Milestone Chassis Doug Hoehn Headshot

Meet Doug Hoehn

Meet Your Milestone

When Doug Hoehn joined Milestone in 2014, he was tasked with the duty of creating the company’s new Chassis division. In a short period of time and under his leadership, Milestone Chassis has grown to 7,000 chassis strong – all brand new, modern and premium – in 29 locations across the US.

The industry veteran (his career spans over 30 years in transportation) shares the most important ingredients in building a team, the biggest challenge facing the industry, and what accomplishments make him proud.

Professional Background

Tell us about your responsibilities as Executive Vice President of Chassis & Managed Assets at Milestone.

I’ve been involved in the startup for the Milestone Chassis business – the newest of the three product lines. In addition to staffing the organization, I’m responsible for sales, marketing and operations, as well as overseeing some of the operational responsibilities for our intermodal trailer and container business.

Beyond the Chassis group being responsible for managing and procuring our chassis and sites, they manage our peak program and ensure the delivery of trailers and containers. We run about 12,000 trailers for customers during peak season, as well as 3,000 domestic containers. Following peak season, we are responsible for storing the trailers during the year, making sure they are maintained, and then preparing them again to go out on the road for the next peak season.

Growth

You and your team built the Chassis division of Milestone. There’s been a lot of growth in this area of the company since its founding in 2015. What was involved in its creation?

It involved developing a strategy to implementing that strategy and putting inventory in 29 locations across the US. The fleet today is almost 7,000 chassis, all brand new, modern and premium, available for daily rentals, short term rentals and long-term lease.

There’s a lot of discussion around new vs. refurbished chassis. Why is this so important?

At the end of the day, a refurbished chassis is still an old chassis. I think of it this way – you can bring in a beat-up car to someone, get the dings hammered out, give it a nice paint job, and make it look shiny and new. But the reality is, it might still be falling apart on the inside. With an existing chassis, you can do the same thing, give it a paint job and put some new tires on, maybe replace some of the mechanical things like give it new brakes – which may or may not have ABS – maybe replace the lighting to bring that up to spec. And this is what a refurbished chassis is – it may look good on the outside but you really don’t know how reliable it will be when the rubber meets the road.

With a refurbished chassis, compared to new, your overall operating expenses will still be higher than a new piece of equipment, and it still lacks modern technology that we would insist be installed on our own personal vehicles. Over time, a new chassis will be cheaper to operate.

Leadership

Let’s talk about leadership. You’ve build a lot of teams over your career. What’s key in creating good synergy?

When you’re developing a team, of course you must recognize that everybody has different responsibilities, different skills and varying levels of training. Part of our job as leaders is to develop that team to be well-rounded and to grow together. One thing our team here in Burr Ridge (Illinois) will say, is that they all work hard and they play hard, and they do it together. I’m proud that we’ve nurtured that kind of culture.

Give us a recent example of your team working together and accomplishing a goal.

Getting all this equipment ready for peak season was top priority for a long time. The team worked tirelessly and around the clock. They found new vendors and managed and improved the process so we had the entire fleet ready. The deadline was Oct 1. But the team got everything ready by Sept 1. We were one month ahead of schedule. And that was possible because of the team working and delivering it together.

Goals

What achievements are you most proud of?

From a business standpoint, I’m proud of what we have built over the past two years. We took an established brand in the intermodal and over-the-road trailer business and added a third product line. On top of that, we also created an entirely new branding for Milestone.

On a personal level, I have two daughters and a son and I’m very proud of my family. I’m also proud of being a doting grandfather to 1 ½ year-old twin grandchildren.

Any goals for the coming year?

Yes, a personal goal: to get my golf score lower than my bowling score!

Separating Milestone From The Rest

One of the things that sets Milestone apart from the competition is its approach to customer service. How do you keep customer service personalized while also growing as a company?

One of the things we emphasize with our employees is that everyone who picks up the phone and talks to the customer is a sales person. There are all these adages about how it’s easier to lose one person as a customer than it is to gain that person as customer. Our team is always looking for new and innovative ways to help a customer. We genuinely want to provide flexibility. We pride ourselves in tailoring our solutions to provide a better product for our customers.

