An Interview with Kirk Godby and Robert Slack
Leaders in Cloud-Based Solutions for Motor Carriers
Courtesy of VerifiedFirst
We’re pleased to present an interview with two veterans in the logistics and delivery industry: Kirk Godby and Rob Slack from Flexible WorkForce.
Kirk Godby is the COO of Flexible WorkForce and brings over 24 years of industry experience. He’s been in the industry since he started his first courier company in 1993. His experience helped him develop new solutions that benefit couriers, carriers, and shippers. Kirk is also the immediate past president of the Customized Logistics and Delivery Association (CLDA). A serial entrepreneur, Kirk is a strong advocate that winning takes care of itself when there’s hard work and commitment to be the very best.
Rob Slack is the president of Flexible WorkForce and brings over 40 years of experience in the logistics industry. Because of his industry leadership, he was inducted into the CLDA’s Hall of Fame. Although Rob’s primary focus has been in the logistics and delivery industry, he’s also owned many different types of businesses. Regardless of the industry, one thing has remained consistent: Rob’s ability to quickly identify customer pain points and deliver efficient solutions.
Question: First of all, can you talk about your family life and how it’s affected the development of your business?
Kirk: I’m married and have two beautiful daughters; one who is 21 and a junior at TCU. The other one’s a senior in high school; she’s about to go to TCU. It’s been a long road for Rob and I and they’ve been very supportive throughout this process. I’ve got a nice family and have been very blessed.
Rob: I’m married, as well, and have four grown children, two of which are here in my area. I have a son who lives in San Francisco; he has a doctorate from Berkley in chemical engineering. The other one lives in New York City; he’s an executive with an educational learning company. My two daughters are here in town and they have the grandkids.
Parenting is a lot of fun. It teaches you a lot about business because you have to learn to negotiate constantly!
Kirk: Or in my case, you just get stepped on with three girls in the house. There’s not much negotiating power that I have. I pretty much get shot down on everything that comes up.
Rob: Kirk has the three girls, plus a dog and a cat. He’s actually below the dog and cat in the pecking order. (Laughs)
Question: Aside from family, what motivates you? What drives you forward on a day-to-day basis?
Rob: I grew up in a family business; my father was an entrepreneur. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and in business for myself. I’ve had partners and investment groups before, but I’ve pretty much always worked for myself.
I’ve started, in my lifetime—and I’m 59 years old—probably 50 businesses. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to believe in your dream and try to carry out your dream. But if the dream doesn’t work out, or isn’t profitable, you have to learn to say, “I gave it a shot” and move on to the next one.
That’s a tough thing for a lot of entrepreneurs to do. They will grip on to an idea they fully believe in and it could be a great idea! But if they cling onto something that’s not working right now, it will eventually crumble and take them down with them. I’ve been very fortunate to know when to move on.
Kirk: I came from the same family background. My dad was a business owner and I worked at his business. Rob and I have known each other for a long time. We’re kind of the same—very entrepreneurial. I’ve started several businesses—at least 10.
When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re driven by the process. Winning takes care of itself when there’s hard work and you put everything into it. Many businesses I’ve been involved in have been successful; a couple have not.
Business is like sports. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it and be committed to be the best. That’s where Rob and I are at with Flexible WorkForce. We’ve poured our life into this company for the last year and it’s all coming together. We’ll continue to work hard and watch the fruit of our labors develop.
Question: What types of businesses have you developed in the past?
Kirk: Mostly transportation. I started a courier company from scratch in 1994, built it up to 60 drivers, and sold it to my partner. In the meantime, I started another company in Austin, Texas that I still own part of. I also started a technology company, SmartIcon Technologies.
Rob and I started a company called FM2 Logistics Solutions. It was a heck of an idea to marry the trucking world to the courier world with technology. We discovered some big hurdles to clear on the trucking side of that business, but we also developed a lot of relationships from that business. Aside from the horse racing business and partnerships we manage, overall, it’s all transportation related for me. (Editor’s Note: Learn more about this horse racing business on page __.)
Rob: I started my first courier company in my college dorm room in 1976. I grew that courier company into a larger Northeastern operation. We had over 700 drivers working with us. We went public in 1994 under the name US Delivery on the New York Stock exchange. When you go public, you basically cash in, and all of a sudden, you’re an entrepreneur with a lot of money in the bank. It can be dangerous. You have all of these ideas and now you want to try them out because you have the money to do it.
I’ve owned a property rehab business, and various motels and bars. I also owned a bakery and a couple of sports memorabilia stores. I was also the president and COO of a company that we formed in 1996. It was similar to the business we’re running now.
