TRAXERO On-The-Go Podcast E2: Let Henry Do It!
April 4, 2023
The TRAXERO On-The-Go podcast welcomes Derek Cardwell, General Manager of Henry’s Towing and Aleks Petkovic, VP Engineering at TRAXERO, to talk about the evolution of the towing and software industries and how they are aligned in helping to improve towers’ businesses. Also, be sure to catch our special segment on what you can expect from TRAXERO at the 2023 Florida Tow Show.
Laura Dolan (00:00):
Welcome to TRAXERO On-the-Go, a podcast for the heroes of the road. This podcast will feature amazing towing professionals as they share their experiences on what life is like out on the roadways, the challenges, successes, and everything it takes to ensure a tow business stays alive. Thank you for being here. Now let’s get this thing rolling.
Well, hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for, Laura, is it Podcast #2 here for TRAXERO On-the-Go, I think, yeah?
It sure is, our second episode. So excited.
Shelli Hawkins (00:43):
We are so excited you guys are here to learn some things about the towing industry that you may have not known before, and we have got a couple of great guests that are joining us this week. We’ve got Derek Cardwell from Henry’s Towing in Springfield, Missouri, and then we have our very own Aleks Petkovic from Dispatch Anywhere TRAXERO. We’re going to introduce those folks a little bit later on and get to know them a little bit better.
But Laura, we’ve got some exciting things coming up, but first I want to talk a little bit about, we had a couple people ask us, “What exactly do you do at TRAXERO, Shelli Hawkins?” And I think people also asked you too, Laura, “What do you do there?” I’m going to go ahead and kick it over to you first. How long have you been with TRAXERO and our platforms and what you do for us?
Laura Dolan (01:32):
Well, thank you so much, Shelli, and I’m so glad you brought that up because today happens to be my second month anniversary with TRAXERO. I started on January 30th, so my second monthiversary, woo-hoo. I am the Senior Content Marketing Manager here at TRAXERO, so I oversee all of our content, everything from the podcast, video, blogs, emails, social media. So before I came along, we did not have YouTube, so we now have YouTube, yay. And we’ve got three really exciting videos up there, so I will put the link to that in our blog. Please go like and subscribe. So yeah, I am having a blast here learning all about the towing industry, which I knew absolutely nothing about two months ago, and I basically learned everything that I know today from Shelli Hawkins, so thank you very much for being my mentor there-
Shelli Hawkins (02:18):
Laura Dolan (02:19):
… and for introducing me to all the different resources and getting me hooked on the show Wrecked. That’s another thing that has helped me learn a lot about the industry. So yeah, really, really happy to be here.
Shelli Hawkins (02:29):
We are excited to have you, for sure. You mentioned Wrecked. I love that O’Hare Towing, you can still view those two seasons out there for Wrecked. And recently, Renee and I binge-watched those on a Saturday, and I’m actually looking at my O’Hare Towing hat that the folks there gave us in a recent visit. It’s fantastic. I love it. But thank you so much. And we also have arguments from time to time about whether or not we should use the, what’s it called, Laura?
Laura Dolan (02:55):
The Oxford comma.
Shelli Hawkins (02:56):
The Oxford comma. I am-
Laura Dolan (02:58):
I was like, “We argue about a lot of stuff. Which one are you talking about?” Just kidding.
Shelli Hawkins (03:03):
I am anti-Oxford comma and Laura Dolan is all things Oxford comma. So I have a sister with a master’s in English and I will defer to her on occasion. And she, as an older sister will say, “Shelli, stand down. Laura knows what she’s doing and you do indeed need the Oxford comma.” And I’m like, “Fine.” So Laura, I have a gift for you when I see you at the Florida Show.
Laura Dolan (03:25):
Shelli Hawkins (03:25):
And on the front of the t-shirt is a funny about the Oxford comma and I expect you to wear it.
Laura Dolan (03:31):
Oh, I will rock that thing every day. I am so excited. Thank you so much, Shelli. So enough about me, Shelli why don’t you tell our lovely listeners what you do for TRAXERO?
Shelli Hawkins (03:36):
So being in the towing industry since 2008, I’ve had experience on the sales side, then on the product side for three years as a Product Manager and then, of course, the marketing side. I really just have been an organic-type marketer, spreading the news evangelistic style, I guess, all over the towing industry about things that I find here, see. I want to share, I want to educate.
