Grace Sharkey

Interview by
Published on
October 20, 2022

In this episode...

Technology, Strategy, and the Supply Chain. Freight Tech Nerd, FreightWaves writer and podcaster Grace Sharkey is passion personified. She believes that adapting to technological advancements in the industry can positively impact the experience for everyone in the supply chain - the one industry that she believes affects everyone. Through her two podcasts on FreightWaves, and with her upcoming show on SiriusXM, Grace wants to create and share content to help other people gain a better understanding of the supply chain, an appreciation for the latest freight tech, and anything worth sharing. Life By The Mile is delivered by FreightWorks.

Grace Sharkey

Freight Tech Nerd. Writer. Podcaster.


uh it's funny like a lot of my friends say like when you graduated high school did you think you'd be like doing a trucking related talk show on serious radio uh no i wouldn't have made that bad

this is life by the mile delivered by freightworks we're here at the mid-america truck show 50th anniversary i love the people that we're meeting here and i just met a new friend i could already tell we're going to be good friends grace sharkey tell us who you're with my name is grace sharkey i'm with i am a freight tech and investor writer for uh the company but i also i have a new show on serious radio from five to seven every single day so uh that's where you can catch me as well i'd love it so what we're gonna do here is we're gonna be a couple of people that are involved in uh podcasts broadcasts and the like and we're gonna talk about all sorts of things uh you know grace i said this before we came on i really love your name too thank you we all need more grace in the world that we're in and uh and and you're you're somebody that's bringing that to us today so let me ask you this question what was your journey to get into trucking and logistics tell us about paint that picture yeah so uh when i was in college i actually used to fundraise for michigan state and uh c.h robinson coyote a lot of freight brokers would come and recruit out of there because it's a lot of phone work a lot of knows on the phone same type of selling market and uh so as we left i actually started a freight brokerage with a couple friends out oh you did yeah yeah um a fifth wheel free out of grand rapids i was the first one there and then as other people start to graduate we all uh joined the owner and a few employees there okay built that up uh over the last like eight nine ish years to about they should end around 100 million this year but when i left there's about 80 million dollars never now great let me ask a quick question what does it take to be a great freight broker uh i was just talking to them about this i think it takes really good investigative analysis like really figuring out how shippers are working to not just get their loads covered but even make the product yeah and who's in charge and like uh because they can a lot of times like we used to do a lot of oversized loads so okay if if the engineers aren't talking to the shippers and even the person in charge of logistics there can be a lot of headaches right i think someone who really wants to figure out how an operation works and how to truly manage their logistics almost like you're doing managed services right um it is a good way to to be a broker and also communication is key okay i think uh a lot of the customers that we win are because we're willing to say bad news bears you know right compared to many who are it's often let's try to fix this behind the scenes and cover up any mistakes that are made no shippers know that things are going to happen they know what's behind the curtains yeah exactly we're talking about transportation we're talking about little driving i mean how many times do we get in our own personal cars and we have to stop for guests unexpectedly or you know stop for bathroom breaks it's the same thing traffic there's so many uncontrollable things in it that just being honest and open is is what most shippers want to hear that is that is so good my grandfather used to say there's no right way to do the wrong thing yeah 100 you just need to be transparent now what about just we're going to come back to your journey in a second but speed is also important too as a broker right you got to be able to pivot quickly yeah definitely and i think that that has to do with your team right like how quickly you can problem solve and the type of you know carrier network you've set up as well um and again i think that speed even comes down to communication right like sometimes there are gonna be times where your shippers are gonna throw an insane timeline at you um we used to i used to move a lot of like uh um signs for drive-throughs okay sure those big like structural signs and um i had a customer that you know always thought a team like somehow erase time like oh if you just put a team on it they can get it there in five no no it's still a 10 hour drive so i think the same thing communicating expectations is just huge i think for this industry okay so but take us back to your journey so we took a little rabbit trail yeah so go ahead so uh i then ended up leaving there uh about it'll be two years in november um to start consulting and helping some of my friends who are starting their own companies and i was uh pretty close to the freightwave staff i used to call into their serious show when they're on on saturday okay and one of my really good friends as a consultant in this industry works for metaphora um and he just kind of bullied me into it he's like you know i i think you would be good at this you you are good at communicating you're fun to be around i think that you could be on their shows and also write and so i kind of just i sent them a few writing samples and they liked it and they're looking for someone who understood investment in the industry right and how businesses are run and it worked out really well and now we're i'm a year into it as a year as of february and they were gracious enough to even give me the serious show so it's really great that is that is so i love stories like this because it reflects a lot about your capability your compassion your interests your tenacity