When Cari Baylor graduated from Miami University, her parents encouraged her to forge her own path. That meant seeking out her own career rather than joining the family trucking business. In 1998, when her father Bob finally asked Baylor to join the family business, she knew it was her calling.
“I came back because I was honored [my father] asked; I was extremely honored that he considered me to be part of his team,” Baylor says.
Baylor worked her way through the business, taking stints in customer service and sales before eventually ascending to vice president of the Milan, IN-based carrier in 2012. In reality, though, her start came as a child when she used to make “late-night deliveries” with her father, “and on the way home I’d fall asleep in the doghouse,” she says.
Baylor Trucking has over 200 trucks with 150 company employees and 65 independent contractors serving areas east of the Mississippi. Baylor says the trucking company, while a family business, is also a family.
To that extent, she related how the right treatment of employees is important and to illustrate that point, Baylor explains how one driver—an independent contractor—was purposely routed to South Carolina just so that driver could be in the state to see his son graduate from boot camp.
It’s that kind of family legacy that Bob Baylor, and before him company founder Chester Baylor (Cari Baylor’s grandfather, who started Baylor Trucking in 1946), tried to impart on the business and which Cari Baylor tries to carry on today.
When Baylor joined the family business, she says there were few prominent women in industry leadership roles. Her father was one of her mentors, of course, but there were a lot of others along the way, most of whom were male, who helped Baylor advance from that first job at Baylor Trucking in the IT department to her current role as president following her father’s passing last October after battling ALS.
According to Baylor, it mattered less that those role models were male and more that they were willing to make an impression on a budding young executive. Today, she is actively involved in organizations such as the Truckload Carriers Assn., American Trucking Assns., and Indiana Motor Truck Assn. She was a charter member of TCA’s Young Transportation Executive committee.
One important lesson that Baylor learned along the way was how to be a leader. “I tried to keep things more ‘Cloroxed’ [in my 30s], but that’s not leadership. Leadership is being yourself,” she says.
Baylor advises people in the industry to never shut down the learning process. “Make sure you take the time to embrace [challenges] and you will learn every day,” she says. “Don’t be afraid of who you are, whether you are a woman or not.”
From the girl who fell asleep in her truck-driving father’s rig to president of a successful trucking firm, Cari Baylor is proof that hard work, the right mentors, and a desire to learn can lead anyone down a path of success.