So they’ve made me the Director of Market Engagement, and that just means that however we are engaging with the market, whether it’s a sales message, like Laura and I will build out information like that that you guys see, or occasionally hanging out with the Product Team to see how they’re building things and what they’re building and what it looks like, but also the Marketing Team, so to see how we are engaging with the market to make sure that we are on task, it makes sense to our towing audience that’s going to look at it, use it, read it every single day. I don’t want to say I wear many hats, but I’m just a resource for most of the people here at TRAXERO, and I feel really privileged to be a part of this company and I’m excited where we are headed for in the future. So that’s what I do here.
What were you saying about Florida, Laura? We are so excited we want it here tomorrow.
Laura Dolan (04:45):
Yes, Florida. So TRAXERO will be attending the Florida Tow Show. In essence, we will be taking over the Florida Tow Show. We will be there April 13th-15th in the main area, Booths 359-362.
Shelli Hawkins (05:00):
Yes. Yes, and I just want to interject here, that the Florida Show historically is the time of year when all the towers, especially the ones in the Northeast or in the Pacific Northwest where there’s severe cold weather, we finally get a chance to break out of this wretched, frozen tundra of winter and enjoy the fellowship of our folks in the towing industry down at Florida. It’s a family reunion. There’s classes, Laura’s going to talk about that in second, but we’ve got so many activities going and we are beyond excited to be there. What kind of activities are we going to have, Laura?
Laura Dolan (05:35):
Yes, absolutely. So we will be giving, first of all, three demos of our tools, our flagship tool being our Towing Management Software, or our TMS, our Impound Yard Solutions and our Fleet Tracking. We will also be exhibiting our Impound Yard Solutions in booth 312 and 313, providing demos for auction, liens, and mail. And I know we are hosting two different speaking sessions, the first one presented by our VP of Sales, Jillian Grassetti, and our VP of Impound Yard Solutions, Will Farmer, who will be presenting Don’t Just Manage Your Business, Optimize It, should be very interesting. That will be taking place Friday, April 14th at 11:00 AM.
And I apologize if I butcher this word, so I am going to spell it out, S-A-G-O-4. That is the location of the session, SAG04, SAGO4. I apologize if I have butchered that.
Shelli Hawkins (06:27):
Laura Dolan (06:29):
And the next day, Saturday, April 15th at 1:00 PM, Towing Tech 101 with our very own Shelli Hawkins, Director of Market Engagement. Did you want to talk a little bit about that, Shelli, and what our audience can expect there?
Shelli Hawkins (06:42):
Absolutely. We are super excited to talk about it. And just like the class title says, Software 101, we are going to take it all the way back to the basics, because we know that every single person attending the show and every single person attending the class is on their very own unique journey of embracing software.
So we’re going to present basics. We are going to present some things that are a little bit more advanced, and also offer a lot of tips and tricks for effectively communicating the needs of what you want to get out of your software for the maximized performance, whether it is the front end that we call dispatching or impound solutions, and then also towing revenue optimization. And that is all of those reports on the back end that allow you to take a really broad look at the business. Am I profitable? What is the performance per operator? What is the performance per truck? What are my costs per truck? What is my volume for all the different types of businesses that I do? How healthy is my business? And that is our TRO, Towing Revenue Optimization, that we’ll talk about also in the class. Super excited.
Laura Dolan (07:53):
I will be there with bells on. I will be in the front row heckling you the whole time.
Shelli Hawkins (07:57):
And you’re going to be wearing your comma shirt, too.
Laura Dolan (07:58):
Yes, I will be wearing my comma shirt when I’m not in the booth wearing my TRAXERO shirt. And speaking of the booth, so in any amazing trade show fashion, we are carrying on the tradition of swag. So we will be giving away some great things, among which a really cool pair of TRAXERO sunglasses. I have seen them, I want them. You will want them too, so come by, pick up yourself a pair of free sunglasses. And, there’s an and, everybody.
Shelli Hawkins (08:25):
Oh. What is it?
Laura Dolan (08:27):
It’s a big and. Come try your hand at a little game we like to call T-pong. Now if you’ve played beer pong, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with how this works. Come play T-pong at our Impound Yard booth, again, that is 312 and 313, for a chance to win the ultimate TRAXERO championship belt.
Shelli Hawkins (08:47):
This thing is ridiculous. It is sick, I’m just going to tell you.
Laura Dolan (08:50):
Talk about it.
Shelli Hawkins (08:51):
Think Worldwide Wrestling Federation, gigantic shiny belt, Florida 2023. “I am the champion.” You’re going to wear it with pride. And yeah, Andrew Cody, our coworker has designed this thing and it is amazing. It’s going to be hanging up there for everybody to see. So please come on by to get your chance to win this belt, yeah.