all those things yeah tell me a little bit about uh your growing up and your innate abilities god gave you that gave you what you need to do what you do today like was there any indication when you were younger that you'd be where you are today um not like not at all um so my mom has been she's been retired in a couple months she's been a teacher for 37 years i think that's where i really um get my interest in learning more about the industry because i love learning about it and you're curious yeah and i love teaching other people about it so i think i have a podcast on uh called point of sale on the retail industry i have this show on sirius i like learning about different segments of of this industry and then teaching others about those and then my father um i mean he worked for the state of michigan for a number of years and retired so i really don't have anyone in my family that ran frey or did frey um but i think for me my parents just always set us up to um work really hard like even in high school if we want to play sports like we had to come up with the money for those fees and everything so um yeah no it's uh it's funny like a lot of my friends say like when you graduate high school did you think you'd be like doing a trucking related talk show on serious radio uh no i wouldn't have made that bet right but you know it's it's so interesting because you mentioned hard work i used to tell employees in the company that i sold that you know you it's not where you went to school it's not what family came from suit up show up work hard and stay focused yeah talk about that a little bit you know it's interesting too that you say that because i i started a editorial series that i'm working on called meet the investor um because i wanted people to understand that no matter where you're from what your background is that there are ways for you to become an investor in ch and transportation so i got the opportunity to interview ben gordon um who's just excellent um uh jason deboe who's the chief growth officer for project 44 and all of them have interesting backgrounds where it's like the same thing they they were in an environment that growing up taught them finance and i think that really shows you if like you are interested in it find people to help you learn it better and that's really what investment is and you look at a lot of these vcs it's it's all networking it's being able to to find the right people so if you are able to step up shake those people's hands and put yourself out there they will guide you in the right direction and so i i think that like what you said it's it's all about what you put out there the work that you put out there um there's so many times where i meet people who maybe haven't met or followed their dreams fully but you know take a chance take a risk like i literally switch from doing a freight brokerage which is a completely healthy way of making a living saying hey i guess i guess i'm gonna be a journalist now and it's it's worked and i've listened to everyone around me i've got a great editorial staff around me at freight ways who've taught me how to be better at writing and a better interviewer and i take that criticism and and just get better but you know i just i always feel like i don't know what age i'm not going to feel this but i'm just way too young to like know it all you know and that is and there's a humility about all of us and whatever age we are i'm way ahead of the h curve here if we stay curious and we want to keep learning yes and keep growing it's really going to benefit us you know i remember back in the 90s i was a partner in a company down in dallas and one day i was in an office with a guy that didn't have a lot of furniture that was there he had an idea and it was related to the internet and he was somebody that loved university of indiana basketball games and he wanted to be able to access the games or at least the audio and he created something called audionet and became which was purchased by yahoo and it made mark cuban who is just about to say this sounds like my human story so here we here i remember the day where we were standing in an office there where there weren't enough chairs for both of us to sit down but through passion and commitment and diligence and creativity you know audionet became and he and todd wagner sold that to yahoo and now he's you know speculating that he's going to run for president right well and it's i know it's like so cliche and i i hate it but like it really is it's about the effort you put into it and i mean there's even areas i know i could be pushing myself more and i think as long as you're willing to try and put yourself out there you'll be completely flabbergasted by what the universe is going to give back to you and that's like you know it's funny i was telling serious um uh when i took this that i found out about freightways through listening to the road dog channel right and now here i am doing this serious show it's like it just feels like it manifested itself and um i've just you know been dedicated head down writing doing everything i can and and freight ways gave me the opportunity so it's it's there and right when you were talking about that we had a crescendo of sounds in the background it was like somebody produced that i know right exactly i thought we're going to commercial break you know i love i love the story behind the story of people and and companies you know i remember i had the chance years ago to meet truett cathy who started chick-fil-a and just hearing his story or you know jack eckert who started eckerd drugstore and he's every all of them i'm i actually knew mary kay wow yeah i back it down in dallas or and all those pink cadillacs you know it's just there's a story there and when everybody stays in their lane and has their gift and they keep pursuing it and you know from where i come from you know there's a faith tradition you know it's god's blessing in the midst of it all great things can can happen now let me ask you about this uh ellen boy is a good friend of course and we love the work she does talk to us about women in this industry what's been your experience and what would you say to younger women that are considering coming in uh so i will definitely say that there is a

