Arkansas native Max Farrell keeps trucking with WorkHound

by Todd Jones ([email protected]) 388 views 

Max Ferrell (third from left) and members of the WorkHound team at the Truck Tank competition.

Little Rock Central graduate Max Farrell is the co-founder of WorkHound, the mobile platform that helps those in the trucking industry retain and attract new talent.

WorkHound is an application system that engages truck drivers via text messages. Drivers offer real-time feedback via the WorkHound system, which constantly aggregates all of the commentary sent by drivers. This allows supervisors and company owners the opportunity to provide routine explanations for policies or to acknowledge the feedback received and make rapid changes based on what they’ve learned from those in the field.

Farrell caught the startup bug while working for Dwolla, a Des Moines, Iowa payments software company, after he graduated from nearby Grinnell College.

Farrell has participated in more than 15 Startup Weekends and, along with his longtime friend Jordan Carlisle, helped organize the first ones in Arkansas. While working with the Startup Weekends, Farrell said he wanted to give back to his home state.

During a conversation he had with Kristian Andersen, Andersen told him he could help Arkansas by building a great company. That conversation was the catalyst for Farrell’s research in starting a company. A conversation with a mentor began to shape his direction.

“A mentor of mine, Marvin Maurras, challenged me to focus my efforts on tackling one specific problem in one industry because focus wins the day,” Farrell said.

The trucking industry was a source of concern that Maurras pointed out.

“When he talked about trucking, he lit up about the sky-high turnover rates and massive driver shortage,” Farrell explained. “He connected me to the Arkansas Trucking Association and I’m forever grateful for them.”

A meeting with Arkansas Trucking Association executive director Shannon Newton helped clarify his ideas further.

“Shannon and her team gave us an opportunity to speak about millennials and innovation in the industry – that forced me to speak with drivers and execs to better understand the industry,” Farrell said.

His work ethic and unique perspective impressed Newton.

“He spent a year digging in, researching industry, talking to everyone he could get access to,” she said. “He gets credit for doing his research and trying to solve a problem that has plagued our industry for decades.”

The result was a huge value add to the trucking industry.

“The value of Max is that he’s young, he’s bright, he’s looking at the challenges in our industry through a different lens,” Newton said.

With a problem to solve and access to industry leaders, Farrell dove in and learned more about the workforce issues.

“Trucking touches everything in the American economy, and it’s got big problems,” Farrell explains. “The industry has a shortage of 48,000 drivers and 97% average annual driver turnover. This costs the industry $15.5 billion per year in rehiring, retraining, and lost productivity.”

Farrell noted that isolation is a problem that leads to many of the retention issues.

“If companies do not create a relationship with their drivers, they will never feel like part of the team,” he says. “CCJ, a top industry publication, says that 51% of drivers leave for that reason alone.”

Farrell’s WorkHound app is web and mobile. Companies pay a monthly subscription fee.

According to Farrell, “WorkHound is priced based on the size of company. Many companies liken the cost to ‘monthly ad spend’ and funding often comes out of the recruiting budget. We’ve found that by retaining 3-5 drivers using WorkHound, the tool pays for itself and then some annually.”

The company officially launched in June 2015 when it participated in the Straight Shot Accelerator in Omaha. The team won Trunk Tank, a Shark Tank-styled competition at the Great American Trucking Show. The WorkHound team felt the win was a validation of their product. In addition, Farrell explained that he and his co-founder took rides with a couple of the truckers to learn more about their job. Farrell recounts his experience in a blog post on Medium.

Farrell and his team are determined to make things better for the trucking industry because, among other things, it is important to the country’s economy.

“Our team believes people should love the work they do. This is true across all industries, but trucking is a great industry to start in. Trucking touches everything in the economy, there’s tremendous purpose here. There’s also some big challenges that we knew would take an outside perspective to improve the industry.”

Farrell is proud of where WorkHound is in its process. He lists several things that WorkHound has helped with.

One of his customers commented, “This tool is going to be able to help us stop some fires before they hit.”

WorkHound continues to improve the relationship between the drivers and their employers.

“Our goal every day is to amplify the voice of employees and delight our customers. As we continue to grow, we’ll be able to provide prescriptive and predictive analytics. We’ll help teams make great decisions faster. We’ll impact companies not just in trucking, but other industries as well.”

Just recently, Farrell was selected as one of 100 US entrepreneurs to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit this week, June 22-24. The summit, hosted by President Obama, will take place at Stanford University and Farrell will be one of 700 delegates from across the world.