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Episode 81: Driving Success: How Ken Johnson is Paving the Way For the Future for the Logisitcs Industry

In this episode of "The Family Business Show," host Michael Columbus welcomes Ken Johnson, CEO of Leonard's Express, a family-owned trucking and logistics company. Ken shares insights into the company's achievements, such as being recognized by Food Logistics Magazine and winning awards for their patriotic truck designs and fleet safety. He discusses the importance of being a family-owned business in building trust and the strategic use of press releases for marketing.

Ken delves into his personal journey in the family business, starting from working in his father's company at a young age to taking a formal education in transportation. He outlines the history of his family's involvement in the trucking industry, tracing back to his great-great-grandfather, and discusses the evolution and challenges of the business through deregulation and competitive pressures.

The episode also touches on Leonard's Express's growth strategy, which includes acquisitions and a focus on the refrigerated transport segment. Ken highlights the company's commitment to safety, employee empowerment, and the use of technology to enhance service quality.

Ken shares his experiences in dealing with family dynamics within the business, emphasizing the importance of communication, acknowledging mistakes, and leveraging outside expertise for guidance. The discussion covers the Johnson family's traditions and the challenges and benefits of working in a family business.

Finally, the episode explores Leonard's Express's approach to acquisitions and cultural integration, underscoring the importance of aligning values and operational philosophies with potential partners. Ken emphasizes the role of effective communication and leadership in navigating the complexities of the trucking industry and maintaining a successful family business.

Watch the entire episode!

Episode 81 Transcript


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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Welcome everybody to the family business show. I am your host, Michael Columbus, and from Family Wilson legacy in Rochester, New York. Today we've got a wonderful show. We've got Ken Johnson from Leonard's express here, and ken before I, you know, introduce you and you, you know, jump in.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I I just went out to your website. It's like Food Logistics Magazine recognizes Leonard's Express. CEO Ken Johnson is a rock star of supply chain, and at a time when everybody is talking supply chain for you guys



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: to be, you know, hit, you know, with that honor. That's very cool. But then it went on to recognize one of North America's best fleets. They're your fifth patriotic truck designed on our veterans and raise money. A fleet safety award.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: It just goes on a flashiest fleet. I think that's you know that that's a really cool honor. I I love how you do 2 things. One is you you immediately tell everybody that your family owned, and I think in this world where trust is everything



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I have, You know. I know that family owned businesses get bumped



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: on the trust level because



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: we are family, all because we we treat people like family, and that comes in, and then you use all the press releases in your things. You've got some great marketing people that are really standing behind you that have done a great job. So welcome, Ken Johnson. Oh, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's all great. So I also appreciate all the nice things you said that so, and we do have a wonderful marketing department. They do a great job for us. Yeah, it's it. It. It stands out and shows there's there's a few and far between. When they When you see them? You're like, oh, yeah, They've got somebody special behind them doing this stuff.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: We have a tradition where we just ask people, how did you get involved in the family business. You know. What was.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Were you one of those ones that you know right out of high school or in high school? This is all you've ever done, or did you take another route? And it was kind of twisted and turning, and then said, You know, here I am, so love to hear your story. Sure, My dad started the Kj transportation in 1,972, when I was about 8 years old. That was his first company sold in 98. I started going to work with him as a kid. You know I empty the trash cans for quarters, the.



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Ken Johnson: you know as first offices. We're in a local truck staff that's no longer in existence and register, and they give me quarters to go play the video games.



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Ken Johnson: you know. So you I had moved on to working in the shop. I use mounting, dismounting tires as a way to get in shape for football on the fall. I do that over the summer, you know. So yeah, I you know. To me it was never a question.



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Ken Johnson: I went to college for transportation, which was probably not my best choice, because I had a pretty good education at the dinner table growing up, and I probably thought I knew more than some of the professors did, and you know so it I probably should have taken something a little more challenging than that. But yeah, and I won't right to work, you know, out of college at the Kj. And work there until he sold it. And you know, we started on it a few years later.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Okay, and we we we hit on this earlier before we started the show. But you you're actually this is fourth generation in this industry, and you mind shared talking about that a little bit. Yeah, my great, great grandfather started a Company Langdon truck lines and Linenville, New York population about 500, I think.



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Ken Johnson: Give or take it's very small community in Orleans County.



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Ken Johnson: you know. He started, you know just 1 one truck, and through that I have a picture in my office with him, him sitting on the hood. You have a fleet of, I think, 7 trucks. All the drivers were both ties, and you know, eventually my grandmother, his daughter, and my grandfather took that over, and you know they sold their company in 1,968, and and my dad was working for them when they sold, and



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Ken Johnson: I was born in suffer New York. My dad was running their office down in Brooklyn, you know. So you know he worked for them. And then, you know, you know, after they sold he changed jobs, and I went to work for a company that's no longer in business in Bloomfield, New York, before he then moved down to his company, and in 1,972.



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Ken Johnson: Yeah. So you know, trucking, you know. Some people might say we have Diesel fuel in our veins.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Fair enough, you know. It's interesting.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Your family



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: has taken an almost exact and opposite path



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: than many family businesses. It's one that I think is brilliant. It's brilliant that



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know. They, your great grandfather, sold the business, you know. Then they sold it again and sold it again. And then, you know, each generation pretty much started their own businesses. And



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know why you Where did that? Where did those decisions come from? How did that happen? And



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know what were some of the benefits and challenges of that?



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Ken Johnson: Yeah, you know, I think you know, I can't really speak to. Why my grandparents sold the first company they had. But I know my dad, you know one of the reasons he was looking to us all was. There's 4 of us. I have 2 brothers and a sister. We're all active in the business as well as you know some of our spouses, you know. So I think



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Ken Johnson: you know he thought that was a way, maybe, to



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Ken Johnson: to deal with the succession plan, you know, and



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Ken Johnson: you know, and I think when we sold it we sold it back during the Uhcom



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Ken Johnson: stock market boom, and it was a publicly traded company that seemed like maybe they were better funded than they were, and you know, so just you know, really, they started doing things in a way that was counter to our values, and



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Ken Johnson: you know. So you know, we waited out or not compete. We also had another business. That's still one of our companies, Jenison equipment. We we're doing truck repair and selling parts. I work there, for you know the 3 years that we had to wait on our 9 competes, and



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Ken Johnson: you know, then, you know we started seeing opportunities with customers, our former company wasn't serving, and and that's when we decide to get together and to start Leonard's express. And



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Ken Johnson: yeah, I didn't actually come to Leonard right away. I stayed at Jenson equipment for a number of years, my sister and brother in law, and mother and youngest brother, you know they They started right out in the beginning, and my middle brother he actually stayed with the company we sold to for a few more years, and then then came over. So



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: interesting it it's. I think it's like



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: sorry. I just got tongue tied there, but from from a succession planning standpoint it Really, it makes an awful lot of sense when somebody is passionate



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: about it of the business, and willing to invest their own money. They're in their own, not just their time and their talent. But really, you know, the buck stops here, and then the other thing that it does is so. So. One. There's a lot of drive from the the next generation, the rising generation, whatever you want to call it.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: But then, from the other side of that I want people to make sure that they catch. This is



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you're caching out along the way.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So so you know, if that industry took a turn.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know You've already cashed out a several times through the generations, and it's one of the concerns that you know when i'm talking to multi generation business owners.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: they talk about it all the time where they say, you know, we wanna we want to keep the business in the family. We wanna we're gonna gift it over there and do all of that work, and then the concern is well, what happens if something goes wrong in the economy of the industry, and we could be worth nothing, and that cashing out moment. Every generation is brilliant.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: really great idea.



