Arkansas Best's Incoming CEO, Judy McReynolds, Treads Her Own Path to the Top

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009 12:00 am  

Judy McReynolds is set to become the only female CEO of an Arkansas-based publicly traded company on Jan. 1.

She adds, "At the same time we feel like we have the best employees in the industry, and so we always want to be fair to them."

ABF benefits from having much lower driver turnover than other trucking companies, she says. In addition, "We have one of the best cargo claims ratios in the industry, which means we have great results in not damaging customer freight."

All this contributes to superior customer service, McReynolds says, which gives ABF a leg up on its rivals.

The company is working to improve sales, she says, adding, "We're also looking forward to perhaps diversifying our company within the transportation sector and looking at ways that we can successfully do that."

Such diversification might take the form of "domestic transportation management" for other companies - serving, in effect, as an outsourced transportation division.

Davidson says Arkansas Best's biggest hurdle to returning to profitability is, obviously, the economy. "Fortunately we've got a very strong balance sheet," he says. The company has no debt and almost $200 million in cash. "That gives us a balance sheet that allows us to manage for the longer term.

"We've entered some new markets that even in the downturn we knew we needed to be there," Davidson says. "And it was the balance sheet that gave us the opportunity to proceed with those plans."

"We're just sticking to our knitting," says Davidson, whose only role at Arkansas Best after he retires will be as a stockholder.

 

New Territory

Asked how she thinks she'll be accepted as chief of a major trucking firm in a male-dominated industry, McReynolds says her gender isn't an issue because her approach has been to not make it an issue.

"Whenever I go about my daily business, it's not a part of my thinking." She says "at this company, from the day that I walked in the door here, that has never been an issue.

 

 

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