.S., and in that particular seat, all of the vice presidents of those different offices then reported up to me and really took a key strategic role as well on our executive team. And at that time, we were also in ESOP. So we were employee involved.

Brent – 00:23:56:

I define that. Make sure for the Freight Nation watchers and tell them what ESOP is.

Sarah – 00:24:01:

Yep, employee stock ownership plan. So that’s really where Trinity was owned, not fully, but in part by the team members of Trinity.

Brent – 00:24:08:

Yeah. Motivates people really well in an ESOP. I like an ESOP.

Sarah – 00:24:12:

Yep, for sure. And so the Banning family held the majority of the shares of the stock still, but about a third of the business was all ESOP. And so in that particular position, we had to have a key strategic board. We put our first official board in place. And for those of you that are out there that have privately held small businesses, that was a key learning for us because we were a small family business that really had just grown up and had to be more and more and more formal in our approach to strategy and to just how we approach even our business planning every year and presenting those to the team and how that all worked. And so because of that, you kind of formalize processes more as an organization and as a business incorporation at that level. And so that was a really interesting learning experience for us, where we’re really presenting more to a formal board and formalizing those things. So anyway, it was very cool to be able to step into that COO role. And to be able to learn a lot through that process. And again, working with some key strategic leaders in our business to do that well. But with that, about three years later, we made a big decision and the Banning family decided to step out of the business. And so then we were sold to the Burris Logistics, which is the Burris family. And so it’s still all family owned, still all in a family trust. But again, going through that process of selling a business is again, just another big learning experience. Lots of learnings, through all of that, but it has gone very, very well. And now, I mean, that’s been five years ago now, but yeah. So through that process of selling to Burris Logistics, Jeff Banning, the current president stepped out of that seat. And so I had the opportunity to step in. And so that was another great opportunity. And as the business has grown, you know, as I look back in my career, not all of those moves that I took, although the ones we’ve kind of talked about have all been like, you know, the next level of leadership, but there was lots of sidesteps in my career where I would go from operations to sales, and I even led HR for a while. And so you take these sidesteps, you know, in your career to be able to gain experience or to learn the business. They weren’t always like the next move up. It was always taking on something new or different, but not necessarily moving up in the organization from a leadership perspective. But as I look back on some of those times and some of those, it was like, hey, we just really need you to come run these accounts right now. These accounts really need someone that’s going to dig in and take care of them. You know, but some of those, you’re just like, oh man, but I’m not going to be the leadership role anymore. Like, what does that mean? And, but you know, the organization needs it. And we always have this slogan, like, do what’s best for the team. That’s what you do. You just do what’s best for the team. You know, even though that’s not necessarily how you think your career will go. But again, you know, you learn more and it gives you different experiences and exposure to be able to eventually what ended up happening is those experiences, really what has provided me the opportunity to sit in the seat. Right. But at the time, you’re kind of like, I don’t understand why this makes sense, you know, and you’re kind of like questioning that a little bit. Like, are you sure? Like, I don’t know that this is the right move, but at the same time, I really was very careful about those moves and saying, do I feel like my strengths and my skillset can help the company? And if I could answer yes, then I would do it. And there was a couple of opportunities that they presented to me that I did not think that my skillset was the best for the company in that position. And I thought, somebody else was better for it. So there was lots of conversations in some of those moves as I took them on to say, have you thought about this person? Because I think they would actually be way better at that.

Brent – 00:27:40:

Oh, wow. Okay. Just being open and honest about what your skill set is.

Sarah – 00:27:44:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And just say, hey, I really feel like this person could be so much better at that. And maybe let’s look at that and talk through that a little bit. So I think being super open and honest with yourself and saying, do you think that you can really help in that position? And are you doing it for the right reasons? I think it’s a huge part of that, especially in leadership, because everybody wants to move up. But it’s also a ton of self-sacrifice, too, for yourself and your family and all the things that come along with that responsibility of that. And so just every step along the way, carefully evaluating that to make sure it’s the right move, I think is really important.

Brent – 00:28:19:

Yeah, fantastic. I learned along the way, when the business asks you to do something, it’s for a reason. They trust you. They need you to help create success. There’s usually a problem or a huge need. And the whole goal is you need to tell yourself is bloom where you are planted. So make sure you are blooming where you’re planted. In other words, find success there. And so super great advice there. Thank you so much for disclosing that, because you talked about how it affects your life. And now the picture over your right-hand shoulder there, your life in that picture, your husband and your two wonderful daughters. And so these things are important because everything affects that. So you’ve been the president for five years. Five years or is it more now?

Sarah – 00:28:54:

Since I think November of 19. So.