Laura Dolan (09:12):
Yeah, huge shout out to Andrew. This thing is an absolute masterpiece. I can’t wait for everybody to see it in person, so come by for a chance to win your belt. Come get some sunglasses, come hang out with us, learn about our products. I cannot wait to meet everybody in person. This will be the first time I’m actually going to get to meet my coworkers in-person at this company, so very, very excited. So I’ll see you all in Florida.
Shelli Hawkins (09:32):
I feel the warmth right now and I feel the sandals on, so blink the eyes and it’s going to be here for sure.
Laura Dolan (09:38):
Shelli Hawkins (09:38):
Well, enough about that. We have got two amazing guests, Laura, here today and I am so excited to bring them on. We’ve got Mr. Derek Cardwell from Henry’s Towing. Derek, are you with us?
Derek Cardwell (09:51):
Shelli Hawkins (09:52):
Fantastic. Thank you for listening to our early chat about all the things. And then, we also have Mr. Aleks Petkovic.
Aleks Petkovic (09:59):
I’m on as well.
Shelli Hawkins (10:00):
Thanks for joining us, guys. We appreciate the time sincerely. So we’ve brought you both on because you share a few things in common. Derek is a current user of one of our platforms called Dispatch Anywhere and a few other platforms. And then, Aleks is also the core person that actually developed Dispatch Anywhere. And we’re going to ask a few questions about that a little bit later. I’m going to start with Derek Cardwell. Derek, tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re living, how in the world did you get brought into the towing industry to begin with? How did that happen?
Derek Cardwell (10:35):
So we’re based out of Springfield, Missouri. I did corporate management before this and I literally hated my life and hated my job. One of the drivers of Henry’s would come in and I’d see him. And finally, one day I was like, “You know what? I hate this. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to be a grunt. I want to drive a tow truck because that means I have no responsibilities anymore. I can just be an operator and go.” And he was like, “Okay, go put in an application.” And I was like, “Okay, I will when I get off work.” And he goes, “No, you’re not hearing me. Get in your car now and go do it.” So back in 2012, I took a giant leap and a huge pay cut and I became a tow towing operator.
Shelli Hawkins (11:16):
I love it. What year was it, 2013?
Derek Cardwell (11:18):
Shelli Hawkins (11:20):
2012. A tow truck operator. When you first started that role, talk about maybe some things that you learned. You went corporate America all the way to being a tow truck operator. What was that like?
Derek Cardwell (11:31):
It was a culture shock.
Shelli Hawkins (11:33):
Derek Cardwell (11:34):
But I was raised on a farm. I did fire service, so it wasn’t a huge change. I wasn’t afraid of work, working long hours, brutal conditions, the hazards. Those were never really a factor in it. The biggest factor was the company that I… Henry’s is a family-owned and has been since 1971, so it was no longer corporate managed. There was no more micromanaging. It was show up, do your job appropriately, and go home and everyone’s happy. And then, the customer interactions and the situations that operators get into, the different scenarios and challenges and things that you have to overcome, and a lot of times you’re doing it on your own. And it was more fulfilling than what I had done in the past.
Shelli Hawkins (12:27):
That’s fantastic. I love that you had the corporate experience. I will tell you, and for the folks listening to us, that I have seen so many towing companies hire someone from corporate America that has experienced efficient processes bring that type of mentality into a towing company and just make it extremely streamlined. Do you think that that helped you as you climbed the rank in Henry’s Towing?
Derek Cardwell (12:56):
Oh, tremendously. The two biggest advantages I had as I climbed the ranks was I did have the corporate background and I also started as an operator. I knew the struggles and the challenges and the difficulties of what my operators were experiencing out there, so I wasn’t blind to what they were saying. I could hear them and understand and be able to actually assist in making changes and streamlining the processes of what we did.
Shelli Hawkins (13:23):
Perfect. I want to know, did you have aspirations, when you started working for Henry’s, did you have aspirations to be the General Manager?
Derek Cardwell (13:32):
Absolutely not. I wanted to be a grunt for the rest of my life.
Shelli Hawkins (13:37):
That’s my phrase. That’s my phrase. And where was the shift in thinking? “I think that this is something I really want to make my career.” What was that moment like?
Derek Cardwell (13:48):
So the owner, I quickly… I started as just an operator. We have a night shift and a day shift, virtually. I started on the night shift, quickly moved up to the day shift, and then quickly became a Driver Supervisor, all without realizing it was kind of happening. It was just because I was enjoying the job so much. It wasn’t like extra tasks or anything, it was just they’d come naturally. And after about three years of that and being an operator, the owner called me into his office one day and said, “Hey, I really need someone to come in and run my office.” And I said, “Well, it looks like you need to put some job postings out because I’m not your guy.”
