…It is amazing how exercise can break down the typical social barriers and create an instant human connection. I know I am onto something because I have seen the impact of such a simple act. Maybe someday I can build what was once a small community boxing program that helped young people find direction, into a scalable program that promotes unity, addresses racism and unnecessary diversity. It can teach people to take care of themselves through fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle. We can build in the use of technology to create mass unity and connect people that are doing the right thing as opposed to the media that often promotes the wrong message. Kind of like what we are doing with Rolling Strong, but with the youth.
I had the pleasure to interview Steve Kane. Steve is addressing one of the largest issues for trucking operations- driver health and wellness. As President of Rolling Strong, a fitness and wellness company that uses a mobile app to help carriers and drivers improve compliance with CDL medical requirements and to implement and manage their wellness initiatives, he leads a team of developers and coaches who are working to raise the awareness level of the importance of this issue with fleets. Kane also works with the American Trucking Associations and other trucking organizations to improve the health and fitness of truck drivers across the industry. Kane has 20 years of trucking operations management and software and mobile application development experience. Today, he brings his skills and passion for fitness and wellness to the driver community through Rolling Strong. Prior to joining the company, he was Director of Innovation at Velociti Inc.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure, that’s a fun question. My dad was an entrepreneur and among many businesses he owned trucks. My older brother drove them and I always looked up to him, working hard and supporting a family. However, my first attempt at a career was following in my father’s footsteps and I started and ran a few small businesses. In between my business efforts and attending college, I always worked around trucks. I eventually obtained a CDL license and began a career as a professional driver. In time, I grew into management. I had a long hard run at working the front line of trucking and a bout with cancer. I am a “look at the glass half-full kind of guy”. So as the next door opened, I had an opportunity to work in the fast emerging technology sector called Telematics. This was the right time and the right place for me. I worked alongside some of the greatest people in transportation technology and reported to some of the legends of our business. I asked questions. I learned. Parallel to my career path, I owned and operated a boxing and fitness program and worked hands-on as a boxing coach. We coached and cornered amateur boxers and taught them about nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle. Looking back over my life and especially being grateful for the drivers that supported me when I went through chemotherapy, I really wanted to find a way to pay it forward. Then one day I had an epiphany. I was able to see the entire business structure in one perfect solution. I began writing down notes on my whiteboard at home until I had laid out the structure of a driver centric wellness platform. Around that time, I moved into a consulting role and had an opportunity to join Velociti, a wonderful company in Kansas City. Our visions to build the perfect solution in health and wellness were perfectly aligned. What are the chances that a person would have a background that was intimate with the driver lifestyle, understood the interworking’s of managing large transportation companies, was tech savvy and also knew fitness, nutrition, and overall wellness? I never really knew how to make sense out of the diversity of my learning through the years, but when this business model was born, it all made sense. It was meant to be.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Well, all of this is really interesting. I think I still see myself quite often as the front line worker. Driving trucks, unloading freight and just working hard to figure out the business. Having the opportunity to speak at national transportation conventions, and interviews just like this one, talking to the drivers at the national truck driver championships and things like that. I always say that I got way more than I ever bargained for in this business. I really never thought that I would have an opportunity to make such an impact and for that I am deeply grateful. If I could sum up an interesting thing that happened to me, I would say it was the first time I had a press conference. I was thinking, “how in the world did this happen”.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I wish I could answer that with one big notable and funny mistake. I think I probably made a lot of mistakes. I have always jumped in quick and had to go fast. Sink or swim kind of thing. I can remember working for the former president of Carolina Freight. I was letting the phone ring while I organized a few more things on my dispatch board. He happened to be standing in the room and answered it quickly and after the call said, “son, you better answer that call on the first ring every time or you can plan on doing something else.” He had a harsh way of impressing upon me the importance of the customer coming first. He drilled me on knowing where every driver was so I could always react and have a plan to service the customer. If it meant me jumping in a truck and delivering the freight, changing a tire or unloading freight while dispatching from a Nextel phone, we serviced the customer. This is a theme I saw from others as I grew in the business. Any great leader I ever knew understood the unwavering commitment to the customer they serve. I guess if I could think of something funny, it was when I was giving a presentation on a process improvement initiative for the restructuring of the business. In my presentation with other leaders, I misused the word nomenclature by saying namenclature. One of the leaders called me out in the middle of my presentation and said, “if you’re going to get people using the right words to describe things in the business, you may want to start with saying nomenclature correctly.” I was so embarrassed. I guess my nontraditional way of learning and the school of hard knocks shines through sometimes.
Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?
We are definitely making a social impact. See, truck drivers are unfortunately the unhealthiest workers in the American workforce. They have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, BMI and sleep apnea. They also get injured on the job twice as much as other workers. They get lonely on the road and feel disconnected from their families and social circles. Our program is designed to address these issues. We created a driver specific health and wellness platform. We built it to be fun, interactive and engaging. Our social community allows people to connect with one another and share their experiences. It allows leadership to interact with their drivers through fun competitions and reward them for healthy improvements. If you look on our website www.rollingstrong.com, you can see dozens of testimonials from people whose lives we have impacted. So what does this mean when it works in one aspect or another of the program? It means that we may have prevented someone from a life-threatening disease. It means that we have helped someone secure their license and keep their job. It means that someone lasted longer on the road because they found a sense of belonging and unity. In the bigger picture, it means we may have saved a life because another driver was alert, awake and healthy behind the wheel. It means that another driver returned home safely to their families. This what we do, all day, every day.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?
While respecting the privacy of our members’ history, I can tell you about a driver named John Doe. John worked for a carrier and had been disqualified from driving, was obese and walking with a cane. John lost over 100 lbs, was re-issued a medical card and returned to duty. These are accomplishments we see on a regular basis. I have also worked this program myself. A year ago I began my journey. In that time, I have lost 50 pounds, normalized my blood pressure, my sugar and reduced triglycerides significantly. As a matter of fact, the last time I went to the doctor’s office, my doctor shook my hand smiling with congratulations. I also went from barely being able to run 5K, to finishing a full 26-mile marathon on March 24 which was my 46 birthday. This coming August, I will compete in a triathlon.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Let’s start with identifying the root of the problem. Drivers have very limited healthy choices, sit sedentary for long hours and are required to drive for long distances with limited break times. I think the movement starts with the community — the trucking community, specifically. It is very hard for anyone to make health improvements on their own, but it is also difficult if your peers and/or your family are not up to the same mission. Our program allows peers and family to join in with the drivers. It is also difficult when the nutritional choices are so limited. The Truckstop community and trucker friendly restaurants can get more involved and provide a wider range of good nutritional choices. From our perspective, we offer helpful tools such as locating healthy options at restaurants based on a user’s profile. We also show users other health related options that are close to truckstops such as fitness centers and health clinics.
On the political side, we work directly with and support several of the transportation associations in Washington. Among them are the American Trucking Association, the Truckload Carriers Association, the American Bus Association, and the Federal Carriers Safety Administration. These associations have the power of the lobby. We continue to partner with them in an effort to enact concrete changes that serve the health and well-being of our driver community. We have done well and look forward to doing more.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Well… I think it is when a person or group creates and nurtures a vision with the discipline to create an environment that allows the vision to grow. Leadership is motivating others around you to believe in the vision and empowering them to take part in the efforts that bring that vision to life. It is done by demonstrating integrity, fairness, loyalty, open-mindedness, and humility. Leadership requires strength. It’s always marching forward. It is allowing others to be part of the not just the effort, but also take part in the reward.
I have been fortunate enough to report to some outstanding leaders. I have also had the opportunity to lead some wonderful, educated and experienced people. That to me is really such an honor.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
First, I wish that I knew that a great idea in itself did not mean overnight success. Success can be a lifetime of learning that goes into a series of single decisions. I used to think, if we sell this many for this much, then we can make this much and so on. No one told me that there are so many things that have to be done right to sell that thing over and over.