Challenges

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today?

The biggest challenge for the chassis industry is the overall age and condition of the existing chassis fleet in the North American market today.

How is Milestone addressing those challenges?

It’s because of this challenge that we have invested in new equipment. The reality is, there is a very large portion of the fleet that operates that is old and outdated and needs to be replaced.

Why Milestone?

What do you like best about your job?

There is no single day that’s the same. Every day presents new challenges. I’m constantly working with people to develop new solutions. I travel tirelessly. I’m always on the road. I’m very rarely in the office. Some people might think this would be a negative, but I enjoy the people I meet along the way. People in the transportation industry are a pleasure to work with. Intermodal is truly multiple modes of transportation and providers, all working together to provide a service. It requires a lot of coordination across divisions and with people all around the world. It’s a very satisfying line of work.

 

 

 

Introducing Jean Calderon and Dave Janikowski

Meet Your Milestone

As Milestone continues to expand its footprint, serving customers in its growing network across 25+ cities nationwide, the company welcomes two new team members – Jean Calderon, Branch Operations Assistant in Romulus, Michigan and Dave Janikowski, Milwaukee Branch Manager.

Jean Calderon

Jean Calderon, Branch Operations Assistant, Romulus, MI

What are your roles and responsibilities at Milestone?

My duties are to assure the branch operates smoothly. Answer phones, open mail, sign for packages, attend to all PO requests (vendors to in-house mechanics) in a timely manner, assure all files are up to date with all proper paper work, from registrations to license plates. Keep all spreadsheets updated and entered properly. Assist in any area that is in need. And be an all-around team player!

Where were you before you joined Milestone?

I worked for an automotive financial company.

What do you look forward to contributing to the company?

I look forward to contributing my work ethic, bilingual skills, organizational skills and customer service skills to the company as a whole.

Why do you enjoy working in the transportation industry?

I enjoy automotive in general, whether it be automotive or transportation. I enjoy working with people. Meeting new people, helping out a customer or vendor in a pinch. Helping my co-workers, customers or vendors in any way that I can.

Milestone Is Committed to Hiring New Employees

Dave Janikowski, Branch Manager, Milwaukee WI

Tell us about your role at Milestone.

I am the new Branch Manager in the Milwaukee location.  I am responsible for the branch activity and making sure we grow our footprint up in this region.

Where were you before you joined Milestone?

I worked in the mortgage business for a little while and spent 16 years as a branch manager at a trailer dealership in Franklin, Wisconsin.

What do you look forward to bringing to the team?

I really look forward to bringing my drive and competitiveness. I strive to be the best and love competing. So the competitors be warned.

What do you like best about working in this industry?

You meet people from all walks of life, from the executive/owners all the way down to yard jockeys. It is great meeting and getting to know everyone. This is a relationship business as much as it is supply and demand. I am very excited to be a part of the team here and where this will take me.

 

 

Milestone Blog Post Featured Lori Crider

Meet Lori Crider

Lori Crider is passionate about building relationships with customers. It’s what gets her excited about her role as Sales Manager of Milestone Trailer Leasing’s Dallas division. She shares why Milestone is the absolute best trailer leasing option and what’s key to growing and retaining customer relationships.

A Day in the Life

Tell us about your responsibilities as Sales Manager at Milestone Trailer Leasing. What does your typical day look like?

My focus has been to grow the Dallas market and maintain our existing customer base. Dallas is one of our newer locations (we opened last summer). It’s a growing market and it’s a great place to be in terms of the economy. Dallas also has an unusually high amount of competition.

Seeing how Dallas is a saturated market, how do you reach these customers?

I try to use all the different modes of marketing including phone calls, emails and personal visits. In this industry, you must be face-to-face with the customers and prospects which makes personal visits vitally important. I am involved in the Transportation Club of Dallas/Fort Worth and other industry networking events. You’ve got to be making those personal connections.