Brent – 00:28:57:

Yeah. Okay. So five years is a big timeframe. You kind of feel like you’re really getting into your stride a lot after doing something for five years where there’s a lot of muscle memory and being able to do it. So I want you to talk a little bit about being a leader because you weren’t just a leader when you became president, even though most people think, well, I’m the big leader at that point. No, you’re a leader at every step of the way. Talk about being a leader at every step of the way. And then just talk about in general what it’s like to get to that ultimate leader position? And then after that, I want you to talk a little bit about, okay, we live in a world where it’s becoming more equitable for the genders, for males and females to attain leadership. Certainly for females, there’s more females graduating from college today than males than ever. So there’s more females in leadership, but it’s leadership, period. It’s not female leadership. It’s just leadership, period. So talk a little bit about what it’s like to become that leader and then talk a little bit about what’s it like to be a female in that leadership role.

Sarah – 00:29:53:

So for sure, and one of the things that we say a lot here at Trinity is you can lead from whatever seat you sit.

Brent – 00:30:00:

Yeah. Oh, that’s a great statement.

Sarah – 00:30:02:

Yeah. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to have the title to gain influence and to lead people and to move things forward for good or to get caught up in the drama and pull everybody down. And what kind of leader are you going to be from the seat you sit? And everybody has that opportunity to gain influence with the people that they sit around, the leader that they work for and the people around them. So, yeah, I think that’s huge. And I think just being open, again, to just opportunities where you see things can be better and being confident that you want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I think that was something that I really focused on even very early in my career, well before I was in leadership is I just remember like one example. This is going back sometime, like 2003, right? 2004. And at the time, EDI was such a thing. And like no one really understood really how it worked. And our organization or like what to do with it. But we had customers who needed to have. These EDI transactions back and forth. And one story short, I ended up kind of taking up that project and leading that one project. I was in dispatch at the time. I had no leadership role whatsoever, but being able to see something that they needed help solving for and saying, yeah, let me see if I can help you figure that out. It was not a promotion. It was not like, oh, you need to pay me more because I’m helping you solve this problem. It wasn’t anything about that. It was just about how can we continue to be better? And how can I in the seat that I sit? Lend my knowledge and experience in a very even small way at that time to help get that project through and make that work. And that was huge. You know, we were able to figure it out. And you were collaborating with at the time, our admin teams and leaders to be able to make that work. And so, but I look back on that and it was just such a great time and example of like leading from a seat. You sit not necessarily with a title. And I think that was just huge. And so you take that over the course of lots of years of being the kind of person that would do those things. And guess what? People look to you to say, hey, how about this next problem? How do we solve this one? Let’s work together and figure out what we can do to try to make that work or make that happen for somebody, a customer or carrier or whatever. And so I think as I look back, those were pivotal moments kind of in little steps all along of just leading from the seat. You said. And then now what is it like? I mean, it’s big now. You know, we have over 900 users in our system and that’s agents and members and admin. All the pieces. And so.

Brent – 00:32:30:

It’s an enterprise level operation now.

Sarah – 00:32:33:

Yes, it is an enterprise level operation. You know, we run about a billion dollar top line revenue.

Brent – 00:32:38:

Wow, a billion dollars. Well, that’s a big number.

Sarah – 00:32:42:

It’s a big number and it’s a lot of responsibility. And I don’t take that lightly. It’s even more important, you know, that we’re collaborating as a team and making sure we’re moving together and moving in the same direction and keeping alignment with our leadership groups, but also ensuring that we’re still staying connected to the business. You know, I never want to get so removed from the business that I don’t understand what’s happening on the floor every day and staying close to our customers and our carrier needs. So I think that’s just really important now, how do you balance that, right? That’s challenging to be able to balance your strategic initiatives and direction and the time spent strategically leading, but also not being disconnected from our team and our business and our carriers and our customers and our agents. I think that’s just really important is trying to balance that well. And I’m not sure I get that right every day or every week or every month, I will tell you. I feel like I’m constantly learning, you know, how to do that better as I sit in this seat. But it’s just a huge. It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s an honor at the same time. I use the Dave Ramsey quote a lot. You know, everyone’s like, how are you doing today? And it’s better than I deserve. So many ways it just keeps you grounded, like better than I deserve. You know, you have this amazing opportunity to lead at this level. And I just don’t take that lightly. And so it’s challenging every day, which I love. You know, I love that part because you never have it figured out ever. Like anybody who says I’ve got it figured out. Yeah, right. Good luck. But I feel like if you ever get to that point, too, you’re starting to slide back because it’s always changing and evolving and always new things that you just got to be open to considering. And so, yeah. That’s a little bit about what it’s like.