Shelli Hawkins (14:27):
Derek Cardwell (14:27):
So we went back and forth for about a month, and it was a daily occurrence, calls, text messages. Anytime I was in the office, he was heckling me on it and heckling me on it. And after about a month, I finally broke and we came to an agreement of, “I will give you one year. I don’t like it. You know that I’m walking into this not liking it. I’m probably going to be a cranky individual for the year, but I will give you the respect of giving it a fair shake.” And well, here we are.
Shelli Hawkins (14:56):
So I love the industrial strength candor of that conversation, the brutal honesty. And here you are. Do you foresee yourself retiring in the towing industry in some capacity?
Derek Cardwell (15:09):
Shelli Hawkins (15:12):
And why is that?
Derek Cardwell (15:15):
Most people that I know that aren’t in the industry, I constantly hear complain about having to go to work or work a 40-hour work week or five days a week. And here I am, pulling 70, 80, 100-hour weeks, sometimes seven days a week, and I wake up and I don’t dread it. The phone rings at 3:00 AM and, “Let’s go play.” Between the staff and the challenges and just what we do, it’s still exhilarating after 11 years of doing it.
Laura Dolan (15:49):
So after 11 years, you’re still okay with the possibility of being woken up in the middle of the night or having a Sunday dinner interrupted?
Derek Cardwell (15:59):
I look forward to it.
Laura Dolan (16:01):
Oh, wow. That’s amazing.
Derek Cardwell (16:04):
In my position now, as a General Manager, I’m the top of the top other than the owner of the company and I have a very robust staff of over 50 employees. Each truck has its own dedicated operator and I’ve got management staff and supervisors and everything in place to run efficient. So I could very easily take a step back, turn my phone off at 5:00 and just let the business run itself. That’s how I built it. But I don’t, because I still want to be involved. I still want to be out there with my guys. I want to be in touch with them. I want to know what they’re experiencing. I want to make sure that when they are out working heavy wreck scenes that they’re being safe. And if there’s training opportunities that we can capitalize on those in the moment before we have catastrophes. And it’s all enjoyable. We all love it.
Shelli Hawkins (16:54):
Just hearing you talk about those phone calls in the middle of the night or after hours or whatever, I think about the times that I’ve received phone calls from you, when you’re like, “Shelli, can you spin that Shelli Hawkins Rolodex, because we’ve got a truck down in Nashville” or whatever. But just like those phone calls that come from you and other towers, I completely understand. I had one that was just wanting a walkthrough of some sort of dispatching system like 6:00, and Renee is sitting there like, “Who is this guy?” I’m like, “Don’t worry about it. We’re just going to take care of it right now while we’re eating dinner. It doesn’t matter.” They need help. There’s no such thing as 8-to-5 or Sunday or what’s the weekend. So we’re here for it, we love it.
Derek Cardwell (17:36):
Right. We’re in the 24/7 industry. It’s my job to be available 24/7 for my guys, and they know that. And they’re not afraid to pick up that phone and call. If they’re having a problem loading a vehicle, they’ll call me and I’ll drive out there and show them. It’s a learning opportunity for my operators. And the better that they perform their duties, the better we are as a company.
Shelli Hawkins (17:59):
For sure. One thing that I’m curious about is when I think about the towing industry, I see it as highly emotional. So when that call comes in to dispatch, you’ve got someone on the other line who did not plan for their vehicle, commercial or consumer, to break down. So there’s this massive amount of emotion then transferred to your dispatcher and then transferred oftentimes to the driver. How do you help your staff maintain their cool in the whole swirling ball of emotion that’s out there, and think also on the scene when you see practices that are not being done correctly, not safely. Derek, I’ve known you for a long time. You are the guy that stays chill. What’s your secret?
Derek Cardwell (18:40):
At the end of the day, the main goal is to not be a statistic.
Shelli Hawkins (18:45):
Derek Cardwell (18:47):
As long as we are accomplishing that, everything else can be figured out. And from the interview process to the safety meetings that we have, I just constantly remind all my staff of, “People are calling us on their worst day. Just remember that 911 calls us for help, so it’s never good. It is what it is. People are going to be emotional. They’re going to say things. They’re going to have attitudes. They’re going to have actions and reactions, and it’s not personal. Nothing of what we do is personal. Don’t take it personally. And if you get in a situation that does bother you, act like a professional, call me, and chew on me for an hour. I’m not going to take it personal. I get it. I’ve been out there. All of our staff are a good resource to each other. Everyone here experiences similar things on a daily basis. Use them as sound boards. There’s a time and a place to vent out your emotions and it’s not with a customer.”