I currently have a patent on a piece of fishing equipment to protect fishing reels and for a plastic pizza box. I had a hot rod restoration shop that I just closed because I didn’t have time to operate it anymore.
I’ve been involved in so many different kinds of businesses. I’ve never seen a business that I thought I couldn’t make something of; although, I’ve been proven wrong on several occasions. Thankfully, I’ve never gone bankrupt or left anyone hanging for a bill.
Every business gives you a different experience and perspective on customers, employees, the business environment, economy, and recruiting. I was a business major and a psychology minor in college. I think the psychology helps me more in the business world now.
Question: How does your current business compare to the ones you’ve owned in the past?
Rob: The first question I like to ask my customer is this:
“What is it you need that you’re not getting now? What’s your pain point—your biggest problem?”
You listen to your customers’ feedback, and think:
“How can I develop something that can solve their problems?”
If you can take some of the pressure off one of your customers, then they will feel good about doing business with your company. They also will want to continue to do business with you.
That’s our whole goal—to make our customers more profitable. Our technology platform is tops. And our insurance platform can help most every company in the transportation business. We provide the back-office support that many companies often lack.
Recruiting is a huge pain point for everybody. And driver shortage is a nationwide trend that’s going to continue to grow. So, we started recruiting within our company—this has gone well.
Question: Looking at your professional background, both of you were former presidents of the CLDA. Can you talk about your experience leading that organization and how it prepared you to form Flexible Workforce?
Kirk: When I started my courier logistics company in 1994, I started with a single driver—myself. I built my company up from there. It took me two or three years to find out about the CLDA.
Back then, it was called the Messenger Courier Association of America (MCAA). I received a magazine from them in the mail, looked at it, and said, “I have got to figure out how to get involved.” I did, and it was the best business decision I ever made in my career.
The relationships I’ve formed throughout the years have been invaluable. (After all, it was those relationships that helped me get a million-dollar account many years ago.) It’s a close-knit group of business owners. There are about 400 members. Some members are small local courier companies with 30 drivers. Other members include national companies that operate all over the United States, and regional companies that operate in multiple states.
Every member is extremely helpful and willing to share their experiences. Once I got looped in, I met people like Rob. Then, I found my way onto the organization’s board and stayed there for 12 years.
Rob and I have been involved in this [the industry, the organization] for a long time. We know a ton of people across the industry. And it’s those relationships that helped us build Flexible WorkForce.
Rob: In the early 1980s, my company was growing rapidly. I used independent contractors and couriers, which is basically what you have to do in this business to survive. I got a notice that I was going to be audited by the IRS. I had a few meetings with the IRS and my accountant.
Unfortunately, my accountant gave me some bad news and told me the following:
“You’re cooked—you will [be] out of business. They’re going to look at [your business] very hard, give you a big fine, and you’re going to be done.”
I was understandably distraught. So, I called several people I knew and asked them if they had any advice, or knew anyone I could talk to. Thankfully, one of my contacts informed me about John Storm. John was the president of this brand-new-at-the-time association—the MCAA.
John gave me some excellent advice on how to handle the audit and deal with the drivers. After a year of working with the IRS, I got a “no change” letter. Basically, that meant I had been treating my independent contractors correctly. So, I was able to continue operating “as is.”
When I called John to tell him my great news, I said, “I can’t thank you enough, what can I do to thank you?”
He replied, “well, we’re having our second annual meeting next month in Florida. I’d like you to come down and go to the meeting.”
So, I went to the meeting, met John, and ultimately ended up running for a seat on the Board of Directors, per John’s request.
Twenty-five years later, I’m still on the board, and I’ve functioned in every board committee and position, and became president from 2006 through 2008. I currently sit on the association’s Advisory Committee.
To me, the CLDA is an organization that brings people together. In the 1980s, you could not find two courier companies in the same market that would say anything nice about each other; everybody was at each others’ throats.
The MCAA got people in the same room and allowed them to get to know each other, and find ways to help each other. The association was the catalyst for the growth of the network courier industry. And although I hate to say this… I’m glad I got audited, because it allowed me to discover the MCAA.
Question: What are the industry pain points that Flexible WorkForce solves?
Kirk: Driver recruiting is one of the biggest pain points in the courier logistic space. It’s the same for trucking, too.
It’s critical to seamlessly onboard drivers, and we have considerably streamlined the process. At the end of the day, we’re the back-end administration piece for a transportation company. Our job is to bring forth solutions and features to make a company’s existence effortless.
Compliance also is a big pain point. A lot of times, companies move at “mach 5” every day with thousands of deliveries. It’s hard for them to slow down and keep track of compliance issues, expiration dates, insurance, and all other related business tasks. So, that’s what we provide—we address a company’s pain points, provide solutions, and streamline their business.
