Who is the Boss?
Between the Lines
Haines City FL
Mt Juliet TN
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During the winter months of 1998, my wife and I stopped in St. Louis on our way to Jamaica to visit a longtime friend and business associate, Jerry Harris. Jerry owns and operates a company that does business as S&H Transportation. My first contact and business dealings with Jerry began in 1988. At that time I was having some success as an insurance producer working primarily with truck lines and child care centers. Lucky for me, Jerry agreed to purchase his insurance for his company through me, and still does to this day, some 20-plus years later.
Working with Jerry, I became familiar with the ALDI grocery stores. I have always been a firm believer in the old saying, "You dance with the one who brought you." Since my bills were being paid by Jerry, and his bills were being paid by ALDI, I too looked as ALDI as an important part of my wellfare. I began to shop at their stores solely because they used S&H Transportation for their trucking needs and he bought his insurance from me. Once I realized the amount of money that a family could save by shopping at ALDI, I became one of their biggest supporters. Before long, if you knew me you also knew about ALDI.
Getting back to that winter night in 1998, Jerry and his wife Vivian took my wife, Michele, and I to a Blues hockey game. The ladies were sitting together talking about shopping, houses, kids (you know the kind of talk that two women who enjoy each other's company but don't regularly get together will do). Jerry and I were talking about work and golf.
To this day I don't know if Jerry planned the entire exchange that followed, but knowing him and his ability to read and understand people, I would not put it past him. He was talking about ALDI and how much they were growing. Each year he was adding trucks and personnel just trying to keep up with their growth. They had approached him with an idea of expanding into the Southeast. They were looking for a transportation company with which they could do business in that part of the world. This is the strange part of the conversation.
I had been working in the insurance industry since my graduation from college. It wasn't really something that I had planned to do, but I needed a job and found one with a small agency in Kansas City, Missouri. So for roughly the past 15 years of my life up to that time, I had worked in insurance. I was still fairly young, around 35 years old, had a beautiful wife, a lovely home in an upscale neighborhood in Overland Park, Kansas, was earning more money than I had ever dreamed of, had everything that anyone in this great country could ask for, and I was truly and desperately miserable. I hated my job. I was bored to death. Every morning I would lie in bed dreading the idea of going into the office. It was not the people that I was working with but the job itself. I often would fantasize about walking away from it all and starting over, but I knew I never would. I enjoyed the life that a good income can bring. That is why I still look back and think Jerry had all this planned. Once he said ALDI was looking for someone new to handle their transportation in the Southeast, I immediately asked, "What about me?" He looked at me with a very small smirk on his face and asked if I was serious.
Needless to say, I had some explaining to do with my wife later that evening. After all, she also had a very good job in Kansas City, had the life that she had always dreamed about, and without even talking with her I had just offered to give it all up. But my wife knew how unhappy I was with what I was doing and has always been behind me 100% in anything do. I definitely would not be writing this history today if it wasn't for her.
Jerry agreed that he would talk to ALDI about me. For the next two years I called Jerry every day to see if he had heard anything. Jerry must have the patience of Job, for he took every call and never was angry or too bothered to talk with me. Without going into the workings and decision-making process of ALDI, I will just state that I was chosen to provide transportation for the Salisbury, N.C., warehouse.
On January 1st, 2001, I loaded my Suburban up to the roof and left my then-pregnant wife to head to North Carolina. Upon arriving at the warehouse I met the warehouse director, Ryan Fritsch. For the next month, Ryan and I had sole occupancy of the warehouse. We would polish the floors, sweep out rooms, move equipment around, and generally just prepare for the opening that was scheduled in March.
Slowly the warehouse started to fill up with goods and people. Come March we were ready, or so we thought. It was a rather rough start, and I was not ready for all the problems that came with running a truck line. Slowly we worked our way through them, fixed what needed to be fixed, built upon what was right, changed, evolved, and always strived to do a perfect job for our customer.
Since that first opening in March 2001, we have been given the opportunity of working with some very fine people in Mt. Juliet, TN, Springfield, OH, Webberville, MI, South Windsor, CT, and Haines City, FL. The company currently now owns close to 120 tractors and 150 refrigerated trailers. We have the pleasure of providing employment to close to 200 people.
As stated earlier in this brief history of the company, I have made mistakes, changed what needed changing and left alone that which was not broken. As we have grown we have been able to add much to our employment package -- 100% paid health insurance for our employees, paid holidays, paid vacation time, 401K retirement savings plan with a 50% match, safety bonuses, and educational scholarships. When we started we had none of these. As Sharp Transit has grown we have add new benefits as the company has been able to afford it. It didn't happen all at once, and I am confident that we are not done yet. I have many grand ideas of where I would like this company to be in 5, 10, 20 years. Will it happen? Time will tell, but I can promise you this: Although I do not drive a truck, if you are currently employed by Sharp Transit as a driver or thinking about joining us as a driver, I will work as hard as I am able to insure that you always have a place to call home.