J.B. Hunt exec seeks to develop relationships, be accessible to co-workers

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 947 views 

J.B. Hunt executive Shelley Simpson earned $7.25 an hour when she started at the Lowell-based carrier after graduating from the University of Arkansas with a marketing degree in 1994. She was a customer service representative, and it was supposed to be a “short-term gig” before becoming a State Farm agent.

This year, Simpson was promoted to chief commercial officer and president of highway services for J.B. Hunt Transport Services overseeing development of the J.B. Hunt 360 transportation management system.

Marketplace, a component of the system, was established to better match carriers with shippers, and it was announced along with the company’s $500 million investment into technology over five years. Complementing the investment, the company opened a 144,000-square-foot office tower, which expanded its corporate headquarters to 494,000 square feet.

When asked about hiring for the four-story building, which can accommodate more than 1,200 employees, Simpson said “we feel really good about where we’re at…When I walk through it’s pretty full.”

On Thursday (Nov. 2), Simpson spoke at The Summit, hosted at Cross Church in Rogers, about her goals and how she strives to reach them.

Not long after she began at J.B. Hunt, a vice president explained to her she would be good in sales, and she spoke to her father about her future with the company.

“‘You could be president of the company,’” he told her.

Shelley Simpson, chief commercial officer and president of highway services for J.B. Hunt Transport Services

In 2007, she was promoted to president of the company’s brokerage segment, Integrated Capacity Solutions. In 2009, she was named to Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty under 40 class.

Simpson said she met her husband at work, and after their first child was born, she told her supervisor COO Craig Harper she was going to quit. But before she had the chance, he told her she could be a great worker and a great mother. She desired to be stay-at-home mother, but God had a different plan, she said. After she became pregnant with twin girls, she shifted to part time, working three days a week. She said it was the first time she realized “J.B. Hunt cared a lot about me.”

In 2005, she returned full time as a senior vice president and set out to “be of good witness to others” and “develop stronger relationships.”

She established goals, wrote them down and was “intentional” about reaching them. Without the latter, goals can be like “weight loss goals” one writes down in January but doesn’t have the discipline to carry them out. Daily, she said wakes up early in the morning for quiet time and prayer, to work out and to go to work without stress.

Tomorrow, her schedule is booked until 9:30 p.m., and each Friday, she sets aside two hours to “walk the floor” and to spend time with co-workers, she said.

Being approachable is also important and gives others the opportunity to share their stories. An employee, who had received some hard feedback, owned up to it, and Simpson told her she respected her for that. The employee went on to tell her life story, and Simpson said to “share your story,” as it was the “most impactful story” she had heard in a month.

Also, Simpson looks to determine opportunities and establish an awareness buddy. She explained the latter as one who can tell her the “code word” if she is getting too passionate and needs “back off.” And, being able to speak the truth to others is important to help them reach their full potential.

“The process is painful but rewarding in the end,” she said.

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