The Influencers: Judy McReynolds of ArcBest Corp.

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Mar. 20, 2017 12:00 am  

Judy McReynolds has never spent much time thinking about her next rung on the corporate ladder.

It wasn’t a lack of ambition on her part but more of a reflection of her dedication to whatever tasks her current position put at hand. That professional outlook has certainly paid off for McReynolds, who used her brainpower and people skills to rapidly advance in the corporate world.

“When I think about my career, it’s not that it never occurred to me to run a business, but I was just focused on doing a great job in the role that I was in,” said McReynolds, who is CEO, president and chairman of the board at ArcBest Corp. in Fort Smith. “I think the care and concern for the company result is also a part of the way I think. It’s more about the company and the results that you’re going to get than it is [about] me and my personal needs. If you approach things that way, you’re typically doing something that helps the company get better.”

McReynolds, now 54, was named CEO of ArcBest, a leading trucking and logistics company, in 2009 and started in the job on Jan. 1, 2010. She had joined the company in 1997 — when it was known as Arkansas Best — as controller before a promotion to chief financial officer.

McReynolds, brilliant with numbers, knew what she was getting into. ArcBest had reported a financial loss of $127.9 million in fiscal year 2009.

“I had two thoughts about that,” McReynolds said, growing philosophical. “One, results do matter. The other was I certainly had a lot of opportunity to make it better because it had been so rough.

“This was just the result of the deep recession, the impact on our company. It was a big challenge to tackle.”

Emerging Business Model
From that dark beginning, McReynolds and ArcBest have emerged strong and very profitable. ArcBest reported a loss of $32.6 million in 2010 but finished $6.8 million in the black in 2011.

After a financial step back in 2012, when the company lost $7.7 million, ArcBest began a run of four consecutive profitable years with growing revenue: in 2013, income of $15.8 million on revenue of $2.3 billion; in 2014, income of $46.2 million on revenue of $2.6 billion; in 2015, income of $44.8 million on revenue of $2.66 billion; in 2016, income of $18.6 million on revenue of $2.7 billion.

When McReynolds was named CEO, she said her goals were to double the size of the company in five to 10 years while diversifying its services within the transportation industry. Arkansas Best’s revenue was tied up almost completely in ABF Freight, its less-than-truckload subsidiary that counted for about 95 percent of its 2009 revenue of $1.5 billion.

McReynolds’ plan was to use ArcBest’s strong customer relations to expand its non-asset divisions by offering logistical services. Seven years ago that was a fresh idea; now any transportation company that hasn’t diversified this way is an anomaly.

For McReynolds, the plan wasn’t so much divine inspiration as old-fashioned business fundamentals. Not content to stay behind a desk, she met with customers, who told her the same thing: We need help with logistical issues.

 

 

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