i think sometimes i really like pushing the status quo like i find i actually find a light thrill and walking into you don't seem like you're shy no i i actually get a kick out of walking into a room like this with blue hair as a female i think i like people questioning like what's happening here and you know a lot of times i i mean i got a lot of trucker buddies up in like west michigan and they always tell me like you really know your stuff that was like my favorite it was like going on golf that's a compliment yeah and they're like oh you know what you're doing it's like yeah yeah it's not that difficult you know it's i hate to say it but i think it was uh reese witherspoon once uh said one of her biggest pet peeves about scripps was in movies uh the female lead is always doesn't know what to do when something happens or something bad goes and how many females do we even know like how many females do you know that wouldn't have 40 ideas of how to fix a problem exactly and that's why i think women are so good in this industry because it's all problem solving right it's like our second nature this industry literally like logistics of a family right putting that together creating a a good household that's the same it is absolutely that case my mother's the oldest of 11 children i'm the oldest grandson of 44 grandchildren there are 129 great-grandchildren and 34 great greats i had tremendous respect for my grandmother who came from a family of 14 that came over from sweden yeah all i've had powerful women in my life and because of that there's incredible respect and uh in a sense of we could do anything together if you can run a household of like five children you can definitely figure out how to get five loads a day loaded and on the road you know it's like and i so i think that we do have like a really powerful contribution to this industry and i think as like truck technology and just the trucks in general become easier to steer and maneuver that more women are coming into it i think that women in trucking is doing a really great job they're doing a great job she trucking if anyone saw them out there they're doing a great job in the chattanooga area bringing more women into it um we'll get there i think we'll definitely get there where i think that we're lacking is more of the leadership levels but what's incredible is that there are really powerful women i mean look at carol tomay right i that's my by the way that's my dream interview right there right oh and i keep like dropping it in every podcast i do hopefully hopefully she hears that um shelley simpson right you've got incredible females in this industry lily shin from transfix that a number of them that are really changing the way that this industry works so i think i think we're getting there and i think that the industry as a whole is getting over whether or not that we can be a part of it now it's just um you know i think getting to women at more of like a high school college even right like women trucking does a really good uh girl scout right right badge that's huge like to get because every almost every like female truck driver i know it's like their dad taught them or like someone so it's like if you can get them at a younger age to understand no like this is an industry for women i think you'd see more as well tell us a little bit about where you see the market right now i was just talking about this you know what and everybody's got a different vantage point but uh through your lens where do you see things right now so i i we're in this like really weird time as a country i think of a lot of uncertainty right it's a inflation russia everyone's kind of just like at this point where they're trying to figure out where is the future and i i mean even you watch ms nbc or cnbc those experts don't really know what's going on and so we see this huge drop in volume over the last couple weeks right if you guys go to you'll see a really great article that craig fuller our ceo just put out um and what i think makes me the most nervous is how hot the market was yes so many owner operators jumped into it and it makes sense it's a great way to make money but you're making money when the market's at the very top and uh that loan that you took out for that truck isn't going to go down with the market chickens are going to come home to roost exactly and we saw it right in like 2017-18 right the the big bankruptcies after the elds and it just makes me nervous that we're going to kind of see that again so i really hope that drivers are paying attention to the rates that they are and i mean if you have to sit sit don't don't take a loss on it but yeah i think that's what makes me just nervous is so many people entered this market when it was at its peak and just like when you enter the market or stock at its peak it's it's going to be a long run until you're probably satisfied so true and you know what in in capital marks of course bad news is easier to digest than uncertainty yes and and and there's so much uncertainty in the markets right now that a lot of people are just not quite sure am i making a good decision a badass but what we do know is it happens a lot of people i'm sure you've seen this come in when everything is solid everything is great and they expect it to be normative but it's