This will be an impactful interview to you. We cover a wide variety of some pretty emotional topics related to the military and to business. Chris, a retired Army Brigade CSM, shares both the journey of civilian life coupled with the journey of being a business leader with 7 figures of revenue. A remarkable discussion you will absolutely enjoy.
Shout out to Veteran Executives Network for sponsoring this episode (https://veteranexecutivesnetwork.com).
So, anyway, without further ado, I want to jump right into it today. So I’ve got Chris Nadeau. Chris comes to us from the US Army, spent a long career there. I’ll let Chris explain more about that here shortly. But then Chris got out into the civilian space and ultimately has led him to founding and starting his own company called Haversack back into 2017. Chris, I just want to welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here today.
Thanks, Aaron. I appreciate it too.
Well, very cool. So you shared with me off-air that you may have spent a few years in the army, so I would love to learn more about that journey. Where are you originally from, what caused you to join the army?
Originally from Rhode Island.
Yeah. Big, great state of Rhode Island.
Joining the military was always a dream, was always a passion as a kid. I don’t know where I got it. I was just a history buff and just something that always drove me. And the funny aspect of it is when I graduated high school, a graduating class of 400, I was the only person in my entire graduating class that joined the military.
Yeah. I was the only one. And when it got out, everybody was like, what are you doing? And, you know, I joined when I was 17. As soon as I could join, I did, I joined the Rhode Island Army National Guard. And then I transitioned to active duty shortly after that as soon as I graduated. I went on and spent 26 great years and saw the world. People ask me where I’ve been. I’d say it’s probably easier for me to tell you where I wasn’t than the places of where I’ve been. So it was great. It was a great career. I was an engineer. I was a combat engineer, construction engineer in the army, and that was really one of the reasons why I get to travel so much and go all over the world. It was a great experience.
And you get to travel to some scenic and rather non-scenic places where the locals may or may not really want to be your friend.
Yeah. That’s the up and down of it. Everybody always asks me, what’s your favorite place you ever was? And I was like, you know what, every place. Even Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, wherever it was I ended up. You got to find the positive in there, in what you do. So, yeah, that’s what I said. There’s something good to take away from every place that I’ve ever been.
For sure. That’s a great, great attitude. Great, great perspective to have. I mean, it’s similar to when we experienced losses or we experienced difficulties in our personal or professional lives and learn from it, enjoy it, embrace it to the best you can and then move forward. So, no, I mean, 26 years. And again, just kind of looking at your profile here. So it looks like you retired back in 2011 as a brigade command sergeant major and you’re at Fort Hood. So tell me a little bit about your decision then to retire. What was that like retiring at that level? And then what was the transition process like for you personally?
You know, my time at Fort Hood, I was stationed in Hawaii and then I got stationed at Fort Hood right at 2000-2001. So arrived there right at 9/11. And then so I stayed except for going to the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss. I went right back to Fort Hood. So I spent literally from 2001-2011 at Fort hood. And in that time, I spent five years deployed. Five years home, five years deployed.
In Afghanistan and Iraq. The decision to leave was I was staring down another deployment. I just got back from my fourth tour in Iraq. And I met my wife now, fiancé at the time. And it was just right. The timing of transition. I always said to myself, if there was a single moment that my heart wasn’t in it, then I needed to leave, I needed to go because of the situation the army was in. It was so critical that the leaders, you just could not half step because so much was riding on the line. And looking at another deployment, if I wasn’t there completely, I would just do anybody a disservice as a leader at that level, as a sergeant major. Because you literally are in charge of the health and welfare, that daily operations of soldiers on everything. Standards, how they interact, how they train, their families, all of it. And I always said to myself, I’ve got to be very cognizant of that. And it was just the right time. It was at the time. And I raised my hand and I said, “Thanks. Been great.” But it was time to go at that point.
Wow. Yeah. Well, and you know, it’s one of those things you just knew the time was right. And, you know, on behalf of everybody else too, man, I just want to thank you for your long commitment to our country and for sticking out for 26 years. Man, that’s quite a commitment. You’ve been a lot of places, seen a lot of things. So I mean, that’s not lost on me. I just want you to know I really do appreciate that.
You know, and in turn, I want to say thank you for your support. Because that’s the one thing I always have people always say, “Thank you for your service.” And I always say, “Thank you for your support” because it’s impossible to do. It’s been 26 years. If your nation and the people in the nation are not supporting you, you don’t feel that.
And some of the greatest stories I have goes back to support like Dallas, Texas forever will live in my heart and my mind as the greatest show of support of me as a soldier. So those are the things I always thank people for also.
Okay. So I’m curious if your experience is the same as mine. So did it happen to involve coming home on R&R?
You know what you’re talking about. Yeah.
I know exactly what you’re talking about. So share with everybody your experience about that. Because I think it’s worth mentioning
It’s incredible. Just gave me chills just thinking about it.