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Ken Johnson: Well, i'm not sure it was really plan that way. But you know. I think it's. It's, you know, worked out in our case, you know. So yeah, so it's. You know that we're starting to deal with it ourselves. Now, you know there's another generation behind us right now. The my 2 brothers and I are



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Ken Johnson: all in the company, and we all have a family in the next generation coming along, which is great. You know we enjoy seeing them grow, and you know more importantly, growing in interest in our industry.



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Ken Johnson: We also have I don't my both my son and daughter work for Leonard, but you know my 2 brothers both have



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Ken Johnson: daughters and sons that don't work in in the bit i'm in the business. But you know, seeing that next generation grow an interest, and maybe some of the ones that aren't will eventually come over, you know, simply because they're They're young and still finding their way. But yeah, it's. But it also creates. You know some of what you're talking about. We're gonna have to start thinking about.



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Ken Johnson: You know. How are we going to transition over time? You know. I'd like to think we still have a little bit of time there. But you know time goes past, and you know, especially as we're growing. And you know we've managed to grow, you know Leonard and our other companies to a fairly good size, you know. So it's, you know. It takes planning.



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Ken Johnson: you know, to make these transitions, and you know, and there's a lot of different ways to go, and you know some of them are better than others, you know. So you want to make sure you make the best choice for your your for your family, and not just your family. I mean you. We like to look at everyone that works for Leonard and our other companies as part of our family, you know, and that I think, as part of what's made us successful.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: agreed through the years. I mean, you started in, you know the 1,972 was when your parents started. What were some of the obstacles



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: the the families run into running the business through the years. What were some of the I mean the seventies? I can just think about the gas crisis and things that we're going out in the trucking industry. Mind talking about. How did you guys overcome the You know the obstacles



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Ken Johnson: my dad started in one truck, you know. He drove it himself back in the seventies the industry was still regulated, so you had to have shipper support to get your authority, and I, you know, and there was tariffs, and you know, in the I believe it was early eighties that the industry was d regulated. So all of a sudden



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Ken Johnson: the barrier for entry dropped dramatically, and you know, and that it built, you know, a nice little company by that point. But you know when the more competition you know supply and demand, you know. So you know.



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Ken Johnson: you know, started getting a lot tougher, you know, to make you know the profits. You had to work harder. You had to watch your cost more, you know, and not that they wasted money, you know, prior to that. But you know it's just, you know. Just



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Ken Johnson: ramp that up to another level, and it's it's been that way ever since. You know. It's a very competitive business, and over the years, you know we've done several acquisitions. So sometimes the timing haven't been great, you know we're, or we bought a fleet that you know. Maybe didn't, you know. I can remember one specifically. We bought a fleet out of Pennsylvania



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Ken Johnson: probably had the greatest group of employees that we've ever you know. I I don't want to say ever because you've done some really good ones since. But as far as the drivers go, the drivers, almost every one of those drivers retired from my dance company.



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Ken Johnson: You know we're you know in a lot of cases, you know they they leave, but they had a group of trucks that almost broke us you mechanically. You know they were just unreliable and just, you know, very high cost and maintain. And you know, on this probably the only time you know, over the years that we ever made any sizable lay offs, because you know those trucks, you know we just had to get rid of them, we and sell them, and



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Ken Johnson: you know and move on, but you know, so we've had any challenges, you know. Industries up and down, you know it's. you know, right now in the last 3 years we're very good, you know. The pandemic created a lot of opportunities for our industry. People were spending their money differently, you know, as



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Ken Johnson: the inflation hadn't really heated up as much, you know, and it that changed overnight here, you know, several months ago, it seems, you know. So you know, and we've dealt with those cycles, you know, throughout the years. Yeah, I think the biggest difference now. It just seems they happen.



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Ken Johnson: you know, a good time from last point as long as the bad times. And you know, I think, does the knowledge and anything which comes from technology just that changes that quick. So



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Gotcha



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: thinking about, you know.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: family, or let's talk about scaling. Let's



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: jump over there when you started, Leonards.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: How many trucks did you guys have? Then? How many employees? And then compare that to today and talk about how you and your family think about the strategies that you're going to employ. If you don't mind sharing that



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Ken Johnson: mainly because, you know, we wouldn't. We were looking for ways to, you know. Take care of some of the customers that we thought were being underserved by the name of the company that I bought ours was priority. You know. We felt they were being underserved, and



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Ken Johnson: but we didn't want to compete with them, you know, for drivers, and you know that type of thing. You know, we still had friends and family there, so you know. So we took that approach about 2,007 priority close down.



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Ken Johnson: and that's when we started adding trucks, you know. By then our brokerage was pretty good size. We were, you know, moving, you know, several 100 loads, you know, a week.



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Ken Johnson: and we started adding trucks when those drivers that had formally worked for my dad's company and I had come to a priority over the years. We're looking for a job, and you know the trucks were available. So we bought them started, adding them over the



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Ken Johnson: next, you know 2,011, was our first acquisition up in the eclair Wisconsin. We've done 7 since, you know. That's been a very big part of our growth strategy. We usually only do acquisitions on the asset side, which is our own



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Ken Johnson: trucks with our names on them, and we've tried to grow the brokerage, you know. I'm in parallel with that over the years. So you know, as a revenue stream. We have both customers and loads that we serve with carriers using their assets, and in in those that we serve using ours.



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Ken Johnson: you know, based out of other than farming, and every one of our terminals comes through an acquisition, and we have 5 that have trucks based at it, and another 7, that our sales offices, which are primarily broker



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Nice and



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Ken Johnson: I was just gonna I had. You know, the over the last 4 or 5 years. We started adding warehousing services and just open the brand new refrigerator warehouse in January.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and they that was something, you know, going through your website talking about the difference between refrigerated and just and and just delivery and trucking. It's a different industry. Isn't it. Yeah, you know, in my, you know, Dad retired about 10 years or so ago, and you know, really, that was when.



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Ken Johnson: and my 2 brothers and I and my sister at the time was with us, we really decide to focus on the refrigerated side of the business. We Still, you know we still do fair amount of drive and work, but you know we felt that you know it was part of the industry that



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Ken Johnson: you know, maybe had a little less competition, you know, especially if you devoted resources to technology and kept your equipment upgraded, you know, to the newest.



