Jonathan Urban, newly appointed Regional Director-Midwest of ContainerPort Group (CPG), loves his job and takes great pride in an industry vital to the global economy. The Chicago native, husband of Angela and father of 3-year-old Gavin (and a baby due in December) recently reflected on his 16 years of experience in intermodal transportation and the three most important things you need to succeed in business (and life).
How did you first get your start in this industry?
“I started in my father’s company. I was on the dock, breaking down air freight containers. I was in high school. That’s how I started. Then I went off to college and decided I didn’t want to work for the family business. But I knew I wanted to stay in transportation.”
You bring 16 years of experience, most recently working your way up from Dispatcher to Director of Operations at PB Industries. How did you grow professionally?
“After college, I worked at Yellow Roadway Corporation as a warehouse supervisor for five years, then as a dock supervisor. I got great mentorship and training, but I had a terrible schedule, slipping back and forth between days and nights. So I went to PB Industries and that’s when my career took off. I started as a dispatcher then quickly moved up the ranks to General Manager. I was there for eight years then went to FedEx Freight for a year. PB Industries came back and said, ‘You write your own ticket,’ so I came back as Terminal Manager and then as Director of Operations. I oversaw all US operations including eight transportation terminals, 40 employees and a network of 250 sub-contractors.”
What attracted you to CPG?
“Great brand reputation. Great service reputation in the industry. I actually contacted a few customers during my decision-making process and they all pushed me toward CPG for that very reason – the reputation. And the company culture here is just amazing. My interview process was like nothing I had ever experienced.”
Tell us about the company culture. What about it is unique?
“It’s a national company run by local people. There’s an open door policy in every one of the executive leadership teams. The leadership team is open to provide resources, being innovative and providing next steps.”
What about your work gets you up in the morning? Best things?
“I am very much a people person. I’m energetic. I get psyched when we meet milestones. I also love mentoring and getting people excited about their own careers. Big picture-wise, we’re a critical part of the supply chain. Without us, commerce stops. Knowing the important role we play in the total global economy is empowering.”
In your role as Regional Director, what does your typical workday look like?
“I oversee the Chicago and Indianapolis markets. Right now, I’m very growth focused. I see it in three different parts: 1) growth and pushing our business forward and 2) pushing our fleet and hiring independent contractors (you can’t have too much business and not enough drivers, but then you don’t want too many drivers and not enough business – it’s striking the right balance) and 3) the people part which is centered around employees – employee-driver relationships and building those relationships.”
What projects are you most proud of?
“I created a centralized customer service department at PB Industries. Every terminal had its own customer service, which meant one point of contact.
I also integrated our computer system with our electronic logging devices so we could dispatch through an electronic system. It was an “a-ha” moment for me. Our drivers were required to use multiple devices to do their job (logs, emails, text communication, Internet, maps). I realized, ‘Why have multiple devices when trucking functions can be done from the same device?’ That led me to the idea of communicating and dispatching directly from our software system to our mandatory electronic logging device (ELD) units in our trucks. Then to take it a step further, I incorporated geo-fencing to allow our customer access to real-time tracking of their shipments.”
What are some things people don’t know about the intermodal transportation industry?
“There’s this great article called, ‘If Trucks Stopped.’ It talks about if trucks stopped and what kind of impact it would have on society. For example, within one day food shortages would develop, mail would stop, hospitals would run out of basic supplies, service stations would run out of fuel, ATMs would run out of cash and banks would be unable to process transactions. Trucking is not sexy. We’re moving freight, but it’s a necessary piece to US commerce.”
What are three things your co-workers don’t know about you?
“I am motivated by seeing others’ success stories; I have a 3-lb dog that won’t leave my side when I am home; I am a huge Chicago Bears fan.”
Do you have a mentor? Tell us about him or her.
“Mike O’Neal from Dayton Freight. I worked with Mike for a short time at FedEx Freight. His understanding of human interaction was fascinating to me. He could motivate a team to complete with ease what seemed like impossible tasks. He escalated people’s thought process and created leaders while making work enjoyable.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in your field?
“This business is not for everyone. It takes an extreme amount of commitment and patience while executing multiple functions simultaneously. Don’t get discouraged early and the dedicated, intelligent individuals will rise to the top. There is great pride in being successful in intermodal transportation. It’s a critical part of the supply chain and affects everything in commerce.”
What are the three most important characteristics to succeed in business/life?
“Honesty. Integrity. Dedication.”