Rob: Recruiting is a big problem. It’s hard to find qualified, vetted drivers. So, when we found Verified First, we were extremely pleased with the platform and the speed at which the company could turn information around. That’s a big pain point and we think we’re solving that issue.
Another issue is the insurance requirements put on drivers from shippers. Whether it’s Amazon, a pharmaceutical company—whatever. The insurance a company needs drivers to carry is complicated.
It’s hard for a driver to find a single policy to satisfy what’s required of them. If they do find something, it can often be expensive.
Our company offers buying power to drivers who are part of our program. We can get a master policy or a group pricing rate based on our volume. So, these people can save money on a business expense.
Also: A courier or trucking company can’t offer their drivers benefit programs because they are independent contractors.
However, our company can offer these benefit programs by making them voluntarily available to drivers. We can get them health, dental, and vision discounts and rewards; all these things that they couldn’t get on their own unless they were paying at least 50 percent more. We also offer options.
Question: Your company is the first of its kind in the industry. Why has no one else attempted to solve industry problems in the same way?
Rob: I think that we’re the first of our kind to offer as many solutions. We have competitors who might offer three to five solutions, but we’re offering solutions to the full gamut of problems in the industry.
For example, none of our competitors offer the “recruiting piece”—that’s been a game changer. We tell people, “we do recruiting” and their eyes light up. If there are 500 courier companies operating in New York City, they all are spending the same amount of money going after the same drivers. If that can be consolidated into a program through us, it comes down to a competitive bidding process—that’s the way it should be. So, we’re saving them money and giving them qualified drivers—no one else does that.
Question: Innovation is one of the key factors that sets a company apart from its competitors. In your opinion, what is the most innovative thing you’ve done at Flexible WorkForce?
Rob: That’s a hard one to answer because we’ve built a technology platform that is truly state-of-the-art. The automation that’s built-in serves us from an operational side and also streamlines our clients’ businesses.
Kirk: It’s combining the most comprehensive offering of solutions with a state-of-the-art platform. That’s never been done before.
Question: Because having a reliable workforce is important, I’d like to ask about recruiting, screening, and onboarding drivers. Why is pre-employment screening so important?
Rob: It’s a necessary evil. Every shipper has requirements in their contract with the carrier. In order to gain business from shippers, every courier and trucking company has to have this [pre-employment screening] service. We think Verified First’s is the best one they can utilize, and that’s why we wanted to partner with the company.
Question: Can you talk about the benefit of being able to create customized pre-employment screening packages?
Kirk: Each company has different needs. Verified First offers a menu of services and products to help a transportation company build a package they want. In the past, screening providers would provide three packages: a basic package, a mid-tier package, and a premium package. We don’t like the idea of forcing a transportation company to pick a canned package because every company has different niches and needs.
Question: What are some of the challenges when it comes to conducting an efficient and compliant hiring process?
Kirk: In the past, our pre-employment screenings were a manual process. Data was not readily available; the speed at which we could perform background checks was a pain point.
Rob: And some of the innovations Verified First brings to the table, such as a daily MVR ping, is a plus for any courier or trucking company. If anything happens to a driver’s license between Friday night and Monday morning, the transportation company needs to know. They can’t put themselves in a dangerous situation by becoming negligent or liable for something that happens when a driver doesn’t have proper licensing.
Question: Do you have any stories about how effective screening lowered your risk or protected your company?
Kirk: Years ago, screening wasn’t that big of a deal. But today, it is absolutely huge in the transportation industry. For example, we heard a story years ago about a driver who went in and had an altercation with a client they were picking up from. The company asked the transportation company to provide them with a list of all the drivers who had completed background checks; they did not have them. They lost the account and it was a lot of money.
You must have solid workers representing your company and this [screening] is the only way to get that. Other than personality, you’ve got to have Motor Vehicle Reports (MVR) pulled for your drivers. Everyone’s requiring them and it’s the only way to insulate your company from losing business.
Rob: The value is in what you don’t know.
There was a company in New York City that did not do background screening when it brought a person in. They didn’t do the proper vetting and the person got in a bad accident and hurt a few people in the other vehicle. It turned out that his license was suspended for reckless driving; the incident cost an awful lot of money.
You just can’t cut corners—screening has to be done before a worker picks up their first delivery. This is the type of incident that could absolutely put a company out of business.
Kirk and Rob clearly have a proven track record of success in their industry. Based on their experience, they’ve developed a comprehensive offering of solutions for the delivery and logistics industry. Visit their company’s website for more information (flexibleic.com).
About the Article
This article was originally published by Verified First (verifiedfirst.com).
This interview was edited for clarity and space.