Brent – 00:34:21:

Absolutely. Love it. Love it. Yeah. Being connected to those is super important. You know, they always say that people don’t leave a business. They leave the leader they work with. And so super important. So super wise advice there, Freight Nation. Always make sure you’re being relational and connected to the people you work with because they need your encouragement. They need your help. They need your guidance. All right. So let’s keep going on the leader line because we’ve got a few minutes left here. First off, Freight Nation, you are on a podcast with the current awardee of the Distinguished Woman in Logistics Award winner from this past year, Ms. Sarah Ruffcorn. First off, let me say this about Sarah. One of the things I admire greatly about her is she is a competitor. All right. She just absolutely competes. She competes to win because you’re not running a business successfully if you’re not trying to compete to win. And one of the things I admire greatly about her. But we live in this world where more and more females are taking on leadership roles, even the ultimate leadership role, the president, CEO of businesses. You’re seeing it all over the place, which is a great thing. As I famously said, I have three daughters and I want to teach all of them that the opportunities are out there for them. But focus on being a leader. But you’re still a female. You are who you are. So talk a little bit about how your approach is the same as any leader, but maybe a little different as a female leader.

Sarah – 00:35:33:

Yeah, I think the approach to leadership that I’ve always had is, again, it’s an honor to be in leadership. And I truly believe that you have to earn that respect and that influence every day. I don’t think it’s something that’s just given or handed to you because you have a title. I think you need to earn it. And I think you need to continue to build influence all the time. And so that’s always kind of been my approach to leadership. We believe really strongly in servant leadership here, where you’re turning that pyramid upside down. And as a leader, you’re truly just removing obstacles for others to succeed. And so truly putting others before yourself and doing everything you can to remove those obstacles for your team so that they can serve more and better, I think is just a huge key approach to what I’ve done and how I’ve worked and taught, just my approach to leadership. And I believe very strongly in the power of collaboration. I do. And I don’t think every leader quite understands or gets that as naturally. I think sometimes it’s learned, for sure. I always feel like that’s been a natural trait of mine is to collaborate well and come up with the best ideas and knowing that I don’t always have the best idea. Putting those problems on the table, shining a bright light on them and just saying, all right, team, how can we come together and try to solve this one? You know, and I think that’s just been just an important step in my leadership kind of all along the path and all along the journey. But also being the one to say at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out, I’m responsible and saying, you know, this bad idea or this technology that we decided to go with. Guess what? My bad. Take full ownership of that. You own it and you move on, you know, and not be afraid to do that. There’s a great book that we actually all just went through, Extreme Ownership. Jaco, I’m sure you’ve heard of that one, but it’s just an awesome book around the dichotomies of leadership. He did another one on dichotomies of leadership, but just extreme ownership at the end of the day, you’re doing everything you can to serve your team. But at the end of the day, you’re still responsible. And carrying that and being the one to say, yeah, I did that. That was the wrong call. But then when you win, guess what? Your team is getting the credit for that. Oh, and I feel very honored to have won that award. But I truly believe it is my team that has made all these.

Brent – 00:37:42:

Oh, for sure. You know,

Sarah – 00:37:44:

it’s you can’t do this alone. And yes, I am a very competitive person, but you can’t do this alone. And it truly takes an incredible team to do it well. And when you get that right, you have a lot of fun doing it, too.

Brent – 00:37:55:

Wow. What great words, Sarah. Thank you so much. I think it’s important for anyone watching and listening today, whether you’re a male, whether you’re a female, whether you’re female, whether you’re a male, Sarah’s words are so wise and so on point today. It’s so important that you own it, that you lead from a servant standpoint, that you’re always open and honest. And I love some of the things I love. You said you earn it every day. I love that aspect. You got to earn it every day. You learn along the way. And then here’s the advice for anybody watching this today. I’m going to adopt this, Sarah. Lead from the seat you sit in. That is fantastic. Sarah, you have been a delight to be on Freight Nation Day. I know that the Freight Nation watchers and listeners are going to gain so much from your story and from your experience and from your advice today. So thank you so much for being on Freight Nation.

Sarah – 00:38:41:

Well, thanks for having me. And thanks for being a long-term friend in the industry. It’s always great to bounce ideas off of you. And I just appreciate all the collaboration we’ve had over the years too.

Brent – 00:38:50:

Well, thank you. Well, I’m honored. And you always have that with me. No problem. Again, Sarah, thank you so much. And Freight Nation, man, what a great story today. I know you got a lot from it. And don’t forget, as we like to close Freight Nation every single time, don’t forget to work hard, to be kind, and to always stay humble. All right, Freight Nation, take it easy. Keep on trucking, and we’ll catch you on the next podcast. On behalf of the Truckstop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to 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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