Shelli Hawkins (19:45):
You’re so right. I even wrote down that quote, “At the end of the day, the goal is to not be a statistic.” And I’m going to remember that. That was very powerful. Thank you for sharing, for sure.
Derek Cardwell (19:56):
Shelli Hawkins (19:57):
Thanks for sharing your journey. We appreciate it.
So we have another gentleman on the phone with us, Mr. Aleks Petkovic, and I’d like for you to introduce yourself, Aleks, and tell us what your role here currently is with TRAXERO, and then maybe get in a little bit of the history of when you started with Beacon and all that if you want to.
Aleks Petkovic (20:16):
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m VP of Engineering at TRAXERO. I’ve been developing towing software for over 20 years now. I helped start Beacon Software with Todd Althouse and Rudy Smith’s service back in early 2000. And I developed the original versions of Dispatch Anywhere, TowMagic, TowLien, TowStatus, and tow all the things.
Shelli Hawkins (20:45):
Aleks Petkovic (20:45):
Shelli Hawkins (20:46):
Aleks Petkovic (20:49):
TowSpec as well. That was a long time ago. Fortunately, those applications have been rewritten by our wonderful engineering teams now at TRAXERO , so shout out to the engineering teams at TRAXERO for doing a fantastic job with our products. But today, I pretty much oversee those development teams.
Shelli Hawkins (21:11):
Fantastic, thank you. I recently got the opportunity to go to Cleveland, Ohio and visit you folks in your offices. We are all virtual, but then you folks that are in Ohio, a part of the Beacon family, what I call the Beacon Dispatch Anywhere family, also have the opportunity to go to an office should you want to. It’s up to you, for sure. So it’s great to meet you, hang out with you and all the folks there. What a great family we have in Ohio, for sure.
Aleks Petkovic (21:39):
Absolutely. And I know it was fantastic to have you up in the office at Cleveland, and meet you in person.
Shelli Hawkins (21:44):
Yeah, for sure. So one question I have is as you’re building product, I remember, and I’m going to put on my Product Manager hat here, one thing that I would do is I would go out into the market and survey the towing companies and find out, “What is the need?” I think that that’s a pragmatic philosophy, where you go and find, “What is the gap? What is needed out there?” So in the very beginning, how did you and the folks that were a part of the original Beacon, how did you go out to the towing industry and ask the questions?
Aleks Petkovic (22:16):
Well, that’s a really good question. So originally, obviously, we worked closely with Rudy Smith’s service being part of Beacon Software. I think they had very specific needs and desires and problems that they were trying to solve. But of course, as we developed the software, we essentially reached out to the towing industry, to towers all across the country at trade shows and just visiting them in person. We started to collect feedback and identify sort of key areas that we had an opportunity where maybe we can provide value, where at the time, other software vendors were not. So yeah, a really fun part of the process is collecting that feedback and then building these solutions out and building simple and easy to use solutions. Part of our mantra is to kind of take these complex problems, and the towing industry certainly is complex, and there are a lot of various opportunities there that we can help with our software, so taking these complex problems and create simple solutions for the towing industry.
Shelli Hawkins (23:42):
That’s fantastic, that’s amazing. So just as much as I asked Derek, how did you know or when did you start getting interested in building software?
Aleks Petkovic (23:53):
That’s a really good question. So I was very fortunate to get a computer, our family computer, at a very early age. These days, I know that kids are exposed to computers and tablets and all that at a early age. But for me, 35, 40 years ago, that was not the case. So when I was probably about 12 years old or so, my father bought our family computer and I first had an opportunity to play around with the computer. And I sort of instantly fell in love with it and claimed it as my own. And what’s interesting then is that we really didn’t even have an internet connection, so I don’t even know what it was that really drew me to being on the computer so much. But yeah, I first started by sort of just taking a look at some of the code and programming that was available on the computer and reversed engineered it and started creating my own video games and really just sort of fell in love with it.
Shelli Hawkins (24:59):
Aleks Petkovic (25:00):
Shelli Hawkins (25:00):
Wow. I’m going to date myself, but in seventh grade we had a computer lab of 20 Apple IIe computers. I don’t know. Was my computer pre your computer or do you remember what kind you had?
Aleks Petkovic (25:14):
Yeah, so my first computer was a 386DX.