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Ken Johnson: You know that, you know we could compete a little better, you know, and it wasn't quite as commoditized as you know, some of the other types of freight hauling in our industry. You know that, you know, led us to. We do a lot of dry warehousing, but we also, you know, seen a lot of demand, and, you know, refrigerated side, you know, which led us to, you know, decide to invest in building that facility, and



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Ken Johnson: you know, and it's it's a little more demanding. It takes a little higher level of expertise, you know, not just from a you know, technology perspective, but from a driver perspective, a lot of what we hall is, you know, fresh.



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Ken Johnson: you know. So you know you got a load of berries, you know, that had a very limited shelf life, you know. So you know you, you have to have a driver that's reliable. You have to have equipment that's reliable, and you have to use the technology to make sure everything's working together.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: You probably have tons of.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know, operating systems and processes built in to May be able to make that work, and you know, just looking at the video, you guys use technology at a level that a lot of people probably don't in that industry.



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Ken Johnson: Yeah, you know, we'd like to think we do. And then we look around and see a lot of the technology we haven't. Now, said we don't feel that we're fully utilizing. You know that we could always do it better, you know. So you know, sometimes we're our own worst critic. But yeah, you know, technology is coming long ways. When I first got in the industry back in the early eighties, you know it was, the driver would make a check call every morning, you know. Report. You know what the temperature was on his trail, or what you know, the tomatoes or the yeah. The fruit, you know, looked like for some of the different fruits



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Ken Johnson: continue to rip them as they're being transported, and you know, and maybe we'd make an adjustment. It was a knob you were one of within a degree or 2. You were fine.



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Ken Johnson: you know, to whereas now you know, the trailers have computers on them. You know where we have set points that are in some cases specific to our customers, you know, like we have a lot of berries, and you know that we have a very profile; that our customer is developed, and



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Ken Johnson: collaboration with the refrigerated



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Ken Johnson: trailer manufacturers and the carriers that they use, so it has a exact temperature. They want the exact range as well as the humidity level they want in the trailer, you. So you know, time times have really changed with that.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: There's a lot of family members in the business today. Talk about how many family members are in the business.



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Ken Johnson: See? It's gotta be somewhere around 12, I think.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Have you set up like policies to say when somebody can come in. How do you you know? How did you make those decisions? How do you decide? Where do they fit? How do you pay, you know, is, how does that work in your family?



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Ken Johnson: My, yes, brother's son in law, who works for us, graduated from St. John Fisher, and he was very active in their family business program there, and I did a great job over there still doing a great job there. Hey? I've been fortunate. He's taken me over to some of the presentations they've had with different



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Ken Johnson: family companies that they bring in for those programs, and you know, and then I. He's actually brought some ideas to us, You know that. Yes, my dad. My dad was a big believer that if a family member wanted to come to work for. He would hire, you know, find find a place for him, and you know sometimes you know that



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Ken Johnson: didn't work out, but most times it did. And you know, when my dad was very good motivator. Yeah. But he was also a very good



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Ken Johnson: judge of people, you know, and recognizing their strengths. And you know where they would fit in. You know you know 1,988, you know the he had an opening you know for Director of Maintenance to K. J. I was in the business 6 7 years, and I had actually been working in different part.



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Ken Johnson: He told me he wanted me to do that, and you on. I worked in the shop growing up, but I really had no idea how to run it. He gave me a couple of names of people in the industry to reach out to, and, you know, get involved in some



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Ken Johnson: associations, and you know, and you know. So that was a way my dad, you know, just you know, sort of that develop people and recognize their skills, and you know, and it gave me a you know great background in the industry, and you know I did that till you know 2,001. When I went over to Johnson equipment, which was still the maintenance deal, but



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Ken Johnson: you know that. But I wasn't running the fleet any longer, you know. So



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Ken Johnson: yeah, so we we've kind of carried that over, you know. So we really don't have a you know structure. If you have to meet this level, it's more of what are you interested in? And do you understand that this is our families company and your part of our family, and you. With that comes responsibility, you know, and and may not be a responsibility level that



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Ken Johnson: everybody is comfortable with.



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Ken Johnson: you know, and it's you have to want to, You know, work in our industry. You know that you know, to make it work, I think what has happened over the years with some of our family members, and the next generations is, you know they see it growing up from a distance, and Don't think you know it's all that interesting. You know it's.



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Ken Johnson: You know the trucks are boring, and there's no glamour to it. But they, you know, maybe come to work, you know, in a summer job, you know, when they're in high school or in my Daughter's case, she worked for us part time while she was going to school locally, and she actually changed her major. Once she started seeing what we do when, and actually got close to some of the people she was working with, you know. So you know that's it's worked for us. We haven't felt the need to put a formal structure in place



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Ken Johnson: we do. We do meet with them as a separate group. We have a management group within Leonard. You know that other than my 2 brothers and myself, Kevin and Kyle and I.



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Ken Johnson: You know we have their outside managers outside the family, but we also meet with the family members orderly just to discuss what's going on. You'll bring them up to speed on some of the things we've got working. You know some of the plans we're making, and to listen to their ideas, you know, and you know



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Ken Johnson: what area of the company are are you working in? Are you comfortable there, you? What path would you like to see yourself go down over the next 5 or 6 years, and you know, really



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Ken Johnson: not necessarily make them uncomfortable on purpose, but make them really stop and think about what you know Their next steps might be if they like, given the opportunity, you know. So so we're not trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We're trying to use their skills and interest, you know, so that the



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Ken Johnson: you know they can be, you know, contribute in their own way, but still be a part of you know the family business.



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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What happens? What you're describing by default is written in a book called every family's business Tom Dean's talks about. You know his family did a few things. One. They always sold the business



00:22:20.020 --> 00:22:21.670

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: every generation.



00:22:21.670 --> 00:22:46.540

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and then there was some other things like meeting with the family on at least a quarterly basis, he said, at least annually. You guys are doing it quarterly, and you're just having those conversations, you know. What if what do you see as the swat analysis for the company? What do we see? Where do you see the vision versus Where do we see the vision? And you're just having some great dialogue. So that's often congratulations this.



00:22:46.540 --> 00:22:51.100

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: It's a really Testament to how you are able to scale.