I know. I was getting chills very seriously.
Yeah. It was absolutely amazing. And it really goes back to a teaching point of younger soldiers. And basically what it was is whenever we came home R&R or even rotating back, there was two main points that you could come into. Dallas was one, Atlanta was the other. Being in Texas, I was always going through Dallas. And the plane would come in and every time – if you remember the fire pump would be out there and they would hose the plane down. They’d have the water cannons going kind of like an honor guard and you’d go through the water, you’d pull up to the terminal and you’d get out. And then there was this very long walk down this hallway, and you were above the terminal. And the entire walk down, there were people waving at you with signs like “thank you”, “we love you”. It was just amazing.
And I remember I was just waving the whole time. Every time I did it. And that was four times I did it. I would wave and thank you. And then there’d be younger soldiers there. And I would always stop them and say, “You need to get over here and wave to these people. Thank them.” Because I was in the army back in the 80s when we didn’t have this level of respect. So this is fickle. It can go away. So you need to support people as much as they support you. And then you would get down and then you get your ticket and you get ready to go to your next flight, your carry-on flight home. And if you remember, you would go through that line of people and they were on both sides of you and they would shake your hand and give you water bottles and gifts. It was just incredible. That was every day, Aaron. Those flights came in to Dallas every single day.
It was insane. And it wasn’t just what’s in the head of these people there, and the story was in the line of people, there were millionaires, billionaires there that would show up every day from Texas Instruments and oil companies to shake the hands and give you a bottle of water. It was incredible.
I know. Give me chills remembering that because I did a one-year deployment in Afghanistan. So 2011 was the blip for me when I was there. And so I came back in, I think it was September or October for R&R. Yeah. It’s very similar story. We flew through Atlanta. I think we had to stay on the plane if we’re going through – I don’t remember. You’re so dang jet lagged and exhausted by this point. Like everything’s just is a big blur. We may have gotten off the flight for just a few minutes and came back or something and then flew into DFW. And this is my first experience at Texas, by the way. I’d never been to Texas until this point. And again, get off the plane and it’s overwhelming. I was incredibly just blown away with all sorts of feelings, man. You’re walking down this and it feels like it’s a mile long walk down, man.
It takes forever, yeah.
It is, man. They’re literally like hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm. Like that densely packed. And it just blew me away and I was incredibly, incredibly moved by that. And to think that they did that every day is absolutely nuts. So anyway, I just wanted people – because there’s a lot of people who are gonna be able to relate to this story in a very real way because they’ve done that journey just like you have multiple times. And there’s other people who have not been fortunate enough to have that experience, especially if they’re not heading out West. That was certainly an experience. So thanks for sharing that. But tell me a little bit then about your initial jump out. So, you know, how clean was the transition process for you? Was it kinda rushed and hurried? Or did you have an idea of what you wanted to do? What was that like for you especially at your level of responsibility?
I had no idea what I wanted to do. None. It just comes over, you make the decision. I don’t think, you know, speaking for myself, you’re ever really… you know, it’s 26 years. It’s your life. It’s scary. It’s like being born again. I’ve only had a couple jobs in my life if you think about it. So yeah, getting out, the army did a great job at the time with ACAP, transitioning and giving you all the resources in there. And so yeah, I felt comfortable in that regards. I think the biggest thing that the transition that I had trouble with: How do I translate who I am and what I’ve done in there? And that was always the biggest thing. This position, our language in this, how does it translate and not scare the civilian world of what we do? Because it can be overwhelming when you talk about in charge of 4,000 soldiers. Well, the percentage of companies that are over 50 employees in this country is so small. It really, truly is. So, you know, an employer’s looking at “Oh, my god, this guy led thousands of people. What is he going to do in my company of 50 people?” So that was some of the things that I realized the transition worried me, but the army did a great job in preparing me for that.
Wow. So tell me about that, the initial experience of that. And then share with me a little bit about what inspires you to start Haversack and a little bit of history there.
Yeah. So my first hiring conference that I went to, I was just going around and going in all the tables and passing out resumes. And I started a conversation up with this gentleman and he was from Con-way Freight and I never knew Con-way Freight existed. I probably seen their trucks a million times, never recognized it. And we just started talking. He was the vice-president. And then the next thing was he was like, “Hey, you want to go get some lunch?” The conversation just carried on, went had lunch, had a great conversation. So we exchanged business cards and this. Then I got a call from him the next day. And he was like, “Hey, I was supposed to leave, but I couldn’t. I stayed. I want to talk to you again.”
I was like, “Sure.” We met and he just says, I think you’d be a great asset to Con-way. Come in and we have a management training program to teach you lesson on truckload, logistics industry.” Offered me a job. And I had some great mentors that said that there will be companies that will just come up and see your value and they will just offer you a job. It might not be the one that feels right. It might be that money point you want. But if they do that, that’s a message, go for it. And I went for it and I took the job. It turned out to be a great decision. I spent up to 2016, really 2015, with Con-way then Con-way was bought by XPO Logistics. That story in itself is a whole another story of how I left that.