Shelli Hawkins (25:16):
Aleks Petkovic (25:19):
Yeah. The DX stood for the math coprocessor, and it had, I believe it was either four or eight mgs of memory.
Shelli Hawkins (25:33):
Fantastic. So it’s obvious that you also have a passion of bringing efficiencies to the towing industry. What made you point your feet in the direction of our industry to start creating the software?
Aleks Petkovic (25:47):
Well, like I said earlier, towing is complex and there are a lot of challenges, a lot of problems to be solved. And the industry is also constantly evolving.
Shelli Hawkins (26:02):
Aleks Petkovic (26:03):
Specifically with towing. So obviously, there’s the technology aspect, and that of course is really interesting and fascinating and it’s all constantly, continually evolving. But on the towing side, I just remember kind of in the early days and solving for real-time dispatching, the complexity around storage and pricing, just the day-to-day business requirements, the towing businesses face. So there’s a lot of challenges there, always something new. So yeah, that keeps me interested.
Shelli Hawkins (26:42):
I bet it does. Fantastic. One thing, and I mentioned this earlier, that I love about our software platforms, and you certainly have had a part in building this out, is all the reporting that we give in part of the software to be able to analyze the business. I’m going to switch over to Mr. Derek and talk about when you look at your business from a high level or even drilling down, Derek, how do you analyze the business for efficiencies and profitability and how often do you do that?
Derek Cardwell (27:14):
So I’ll start with, I do it on a monthly basis, we have managers meetings and we just do performance reports. And those are based off last year’s numbers. To really dumb it down is, “Well, last year we made this much, we spent this much, and that’s what we’re anticipating this year.” The reporting side of it, which was a huge selling point of us transitioning over to Dispatch Anywhere was, I can go in and I can see individual drivers, I can see trucks. I can make sure that we’re not having a problem with a driver. Maybe he needs some training. Why is he not performing to the level of the other drivers? I can calculate, down to the mile, on if my trucks are making money.
And that’s a huge key to the turnaround of what I do. If you’re not monitoring those items and you’re just shooting from the hip with everything you do, what are you doing in this industry? We are high risk, low return, in my opinion, in our industry. So you’re either going to try to do things right and manage your costs and monitor these things and charge a fair price, or you’re going to be out there gouging people and just trying to make money where you can. And to me, that seems like a struggle. I’d rather be consistent in everything that we do.
Shelli Hawkins (28:32):
I love it. Busy does not equal profitability. You can be an owner with all your trucks out there doing work every single day and you can’t keep up with the demand. And so, it’s logical. The brain says, “Well, I must be making money.” And Brad McIntosh taught me and Laura the other day, there’s a difference between cash flow and cash positive. So to be a smart business owner like you are, Derek, manager, that is crucial. And I love that you’re taking advantage of the TRO, what we’re calling the TRO, the Towing Revenue Optimization, those reports that help you make sure that five years from now you’re still going to be in business. For sure.
I’ve got a hard question for Derek. Are we ready for a curve ball?
Derek Cardwell (29:18):
Let’s do it.
Shelli Hawkins (29:19):
It’s not for Aleks, it’s for Derek. So since 2020, I’ll just say that it’s been a challenge for the supply chain, for the insurance costs going up, and for the fuel costs going up, and then the challenge to also get and retain operators. When those costs are passed on to you as a manager, how and when do you know to pass on those to your commercial customers? How do you do that?
Derek Cardwell (29:47):
To me, that’s not a curve ball, that’s not a hard question. It’s simple. There’s a basic line of cost of doing business. You have to make sure that you’re covering that cost of doing business and making profit on it. If not, then again, what are you doing? I’m not going to be here next year if I’m not passing those costs along.
The biggest challenge is making sure that you’re passing that cost along appropriately. Just because you have an issue with a single vehicle doesn’t mean that all your customers should pay for that one vehicle.
Shelli Hawkins (30:21):
Derek Cardwell (30:21):
It’s managing those issues and mitigating problems and knowing when to sell a truck and buy a new truck, even though that market is the most volatile it’s ever been in my history, or to do the repairs. Or maybe you have an operator that’s causing these problems; maybe you need to address it that way. Not making knee-jerk decisions, not being too reactionary. It’s not a challenge to kind of see where your problem is, and maybe it’s a problem that can be resolved and save costs without carrying that onto your customers. Sometimes it is.