00:22:51.310 --> 00:22:59.360

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: How you were able to bring family members in my gut says that if somebody is, has the responsibility for



00:22:59.730 --> 00:23:09.760

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: maintenance, they're getting paid, the same as everybody in that division. And if somebody is working in marketing, they're getting paid based just like everybody in marketing. Is that



00:23:10.080 --> 00:23:13.770

Ken Johnson: Yeah, it's close. Yeah, I mean, you know. Certainly, you know



00:23:13.880 --> 00:23:19.380

Ken Johnson: we take care of family, you know. We try to take care of everybody. You know it's a



00:23:20.050 --> 00:23:36.750

Ken Johnson: My mother always believed in the equity, you know. So you know, she kind of put that sense of treating all her grandchildren equally just like she traded her children equally, which probably was one of the reasons they were a little bit challenged. Deal with the



00:23:36.870 --> 00:23:48.810

Ken Johnson: transitioning to the next generation, which is why, you know, I I believe, that they sold their first company. But you know, with this company they decided to bring in some outside help. You know, on that. You know



00:23:48.840 --> 00:23:51.370

that led to where we are today, so that



00:23:51.900 --> 00:24:07.870

Ken Johnson: I I think we we may or may not, you know, look at a little different path. And they did, you know. But but I think you can transition without necessarily selling. But yeah, there has to be a there has to be a plan, and then that may may eventually be the option. But



00:24:08.340 --> 00:24:14.970

Ken Johnson: and at this point we've got a much larger group than maybe a few years ago to to bring into the conversation



00:24:15.700 --> 00:24:16.980

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: understandable.



00:24:20.040 --> 00:24:24.980

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Take a break from business for a second. Just talk about the Johnson family.



00:24:25.010 --> 00:24:29.010

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What are some of your favorite traditions outside of business with the family?



00:24:30.230 --> 00:24:42.180

Ken Johnson: One of my favorite things, you know. Growing up is, you know, the large family gathering and Thanksgiving, you know, thanks Thanksgiving, for whatever reasons always been my favorite holiday.



00:24:42.480 --> 00:24:58.670

Ken Johnson: I think mainly because, you know, it is the largest group of family that you know we got together every year. It was like Christmas seemed to always be a little a little tougher to get everybody in the same place at the same time. But we would all, would it all together, You know we



00:24:59.440 --> 00:25:12.550

Ken Johnson: We spent a lot of time, you know, work, you know, with, you know, being a family business deal with our family vacations on over the summers growing up. We're generally. My dad had an office in Owensboro, Kentucky.



00:25:12.700 --> 00:25:26.200

Ken Johnson: It's probably not on most people's top 10 list of places to go on vacation, but his way of letting it was a smaller office, with maybe 3 or 4 people in it, and he would go down and work in that office so that those people could have



00:25:26.200 --> 00:25:38.980

Ken Johnson: someone to take care of their job. Why, they were on vacation, and you know we'd spend the summer. There was a camp not far from there, you know, with a lake with swimming, and you know. So you know that was a fun, you know. Doing that.



00:25:39.410 --> 00:25:52.000

Ken Johnson: We've always say I've always been a big race, Fan. My dad was as well. We go to the on the 500 a lot of years. I think I was the only one of my family members that they're stuck with. My wife, and I still go to the 500 every year.



00:25:52.000 --> 00:26:02.160

Ken Johnson: you know. So yeah, yeah, it's the different things like that growing up. My dad sponsored some race cars, you know, with the local racetracks, you know. So I would go hang out with them, and



00:26:02.200 --> 00:26:07.760

Ken Johnson: you know that was my golf game. I guess I put play a little golf, but



00:26:07.860 --> 00:26:23.350

Ken Johnson: you know not near as much as my 2 brothers do so i'm more into the cars. There you go! Hi! It's, and we're blessed. We've got walking so close right some really neat, you know. It's different racing, but that just definitely neat stuff happening there. Yeah, sure. Yeah. I've been there plenty of time.



00:26:25.400 --> 00:26:29.280

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What are some of the tough parts about being part of a family business.



00:26:30.080 --> 00:26:35.790

Ken Johnson: Well, you know. yeah, growing up. And even now, when you're with family.



00:26:36.420 --> 00:26:43.200

Ken Johnson: you generally you're talking about business. You know it's very difficult to separate the 2, you know. I



00:26:43.200 --> 00:27:03.500

Ken Johnson: I used to joke once in a while that you know. Christmas dinner was our annual board meeting, you know. Just you know it's just hard to get away, especially at you know at times. You know I've had cousins, you know, especially when my dad is still running the company. I had cousins working there, and some, you know. So you know, even a larger family gathering still revolved about business.



00:27:03.500 --> 00:27:23.080

Ken Johnson: you know. So you know, getting having conversations, you know it was nice side. It was after Dad retired with shop. He said he retired. He never really did. You know he was still a trusted advisor to not only me, but my 2 brothers, as well as you know, we have a lot of long term employees that still would talk to him on a regular basis. But



00:27:23.080 --> 00:27:39.900

Ken Johnson: it all it did allow, you know, an opportunity to talk about things other than trucks, you know, and you know I enjoyed the enjoy those conversations and miss them so, but that that I think that's probably one of the tougher things growing up in a family business, especially one like trucking, you know, because



00:27:39.940 --> 00:27:56.110

Ken Johnson: you know my dad used to joke his slogan was with those, but never close. And it's true, you know it's a 24 7 business, you know. We we have people working every day of the year every hour of every day, you know so you know it's it's not like, you know.



00:27:56.110 --> 00:28:00.420

Ken Johnson: You can shut it down for a week and go on vacation and just forget about things, you know. So



00:28:01.020 --> 00:28:15.900

Ken Johnson: you know that's that was one of the probably the challenges. But, on the other hand, you know, I think it's given our family a very unstable life that we didn't miss much growing up. You know we did the Disney trips. We did the you know things like that, you know, so you know we certainly.



00:28:15.900 --> 00:28:29.180

Ken Johnson: you know, but a lot of times we're waiting to go on rides, and Dad was over on a payphone, checking in to make sure everything was good in the office because didn't have cell phones back then. So



00:28:30.470 --> 00:28:35.770

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: we talk about transition. You're working on that. Those things right now you guys have



00:28:36.010 --> 00:28:44.100

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: historically done things differently. It looks like there's a possibility that it'd be different again going forward. So that's I think that's really



00:28:44.180 --> 00:28:58.030

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: powerful as well is the fact that you're not Just this is the way we've always done it. So this is what we have to do. You're open to, you know, having some discussion. Say, okay, what do we need to do for this generation and then get smart?



00:28:58.530 --> 00:29:13.240

Ken Johnson: Yeah, you know, I think you know we're in a fortunate position that i'm the oldest, you know. There's 8 years between me and my youngest brother in the I'm. Kyle and Kevin's in the middle, you know, so we're not in any rush.



00:29:13.360 --> 00:29:39.960

Ken Johnson: But we also know that you know, over the next several years. You know we need to start having that in the back of our mind. you know just you know, looking at opportunities, you know, you know, as it is the right thing to do. You know, long term, you know, we're still actively looking for growth opportunities, you know. It's a little tougher, you know, when interest rates are doubling and tripling when you're in a trucking business



00:29:39.960 --> 00:29:56.490

Ken Johnson: is our some of our financial advisors like to say you're in a very capital intensive business. So but yeah, it's, you know we're Still, you know we're still in a growth mode. We're still, you know, running the business, but you know it always have that in the back of our mind a little bit that you know we need to



00:29:56.490 --> 00:30:14.640

Ken Johnson: manage with a sense that you know, at some point there's going to be a transition that needs to take place. And what does that look like in in giving yourself that runway that long lead time gives you a lot of opportunity to look at all the various options, because there's a lot of them. There's you know you can.