Well, I mean, if you don’t mind, let’s go there. That’s a great experience. Not everybody gets to have that kind of experience. And I know it can be positive and negative depending on the circumstances. So I would love to hear a little bit more about that.
Yeah. So, you know, my time at Con-way was good. To say that it was completely perfect, I can’t. Here’s one of the things, this is just me personally. I think that the military in a way has a bad perception to the civilian sector in the way that people, when they viewed me with the military, that I was a guy that was going to come in and I was going to be dressed the right dress, I was going to follow orders. I would never question anything. Toe the line, I was a company guy. Anything can be further from the truth in there. And I had people – you know in the military, we’re born to question. We’re born to test each other and challenge. And that is truly who we are. We’re not the ones that are: Yes, sir, and we follow these. We do. But along the way, if something isn’t right, we’re going to question. We’re innovative. That is how you survive in battle. There’s always a saying that there’s a plan and then the plan’s out the window once the first bullet is fired. Because the enemy has a vote. And that is the way I’ve always looked at things is you have to be adaptive, your leadership style has been incredibly adaptive. That’s where I’ve always been. Sometimes it doesn’t match.
So my time at Con-way was good, I will say that. Then XPO Logistics came in and bought Con-way. I had moved from Texas to New Orleans then I was in Charlotte. I had a young family. My son had just turned three. My twin girls were just one. We bought our beautiful house in Davis, North Carolina, and everything was great. And then on January 29th, 2016 at seven o’clock in the morning, not that I remember the date or time or anything, I got called into an office and they said that my position was being eliminated, but I could stay with the company if I was willing to move to Lexington, to Kentucky. And I thought about it and I was like, okay. And then they go, “You got four hours to think about it. Come back at 11 o’clock and give us your decision. And if you don’t, you’re fired. You don’t get any severance. You’re out the door.”
Yeah. So I drove home, talked to my wife. We decided not to commit financial suicide. And I went and I separated from XPO, not Con-way, XPO. So that was the beginning of the end of that and then the next transition into Haversack was the next iteration. So I’ll kind of pause right there. And let you ask any question on that one right there.
Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s an experience that a lot of people can relate to and it’s similar to a lot of things that we see on social media, right? You’re often going to see the success stories like, hey, I got hired at this company or, hey, I just made my first 250 grand with my business or my first million or whatever the case may be, first major client or whatever. And what a lot of folks don’t see is all the blood, sweat, and tears , you know, to, to overuse the term, but to understand like how much is going on behind the scenes. And there’s a lot of things that happen in people’s professional journeys, whether they’re an entrepreneur or whether they’re just a business professional. They’re just somebody out in the workplace doing the right things. They’ve got their crap together. They’re doing a great job at what they do. And it’s just a matter of business level decisions.
And so, you know, it’s tough, man, because you were put in a spot where, I mean, you’ve got four hours to make a decision. And look, I don’t care that you were in the army for 26 years and that you’re a hardened guy. You’ve been through a lot. You’ve seen a lot. That is still an emotional thing to have to deal with because it affects not just you but your family. And so being able to clearly think through that decision, that in and of itself is a challenge. Because you just got blasted with some news. And so, I mean, what was that thought process like? I mean, to me, it sounds like a) you didn’t want to move. I mean, that’s pretty obvious to me. You didn’t want to move there. You’d already built a life there locally. And so you didn’t want to have to uproot all that. Is that basically kind of how that –
The move of the family from New Orleans to Charlotte was brutal. It was hard to make that move. But we had bought the house. We love the area. It’s where my wife and I wanted to be with those stationed at Fort Bragg. My wife was in the military also. So it was tough. And I tell you, you know, 26 years in the army, you look at your career. I looked at myself as a career guy in XPO. I was wanting to retire there. That’s what I was born and bred. It was sick. It was devastating. I felt like a failure. My family. Somehow I transitioned it to me. That was my fault. And that lasted all of five minutes and then the fight came in. It still was there, that tinge was there, but the fight came in. And it was like, all right. The next day, I got over my pity party and I was back on back on the horse.
Can I jump in real quick? Because you hit something that I think a lot of people can relate to. And I just want to dig on this one point, and I’m prepared for this to go any number of directions. So whether we agree or disagree, I’m actually really curious what you think here. So what you said, I think – because I connect it to something you just said a minute ago. There’s been times when, you know, like I’ve had employment difficulties in years past, right? There’s been some issues that came up that were of no fault of my own, but you’re a collateral damage to whatever that business acquired another business unit. We don’t need you, guys. We’ve got our own people. See you.
