Earlier this year, ArcBest Chairman, President and CEO Judy R. McReynolds was honored with the Women in Trucking Association’s Distinguished Woman in Logistics Award.

McReynolds was named president and CEO of ArcBest in 2010 and was elected Chairman of the Board in 2016. She serves on several boards, including the Dean's Executive Advisory Board of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. She is the current chair of the American Transportation Research Institute board, and a member of the American Trucking Associations Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

We asked McReynolds to share some insights into leadership and the rapidly changing world of freight transportation and logistics.

HDT: What does the Distinguished Woman in Logistics award mean to you?

McReynolds: I was very honored to receive this award, particularly at this time in the history of ArcBest during which we are operating as a transformed company in the logistics arena. It was a special day for me and I was privileged to be among such accomplished women.

HDT: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

McReynolds:  We have been on a journey for several years to make sure that we provide full supply chain services and a best-in-class experience for our customers, a great place to work and grow for our employees, and good returns to shareholders. I’m proud of where we have come as an organization to meet these goals. When you have been around as long we have, change is not easy, but we have made sure our people understand and accept the need for change and do all they can every day to help our company succeed.

HDT: You’re a woman in a field where most of the top executives are male. What challenges have you faced over the years as a woman in a male-dominated industry? What did you do to overcome those challenges?

McReynolds: Early on in my career, I decided I wasn’t going to make gender an issue in my career or allow other people to do so. Our industry traditionally has a lot of male representation, although there is clearly a recent trend toward more female representation. I joined ArcBest in 1997 as controller and eventually became CFO, and then CEO in 2010. It’s important for anyone, whether male or female, to really know your subject matter and add value in every role. Taking on difficult assignments leads to professional growth.

HDT: How do you mentor other women at your company and/or in the industry?

McReynolds: We believe in putting the best person for the job into various roles. We have many initiatives under way to help grow and retain our people, including women. Growth is one of our core values – we grow our people and our business. We offer an array of growth and development opportunities at every level in the organization, including various online leadership topics via our talent management system, Elevate.

We also provide open classes through our ArcBest University program, including topics such as presentation skills, emotional intelligence, building a network, and generational differences, along with a pre-defined supervisory curriculum option. The next level of training is called our Leadership Series, which is a 10-session classroom program on leadership topics that targets supervisory and manager level employees. And finally, our Leadership Academy is designed to accelerate the leadership development of our high potential employees and includes a robust nomination and selection process to participate. We want each and every employee to have the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally in their careers with ArcBest.

HDT: What’s one key leadership lesson that’s stuck with you in your career?

McReynolds: Our former Chairman of the Board and CEO Robert Young was a great example and role model for me. Robert is someone I have always admired for his steady hand and ability to deal with very tough issues in a cool and collected manner, never getting flustered even through the most challenging circumstances.

ArcBest's roots date back to the 1920s, but today it does much more than LTL. "I like to say that we now do it all in logistics with the exception of parcel, and that’s a major strategic shift for us from our roots."
 - Photo courtesy ArcBest

ArcBest's roots date back to the 1920s, but today it does much more than LTL. "I like to say that we now do it all in logistics with the exception of parcel, and that’s a major strategic shift for us from our roots."

Photo courtesy ArcBest

HDT: You have 28 years of experience in transportation and logistics, including 21 at ArcBest. How did you get interested in this industry?

McReynolds: I started my career in public accounting. My career goal at the time was to advance in that field. What that led to in my career in our industry was a client base that was made of trucking companies. That’s how I learned our business.

HDT: What are three of the top changes you’ve seen in the industry during that time?

McReynolds: I would say the number one change is from our customers, who expect a great experience from their logistics providers and, who, in turn, are reacting to consumer demands for ever-faster delivery requirements on a pretty much 24/7 basis. A second change is the way in which people buy goods and services now, often never talking to a “live” person but instead clicking on a computer or using a cell phone even for major purchases. This is leading to major structural changes in various industries, including retail. A third is the need for employees to adapt and be willing to constantly learn and embrace new ways of operating.

HDT: ABF, the company that eventually grew into ArcBest, has a long history, back to the 20s, and was one of the few less-than-truckload carriers to survive deregulation in 1980. Today, it’s much more than just an LTL, right? Tell us about that.

McReynolds: We began to significantly diversify our service offerings in 2012 with the acquisition of Panther, which really transformed our business and our company by including expedited services through an owner-operator model and a whole new group of customers for us to serve. I like to say that we now do it all in logistics with the exception of parcel, and that’s a major strategic shift for us from our roots. In many cases we would have lost business if we had continued to offer only LTL and now we are seeing greater retention and greater depth in our customer accounts. In 2018, our total company revenue passed $3 billion for the first time. This is encouraging and demonstrates that we have a great opportunity ahead of us to meet more of our customers’ logistics needs.

HDT: We’ve seen several trucking companies shut down abruptly in recent months. How do you see the transportation and logistics environment right now?

McReynolds: Over the years we have seen many competitors go out of business because they couldn’t adapt. We have a strong culture of innovation at ArcBest and constantly strive to keep ahead of rapidly changing market conditions. If anything, the pace of change is more rapid now than it has ever been and so our management team is mindful of that.

HDT: How is the rise of e-commerce and omni-channel changing logistics? Do you see Amazon as a competitor?

McReynolds: The amount of e-commerce is growing by about 15% a year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and in 2018 topped $500 billion. This creates challenges and opportunities for us. We have to make sure we are providing logistics services to our customers that are in keeping with the demands consumers have. For example, we recently unveiled our Retail+ solution, which combines new technology and processes to help vendors meet stricter requirements and avoid chargeback penalties from big retailers.

HDT: How is fast-paced technology such as “uber for trucking” startups, data mining, machine learning, artificial intelligence changing logistics?

McReynolds: It all comes down to a need for logistics providers to adapt and give customers what they want and in the way they want it, whether through trusted personal contacts, digital methods or future ways of interacting that are still being developed. We have found that while speed is clearly a defining issue for customers, they often also want that human presence particularly when it comes to complex logistics challenges.

HDT: What are some of the things ArcBest has been doing to address these challenges and keep up with a changing industry? What do you see as the industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities going forward?

McReynolds: There are many opportunities that we are working on. To meet current and future challenges, I believe there must be a willingness by employees to embrace data-driven decisions and have an analytical mindset. With the increasing digital nature of so many industries, including ours, the ability to source information from multiple sources and build compelling business models is essential. We also will continue to need people who have the ability to build strong relationships, because the trusted advisor aspect of our company is so important. Our customers need to trust that our people can truly help them navigate difficult business issues in order to provide us the data we need to uncover insights and optimize their supply chains. So this means investing in people, processes, and technology, and we are doing just that.

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