There is the importance of accurately building a cost of goods sold model to understand how to identify price. Or, does the market even support the product being sold at that price once you have figured out cost and desired margin.
In the technology world, there is the refinement of requirements. There are really smart developers that can program a spacecraft to go to the moon, but there needs to be really smart business people that understand how to define the requirements for the developers to build it.
A lot of the things I came across at one point I could remember as something I heard in a lecture or was told to by my very successful parents. However, it took interacting with these business dynamics several times before I developed the intuitive experience to handle things correctly.
From the human resource perspective, I was completely unprepared for terminating someone’s employment. I also had to learn how important it was to deliver that termination with dignity and respect. A person will always remember the words that they heard during a termination; it will be with them for the rest of their lives. Regardless of the mistakes they made, they still have loved ones or a family to face when they go home.
Also, I was never aware of the powerful effect that motivation has on people. It can truly move mountains! This is something that I never take for granted as there is great responsibility when people follow your vision and dedicate so much of themselves to it.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Well, that’s not a new concept to me. I try every day to do my part to create more unity, random acts of kindness and promoting a more authentic you. I actually built a social media site with my son last year as a project for him to further develop his new skills as a developer. The site is called CRAKSOCIAL.COM. The goal is to create random acts of kindness. It promotes people of any background just simply doing good things for other people. That is something I believe in and it’s important that we find ways of using the platforms that today’s generation is using, to promote these methods and instill good values.
I also do something I call push-ups for love. I will go for a run in different cities and ask people to do pushups. In many cases, I will get the homeless to do a certain number of pushups to earn a lunch or tough guys that look like gangsters to break out with a few. Kids, families, and couples. It is amazing how exercise can break down the typical social barriers and create an instant human connection. I know I am onto something because I have seen the impact of such a simple act. Maybe someday I can build what was once a small community boxing program that helped young people find direction, into a scalable program that promotes unity, addresses racism and unnecessary diversity. It can teach people to take care of themselves through fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle. We can build in the use of technology to create mass unity and connect people that are doing the right thing as opposed to the media that often promotes the wrong message. Kind of like what we are doing with Rolling Strong, but with the youth.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a few quotes that mean something to me. My grandmother used to say “for what have we gained, if we have gained all the money in the world, but lost our own soul in doing so”. I believe that what we do should not be motivated by only motivated by money. I live life by doing things I deeply believe in. My dad would always say, “watch whose toes you step on when climbing the ladder because you just might meet them on the way down”. This set a moral precedence for me to be fair and honest in my dealings with people and in business. My favorite, is probably one I came up with in the gym one day while training a young boxer. “today we are going to dig deep. Today, we will learn that we can do more tomorrow than we thought was possible yesterday”. In training, I love to bring people to the edge of what their minds limited them to thinking was possible. Then, finding that something that would take them another step forward. These moments would allow me to teach them that these efforts can be applied in the ring, at school, at your job, and in life. I know this because it is the concept that pushed me through cancer, a near fatal motorcycle crash, and a heart condition. Only to go on to run a marathon, triathlons and build company with nothing more than an idea and a few hundred dollars.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I am a sap for great people. I love raw god given talent and people that have found the recipe for greatness and success. So there is a list of people I would like to meet. Then again, I have been lucky meeting some great people too. If I could pick someone today to have breakfast with, it would definitely be Jeff Bezos. He stands for the things I believe in. He started out in a garage selling books. I can’t imagine the perseverance and resilience it took to keep moving forward and build the most successful business model in the world. He is a leader that adapted to the times and the needs of his customers. Innovative, technology and smart business. I would love to tell him about what my vision is and what I have done to move forward. Then, just listen and see if there is something special I could take away from him. That would be incredible. Now if Jeff isn’t available, then I’ll stick with my usual number one choice. That is my son. I think he is brilliant and good to the core. I learn from him every time we are together. He is not famous, but he is definitely great!
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