You know, there’s a lot of different things that can happen. But one thing that you said, which I think really sticks, and I’m curious whether this is something common to more veterans, is you try to take responsibility for it in some way. And I think that’s the leadership side of you. It’s thinking, man, was there something else that I could have done? Was there something I could have done better? And so you start to kind of assume that responsibility. And then I think after a few minutes, I mean, for you, you did it really fast. You realized like, man, no, well, I can’t dwell on that. I actually have real decisions I got to make like right now. There’s that piece of it. But how do you process that? And how have you chewed on that over time of realizing like, look, this is nothing that I did? It’s not shirking responsibility. I think there’s a time and place to accept responsibility. But this is clearly an example that that wasn’t the case. So how do you allow yourself to realize like, hey, it’s not Chris’s fault? This is simply a result of higher level decisions that happened to impact me.
You come to it, it’s cold horror reality. Yeah. Well, because you spent 26 years and you’re entrenched in the military. You really have to do something serious to be put out of the military. You know that. You can have bad days. You’re not going to get fired. You could lose your job, get relief, whatever it may be, but you’re still going to be in the military.
This was so foreign. And it had the lasting impression into Haversack. And I will never forget what was done to me. And I will never allow it in anything I do in Haversack ever be done here. It won’t happen. And I think that’s a big thing that people do. Don’t forget where you come from because you will repeat it. You will become it. So that is what it drove me and it drove some other things. Because what was funny is I started to go look for a job. And then all of a sudden going through job interviews, in every job interview, I was scared to death. I wasn’t scared that I wasn’t going to get the job. Aaron, I was scared I was going to get the job. As crazy as that sounds. And then I was like, well, what is it going through? And then I realized nothing was going to change. I’m just changing my position. I was going to be in the same exact position. My family really wasn’t going to be in any better position. The same thing could be done to me over and over and over. And that was the reality of the world. And I had to come to that realization. So that was the transition. Because loyalty in us in the military is so strong, it strikes us. It’s a blow. It was like, I can’t believe you just did this to me. I would do anything for you. Literally. I worked 20 hours a day for the same pay, whatever. So that is, I think, some of the biggest problems that we have in there.
Yeah. No, you hit it right on the head. And one, I appreciate you being so open about this because I realize it can be sensitive and can kind of stir up some old feelings. I get all that.
No, no. It’s okay too.
But it’s so valuable. It’s so valuable for people to hear this because, I mean, you said it really, really well. I mean, we come from a culture of loyalty and it helps that it’s loyalty to our country or loyalty to the US constitution, there is that, and there is the UCMJ that I can throw at you. So there is that. But what you did say, though, is you’re probably gonna mess some stuff up when you’re in the military to get booted out. Like you said, you might get relieved, you get reassigned. There’s a lot of other things that can happen. There’s tons of disciplinary outlets that can be used. But at the end of the day, you’re still going to be, you know, this pay grade for this many years of service in some form.
But then when you get on the outside world and you realize at the drop of a hat, somebody could let you go for virtually any reason or no reason whatsoever. And that, I mean, just the way you articulated that just really, really resonated with me. Because there is not as much of an emphasis on loyalty. And I feel like that has become a competitive advantage for companies that understand loyalty. And so you’ve seen – I mean, there’s probably tons of examples of people that have gone through this whole COVID-19 pandemic as a business. And they were forced with like, hey, do I lay people off or do we reduce pay so we can keep everybody on?
So there’s been some of those decisions made and there’s been some studies that have shown that companies that you had that decision to make, that the employees were more than willing to take a little bit of a hit in their pay if it meant that we all get to stay together. So it’s a fascinating study. It’s a fascinating discussion. We could just sit here for the rest of our time together, man. But now when we get back, what I’d like to do is I’d like to cover – you’ve kind of teased us with it now. So now we can get into the weeds of the founding of Haversack. What helped get you going? What was the first instance where you felt like you were getting some traction and you made it somewhere? And e explain a little bit more of the business to us. So we’ll cover all that here in just moment.
So we’re incredibly grateful to have some amazing sponsors. And so I’ll mention that we are continuing to accept sponsorship applications. So if you are a business that wants to get in on an amazing show for veterans, this is veterans and business-specific. This is the veterans show for folks to really tune into and really get some insight into the business world of struggles, of triumphs, of things that have really helped propel businesses further. But also getting a little bit more into the weeds of some of the things that make people tick. And really, again, like I said at the very beginning of the show, it’s helping overlay some of that for you on your life. So you can take it and apply it to you as the situation fits.
So I want to plug real quickly the Veteran Executives Network. Veteran Executives Network is a place for veteran business leaders to be able to do business with one another. So whether you’re public sector doing work and you’re selling to the US government, or you’re doing other private ventures, it’s a great place for veteran executives to get together, to trade information, to understand how can we work together. And Veteran Executives Network has become a place also where you can get more information about the plethora of resources out there that are available to veterans. So the organization, the website, they’re continuing to be developed and refined and continue to be iterated over time. A great, great organization. I’m a very active member with that group. And so I encourage you to reach out and learn and get more information on them.