00:30:15.020 --> 00:30:29.960

Ken Johnson: You can continue to grow, you can, you know, stay until your you know 8 years old, and you know and just keep running it every day. Or you can look for an exit strategy. And those extra strategies, you know. There's dozens of them really



00:30:30.440 --> 00:30:34.720

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: agreed. Agreed. Yeah, it. We're working with one right now.



00:30:34.790 --> 00:30:54.550

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: They have always been, and I can tell me if this phrase rings true. The founder was the benevolent dictator. Everything was on his shoulders. The you know. The buck stopped with them, and in order to you know transition, they they're looking and hoping to go to an esop.



00:30:54.660 --> 00:31:00.920

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and because you know, it's a 170 employees, and nobody in the family wants to continue it.



00:31:01.020 --> 00:31:01.850

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: But



00:31:02.180 --> 00:31:17.560

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: when you're the benevolent dictator, and You're making all the decisions you haven't really grown that leadership team to be able to do that. It sounds like you have a management leadership teams that are some family, some non family. Then you have the family board



00:31:17.780 --> 00:31:20.360

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: kind of working on a quarterly basis.



00:31:20.550 --> 00:31:27.940

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and that work, you know you. You probably, you know, through the years when you started



00:31:28.090 --> 00:31:33.150

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: the company, it was the 3 of you making all the decisions every single day



00:31:33.230 --> 00:31:51.320

Ken Johnson: you've transitioned out of that. It sounds like otherwise you wouldn't be able to be sitting here doing this podcast right now.



00:31:51.320 --> 00:31:59.500

Ken Johnson: A reputation, you know, build a place that people want to go to work, you know, and then once they get there they're happy. You know that they're there.



00:32:00.130 --> 00:32:14.860

Ken Johnson: you know it. It makes it easier to hire good people. You know that, you know, because if if trucking, you know, we talked a little bit about the technology or earlier, but it's still a very people intensive business and the



00:32:14.860 --> 00:32:24.000

Ken Johnson: you know. So you know, we're up to right around 1,000 employees between our 4 companies. So it takes, you know it takes a very strong team.



00:32:25.000 --> 00:32:33.890

Ken Johnson: The, on the other hand, is, I look back at my dad, you know i'm sitting in this role, and he didn't have 2 brothers. It was him and my mother.



00:32:33.890 --> 00:32:51.780

Ken Johnson: and you know we can bounce ideas off each other. You know you know we we have titles, but you know we treat each other as equals, and you know, in the decision making process, and you know, and I I think Dad had the weight of the entire company at him where you know



00:32:51.790 --> 00:33:00.880

Ken Johnson: It's a bigger company, maybe a little heavier load, but it's a share, you know. So you know, I think that's a you know a very powerful benefit.



00:33:01.580 --> 00:33:08.540

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah. And and then the work to go from, you know, just being



00:33:08.540 --> 00:33:21.780

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: one person, or even just 3, you either. 3 of you couldn't do all the work without having a great team and trusting them to be able to do it. You can't. You can't scale without the right culture and the right people.



00:33:22.900 --> 00:33:36.740

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's important that you picked that up, you know, long time ago. We we share this with everybody that we talk to is that you're not in whatever industry you think you're in. That's not the business that you're in.



00:33:37.130 --> 00:33:52.850

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: You're in the business of people, exactly customers or employees, or family, you know, or it might even be for like for for a family business. You've got people that are in the the business. They've got their opinions on how they think you should be doing things right.



00:33:52.850 --> 00:34:19.659

Ken Johnson: Oh, I'm: Sure, yeah. And then i'm sure that not every decision we make that everyone agrees with, you know, like I said, over the years we've done several acquisitions, and the last one was a little bit that bigger than anything we'd ever done before, and you know, and i'm sure there were people that you know that created a little extra work form that maybe they question the wisdom of it turned out to be a great great addition for us. We've been in a whole bunch of wonderful people that was out and



00:34:19.659 --> 00:34:38.790

Ken Johnson: called the Idol, which is outside of Boise. The only challenge there was, You know we did that in the middle of a pandemic, after a lot of the airlines, and cut the number of flights per day. So it was a lot easier to get there prior to than in the pandemic. I think it takes 3 flights from Rochester to get there most of the time. So



00:34:38.810 --> 00:34:51.830

Ken Johnson: But yeah, it's yeah. So I i'm sure that that not every decision we've made, not every opportunity we've taken advantage of you know that the entire company agreed with. But I think that



00:34:51.830 --> 00:35:11.220

Ken Johnson: yeah, I I think that you know my leadership style. If we make a mistake, we admit the mistake and move. He'll make the change and move on, you know. And if I you know we find something that works, you know we find a way to build on it, and you know it seems to have, you know, working. You know my 2 brothers and I. You all share that philosophy, and



00:35:11.220 --> 00:35:14.780

Ken Johnson: you know we're not. We're not afraid to admit when we're on. You know it's



00:35:15.030 --> 00:35:15.850

Ken Johnson: just



00:35:15.880 --> 00:35:21.890

Ken Johnson: you're not making mistakes. You're not trying, and you know that's you know. We're certainly not afraid to take a risk every now and then.



00:35:22.230 --> 00:35:39.260

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and and and here we go again by default. You nail some of the best business books out there. So Patrick Lencion, he wrote the book. The 5 dysfunctions of a team Lot of businesses have have utilized that and talk about it, and the foundation of that is trust.



00:35:39.430 --> 00:35:54.520

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and the way that you build trust is being being able to talk about your false talk about your mistakes being vulnerable with your with your employees, so that models for them to be able to come to you to say, hey, I screwed up



00:35:55.160 --> 00:36:02.850

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I, and Here's my thinking for some solutions. What do you think? It just changes the dynamic inside of the company?



00:36:03.610 --> 00:36:18.780

Ken Johnson: Yeah, no, I agree on the, you know. And I think you know one of the things that we did several years ago, and I happen to be the same gentleman that advice my family on. You know my dad moving from the CEO role to our chairman and



00:36:19.040 --> 00:36:29.650

Ken Johnson: partial retirement. And you know I moved in the CEO role and so on, and I brought them in because we were growing fast, and you know, and



00:36:30.420 --> 00:36:41.160

Ken Johnson: people were looking to myself. My 2 brothers. My sister, was still with us time. Some of the other leaders, you know, you know, to make answer or make decisions and give answers. And you.