not is it no it's not and that's you know i really hope that um carriers at least took that and made some smart investments with it whether it was optimizing their back office or um yeah or even um finding different ways to to expand their uh capacity whether it's different trailers so they can work with different shippers um it just yeah hopefully they they're they're making it out okay and that's that's my biggest help let's talk about your uh your podcast and your radio work just tell me what you want to do what you're doing what you see the vision just a bungee jump into that so i have uh two podcasts that i do with freeways right now one is called point of sale and it's a retail supply chain show and i like to honestly like to try to teach people something new about retail yeah give an example uh so this uh oh perfect so at the beginning of the month we this is women's history month i did a big segment on how the opening of department stores and retail in general was the first reason for women to actually start becoming the main uh consumers in america they were the they were sent to go pick out the new fridge they were sent to go get this new through our industrial revolution yeah and that's what really got them a lot of jobs right so then they started hiring women in malls and in these large department stores and that's why most women handle the household bills and stuff like that today um so the female consumerism rose because of that i just did an episode last week with us cargo x they actually are a big contributor of egypt standardizing their customs process interesting they helped egypt go from 16 pages of customs paperwork down to six so that's the kind of stuff i like to show people is like okay who is when i go buy something online who is the company that's giving me the information of when that's going to deliver how it's going to deliver or is managing the delivery process behind that those are the interviews that i really like to focus on so you know what's so interesting grace i love this is that you really like to get down into the weeds and understand the mechanics of what's taking place because underneath it all there are some key processes that we need to understand don't we yeah and i i think it's good for consumers to know like that your package wasn't delayed over the summer just because of the suez canal you know right most of us weren't affected by that that was more european it's so exciting i i like trying to teach maybe people outside of this industry and make it interesting and fun for them because it is i mean supply chain is how the economy works without it we couldn't buy goods or we'd be bartering basically again in our neighborhood so um that's that point of sale one and then i have another one as well called uh great quarter gals and that focuses on more of company earnings finance within the industry and also female leadership so that is a fun one too uh i like bringing out a lot of female leaders in there or leaders that are focusing on bringing more women into the industry female drivers etcetera so here here's you may have pursued this already but just as an aside we'll work real time on this breakworks our company actually you know there's this term co-preneurs where you have you know a man and a woman a partner a husband and a wife josh harmer and andrea farmer are so involved in everything about the country our company and uh that's that's powerful too isn't it yeah it definitely isn't it's like when i see stuff like that i wonder you know what they've done like putting there's so many government contracts and so many contracts freight out there for minority status companies that it's like we should be giving women like i know a lot of government contractors that will literally like the moment you send me my insurance you just won a 50 000 job so there are so many opportunities to bring women into the space that it's like i know a lot of business owners that are like really almost using that network to continue to grow their own so because there is capital there is money that that is that is out there for that when you're not doing what you're doing which is a lot what do you do for you what are my hobbies yeah or just you know what are you doing for your your own yeah putting the wind to the sale of things that you find interesting so i honestly um right now like huge on family like when i was growing the business i spent a lot of time away from them so i do like to spend a lot of time on family in the off times um i i guess a fun fact is like one of my hobbies is ghost hunting it's like that's like i like i'm like obsessed with that's like my weird side on me but i uh reading i love reading i love watching the markets i love trading and and all of that as well so that's what what are your go-to sources for information oh go well first off freeways i'm gonna put that one out there um uh clearly uh i am here literally if you watch in my house at any moment in time cnbc is on okay so i'm constantly watching the news uh which drives my parents crazy when they come visit me um but i honestly a big uh journals i love reading different uh journals through like jstor and things like that jstor account um and then blogs like i really like find reddit is like huge there's a big trucking community on reddit