I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Sbrocchi the Vice President of Sales and Customer Care at Speedy Transport Group, Inc.
Many of his friends would describe him as having a zest for life that is contagious. He possesses a breadth of experiences from being an elementary school educator, playing in bands and loves traveling the world. He is a passionate, proud husband and new father as well as a friend to many awesome people.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I got my start in the trucking industry by being “friend hunted.” Jared Martin, President of Speedy Transport, and I have known each other since our twenties. About ten years ago, we were out one night having a few beverages, and he asked if I wanted to join Speedy Transport. I thought he was joking! At the time, I was a teacher at an elementary school with aspirations of becoming a vice principal. I really was not interested, but he continued to ask me the same question every five to six months. Four years after he first asked me, and in the middle of my second year as a vice principal, I agreed to see what his business was like in person. I was amazed by how big the operation was and how little I knew about it. His proposal felt like an experiment, a challenge, something I did not expect to be intrigued by — an opportunity to help change and shape the culture of Speedy Transport and trucking… almost five years later, we are in the middle of doing just that. What is really cool is that our friendship has grown throughout the entire process.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
It certainly didn’t feel like a “funny mistake” at the time, but I was six months into my role as a partnership manager, and I felt like I was getting nowhere. It felt like maybe the experiment of switching industries and working with a friend was going to come to an end due to my lack of being able to bring on new business. So, I decided that I was going to start acting like a salesperson and really try to push to get a deal or two done… it was likely the worst two weeks I have ever had as a professional. I felt unwanted and discouraged after every cold call and meeting. There was zero sense of accomplishment and feeling like a failure at the end of every day. It could have been the end of my tenure, but really it was just the beginning… the mistake was me trying to be someone I was not. From that point on, I have wanted just to be “me” in my role, and it has worked. The funny thing for me is that I had been taught this lesson before only at a different point in my life, in a different context. The importance of self-reflection and recognition of perspective has become a constant in my life. I have also found that change is inevitable, and approaching it with a sense of knowing who I am has brought me an incredible sense of fulfillment and growth.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I can reference a few really cool books but it was actually a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, “Do schools kill creativity?”. Talk about a shift in perspective, a different approach. I remember watching it and immediately watched it again because I could not believe how profound his message was and how real it was for me at that moment. It validated the creativity process and the idea of “thinking outside the box” which helped push me into my current role as Vice President of Sales and Customer Care.
In every industry and in any role, it is okay to think and do things differently — exploration at every age and in any realm can lead to discoveries.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
There are just over 800 employees at Speedy Transport, 800 different families that bring me a sense of purpose every day. What is more important is ensuring that each member of the “Speedy family” feels that same sense of purpose. From a community perspective there is the realization that the goods that we are picking up and delivering daily are needed by others, in some cases to help save lives (this was something that I realized before the pandemic but has never been more real).
Having a sense of purpose is enormous. As an educator, the importance of purpose is and feels obvious every day. The growth and development of students, helping families navigate through situations, belonging, and contributing to a community. It was a real struggle for me to realize what the impact of being part of the “Speedy family” meant and my role in it. Cultivating the sense of family amongst colleagues has always been part of the vision at Speedy Transport, I am happy to be a part of it.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Be authentic. Be real with yourself and with others. I think the success and pitfalls of any business are directly related to the approach of the people making it happen. I am fortunate to be working at a company where many of our employees not only understand the grind but live it everyday… some are still discovering. We will do what we can to help anyone in our family on their authentic journey.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The most challenging thing is seeing my two-year-old daughter not be able to interact with her grandparents. Video chats are great and we also go for drives and stopovers at their house — they sing and talk to her from a distance while she’s in her car seat. But she just wants to hug and touch them, and she cannot. There is no real way of having her comprehend what is going on, and that has been extremely difficult. I think it is still important to stay social while still maintaining physical distance, and we are discovering different ways to do that, be it video chats or sitting on the lawn talking to our neighbors.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Some of the biggest work-related challenges have been the sudden changes related to shipping volumes from our various partners. It put us in a difficult spot, and we had to make decisions on how we were going to adapt from a personnel standpoint. The pandemic has also allowed us to explore different prospective partners in terms of freight mix as well as expand on some of the full truckload lanes that we were not previously running on the regular. There has been the challenge of ensuring our drivers and terminal staff are safe and well-educated regarding information surrounding the pandemic. Constant communication has been vital, be it via email, phone call or one on one conversations at a safe distance. We will always do what we can to ensure the safety of our drivers and staff.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Earlier on I was full of anxiety. I had been following what was happening in China and then Europe throughout January and February. I tried to caution my parents and some friends about what was happening and that it could get to North America. I read, watched, and listened to everything and anything COVID-19 related — it was consuming me and fueled my anxiety. At the beginning of April, my wife suggested for me to stop consuming media — it was a great time to reflect on what else was going on in my world. As soon as I did, the anxiety stopped and I started being more aware of my family in and out of the workplace. Since that point, I have paced myself in keeping abreast with the needed information to help keep my family and colleagues safe and our company on the right track. Being more aware of the media we consume and critical of the sources helps to make a shift in our consciousness towards what we value and staying positive. We must have the belief that we will all come out of this better.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I think the Post-Covid economy will allow us to be better as a business and as people. As a company, we were forced to scale back and reassess our complete structure; it has helped identify areas of need as well as areas with redundancies. When you are continuously building and growing, you can miss out on some of the details. We now have an opportunity to bridge any gaps that we find internally as well as improve ourselves from a service perspective. There will be ample opportunity to find talent; I believe people will be more motivated than ever to work and be part of a team that has a purpose that they can relate to.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I hope that people realize how important their health is and not take it for granted — mentally and physically. I think we will become more grateful for being able to be around the people we love. Face to face and being in the same space is so essential for people. The restrictions that have been implemented related to social distancing will have a lot of people rethinking who they spend their time with.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We will continue to adapt with a distinct focus on listening and understanding the new needs of our staff and customers. We will not always be the solution for everyone, but when we can be, we will do our best to ensure expectations are met and exceeded. This pandemic has put a real spotlight on the supply chain and transportation industries, and that spotlight has given our drivers and employees a renewed sense of purpose. It needs to be understood that the North American transportation industry as whole was facing a legitimate driver shortage prepandemiec; the driver shortage will continue to be a major challenge in the Post-Covid economy. Hopefully part of the Covid-19 spotlight on our industry as an essential service will result in more interest in trucking as a career path. If it is not solved, shelves will be empty again but for different reasons. It may be the biggest reason we need to continue to educate and have the public understand the service we provide is essential, and we will continue to do what we can to have that be understood long after the pandemic subsides.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to stay true to their vision and purpose. Every business will have a role to play in the Post-Covid economy. We have seen and heard of companies pivoting throughout the pandemic to contribute and survive. That same type of resiliency and drive will be needed to reach any future goals; you may have to get there differently.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Eight years ago, I was with my best friends’ stepdad, Richard. We were sitting on the bow of his boat, and he commented that my ‘babe’ was pretty awesome (she was sitting at the stern of the boat). I agreed with him and confessed that I was thinking of asking her to marry me. Richard asked what I was waiting for, and I gave him a laundry list of the reasons why I was not ready, including the inability to afford it. He looked at me and said, “just fuckin’ do it”.
The next day I went out and bought a ring, was engaged a few weeks later, and we are happily married today. The continued relevance of this life lesson quote is a reminder that we should not put off decisions that will make us feel full of joy and happiness. We all have a limited amount of time on this Earth; we should use it to be happy in life and full of love.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Twitter — @msbrocket
IG — @msbrocket_sztg