00:36:41.160 --> 00:37:04.130

Ken Johnson: you know, as we were getting bigger, they they just was a bottleneck, and you know. So we started a program called La Leadership Academy, Dr. Jim Kestenbaum, you know, local on the shell. Okay, great. So you. You know what i'm talking about? Absolutely. We're on currently. There's a group. It's all 8, 11, and there's been other groups that we done. So there's he's probably done



00:37:04.130 --> 00:37:18.750

Ken Johnson: 1718 different programs for us, the Leadership Academy being the most frequent. You know that teach leadership skills, you know, even if to use one of these 2 terms: that you're still an individual contributor.



00:37:18.750 --> 00:37:27.720

But give you the skills to make a decision. You know, and give a Customer an answer, or give your co-worker and answer that you don't have to wait, you know, for somebody higher up.



00:37:27.720 --> 00:37:44.940

Ken Johnson: you know, to make a decision. You know and power people to, you know. Make decisions and get things done quicker, and you know, and he's been great, you know, on a helping us develop that. And you know. I really think you know that's, you know, been part of our growth successes, you know. Doing that, because.



00:37:44.940 --> 00:38:00.060

Ken Johnson: you know, we bought companies over the years where you know. You know one or 2 owners, you know, and their quality of life was terrible because they didn't let anybody else make decisions, and in most cases. They had great people, you know, and not by the you know the



00:38:00.090 --> 00:38:05.910

Ken Johnson: they felt. The buck stopped with them, and because of that they had to make all the decisions, and you know.



00:38:06.160 --> 00:38:20.240

Ken Johnson: and it probably cost them some on the quality of life scale. You know it's, you know they weren't able to do some of the things that they wanted to, and they had no exit strategy other than to sell. And you know, fortunately, we've found over the years. A few



00:38:20.240 --> 00:38:29.100

Ken Johnson: very good ones, you know, and you know I think we were able to give the former owners. You know a little bit of their life back. So



00:38:29.300 --> 00:38:45.940

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that's great. So 2 things come out of that conversation for me. One I want to talk about. You know you're smart enough to bring in outside consultants through the years. My gut says it's probably wasn't just Jim, Dr. Jim.



00:38:45.970 --> 00:38:58.620

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and and that, I think, is one of those blind spots for people is. They think they have to do it All that rugged individualist, you know American. I I've got this covered, and it's just



00:38:58.780 --> 00:39:01.970

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: smart to say I don't know what I don't know



00:39:02.060 --> 00:39:10.850

Ken Johnson: right well, you know, and that's especially true in the trucking industry, you know, as you know most not all, but you know, predominant



00:39:10.880 --> 00:39:19.240

Ken Johnson: predominantly. Most trucking company owners started as a driver, then maybe bought their own truck



00:39:19.300 --> 00:39:36.540

Ken Johnson: and then started to build off that. You know there's a few, you know, that maybe worked in the industry and other capacities. But you know, and you know, up until maybe the last 7 8 9 years, it was a very male dominated industry, and and some areas of it it still is, and



00:39:36.800 --> 00:39:52.440

Ken Johnson: you know. So you're dealing with a you know somebody that built a company, and very, you know. Trucking, you know very competitive, you know, and it's you know it's a very it's. It's a business appendix, you know we measure things in pennies per mile, and you know, so



00:39:52.890 --> 00:40:09.070

Ken Johnson: you get very protective, you know. Make the decisions, you know, when you're starting from nothing and building it up, and you know some. Some have done very well at recognizing their limitations and bringing in, you know, additional help, and using others. You are still



00:40:09.090 --> 00:40:20.120

Ken Johnson: limited by their own capacities, because, you know, they're afraid to give that up, and they look. The only way to giving it up is to sell and let somebody else hopefully continue to build their company for them.



00:40:20.950 --> 00:40:31.300

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: which goes to the other piece that I wanted to talk about is acquisition. So that's been, you know the growth strategy that you have used through the years is the acquisition.



00:40:31.560 --> 00:40:35.430

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Walk me through and just share with. You know our audience



00:40:35.640 --> 00:40:55.020

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: when you are acquiring the company. What are the important pieces? How do you? How do you merge? And you know one? How do you know that it's good going to be a good fit, and to how do you ensure that it's a good fit? What are the steps that you're taking to make sure that your culture and their culture, you know, are are meshed.



00:40:55.480 --> 00:41:04.820

Ken Johnson: you know it's a it's funny, One of the first things we do when we get an opportunity across our desktop on my desk, and I get a lot of them that



00:41:04.820 --> 00:41:21.530

Ken Johnson: you know just you know, for whatever reason you know it, it's neither the timing isn't good, or we got something else going on. But you know I I get, you know, several a week, and then, if I see one that I think might be a good opportunity. I'll reach out to the broker that's representing that company, and



00:41:21.760 --> 00:41:36.410

Ken Johnson: and they'll send over. You know some information. You know numbers. You know it's at that point. It's usually fairly high level. It's a lot of confidentiality, you know, in this process, and you know, within



00:41:36.870 --> 00:41:42.680

Ken Johnson: the first couple of steps. I want to have a sit down lately, virtually you with the owner.



00:41:42.790 --> 00:41:59.650

Ken Johnson: I want to have a conversation and just talk like you and I are talking here today, you know, and just you know, General, you know I generally, and you and my 2 brothers generally participate in that as well, and we try to get a sense of their business philosophy. You know, on how they run their company.



00:41:59.650 --> 00:42:07.750

Ken Johnson: That'll generally give us a pretty good idea of. You know how the culture of that company is, and it was



00:42:07.780 --> 00:42:13.210

Ken Johnson: we always integrate our acquisition into into into Leonards.



00:42:13.210 --> 00:42:31.630

Ken Johnson: You know I mentioned the last one was a little bit larger than the typical one. We actually yeah, and I had nothing to do with this. It was my little brother Kevin and a group that he took out the idle. They changed a name on 165 trucks, and I think in about 5 days, which is is a very



00:42:32.730 --> 00:42:36.620

Ken Johnson: It's a lot of work you also.



00:42:38.540 --> 00:42:39.650

Ken Johnson: you know. So



00:42:39.880 --> 00:42:56.370

Ken Johnson: it's important that you know we have, you know, a strong compatibility from a culture perspective, you know, in our our culture, is it's each location kind of has their own subculture, you know, just because of where they are in the country. But you know it's. You know. It's a general culture of doing



00:42:56.460 --> 00:43:10.630

Ken Johnson: things the right way, you know, doing what's right, even if it's not easy. And you know when we're looking for people that you know have the same same mindset, you know. You know we have a little over 700 trucks on the road, you know, so



00:43:11.000 --> 00:43:27.610

Ken Johnson: that's a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong. If we're not thinking about safety first, you know it's we're gonna do it safely, regardless of, you know, you know, if we're late because of weather, you know, and then we stop to get out of the weather, or if



00:43:27.650 --> 00:43:38.380

Ken Johnson: you know it's traffic's backed up. And you know we're not gonna take a back road just to get around traffic. If the interstate, the safest way we we want to operate is a safe company, and



00:43:38.380 --> 00:43:55.820

Ken Johnson: you know, and it's a it's a priority. And when we look at you know acquisitions, you know, besides meeting with the owner and the culture trying to get a gauge on the culture. We also look at some of the publicly available safety information on them, just, you know, to make sure that they have that same value. So



00:43:56.100 --> 00:43:58.910

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that's great. It was



00:43:59.030 --> 00:44:05.170

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: when you look at you know you and your brothers get together right now. What would you say over the next



00:44:05.550 --> 00:44:08.570

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: 12 to 18 months is your top priority today?