and there are people that aren't known names that have valuable things to say oh a hundred percent and i think that's what i uh love most about like this industry is there's so many people that there is still left i mean even in this hall alone i haven't been able to talk to half of these people so it's like there's so many different ways and so many different markets that you can help i i spend actually a lot of time um talking with truck drivers on clubhouse too that's like something i like to do because i i like to talk with them i'm like uh and this is for like any truck drivers who are interested maybe reaching out like i what type of technology do you use does this marketplace work right do these systems work i get an opportunity to write about them from the standpoint of interviews with the ceos and product managers things like that but um do these new uh digital freight market ship do they actually work what could be improved with them and um getting a real true sense of what's happening in the market from the actual driver's perspective you know what's so good grace is that the ability that you have that god's given you to get in there take a lot of information and distill practical things that people can make actionable that's really important is that what you do is that part of what yes yeah i think it's um i want people to listen to either my podcast or read my writing and learn how to maybe improve their business or just get a sense of uh a community in the industry that they didn't know i think especially when i write um for freight waves about investment i want people who are maybe in my spot before looking to invest in new technologies within their four walls to say okay she she really told me that this is something i need or this is something i don't need i think that's something i really want people understand is not every every piece of technology that comes out isn't right for everyone right like not everyone should work with the hottest vendor out there right every business has their own problems and that's what i try to do in my writing and my my podcast work is say like if this is the specific problem you're dealing with then this is probably the technology provider that you want to work with or like marketing has been a huge thing that's right which is like why i keep praising you guys because i think this is like incredible for your customers to see this type of work that you're doing but i think that um just supply chain in general is so far behind on um marketing and sales and understanding how they can work together right uh and and i think that can be really powerful so and then you can there's so many different ways like here's a perfect example there's a new company i met um i'm going to be doing an interview with them for our uh earth day summit or net zero summit uh called one tree planted okay so what they do is they uh like uh there's a freight company that works from right now let's say they book that freight coming books 10 loads they'll plant 10 trees somewhere in the world right and so like as a marketing plan you could go to your your customers your shippers and say hey this week you gave us 12 loaves where do you want 12 trees planted right like how awesome is that that you know what's so good about this years ago grace there was an article that fortune magazine did that was titled corporate america searches for a soul and the theme of the article was that america's consumers of goods and services were not just willing to transact business they wanted to know not just what do you do but who are you yes and so that cause-oriented marketing you're describing is so powerful oh yeah like there's if i could kill something in this industry it would be companies using stock photos of employees like take pictures of your employees look at the great work that they've all done to set up even this and like that's why i love this because like your customers can get to know the companies that you partner with and your employees and yourself right they literally get to know you and then you know how hard it is to leave a vendor once you've built that relationship it's incredibly hard so like if there's like a one piece of advice i could give people like go through your website take every stock photo down put a photo up of your employees like well first off they'll love it like what employee wouldn't want to be on your website and secondly it's gonna people can read that stuff a lot easier and they we all want at the end of the day like a family friendly type of thing absolutely absolutely yeah you know what the mark of a great conversation is they end quickly and we're we're at 30 minutes we're almost we're almost about to take our exit off the conversation here people know about will and grace maybe they'll know about grace and butch i really really enjoyed this you know what it's a small token of our appreciation uh yeah you've got more than enough caps but yeah this one with our thanks for being on today yes got a little patriotic theme there we've got life by the mile that's here grace sharkey is with a freight wave serious radio and we just know we're going to stay in touch and uh let's do something again soon yes yes please thank you so much thanks great

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