Friday, March 23, 2018

Swift President Richard Stocking: building an enduring legacy

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Arizona sunlight beams through the window as Swift Transportation President and COO Richard Stocking begins another day at company headquarters in Phoenix. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)
The Arizona sunlight beams through the window as Swift Transportation President and COO Richard Stocking begins another day at company headquarters in Phoenix. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

PHOENIX — It is early on a spring morning.

The sun is beaming through the windows of the offices facing east at the headquarters of Swift Transportation in this bustling Arizona city, where the temperature and low humidity at this time of year are the envy of many, especially Southerners.

Richard Stocking greets the visitor with a smile and a handshake.

His winsome countenance and boundless energy belie that of a man who has — pardon the reference to business jargon of the 1990s — taken on the job re-engineering one of the country’s largest trucking companies that hit a bump in the road about three years ago.

And he’s sitting in the office of the president and COO only because on a whim 19 years ago he called then company Chairman, President and CEO Jerry Moyes and asked for a job while he was going to school.

Stocking had no aspirations to join the trucking industry fulltime — zilch, nada.

He was born in Utah, the third of nine children and raised by a single mother on a little farm (“she was a wonderful lady who taught us to be compassionate, loving and most importantly to be thankful,” he says today).

Until he left for a church mission, he worked on a dairy farm from a very young age to help provide for the family.

What he really wanted to do was to go to school and become a herdsman to enhance his position and opportunity at the dairy farm and eventually become a veterinarian.

But he needed money to go to school.

“I called Jerry and said ‘… I’m looking for a job while I go to school. Do you have anything for me,’” he told the visitor.  “Jerry said, ‘yeah, come on down to Phoenix!’  I’d never been to Phoenix but was thrilled with the opportunity.  I continued ‘Oh, by the way, my wife is looking for a job, too!’ He said, ‘OK, we’ll put her to work.’ We drove down to Phoenix and I began my Swift career in customer service 19 years ago.”

It might have been one thing if Stocking and Moyes had been acquaintances, but that wasn’t the case.

“I didn’t know him,” Stocking said. “I’d seen him a couple of times, but my mother and his wife are cousins. I’d seen him at their family Christmas party, but I didn’t know him.”

There must have been good family communications between the cousins, however.

 “Jerry was very generous to me from the very beginning and said, ‘I’ve heard a lot of good things about you, come on down,’” Stocking recalled. “I thought it’ll be a stop and then I’ll move on and really decide what I want to do.  I had just gotten married, moved to this new state and started this new job all in a week.”

But Moyes had apparently had a different idea.

“So 19 years ago, Jerry says, ‘Richard, I want you to go into all departments and learn the ins and outs of the company,’” Stocking said.

And that he did.

At first, he worked in customer service, dispatching and planning at headquarters.

Then Stocking went back to Utah, where he planned out of the Salt Lake City terminal about three years before assuming the operations manager role there.

Then it was on to Kansas City for a sales position and later a terminal manager position in Edwardsville, Kan., a position that grew until he was managing the entire Midwest region.

Then the call came to come back to Phoenix to become executive vice president of sales and operations for the Midwest and the entire Mexico entity.

Back here, his responsibilities continued to grow until the day some three years ago when Moyes asked him to become executive vice president of sales for the entire company.

Initially, Stocking declined, but Moyes persisted and approached him a few weeks later.

“Jerry said, ‘We really need someone over sales and I’d like you to be that someone.’ I said I really didn’t want to do that,” Stocking recalled.

Family comes first to him, Stocking said, and the EVP position would require a lot of travel.

“I didn’t want to be away from my family and miss seeing my children grow,” Stocking shared with the visitor. “I replied to Jerry ‘Jerry, we need someone over operations and someone over sales’ thinking that I could take over the operations side.  Jerry sat quiet and said, ‘Yeah, I’m waiting,’ to which I replied ‘OK.’”

Then came just the reassurance Stocking needed.

Family comes first, Moyes told him.

”I said ‘really’ and he says ‘your family comes first,’” Stocking said. “I replied, ‘Jerry, if my family comes first, then I’ll do it.’ All I really needed was to know that I was in control of my travel. Jerry was always true to his word and this was no different. There were times when Jerry told me, ‘Richard, you need to stay home. You’re traveling too much.’ I respected that and the fact really wasn’t that I was traveling much more than previously, but I was in control and that was what I needed.”

Then came some rather tumultuous times at Swift, but Stocking stayed the course.

Moyes stepped down as chairman and CEO as a result of some internal strife.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Moyes and his brother owned nearly 40 percent of Swift stock at the time he left.

From the outside looking in, Moyes didn’t like what was happening to the company.

Swift was in turmoil.

 “A lot of turmoil,” Stocking said. “Jerry left Swift for a couple years. The new Swift team was going in one direction with Jerry absent.  Jerry knew this direction wasn’t the best for Swift, so he raised the capital to take Swift back private and instill the values he believed in and built Swift upon.”

Only months after resuming the top position at Swift, Moyes and Stocking were both back in their home state of Utah in December.

“Around Christmas time, Jerry asked me to get together with him on some customer visits,” Stocking said.  “He says, ‘You know Richard, I’ve kind of had a taste of a slowed-down life and I can get right back in the middle of that. In 12 to 24 months, I’d like you to take over.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said ‘I’d like you to be president of Swift.’R

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