Sunday, April 22, 2018

When the goin’ gets tough: a Biz Buzz fall football special

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mike Shanahan’s motto “Sweat the small stuff. … If you do that, then the big things take care of themselves.”
Mike Shanahan’s motto “Sweat the small stuff. … If you do that, then the big things take care of themselves.”

Are you ready for some football? Or how about anything except next month’s elections?

I’m not a jersey-wearing booster, and I don’t go to many games anymore, but I’ll always watch the home state Razorbacks if they’re on TV, or my lifelong team (inherited from my father), the Dallas Cowboys — though there’s been very little joy in Jerry-town for many years.

That’s just to say that I rate probably a 6 or 7 out of 10 as a fan — not a score a Southern boy should be proud of — based more on an accumulated knowledge and appreciation of the game than team loyalty and enthusiasm.




What does this have to do with trucking? Well, not much, but I’ll try to get there.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to see what the sports pages in other towns are saying about your local team. So, before the Cowboys played the Redskins in the season opener, I came across a really good story in The Washington Post about new ’skins coach Mike Shanahan.

“How does a guy who’s just 5 feet 10 and 175 pounds rise to the top of the NFL and command larger men to do his bidding all these years?” writer Sally Jenkins asks, referring to Shanahan’s long career, including Super Bowl successes at Denver.

As Jenkins explains, Shanahan is made of “metal shavings, sawdust, poured concrete.” Simply, he grew up blue collar tough and relentless, and was always willing to out-work the opposition. A grinder.

“If only he’d listened to me, he could have been an electrician,” his father said.

Shanahan’s motto “Sweat the small stuff. … If you do that, then the big things take care of themselves.”

Makes perfect sense, truckers.

For those that might be interested, Shanahan also has written a book, “Think Like a Champion: Building Success One Victory at a Time.”

Speaking of no-nonsense guys, success and books — and a little football — I got an early look at “The Sapp Brothers’ Story: Tough Times, Teamwork, & Faith.”

Truckers know the Sapp brothers from the red and white coffeepot towers that mark the Midwest truck stop chain.

Nebraska coaching legend Tom Osborne provides the forward.

“Anyone who appreciates what it takes to overcome difficult circumstances and rise to the top of the business world will find the Sapp brothers’ story compelling,” Osborne says.

The book is written by surviving Sapp brothers Bill and Lee, who in alternating chapters recount growing up in Depression-era Nebraska — the foundation of their success.

“Hardship and being without is the best thing that ever happened to the four of us Sapp brothers,” Lee writes early on, detailing the family’s struggles as they moved from small farm to small farm. Their father, as had his father, knew only cattle and crops — but he just didn’t have the business knowledge to make his hard work pay.

The boys, however, with some education, a lot of fortitude, and a commitment to honesty — all bundled together as faith — went on to build a business empire that has included auto and truck dealerships, petroleum distributorships, and the iconic travel centers.

Fortunately, fewer and fewer of us have to wait until we’re teenagers before we live in a house with indoor plumbing. Indeed, today’s kids can’t even begin to imagine the day-to-day toughness the Sapp brothers needed just a couple of generations ago.

But anyone hoping to be successful in the 21st century can’t afford to ignore their timeless lessons. So whether you’re looking for a promotion, getting your first truck, or hiring your first driver with the hope of adding more, here are some tips from Lee Sapp, taken from the book:

Lesson 1. Assess your capacity to own and operate a successful business. Unfortunately, just because you dream of succeeding at something does not mean your dream will come true.

Lesson 2. Realize the lifeblood of any company is honesty, trust, and integrity. Treat people right and trusting them to do the same. … I’ve done business with a lot of people who were smarter than me, but they knew they could trust me.

Lesson 3. Do what you love. Don’t go into business just for the money. If you’re in it because of greed, you ain’t going to make it.

Lesson 4. Meet the needs of your community.

Lesson 5. Consider building a business with family members. The advantages of going into business with your family are teamwork, trust, and a similar work ethic and values. You don’t have to be just like each other, though. In fact, it wouldn’t be beneficial to have a family business if all people involved thought alike.

Lesson 6. You are no better than the people you hire. There is something called progression. If you hire the right people and listen to them, you will move forward.

Lesson 7. Put sales first. You’ve got to have sales come first. If you don’t have sales with a profit, you’re not going to be around very long.

Lesson 8. Make time to relax.

Lesson 9. Be grateful for fringe benefits but remember what’s really important.

Lesson 10. Treat your customers right and they’ll treat you right.

Lesson 11. Learn from your mistakes and move on. What difference would it make if we sat around thinking about the business mistakes we made during the past 50 years? Don’t ever go back over something you can’t do anything about.

Lesson 12. Who you are trumps what you sell. If you want to be a successful salesperson, you’ve got to be neat and clean, polite, nice, honest, and trustworthy. And you need to get a haircut.

Lesson 13. No matter how successful you are, you still need a mentor.

Lesson 14. Try to own another business related to your own.

Lesson 15. Keep the faith. A lot of success in business seems to depend on the time and the economy of the country. But all real success comes down to having faith in God and trusting Him under all circumstances.   

The book is available at Sapp Bros. Truck Stops and some regional bookstores, or for more information go to 

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at

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