So getting back to our discussion, Chris. Again, thanks for sharing some of the story that you’ve gone through. But we’d love to love to jump now into what has been the driving force of Haversack? One, what does Haversack do and then two, when did you realize that you were getting some traction with the business?
You know, so going back to figuring out after XPO or whatever, I started to consult with shippers. So I was in a trucking company, which is called asset-based, the first party of the logistics chain. So that was my job. Well, I’m sorry. The second party, that’s the asset-based. The shipper is the first party. So I got out and I started to consult with shippers and they would, you know, talking about their pricing and their operations and helping them out. And I would ask them questions about this, and then they would give me an answer. I’m like, “Where did you get that from?” I’m like, “Well, I got that from the trucking company.” And I was like, “Well, that’s not reality.” And then I started to ask these questions, and as consulting, I started to see this incredible disinformation of what the shippers understand about logistics.
And then I got a peek behind the curtain of the third-party logistics – actually the XPO, the Penske’s, the CH Robinsons. I started to see their impact in the industry. And then I realized what would keep me there was the greed, the pricing and the gouging that those three third-party logistics impact on shippers was just incredible. So I saw the asset-based, the impact they have on a shipper then I saw the third party. And it all came down to control.
What I learned very quickly was in logistics, and that’s what Haversack, you know, I’ll kind of give you the iteration of where it’s going is logistics-based. And then I’m sitting there and one day I’m talking to my wife and I’m like, you know, what if I just created a company that just pulled the veil back and I took everything I know from logistics and I imported it on a shipper and put them in control of everything, gave them the best knowledge, the best technology and let them make the decision, an in-source solution that makes them great at logistics, makes them control. It takes the control away from the trucking company and the third-party logistics and save them a bunch of money.
And then that was the beginning of Haversack. That was the what-if. What if we did this? And it was a disrupter. And my thought and theory was that the third-party logistics can go away. They need to go. They don’t do anybody any good. They’re obsolete. That trucking, that shipping companies, manufacturers, retailers, distribution companies can do it all themselves. It just got to have the right partner and their technology and information. So that was the beginning of Haversack.
Well, then, help folks like myself who don’t understand all the ins and outs of logistics. So let’s use just a dumb example. Like, I mean, I’ve got a company. I’m producing, you know, maybe it’s a set of tools or something, some unique product or service or some unique product, and I need to get it across the country. Walk me through that process of, you know, you talked about first, second, third-party shipping. So what does that look like in terms of that whole transaction? What does that process look like?
So a shipper has one or two options, like I said. They can try to negotiate price directly with a trucking company, or they go to a third-party logistics and let the third-party logistics do it for them. They give that control up and a third-party logistics will say, “Aaron, we got it. We’re going to move your products and we got it. You go do something else.” Or you go directly to a FedEx, a UPS, an Old Dominion, a Schneider, and you try to negotiate yourself with that. So that is a position that shippers are in today. They’ve got one or two options. Both the problematic. Both put the shipper in a very bad position. Because one, the third-party logistics just wants to control their margin, their markup and they’re incredibly expensive.
Try and negotiate with the trucking company, good luck because you’re going into their world. You’re not going to out-negotiate FedEx, Old Dominion, UPS. You’re not. When you go sit down with that rep, that rep has one job and it’s their company. It’s not you. They’re going to make you feel great about it. You’re going to leave out thinking you’ve got the greatest contract in the world. And when I talked to people, potential client’s like “I’ve got this great contract. 90% discount, this, that.” And I’m like, okay. I said, “Name a time you went and bought a car and you walked out of the car dealership and said, ‘Wow, I got screwed on that deal.’” No, you don’t. You walk out, everybody got the best deal walking out of a car dealership. Everyone. And the car dealership still makes money. That’s the job of the sales. No harm, no foul. That’s their job.
But what we have done is because I come from the industry, we take that on for the client. Now that company has to look at me and they to try and negotiate with me. And I know the ins and outs. I was there. I was that guy at one time on the other side of the table. So that is the whole aspect of Haversack. It is a complete disruptor. We’re trying to change everything because we believe in the shipment. We believe the American business is the backbone of this country. They’re the ones that are making things happen. They’re employing people. They deserve the best partner, the best option. And I’ve got to say in that everybody makes a buck, that nobody makes two. If you’re in it to make two, we’re going to sniff you out because the company can make two. I’m okay with that because they got payroll. You talk about the pandemic. We look at it as how much money can we save a company and how many jobs can they save? How do they grow? How do they hire? Those are the people that deserve the best options.
And that is our whole goal in Haversack.
Gotcha. So, I mean, so if I’m creating furniture and I’m shipping furniture across the country, I’d give you a call and I would hire you then to help represent me to these different outlets to negotiate the best optimal shipping rate for me. Is that essentially what it is?
