Bob Rich III is the Founder & President of ROAR Logistics, an innovative transportation company, that is pioneering a much-needed transformation in transportation services. Celebrating 19 years in business, ROAR is recognized as a world-class industry leader in domestic truckload freight brokerage, intermodal marketing services, international freight forwarding, NVOCC, and US-licensed customs brokerage services. Headquartered in Buffalo, New York, ROAR continues to grow successfully, with ten offices throughout the United States and a global network of agents providing comprehensive transportation services in over 150 countries worldwide.
As the founder of ROAR in 2003, Bob has an extensive history at Rich’s. Starting out as a member of the facilities management group the summer before high school, he watched his career flourish over the years. From facilities management to operating one of the top logistics companies in America, I had the opportunity to interview Bob. Here’s what he had to say:
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
I would say that my father has had the most impact on my career and leadership style. “Bubba” has always encouraged me to take calculated risks, such as when we started ROAR. He always reminds me to keep our associates at the forefront of everything we do. Bubba has always encouraged me to solve problems by seeking advice from my network and colleagues. I have always tried to model my leadership style after his, which I feel, helps me lead the associates at ROAR.
Tell us about your very first job and what you learned from it.
The first job I ever had was at Rich’s World Headquarters the summer prior to entering high school. I was working with a tutor twice a week on Algebra, so my dad thought it would be good for me to get some work experience to fill in the hours outside the classroom. I started working in the facilities management group doing landscaping as a part of the grounds crew. Some of my tasks were grass cutting, garbage pickup, and cleaning up the grounds around WHQ. I loved the job as I was outside all summer and got some great exercise and a great farmer’s tan! What I learned from this job was that nobody is above rolling up their sleeves and doing the tasks at hand when they are asked to do so. I truly started my career from the ground up. As a side note, I ended up with an A in my Algebra class that year.
How did you get into the logistics industry? Why did you create ROAR?
Growing up in the 1970s, truckers were immortalized in pop culture songs and movies such as Convoy, White Line Fever, and Breaker! Breaker! I was so into the culture at the time as a young boy that I even had a CB radio in my bedroom and spent hours every week talking to truck drivers and other friends that I met over the airwaves. My “handle” was GI Joe. I was in awe of the drivers, and I “Unofficially” got my start in logistics at the age of 12 when I used to go on trips with the Rich Transportation drivers. I loved the trucks and the open road. My first official transportation job was as a production scheduler at Rich’s WHQ followed by several years at Rich Transportation as a national accounts manager for the private fleet.
ROAR was founded in 2003 when I saw a void in the transportation industry within the intermodal (Rail) sector for customer-centric, high-quality, boutique transportation service providers. I worked for a year and a half putting together a business plan for the company and brought on our first associate, Tony Barnes, in Atlanta to establish our operations. Empowered with my experience working within corporate logistics and our private fleet, I put together a team of transportation professionals who would bring the Mission: World-Class mentality to an industry in desperate need of providers such as we planned to become.
What is a typical day like for you?
I have the greatest job in the world as I am a cheerleader for a team of 187 awesome associates. Typically, when I arrive at the office, I will not make it to my desk for at least an hour or so as I take this time to walk through the operations and talk to our team. I truly enjoy encouraging them, listening to what is on their minds, and what is going on in the industry. Beyond that, I spend a lot of my day strategizing about acquisitions and how to continue to grow our business. I will often make random calls to associates just to touch base. Sometimes I think it surprises people when they get a call from me because it is not something they would expect. There is nothing greater than having a positive, open relationship with your team.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of my job is being with our associates and celebrating their successes. As a company, we have grown exponentially, and I feel that our associates appreciate it when we celebrate even the smallest accomplishments. I would also say that theme days are a lot of fun for me as I love when our team gets enthusiastic about events. Some of my favorite theme days have been our Halloween costume competition and the holiday sweater event. We have a rule that we play as hard as we work. The enthusiasm that our team has is infectious.
What has been the most significant challenge in your career?
The most significant challenge I have faced in my career has been the adversity that we faced in the first couple of years as we tried to gain credibility in the industry. We fought for every single truckload that we hauled. I always told my team that adversity would build character. ROAR is and has always been a company with something to prove and it has been that belief that kept me driving ahead through those initial start-up years.
What advice would you give to a college graduate interested in working in the logistics industry?
When I started my career in logistics, Paul Rich told me that if I spent one year in logistics, I would understand everything about sales and marketing as I learn how the supply chain impacts the bottom line and the consumer. Here I am 30 years later. I would give the same advice to a college graduate considering a career in logistics.
How have you seen yourself grow professionally over the years?
I have felt that I have grown professionally by becoming much more socially responsible as a business leader. As much as I focus on the bottom line, I am also focused on the impact that we have in each of the communities in which we operate.
ROAR is heavily invested in the community of Buffalo. Why is community involvement so important to your company?
25 years ago, I was having dinner with customers in California at a Chinese restaurant and I opened a fortune cookie that said “those who do not give should not take.” This has been my mantra ever since. If we are not giving back to our communities, then we are not worthy of their support. Giving back is and will always be at the forefront of what we do. Without the support of the communities in which we operate, we are nothing.
What does it mean to be a good leader?
Being a good leader means being a leader who is committed not only to the success of the company but also to the associates and their families. One must be engaged with their team and show genuine concern. I also feel that a good leader is available whenever their team needs them. I have always made myself available to my team 24/7.
As a business leader and entrepreneur, what are the 3 most important things when it comes to running a business.
- The most important thing is to have fun and not take yourself too seriously. When you start a company from scratch, the success you have along the way should drive your enthusiasm.
- To best understand your business, always ask for input and insight from your associates. They love to talk about what they do, and they love that you are interested in how they contribute to the company’s success.
- Be the same person in the office as you are at the breakfast table that morning with your family unless you are a grouch. Don’t be a grouch.