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IN ANY INDUSTRY, THERE’RE WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY, AND THEY’LL


AND I WAS AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME, KIND OF.”


By 1981, Hastings was ready to start


his own business. Te country was stuck in a recession, but the motor carrier industry had just been deregulated, and he believed intermodal transportation would be a game- changer. With little more than an idea, a garage, and the responsibility of three boys under age six to feed, he started TSL and began contracting with owner-operator drivers and using railroad-owned equipment. “I started off just me,” he said. “I had a little


round table, phone and a cardboard box. I always say we had $500 in the bank. My wife, Patty, says that’s a gross exaggeration.” Tat first year, the company signed three of


its first big accounts with Nebraska shippers, all of which remain clients to this day. One of those accounts brought imported containers directly to the Kawasaki manufacturing facility in Lincoln. Another enabled Deshler- based Reinke to export center pivot irrigation systems to Saudi Arabia cheaper than it had previously been able to do. A third shipper, Grand Island-based Chief Industries, exported grain bins. Intermodal transportation was in its


infancy. Containerization had begun, but containers often were being emptied at ports rather than being trucked inland. Te double- stack car had not yet been invented. Te industry’s newness gave Hastings an


opportunity to pave his own road. He and his dad, who ran a shop for him in Lincoln, built their own chassis to haul heavy containers, giving customers a competitive advantage by allowing them to ship more weight overseas. Using a Radio Shack computer, Hastings created his own software to track moves and equipment. (Te company still develops its own software in house.) Trough the years,


16


he and his company have obtained about six patents for various types of equipment. “By being, like I said, in the infancy of the


business, there was a window of opportunity there that was open for a while that I was able to take advantage of,” he said. “And the railroads were all trying to get this new business model off the ground, and I was in a place in time here in Omaha that I took advantage of that and got a head start. Shortly after that is when Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and those guys did what they did in the PC industry. In any industry, there’re windows of opportunity, and they’ll open and then they close. It all evolves around timing and time, and I was at the right place at the right time, kind of.” From the beginning, Hastings focused


on developing systems, processes and, most important, the people that would enable the company to grow. TSL selectively hires employees who understand the company’s flat management style and its culture of delegating authority. Te company’s upper management consists of Hastings with a part-time assistant. Below him are operating vice presidents who each have been with TSL more than 20 years. TSL’s shop in Omaha is led by a vice president and five foremen, each of whom have been with the company more than 25 years. Hastings said TSL identifies talent and


grows experience, whereas many motor carriers take the opposite approach. Ninety-eight percent of the company’s managers and vice presidents were promoted from within. A good example: Cindy Sanchez, the company’s senior vice president of logistics, has had only one job interview in her career, the one that led to her being the fifth member of the company’s team. TSL still runs the same management trainee ad


OPEN AND THEN THEY CLOSE. IT ALL EVOLVES AROUND TIMING AND TIME,


she answered when she joined the company. “I spend half my time in HR, and for a


president and CEO of a company our size to say that would be very rare, I think,” Hastings said. “My philosophy there is real simple. If I bring on the right people and have them do the right thing that they’re qualified to do, then my job becomes just holding on.” By having the right systems and people


in place, TSL was ready to respond when the world changed. As the economy became more global, TSL expanded its international offices and offerings. One of its subsidiaries, International Logistics, is a non-vessel operating common carrier – meaning the Federal Maritime Commission considers it a steamship line, but instead of owning ships, it charters and buys space on vessels. TSL isn’t just a shipper’s transportation company. It’s really a partner. It can help its shippers save costs and time and make them more competitive. “Te one thing that never changes is the customer relationship, and you have to give a premium service at a competitive rate,” he said. “If you do that, number one, you’re going to have to be on the cutting edge, but then everything works out.” When China began opening up to the


world, TSL was one of the first Nebraska companies to stake its claim there. Now it has 14 offices in that country. According to Hastings, TSL was successful there because of the groundwork it had already laid. It wasn’t a company built to be good in China. It was a good company first, and then it was ready to do business in a place like China when the opportunity presented itself. “Te important thing is we had our systems


down,” he said. “We had our processes in place.” China is an important market, but TSL


is not dependent on it. Last year, it provided logistics services in 110 countries on every continent, and it exports more than it imports. In 2012, it was honored with the “E” Award for Exports, given to companies deemed by the U.S. Department of Commerce to have made a significant contribution to the export market. Hastings was presented the award at the White House by then-Commerce Secretary John Bryson. Te organization is composed of a


NEBRASKA TRUCKER — ISSUE 5, 2015 — www.nebtrucking.com


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