Essentially, yeah. So we come in, we partner with clients. We’ll do the contract negotiations. And some of the things that we always want to teach our clients is this: cost reduction profitability when it comes to logistics are two different things. Everybody wants to come in and say, “I’ll save you money.” Okay. That’s great. That’s cost reduction. It’s like, if I save you money on buying your paper, that just means you saved money. You’re not profitable. You just pay less for paper. So we teach people to say, okay, cost reduction is one thing, profitability logistics is something completely different. Profitability is quality. So if I bring a cost savings and it’s a bad quality solution, I will just kill your profitability. Because what will happen is the low-cost solution will lose your shipment. Won’t show up on time. You can’t track it. There’s invoice issues. And you have to pay people to track that down.
Those are the things that you have to inherently spend money on. You can’t charge back to your client. You have to do it. You can’t say, “Hey, client. I had to track an invoice down. There’s a $5 charge.” And it’s not happening. That’s out of your high. That is now profitability starts to wane because you have a poor quality solution. So we make sure they understand that you can get great quality at a great price and dominate your industry in there. So those are the big things that we truly, you know, true partnership is what we aim for.
That’s cool. Yeah. It definitely sounds like it. I mean, because one, I mean, I’m trusting you to go make it happen and make sure that my shipments are making it where they need to, but we’re doing this in the most efficient and meaningful way possible. So I mean, yeah, it’s definitely a partnership. What did you see in terms of when you were getting started in terms of just the feedback you’re getting from people, the interest from people? What was that like for you when you kind of started to realize, hey, I might be onto something here?
The interesting part of it is, you know, it’s just like, what does Haversack do? That’s always a question. And you’re explaining something that’s never existed before. Literally. We’re saying things no one’s ever said. No one ever said that you got to get rid of third-party logistics. This is a billion-dollar companies. You’re talking about Penske, Ryder, CH Robinson. And I’m saying –
Well, that’s a great tagline, man. Get rid of third-party logistics. Boom, there it is.
We gotta go, but we can prove it. So the concept, the proof of concept. And people like, okay, and they’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is too good to be true. You can save me a million dollars. And yet there was always something there. It was a struggle for years, the first couple of years of proof of concept. And even I was like, man, can I pull this off? All the things that I’m saying, can I do this? And then once we started to do it, the proof of concept and the case studies, and then the clients backing us up, the referrals. That’s when we knew we’re onto something. When we actually proved it and we could show dynamically what we’re doing every day for clients, that was it. And it’s been fun. Now we’re at the fun part because we love to win. And one of our core values is warrior spirit. We don’t stop fighting. We fight every day for our clients. We’re bound and determined to win. So now it’s fun.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So what have been some of the challenges as you’ve grown? Like, I mean, because as it started off, I imagine it was just you, right? I mean, how were you able to grow it? How have you how been able to get it to where it is now?
And I think, Aaron, this goes back to what you’re trying to accomplish. And I’m going to go back and support your goals here. Here’s what I’m going to say to business owners coming up and going back to my challenges, resources. Resources will drive you in having good resources. And that’s one of the things. If you go to our website, we actually have on there, Haversack Resources. And on there is everybody that I met that can benefit a business owner. It’s great solutions because that is some of the fail points that I had. I didn’t have good resources. I made so many mistakes. Like nobody ever told me that my CPA should not be my bookkeeper. Boy, what a mistake that was. That costs me thousands of dollars fixing the disaster that was. Marketing, HR. I have a PEO that manages my employees and I pay and all this. I signed up for one PEO and I didn’t know there was a wide market out there PEOs and I happened to sign up with the most expensive one. But now I’ve got a much better solution.
Those are the things I did not know. And those are the challenges that I think all business owners have. And you’ve got to find resources, you’ve got to find mentors and put yourself in there before you make the decision. Make sure you go to market. Make sure you ask questions about it. There’s so many great resources out there to help you make the best decision. And, you know, I said the Resource page, I offer that to anybody. Anybody can come on there and I don’t ask money for it. It’s my give back to the world that here’s great people that have impacted me positively and I believe they can impact you also in there.
So yeah, you know, you’ve talked about what you do and I think we all need to do that. We all need to support each other. Because small businesses make up 98% of America. And we need to advocate for each other. We need to support each other. And there always doesn’t need to be a dime connected to it. There always doesn’t need to be a referral-partner agreement. You just can take care of each other. And that’s kind of what I look to do anytime I can do it.
Oh, that’s cool. That’s so cool. There’s a lot of folks up there that are either trying to get their business off the ground, whether they’re just got started or they’re thinking about a business idea. And so you’re a great example of taking that idea, that concept, and it’s a new concept. I mean, it’s rather entrepreneurial what you’re setting out to do. And so taking that from nothing and going somewhere with that. I mean, what was it like for you? I mean, let’s go a little deeper here. What was it like for you when you got that first deal and the first couple of times that you realized like, man, I got something here, this is really awesome?