00:44:09.420 --> 00:44:11.700

Ken Johnson: They'll probably.



00:44:12.050 --> 00:44:19.800

Ken Johnson: you know, in the last several months Trucking's gotten a little bit more challenging, You know I mentioned. You know it's



00:44:21.390 --> 00:44:40.440

Ken Johnson: I get a lot of the local press comes to me when the fuel prices go up. And how are you dealing with it? Because I know we use a lot of fuel, and and we do. But I worry more when this price of fuel goes up because our contracts are all tied to fuels, you know, so that you know what we charge. Our customer goes up is the price goes up, and then subsequently goes down. And



00:44:40.440 --> 00:44:44.740

Ken Johnson: and they're going to pass that on to their customers, you know. And then.



00:44:44.810 --> 00:44:50.290

Ken Johnson: you know, inflation has an impact on you know our economy and



00:44:50.480 --> 00:44:52.450

Ken Johnson: trucking especially



00:44:52.510 --> 00:45:09.730

Ken Johnson: most everything you know that you use or consume at 1 point or another is on a truck, you know, maybe several times, and you know, as the our costs go up and we pass them on, and another costs go up, you know, from other directions People are people's dollars to hold quite as far.



00:45:09.730 --> 00:45:23.800

Ken Johnson: You know, when you throw in that we're a capital intensive business, you know, with high interest rates, you know. That's you both both are creating challenges, and you know we think we've put ourselves into a very strong position. But I think that's



00:45:23.830 --> 00:45:32.420

Ken Johnson: probably going to be. The focus is. Just make sure that you know our costs are in line, and you know that everybody's on the same page. You know that



00:45:32.650 --> 00:45:47.070

Ken Johnson: you know we're still gonna do things the right way, and we're still gonna, you know, maintain our values, and you know it may be a little more challenging than it was last year, but probably next year will be a little bit better, and we know we work hard to put ourselves into that position.



00:45:47.070 --> 00:46:05.240

Ken Johnson: You know we always look at acquisitions, you know. Sometimes it's not the right one, but you can't time your opportunities, and you know they they. They come at you when you know when they come in, and you know we'll just have to decide whether it's the right time, you know, to take a look, or you know, if we want to wait a little bit, you know there'll there'll be other opportunities if we decide to pass



00:46:05.430 --> 00:46:06.080

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: right.



00:46:09.360 --> 00:46:10.310

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What else



00:46:10.670 --> 00:46:25.170

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: the this? This has been fabulous. You shared an awful lot in, and just like your vision of of how you do do things i'm telling you. You know I don't know how many business books you've read through the years. But you're just you're You're pulling them right out. You know



00:46:25.170 --> 00:46:43.660

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: the people side of things is Jim Collins all day. Get the right people on the bus get the wrong people off, get them doing the right things, you know, and measure it. It's not You've got kpi for everything when you're down to pennies on the do you know, on the mile you you really tracking the Kpis at a really good level? That's nice.



00:46:44.030 --> 00:47:01.780

Ken Johnson: Well, you know, besides having a very influential industry leader and my father, you know I I haven't read to a lot of the books, you know. I've read some of the books that you're referring to. But you know one of my favorite things to do is read books about successful business owners, you know, and



00:47:01.780 --> 00:47:19.670

Ken Johnson: over the years I've actually the last book I read in paper was Steve Jobs. Yeah, it was. And after reading that I went out and bought an ipad every everyone since then on, you know, electronically. So I you know. I guess it worked. But yeah, it's a, you know.



00:47:19.670 --> 00:47:30.510

Ken Johnson: And I think that you know we all have our own leadership style, but you know we're influenced by the people we're around, and the people that we I admire, and you know our mentors, you know, so you know it's



00:47:30.680 --> 00:47:43.940

Ken Johnson: you know it's it's work for us and and I I'd like to think that you know my 2 brothers and I. We kind of have complementary leadership styles, you know, and complementary strengths, you know. I think that's one thing you know. This helped us is a



00:47:43.940 --> 00:47:56.580

Ken Johnson: family company transition successfully is that you know we all have different strengths and different areas of interest, you know. So we're not, you know, you know, tripping over each other. You know it's.



00:47:56.580 --> 00:48:06.420

Ken Johnson: you know you go. Do this, you go, do that, and then then i'll do this, and you know. Let's we'll circle back at the end of the day, and you know, See how things went and it's it's worked for us



00:48:06.580 --> 00:48:07.600

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that's great.



00:48:07.710 --> 00:48:20.380

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: You talked about reading biographies of successful people. I think that's a fabulous way of of doing it. I always forget. You know I got on a a kick of reading biographies, and it was just like



00:48:20.400 --> 00:48:32.260

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: idea, you know, tons of great ideas, and I haven't read a biography in a while, so i'm going to go back. I'm going to go find, find what I love. The Steve Jobs. One was fabulous. That was great.



00:48:33.980 --> 00:48:43.060

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: The other thing that I want to point out. We're we're getting close to time. But as you're talking. we we do a thing with clients called the Market map.



00:48:43.640 --> 00:48:46.310

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and you've mentioned competitors.



00:48:46.460 --> 00:48:51.740

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: You've mentioned customers. You've mentioned potential customers.



00:48:51.820 --> 00:49:02.130

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: You've talked about associations you talk about. You know where you're spending your money. That's the market map and my gut says and I'm, i'm just curious. Do you have that



00:49:02.230 --> 00:49:17.990

Ken Johnson: mapped out on paper someplace for other people to see.



00:49:17.990 --> 00:49:46.280

Ken Johnson: you know, focusing on growing our refrigerated side of the business, You know we we didn't walk away, and we still take up our opportunities on a dry side. It's more regional, you know we're, you know, if it fits what we're currently doing, and i'll scroll we'll. We'll take a look at, you know most opportunities there, but the overall our our guiding was, you know we grow the refrigerated side and take advantage of our expertise. We share that and that conversations. I have several ways that I communicate with our employees



00:49:46.280 --> 00:49:56.630

Ken Johnson: every month. There's this program. I call it the worst television show on on the air Ken's Corner. It's a teams meeting that anyone in our company can join into.



00:49:56.630 --> 00:50:13.350

Ken Johnson: and you know, and I have an email address specifically for that that they can send in ideas for topics or questions they have, or you know, different things within whether it's within the company or within the industry. Then i'll talk about that, for you know 45 min or so once a month.