The biggest one is fuel. I had an account of mine that we imposed a fuel surcharge and he called me up in fits, “Why am I paying a fuel surcharge?” And I was like, “Well, it’s because fuel costs have doubled. It is what it is.” And he goes, “Well, we’re not charging a fuel surcharge.” And I said, “Well, then you’re dumb.” And he goes, “What?” And I was like, “Yeah, another customer, which is one of the largest trucking companies in the United States, they have a fuel surcharge. They’re passing their costs along just like everyone else.” And he went, “Really?” I said, “Absolutely they are.” I was like, “You need to be conscious of those things.” And don’t be afraid to have the conversations with your customers. That’s a big advantage When I have to do price increases, they know. They know they can call me and I’ll talk with them about it. And they’re typically having the same challenges that we’re having. So just having those conversations and those relationships goes a lot further than people would expect.
Shelli Hawkins (32:02):
A hundred percent agree. Thank you for answering the question that was not a curve ball for you. I appreciate it. Laura, anything from you? Anything on the top of the mind here?
Laura Dolan (32:14):
Just circling back to the technology and the software, I just wanted to ask, Derek, in the beginning, what was your technology like before all the advances in software that we have now? What kind of tools were you using?
Shelli Hawkins (32:30):
So I want to know when you first got in a truck, what were you using? Start from there.
Laura Dolan (32:33):
Derek Cardwell (32:35):
So when I first got in a truck, they were using Tracker Management. And every driver had a tablet and it was emailing details. That was the communication between the office and the drivers. Of course, we had phones too, but sometimes that’s a challenge. It was a huge struggle. A lot of information would get missed. It wasn’t great technology. There wasn’t great communication.
And then, I was still operating a truck and they switched over to RangerSST and it was an improvement. I got to kind of trial and error it because that was as I was in my driver supervisor role. So I got to trial and error it, but still wasn’t too impressed. Once I came out of the truck and started managing the office, I told the owner, I said, “Listen, you need to go find something better.” Back then, it was 2016. I said, “It’s 2016. There’s got to be something better out there.” And he went to Baltimore actually, and that’s how he got linked up with Dispatch Anywhere.
Shelli Hawkins (33:45):
Fantastic. I love it. So he really made the decision to switch over to Dispatch Anywhere because of what he saw at the trade show.
Derek Cardwell (33:53):
Shelli Hawkins (33:54):
For those of you listening that you’re curious about Dispatch Anywhere or any of our other platforms, again, we’d love to see you in Florida. We’d love to have the conversation about what we do, how we do it, features that we have in our systems, and then it’s up to you to say, “This is what our current systems are.” You may be on pen and paper, and that’s fine. I know hundreds of companies that are still on pen and paper, and you’ve been thinking about switching over.
I know we get calls now on a regular basis like, “Shelli, is it going to be difficult to learn this? What is your support like? I’m scared. I’m just not really sure if we can make this… It feels like a great big leap to get into it.” But the support here is fantastic. From a training perspective, we teach you everything. From a supports perspective, if you have new dispatchers that you’ve hired that need to be trained, we’re going to help you. We’re going to answer the questions that you have. And then, Derek knows, he’s reached out through, I think you work with Kyle Robinson and Nick Hallett? Do those guys sound familiar?
Derek Cardwell (34:55):
Shelli Hawkins (34:56):
Derek Cardwell (34:57):
Kyle, Nick, and Brian. And to kind of just reaffirm what you just said, Shelli, I had an issue yesterday and I emailed Brian Grove directly. I was like, “Hey, this is my issue. Have you heard of this? Is there something we can do?” And Brian didn’t just email me back, he picked up the phone and called. He goes, “All right. Let’s really narrow into this and figure out what’s going on.” Had about a 15-minute conversation and we came up with a game plan to try to resolve an issue. You’re not just pushed by the wayside. The support staff have been fantastic, from us building out our version of Dispatch Anywhere to fit our needs, all the way up to yesterday with a minor issue that I considered, but Brian didn’t. He was on it.
Shelli Hawkins (35:44):
Thank you for that testimony. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much. But yeah, it is certainly a journey figuring out what is the best choice for your towing company. And it’s up to you folks out there listening to ask the questions. “This is what I want to accomplish. This is what I need.” And I completely understand that sometimes it’s a case where you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know what the possibilities are out there for organizing. So that’s where it’s up to us to educate you as much as we can for what we have for you. And yeah, it is certainly, certainly a journey. Laura, any other questions for our wonderful guests today?
Laura Dolan (36:28):
I would like to switch gears a little bit, no pun intended.
Shelli Hawkins (36:31):
Laura Dolan (36:32):
I need to know the origin of, “Let Henry do it.” Can we please talk about that?