It was great. It really was. Building your own and that there’s such a sense of accomplishment there. There really is. And then what I realize is I’m the worst boss I’ve ever worked for too. You never have an off switch. You work endlessly. Nobody ever tells you to stop working. And that first deal was so like, okay, can I do it? And you’re so worried about not letting your first client down. You do anything on the earth to satisfy them. And it’s what you should do. It should be that level of customer service and motivation. And then what was funny is I went from a good-sized one to a huge one. And it was just like, wow, how am I going to pull this off? I mean, I went – literally, the third largest Caterpillar dealership in America became my client.
Oh, my gosh.
Yeah. And it was scrambling.
Okay. So let’s sit there for a second. So tell me about the scramble. So tell me where you were in terms of company size and then tell me what you had to become and how quickly you’re able to get there.
The company size was three. And they brought on 27 locations. We had to go train them on it. We had just started a new tech platform we truly did understand. And then all of a sudden, we started to put out pricing in this and we became noticed. And we won the business and gets that massive third-party logistics. And I didn’t know it that when I presented to the ownership, I went in with all my glory in me and presented myself, then right behind me was this big 3PL that came in behind me. And the owner was listening to the 3PL and he looked at the CFO and he’s like, “This is the story I heard.” Later he goes, “This isn’t even a fair fight.” He goes, “I want Haversack. And shut this down. I’ve already made my decision.” And yeah, the pressure was on and it was 20 hours a day.
Don’t screw it up, Chris.
Don’t screw it up. It was great, but it could have been the end of me too, I realized. People were like, “Oh, we’ve arrived.” Yeah. But you could also be ended really quick if we screw this up.
So as a result of that, you have to go hire more staff? I mean, what did that drive you’d to have to go do?
Well, it drove us some more solutions. So what it did was we realized that we were a solutions-based company and that they’re going to challenge you. Bigger companies, smaller companies will challenge you. That we realized very quickly who we were and what we were was a solutions-based company. Every day they would call us, “I got a problem.” We had to figure it out, better roll our sleeves up. We have to be very agile. Exercise initiative, that intuitive nature. And it became our DNA and it’s who we are today. So from that, it forced us, it was a forcing function for us to learn internally. And my mantra was: Don’t say no. If somebody comes to you say, “Yes, we’ll figure it out.” We have to. The quote is if we say no too fast, we’re going to be in trouble. Not that we’re lying to them. The yes is we’re going to figure it out. Then if I can’t, then I come back and I’m honest. But you got to fight for survival and that’s what it drove us to do. That became the hustle. And really, it spawned Haversack Analytics, Haversack Exchange, Haversack Operations. We grew from there because we needed to provide that level of service to our clients. So it was great in that aspect.
So then just share with us just for context because I don’t understand where you are today in terms of size and scope. So you start off. Your office of three doing X amount of dollars in revenue and now you’re an office of what? Just so I have an idea.
Yeah. So now we’re at 16.
Yeah. So we’ve grown and we’re hiring every day. I would say if you’re buying furniture, you’re doing well, we’re buying furniture. Things are going well for us. Revenue is through the roof. It’s tough to get a handle on it. And you wake up and you look at it and there’s seven figures on your P&L. And you’re like, wow, how did this happen? And that’s an eye-opener in itself right there. To reach that million-dollar threshold is huge. Less than 4% of the American business has ever reached that point.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing.
It is. It becomes intimidating too. And you realize that, you know, okay, me managing this in QuickBooks isn’t going to work anymore. I got to get a good CPA, a good accountant and AR people. And so it’s been good. We’ve grown. But what’s also been good is we’re very lean. We’re an organization that we put a lot back into our employees. That’s the core. How we pay them, how we compensate the culture, how they live is huge also. So it’s been good in that aspect.
Well, share with me then – so I have two other questions. So one, what did it take for you to be able to get to the point where you could afford to bring on new staff and two, you’re actually doing that, and then three, what has that been like for you learning all the different facets of business that you’d never been exposed to before?
You know what I learn about hiring – this is just me, this is my take on it – was you can’t wait to hire. And I was always saying, I’m looking at numbers in this, I was like, okay, am I ready to hire? And I stalled hiring, and it hurt us. We weren’t allowed to grow. And it’s at the point where you’ve got to hire, figure it out, you’ve got to push yourself in there. That not hiring becomes a problem. Because then you start impacting your clients because you can’t do it all. We had the concept that everybody’s a rifleman. Everybody picks the rifle up and you empty your own trash. Everybody does invoicing. I did it as the owner and CEO. But there comes a point you’ve got to stop that. And you have to hire and you have to start putting order to your organization and that means hiring and everything that comes with it – the HR, the healthcare. You’ve got to put all those things in too. As much as you take care of the clients, you need to start taking care of your company too to balance.
