Randy Rogers is an old pro at adjusting to new places and cultures: Shanghai, Mexico City, Madrid.
And, now, Van Buren, Arkansas, USA.
Rogers, 53, was named CEO at USA Truck Inc. on Jan. 13, and the new executive has spent his first five weeks on the job meeting his management team and employees. Rogers said he sometimes feels impatient to jump into running the company but said he knows the importance of getting to know everybody.
“We’re in a people business so you have to understand the people,” Rogers said. “It has been a lot of new faces and a lot of good discussions.”
Rogers came to USA Truck from DHL Supply Chain, where he ran operations in Mexico, Brazil, China and southern Europe during his 15 years with the company. At each stop, Rogers — who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese — spoke with his employees in their native language so he could a better feel for what they needed from him.
“For me, one of my objectives when I was working was always try to speak someone else’s language,” Rogers said. “It’s important that you hear somebody express themselves in their own language so they can be themselves. You have to listen to people and hear their passion. You have to hear where they think we are and where we need to go. You have to understand the culture and hear people in their natural element.”
That is a lot easier in Arkansas than it was in China, where the language is difficult to master. So far, Rogers has liked what he has heard at USA Truck.
Rogers is the company’s fourth CEO in three years following Cliff Beckham, John Simone and Tom Glaser. Simone had been hired to replace Beckham in February 2013 and turn around the flagging company, which posted annual losses from 2009-13.
Simone worked to get the trucking division profitable but resigned in July 2015 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Glaser filled the position until a permanent CEO — Rogers — was hired.
Through all the turmoil and chaos — USA Truck had to fend off a hostile takeover bid by Knight Transportation of Phoenix during Simone’s first year — the company actually began to make money. It reported income of $6 million in 2014 and $11.1 million in 2015.
During the interview process, Rogers met with a handful of board members. USA Truck had an eventful past but he was impressed that the powers-that-be were only interested in future possibilities.
“The board is very forward-looking,” Rogers said. “They’re not looking back at where we came from.”
With the trucking division back on solid ground, USA Truck has focused on pumping up its asset-light division, Strategic Capacity Solutions. Rogers, with his long history at DHL, has a broad logistics background, and Rogers hand-picked Jim Craig of BNSF Logistics this past month to run SCS.
“Everyone I’ve talked to in this organization has the view that we can become a really great company,” Rogers said. “They see the potential. I can’t say that has always been the case. I would probably say at some point it wasn’t, because when you’re losing money negativity tends to creep into a lot of things.
“Beyond that, we are doing much better, and I think people recognize it. There is a lot of opportunity for us to do even better. It’s just a question of us working as a team and deciding what we want to be in life.”
Rogers joined USA Truck after the company made numerous hires to its executive team: Martin Tewari as president of the trucking division; Billy Cartright as vice president of safety; and Chris Parsons as vice president of maintenance. When Simone was hired in 2013, he brought in his own team, but Rogers said he has no reservations about working with people who, until five weeks ago, were strangers to him.
“I feel very comfortable with this team,” Rogers said. “There is a tremendous amount of energy that those guys have. I love that energy. I love their influence on the culture of the organization. It’s a bias toward action and making things better.”
Home Sweet Home
Rogers lived and worked outside the United States for 17 years before returning to Ohio three years ago. His wife, Mary-Katherine, and their three children had enjoyed life abroad, and he feels the exposure to other cultures was good for his children.
But when his daughter Callie returned stateside to attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the separation was sharp for her parents.
“That was tough for mom and me to have an ocean between us,” Rogers said.
Rogers is hunting for a permanent home in Van Buren while his wife remains in Ohio with their youngest child, Mary-Jane, who will finish high school this spring.
Rogers wasn’t looking to leave DHL, where he had taken a job as president of the energy and chemicals division. But when a USA Truck representative contacted him about the CEO position, Rogers did some quick research to see if this was an opportunity he wanted to explore.
“I pulled the standard Internet searches like anyone else to make sure I understood the dynamic and where the company was in its evolution,” Rogers said. “I measured myself in that context of, ‘How could I help? Am I really the right person to do that?’ I said, ‘Holy cow, this is a great opportunity for me as well.’ I can see the potential and I can see how I can add value.
“It’s not me going into a complete utter turnaround. This company has already done a lot of the heavy lifting.”
Rogers emphasizes, however, that he’s not the logistics specialist; he’s the CEO. Tewari will run trucking; Craig will run SCS; Parsons will run maintenance, and Rogers’ job is to help each of them complement the others and grow the entire company.
“It’s a great mix of you get everything in this role,” Rogers said. “The buck does stop with me. I get to put my imprint on the strategic plan and align the interest of our shareholders with employees. If you get that right, it can be extremely rewarding. That’s really the challenge and opportunity for me, to turn this into a special place for everybody.”