Shelli Hawkins (36:37):
Derek Cardwell (36:38):
Oh, yeah. This is a fun one. So back in the early seventies, Gary started the company. And he started the company because he had a service station back in the day, and he didn’t like the towers. He didn’t like the people that were bringing him cars. Whatever stigma he didn’t like, he set out to change that. So he bought himself a truck, an old Holmes on a Ford chassis. And he quickly built the reputation of, if you called, he was going to answer and he was going to come take care of you. So you get into the winter months and the holidays, and the competitors in town, customers would call them and they didn’t want to go out and take care of it. They’d go, “Oh, just let Henry do it,” because they knew Gary was going to answer the phone and take care of the customers. So in Gary’s infinite wisdom, he took exactly what the competitors were telling the customers and made it the company slogan.
Laura Dolan (37:36):
That is fantastic. I love that. And it’s even your website, right? LetHenryDoIt.com?
Derek Cardwell (37:40):
That is correct. Yep.
Laura Dolan (37:44):
Here I am googling Henry’s Towing, and I’m like, “How come I’m not seeing a Henry’s Towing URL?”
Derek Cardwell (37:52):
Yeah. Because it’s not Henry’s there.
Laura Dolan (37:52):
I’m like, “Oh, that’s why.” That’s great marketing right there, I can tell you.
Shelli Hawkins (37:56):
It is the combination of problem-solving, because I believe at the core, all you guys and gals out there are problem solvers, problem solving. Whether it’s a small, medium or large job, it’s problem-solving. And then also, it’s incredibly, incredibly rewarding to keep the streets clean, to make them safe, and then also knowing that you have helped people in their time of trauma. Any thoughts on that?
Derek Cardwell (38:25):
I agree wholeheartedly with you. I said it earlier, it’s fulfilling to be able to be that calm for people. In an accident with their children, thankfully no one’s injured, but still in that moment, the mother is going to be hysterical because something traumatic has happened. So to come in and be that calm for them and let them know, “Hey, it is okay. We will get you home. You’re fine.” It’s fulfilling.
Shelli Hawkins (38:52):
I love it. And just sitting here thinking about you and the thousands of towers out there not dealing with, but working with, again, that great big ball of emotion. And how you handle that is just incredible. You’ve got patience. You have to have patience, and we are incredibly and always thankful for that, for sure. And just like the problem-solving, I know that, Aleks, it is, to echo what you said earlier, it is problem-solving. It’s bringing efficiencies to our towing industry, for sure. Any thoughts on that?
Aleks Petkovic (39:28):
Yeah, absolutely. It’s what drives us. It’s what motivates us. Ultimately, we’re trying to build the best towing software possible. It’s important to us. It’s core to kind of who we are, so yeah, I definitely agree with that.
Laura Dolan (39:44):
I love seeing the juxtaposition of both industries, both software and then the actual heroes of the road out there, literally doing the heavy lifting, and seeing how it works together. As someone who’s new to the business, I cannot get enough of it and I just can’t wait to keep continuing learning about it. So I consider these podcasts that we do a learning experience for myself as well. So I’m literally learning as I listen, and it’s just fascinating stuff.
Shelli Hawkins (40:08):
For sure. Well, folks, I think that that’s going to conclude our Episode 2 of our podcast here, TRAXERO On-The-Go. If you need more information, you are more than welcome to visit TRAXERO.com. That is T-R-A-X-E-R-O.C-O-M. We will see you at the Florida Show. We highly encourage you to stop by, play some T-pong, win the belt hopefully, pick up your TRAXERO sunglasses. They are super rad. I did see them. Did I just date myself by saying rad? I have no idea.
Laura Dolan (40:41):
Not at all.
Shelli Hawkins (40:41):
I said it. There it is.
Laura Dolan (40:41):
I use it all the time.
Shelli Hawkins (40:41):
Yeah. There we go.
Laura Dolan (40:42):
And I’m what, 10 years younger than you?
Shelli Hawkins (40:45):
Exactly. Aleks and Derek, thank you so much for your time today.
Derek Cardwell (40:53):
You’re welcome. Thanks, Shelli.
Shelli Hawkins (40:54):
Aleks Petkovic (40:54):
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me on.
Laura Dolan (40:54):
It was a pleasure. Thank you both very much.
All right. We’ll see you on the next podcast. Have a great day, everybody.
Thank you for listening to this episode of the TRAXERO On-the-Go podcast. For more episodes, go to TRAXERO.com/podcast. And to find out more about how we can hook your towing business up with our Towing Management Software and Impound Yard Solutions, please visit TRAXERO.com or go to the contact page linked at the bottom of this podcast blog.