New USA Truck Inc. CEO John Simone plans to develop a vision for the company's long-term success. At this time, however, Simone isn't looking beyond the next 100 days.
Simone was appointed president and CEO of the company on Monday. Former CEO Cliff Beckham has returned to his previous role as the company's executive vice president and CFO, which he previously held from 2002 to 2007.
USA Truck has gone through a number of organizational changes since reporting the largest quarterly loss in company history last year. Simone has been hired to get the company, headquartered in Van Buren, back on track.
These next 100 days, Simone told Arkansas Business, will be critical to establishing the long-term vision. Simone said he'll evaluate USA Truck's strategy as short-haul carrier, evaluate organizational structure and look at ways to improve retention of drivers and other employees.
"I’m still assessing the situation," he added. "... I’m sure there is some low-hanging fruit, but we're going to be very thoughtful in terms of how we execute."
Simone said the foundation is in place for a strong company. He said the future of USA Truck doesn't have to be clouded by its recent struggles.
"I see very dedicated people that have a long tenure here and want to win. I see a company that has a good infrastructure and that is well positioned in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to be a leading provider," Simone said. "There are some fundamental issues that we’ll work on – operational excellence being one of them — and creating [USA Truck as] a destination of choice for drivers and non-driver employees."
USA Truck said Simone has 30 years of operational and management experience in the transportation industry and has worked for companies including UPS, Ryder, and Greatwide Logistics. Most recently, he was the CEO of LinkAmerica.
That previous experience — particularly in turning around underperforming companies — should help as he works improve USA Truck, Simone said.
"Most recently my last experience was a turnaround situation where it was very unstable operationally and required a lot of the same fixes that we’re talking about here today," Simone said.
Changes at the Top
Monday's move is the latest in a series of management changes the publicly traded firm (Nasdaq: USAK) has implemented since late last year, when it reported its biggest quarterly loss ever. The year before, the company rebuffed an overture by trucking rival Celadon Group of Indianapolis to discuss a merger.
"We have been taking many steps toward improving USA Truck's operating and financial performance," Robert A. Peiser, chairman of the board, said. "Hiring John Simone as our new CEO is an important next step that we expect to accelerate the process."
In November, the company announced changes to its board of directors to stem the company's financial bleeding and prevent a hostile takeover. In December, it announced an interim COO, and in January, it fired CFO Darron Ming, who had been with the company for 15 years. Later that month, the company said its annual loss deepened to $17.5 million.
On Monday, Peiser said Simone has "deep experience" in the industry and is a "proven leader of people."
"We are excited that he shares our belief in the future of the company and will be dedicated to building on our momentum," Peiser said.
Beckham told Arkansas Business he was "very excited" to return to his role as CFO and turn CEO duties over to Simone. Thanks to the changes, Beckham said USA Truck is poised for a turnaround.
"We had a number of criteria that were necessary and John has met those," Beckham said. "He has deep industry experience, including experience with leadership companies in our industry. He has experience with successful operational turnarounds. He has a track record of developing people. He has a track record of operational excellence. And we think he’s going to be a very good fit for our culture here at USA Truck."