And then, you know, that can get really, really pricey for a company. So, I mean, what has that been like for you in terms of — because I mean, I got the sense early on, I think even just off air before we even started, I got the sense that you have a huge heart for people. You’re really committed to your people. So you’ve got that commitment. But then how do you balance that? Again, I mean, I know we’re going deep here, but I really love your angle on this. How do you care for your people but also you have a financial responsibility to this entity called your company? And so how are you able to balance those two things or keep both of them as a priority?
You know, everybody talks about hiring. There’s this thing: hire people smarter than you. Never really understood that one. I don’t know how you quantify that. But what I learned was you hire talent, you hire potential. And you let people work into it and you pay them a fair wage and you understand their story and their situation. Somebody comes in and they’re a single mother with three children. They most likely will take the job at X and that’s not fair. I have to take into account who they are and how do I make their life better. And if I put their salary here, what does that mean to them? It changes the dynamic of now they can care for their family and in turn that’s a burden off of them. And that means they can come and focus solely on Haversack.
So that is how I kind of looked at bringing people in. Look at the person, hire talent, hire potential, and they’ll figure it out. Create a great environment and they will grow within it is what I have done. And it’s cost me more money. I’ll be honest. I pay a pretty good wage above market, but I’ve always felt that it’s come back. It really truly has of who we are. It’s like, you know, I don’t have a PTO policy. Anybody was like, “How much time do I get off?” I’m like, “How much time do you need?” I hire professionals. Why do I need to manage your time off? And it has never been a problem. Everybody, you know, “Hey, I’m going to work from home” and we have a little tracker and everybody tells what they’re doing, but we don’t manage people’s time off. And that in itself has been great because people feel like they see more in me. They trust me. I’m really truly part of this organization. So yeah, balance, it’s tough. It can be tough at times.
Yeah, no, I mean, because my heart goes out to smaller businesses. They want to do right by their employees but the numbers are what the numbers are. So I’ve got a lot of empathy for that. And so you’ve managed to bust through all of that. And so you’ve been able to take care of your people and recognizing that on books, on paper, it’s costing you something, but you’re recognizing the long tail of that in terms of the return to you as a company, you’re getting better focused, better quality people. But it also means that you can step up the hiring standards too. So the people that you bring on, they gotta be some impact players. People that can really make an impact on the business.
So it’s really cool. It’s really cool to hear you hear you share all that. So, I mean, we’re kinda kind of winding down on the end of our time, but I’d love to kind of hand this last segment back over to you. One, if there’s been anything that we haven’t gotten around to covering that you just are dying to talk about, I would love to, you know, this is a great time for that. And then two, if you have any other advice for folks that are early on in their business journey and either they just got started and they’re struggling to kind of keep going or they’re thinking about an idea, any words of wisdom to kind of that angle there?
Yeah. The starting business is passion to me. It really is. I love entrepreneurs. And every time I get a chance to go to a local business, I will. I will always defer to them. Because bigger corporations get endorsements all the time and they’re doing all right. We’ve got to support each other as small businesses. So I always tell people build your network. Strategic partners are key in everything you do. And don’t always look that everything is to make money because people will sniff you out really, really quick, and they’ll see if you’re genuine or not. And then that goes back to who you are and your product. It really speaks to it. So be very, very careful of that.
Yeah. We’re in business to make money. I got it. But when that’s all you’re focused on, that’s all you’ll ever become, and you’re going to miss a lot of great opportunities. I’ve worked with a lot of young businesses. I don’t get a dime from and I help them out. And that’s all I care about because I can. I’ve reached that point. There are things you don’t skimp on. Don’t skimp on your lawyer, your CPA, your accountant in there. Get great resources behind you. And that’s always the thing. Before you go into it and you get an office building, ask questions, talk to people that have been there. There are business groups out there you can get into and talk to other business owners. And read. I’ll tell you this: read. Go get some books about it and educate yourself. But don’t take any book in total, take bits and parts. I’ve seen people, they get a book and they’re like, I’m going to implement this process. And it becomes very, very difficult, almost impossible. Read, find little blinks and little tips and get better every day at what you do with that.
Gold. I hope you’re taking notes. If you weren’t taking notes, rewind that 45 seconds and start over. That was good. That was so good, man. Thank you. I just want to thank you, Chris. Thank you for spending some time with me today. Thank you for sharing some of your hard-fought wisdom, hard-fought lessons and things that you’ve learned. And I really, really do appreciate you sharing that. Thank you. Thanks for being here.
Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate it too. I think what you’re doing is amazing and it feels good to get back into the community. Sometimes military, you get outside of it, you forget. And it’s good to get back in and tell those stories. It’s important. Our history is great. And anytime we can share that history of the world, I think it’s incredibly important. So thank you, Aaron. You’re doing a great job. Appreciate it.