00:50:13.350 --> 00:50:26.240

Ken Johnson: you know. Then I have. You know it's supposed to be weekly, but that college the occasionally weekly update you know that I send out. You know I try not to jam up people's inboxes just for the sake of maintaining a schedule.



00:50:26.240 --> 00:50:54.770

Ken Johnson: You know that we, you know when that i'll use that, you know. Sometimes it's just dealing with reminders of some, you know, at the end of the year the Hr. Gives me a lot of things to put in there, for you know the health insurance renewals and changes, and that type of thing. But other times it's just talking about trends in the industry or trends in the company, or you know, initiatives that we may be having, you know, internally, and and we've got 4 operating companies, you know, so that you know that it's not always just about Leonard. So



00:50:54.780 --> 00:51:06.100

Ken Johnson: you know it's. You know we have the driving school, which is a for profit driving school. We happen to hire a lot of their students on the class a side. But we do. You know, cars and smaller trucks as well.



00:51:06.100 --> 00:51:18.930

Ken Johnson: You know, we have integrated logistics, which is basically a financing company for small fleets. You know where you buy their accounts receive will fund them. You know the as soon as they provide us. You know they required paperwork, and then.



00:51:18.930 --> 00:51:31.430

Ken Johnson: you know, and then we collect the money from their customers. You know they can improve their cash flow. And then Johnson equipment, you know in Genesis women is a big part of Leonard, as they maintain all of Linux trucks, but we also, you know.



00:51:31.430 --> 00:51:47.890

Ken Johnson: have the outside customers. You know our body shop. I was in last week, and I walked around with a big smile on my face, because not a single vehicle in there, said Leonard's, on the side of it, which yeah, in our business, you know, not having anything in our body shop as a as a bonus, you know. So you know it's a



00:51:47.890 --> 00:52:08.470

Ken Johnson: so so you know. So I have to, you know. Balance that it's not all about Leonard, you know, and but the Leonard is the big company, you know, and everybody knows that, and you know. So so a lot of it, Dominic Cereal and I and I try to give everybody the opportunity to ask questions, you know. So you know that's a. And then all started during the pandemic it was.



00:52:08.950 --> 00:52:23.530

Ken Johnson: It was driven by the need to communicate initially about restrictions, requirements. You know all the things that you know. We don't want to talk about anymore because we're tired of it. You know it's what what community has mask rules, and



00:52:23.530 --> 00:52:38.140

Ken Johnson: you know there was talk about mandatory vaccines and all that, and you know, in some of the responses I got from some of that, you know, varied widely, you know. So I had different opinions on that. And but you know we saw the value in those using those tools as a way to communicate



00:52:38.290 --> 00:52:43.690

Ken Johnson: the good things, and you know, and the necessary things rather than you know.



00:52:43.950 --> 00:52:46.230

Ken Johnson: you know. Using that platform, you know.



00:52:46.300 --> 00:53:02.790

Ken Johnson: Yeah, I love that. We can now get together in person, you know, and no such thing as geography anymore, right? But you know, I hope that you know the technology is going to improve, you know. It will go back to meeting in person. But we'll also use technology to meet more often. So



00:53:02.910 --> 00:53:19.640

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I love it. Yeah, it it's. You talk about how you made some changes and did some things. Use it, using the pandemic as an opportunity. This podcast wouldn't exist without the pandemic. I was using it as a I happen to know, like guys like Dr. Jim.



00:53:19.640 --> 00:53:30.010

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I know more, you know, consultants because of you know the work that we've done with family businesses through the years. I'm like, let me just get these consultants on to help people, and that's how we started.



00:53:30.090 --> 00:53:48.750

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And then we had. It was Ray, Isaac and Anthony. Danielle came on, and I had so much fun talking to them about their businesses. We start to pivot to say, I'll bring in the consultants every once in a while, but we learn more from other people doing it than people telling us what to do you know.



00:53:48.760 --> 00:54:12.260

Ken Johnson: you know, and we have a podcast, and we we get tens and tens of likes but we're open to grow it, and i'm the co-host. We have a one of our risk control managers out of our Delaware facility Hosts it and we we balance it you know. Same way. You know it's a you know. We bring in our internal people, you know, and there's a story to tell, but we also, you know, try to bring in outside folks like.



00:54:12.260 --> 00:54:23.760

Ken Johnson: you know we're big in supporting, You know, the fight against human trafficking in January's human trafficking awareness month. And you know there's a association truckers against trafficking that we support, and



00:54:23.760 --> 00:54:33.420

Ken Johnson: you know. So we brought somebody on from truckers against trafficking, you know, in January, and you know we've had our initiatives with the breast cancer



00:54:33.420 --> 00:54:52.410

Ken Johnson: sport. You know we've had people from the breast cancer coalition to Rochester on, you know, so it's. It's a mix of internal and external, and I have a lot of fun with it. You know. It's a good thing. It doesn't cost a lot, because you know we're you know it's just it's slow growth and getting listeners. But it's it's a lot of fun, you know, and I think we we do a pretty good job.



00:54:52.470 --> 00:55:12.920

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah, and I wanna say thank you for all your time today. We you know anybody listening to this Hopefully you go back and listen to it again, because there's nuggets inside here of things that you just did, naturally, and from, you know, watching other people's success and just implementing it hats off to you.



00:55:12.920 --> 00:55:23.980

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Hence off to your mom and dad. I want to give them a salute, for you know they did a great job of, you know, teaching you and your brothers. You know the foundational aspects of all this stuff.



00:55:24.160 --> 00:55:42.610

Ken Johnson: Yeah, I I I agree. And you know we have an award that called the Pad Johnson Award, you know. So you know one of the big things that you know big initiatives is supporting women and trucking, and you know, in my mind, you know you know she was one of the pioneers, you know, as a you know. She started with my dad, and



00:55:42.610 --> 00:56:02.570

Ken Johnson: you know, and she just not only was she a great mother, you know, not raising us and not teaching us. She was a great business leader, you know, on side by side with my dad, and you know, certainly learned a lot from my dad as well. But you know we like to say that the doing things right, you know, came from her. You know she was a big believer. If we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it right, or



00:56:02.670 --> 00:56:03.720

Ken Johnson: we'll just stay on.



00:56:04.030 --> 00:56:05.090

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's Great



00:56:05.660 --> 00:56:23.780

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Ken Johnson. Leonard's express. Thank you for joining me today really really kind of great time. My name is Michael Columbus, and with family wealth and legacy, and Rochester, New York. And this has been the family business show. If you happen to be listening to the show, and you're a family business.



00:56:23.780 --> 00:56:33.500

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: feel free to reach out, we'd love to have you, on, especially the multi-generation family businesses. Tell your story and share it with other people. Thanks. Everybody have a great day.

If you’re a family business or a family business consultant and want to be on the show, share your story and help other family businesses, send us an email to or fill out a contact form here!

*not affiliated with Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.

Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.