recession was rocking Strataforce. As other business faded
away, the Coty contract became 75 percent of the company’s
revenue. If Strataforce lost it—contracts came and went every
few years—it would be left in the lurch. Rather than cut costs
and retreat, the newly confident Tana encouraged Mike to
double down, by opening o;ces in other states and winning
contracts across the country. They hired a chief operating
o;cer from a much larger company and opened two new
o;ces on the West Coast, one in Rancho Cucamonga, near
Los Angeles, and another in Sacramento.
Such daring moves, combined with some new ideas and
a little luck, propelled the business forward. The new COO,
Todd Warner, proposed they get into truck driver sta;ng,
a business he knew from his old company. But unlike other
temp work, the trucking business was trickier: The Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration required all carriers and
driver sta;ng companies to maintain records including 10
years of employment history and recent drug test results for
each driver hired. The workers’ comp costs would be higher,
too, because of the added hazards of operating tractor trailers.
But the competitive field was less populated and the margins
were better. The concept piggybacked nicely with their existing work placing temporary warehouse sta;; they could provide sta; on both sides of the loading dock. Two weeks after
Mike and Tana hired Warner, they decided to go for it. They
launched Road Dog Drivers in 2009.
Coty, as feared, canceled its contract in 2010, and Strataforce
lost money that year. But the decision to expand paid o;: Road
Dog’s business grew fast enough to make up for the drop-o;. In
two years, Tana and Mike recovered and then some.
Meanwhile, Tana was looking for ways to boost the performance of her sta; and the temps she hired. She got involved in
crafting the company’s core values, and having employees do
the StrengthsFinder assessment.
Both Mike and Warner were skeptical. “I’d heard all the
talk about mission, vision, and value statements, and I
thought it was kind of hokey,” says Mike. “Todd would say,
‘There she goes with that witchcraft.’;” But Tana persisted.
They formed committees around di;erent functions of
the business, and got sta; to suggest how to improve them.
She hammered on values and vision, brainstorming with
Mike and Warner and delving into her own life experience.
“They’re just words if you can’t connect the dots to your own
story,” she says. They settled on four values that felt truest to
her: Never settle; if you say it, you’d better mean it and you’d
better do it; dare to be di;erent; and see the awesomeness in
others. Tana asked her colleagues to discuss how those values
played into their own lives, and to tell their stories too.
“It became a regular touchy-feely process, beginning from
the job interview itself,” says Mike. But soon enough, his skep-
ticism eroded as he began to see the results. “It made a dis-
cernible di;erence in the quality of people we hired and the
percentage of people we retained,” he says. “People started
making decisions on their own.”
By 2015, the combined companies had annual revenue of
$49.9 million, more than double their 2012 sales. In 2016, sales
increased again, to $65 million. Strataforce and Road Dog
together have 81 full-time employees, with 11 o;ces placing
drivers in 14 states and 10,000 temporary workers. A;S MIKE APPROACHED his 65th birthday, he says, he started to think about retirement. Not Tana. Her ambitions had only increased. The couple had built a national business, and she was looking for the next thing. What if, she asked, she started a company that transformed an entire industry?
The Road Dog business had sparked some ideas. Despite
the trucking industry’s onerous compliance requirements,
carriers still hire lots of drivers as W- 2 employees. The
carriers feel the need to hire and “hold” drivers to ensure
that as demand ebbs and flows, there is always a qualified,
FMCSA-compliant person available to go wherever.
Drivers, on the other side of the deal, are paid only for the
hours they drive, so many sign on with multiple carriers. Still,
no matter how many carriers they work for, they are left with
little control over their workload or pay. They’re employed,
but often find themselves underutilized with no set schedule
and having to rely on whatever is o;ered to them. Driver
turnover at the carriers, as a result, is stratospheric. Trucking
is a classic example of an ine;cient marketplace.
Todd Warner had spitballed an idea: What if the business
worked another way? What if there were a platform where
drivers could set up their own FMCSA-compliant driver file
and any motor carrier could hire any approved driver for any
run? Tana imagined starting a business to usher in such a
model. It would build an app that let drivers upload their
safety information. When they had availability for a trip, they
could log on and find jobs that matched where and when they
wanted to drive—rather than waiting for the carriers to call
them. Motor carriers would be assured that if drivers were
on the platform, they were in compliance with FMCSA—no
Mike told Tana she would need to run this company
herself. He wanted to retire. Tana dove in,
despite the fact that this time, she wouldn’t
“I felt like I was making a di;erence, and making
a di;erence made me feel more proud, and that
gave me an extra step of excitement.”
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