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No trucking company has a longer history of keeping the business in the family than C.R. England Inc.
Founded in 1920 by Chester Rodney England, the Salt Lake City-based refrigerated carrier provides jobs and a legacy for more than a dozen members of the extended England clan.
“I worked in all parts of the business, started in the file room, did maintenance and repaired body damage to vehicles. My favorite experience was as a driver. I continue to do it,” said 43-year-old Josh England, who now is president and shares management responsibility with his brothers Chad, who is CEO, Zach, the company’s chief operating officer, and T.J., chief legal officer. Their father, Dan England, is chairman of the board of directors.
Gene England, Josh’s grandfather and the founder’s son, is 99 years old and still drops by the office sometimes when he’s not busy running a car leasing business with about 800 vehicles.
In an interview with Transport Topics, Josh England said that keeping the business in the family has been a great experience for everyone.
There is competition among family members at the company, he said, “but it’s friendly.”
“We have a rule that you go work elsewhere before coming back to work here,” Josh said. “I didn’t do it, and maybe that’s the reason for the rule.”
The most difficult issue for family members is figuring out how and when to transfer ownership from one generation to the next.
“It’s not always comfortable buying other people’s shares,” Josh said.
Only one member of the England family has separated from the company. That is Jeff England, who started his own trucking company, Pride Transport, and who also has begun the process of handing off management responsibility to his son, Jay, daughter, Lindsey, and son-in-law, Ian Peterson.
C.R. England founder Chester Rodney England behind the wheel of a truck early in the company’s history. (C.R. England Inc.)
“I took somewhat of a nontraditional route to become CEO,” Jay England told TT. “I chose to immerse myself in the business because I loved it and because I wasn’t interested in going to college.”
But later, when Pride Transport ran into financial difficulty, Jay said he realized that he needed more eduction. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2011, and three years later, he bought the business from his father.
“My father’s leadership brought a hardworking, conservative and bottom-up approach to our business.” Jay said. “Our organization still finds significant value in these practices, but I have found the opportunity to make my leadership mark by bringing analytics and forecasting to the forefront. I enjoy working hard, but I also want to know, in real time, the impact our team’s decisions make on our organization and our income statement.”
For Josh, the biggest difference for executives today is around-the-clock access to the business.
“There was a time when you went home at night and had no access to the business,” he said. “Now pretty much every company is a tech company. We spend time on that issue.”
The pace of change also continues to accelerate, and that means a key attribute for leadership, according to Josh, is the ability to innovate and adapt.
“Those best at that will be winners,” he said.