Accomplishments & Challenges

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Bringing on customers from my previous employer who sold their trailer leasing division and got out of the business. I’ve been in Dallas since 2010, so I had built up some business with other companies and past referrals.  It was exciting to get those customers to come over to Milestone.

What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today?

There’s a lot of on uncertainty with how the ELD mandates will affect the industry.

Why Milestone?

What things about your job get you excited?

We are absolutely the best trailer leasing option out there. So many of our competitors are letting their customers down. Since Dallas is a newer location, it’s fun getting our name out there. Part of what I’m doing is talking with people and making them aware of who we are and what we offer. It’s thrilling to know that our executive team responds promptly and appropriately plus the fact that we’re in 27 locations with over 40,000 units definitely gets the attention of our prospects.

What keeps you up at night?

I just want to see Milestone’s brand grow and excel in the North Texas market. I see it as an exciting thing as we keep moving forward.

Success Stories

What is a great story about Milestone Trailer Leasing that you love to share?

We were able to use 15 of our storage trailers in the show, Queen of the South, which is on USA Network. Our trailers were used to simulate a loading dock in Galveston, TX.

What is a great customer story that you love to share?

I walked in at the right time to visit with a prospect. He said, “We have a problem. We need equipment and your competitor didn’t have a quote approved, so the costs actually came back higher but I signed the agreement anyway. I was also just told that they won’t be able to provide the trailers which we need in service within the next two weeks.” We ended up taking three 2009 model roll door trailers, ordered three new lift gates, got them installed and ready to go in a one-month period (from getting the right approvals through our executive team, lift gates ordered, installed and ready to go). The customer was impressed. This is a great example of  how quickly and effectively we can respond as a company to cover a unique need.

 

 

 

Milestone Trailer Leasing Sarah Johnson

Women in Trucking – In Her Own Words

 

Meet Sarah Johnson 

The Beginning

While I was in college, I started working part-time for my dad’s trailer rental and leasing company, Personal Attention Leasing (PAL) which was based in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time, he had a rental fleet of 200 trailers. The summer I started, he added his second location in Kansas City, Kansas.

I always thought it was a temporary position, as I had different plans for my career path. I moved away to Chicago and Los Angeles while got my degree at but eventually settled back to the St. Louis area to help again with the business. We often joke that once you’re in transportation, you never get out!

Over the course of 10 years, Personal Attention Leasing grew through acquisitions of assets and companies to a fleet of 15,000 trailers and 12 locations. I held several roles in the company during those years. From inspecting equipment, processing invoices, human resource function, to helping with IT. Whatever it was, I would jump in and figure out how to make it happen, always putting the needs of the customer first. The growth of the company and my various roles gave me tremendous exposure to all aspects of the business, which I couldn’t have learned in any classroom.

Considering the fact that I worked for my father, I put pressure on myself to prove to my co-workers that I earned my position and that nothing was “given” to me. I often think back to how much I liked to play kickball at recess in the first grade. However, the boys would move in, thinking I couldn’t kick it very far. Then I would kick it over their heads. I simply wanted to get out on the kickball field and play (or win) the same game, the same way as my classmates. No special treatment.

Transitioning from Personal Attention Leasing to Milestone

In 2016 Personal Attention Leasing was rebranded to the parent company’s name of Milestone. The purpose was to represent all product lines to the market including intermodal equipment, containers, chassis and highway trailers. Today Milestone Equipment Holdings features 80,000 assets in total. As Executive Vice President of Branch Operations, I oversee our national network of 27 locations in the Trailer Leasing division. Our highway office is also our St. Louis branch, so it keeps me in touch with the equipment, driver interactions and the core of our businesses.

With our growth trajectory, I have been fortunate enough to see the transportation industry in all types of businesses and applications. I enjoy learning the inner working of the retailers, manufacturers, distributors and trucking companies. I’m equally passionate about helping these industries to creatively solve problems.

My Perspective

I enjoy working with the employees in the field, making them successful and remaining diligent to serving our customer base.

Being a woman in trucking reminds me of being on that kickball field. I don’t want special treatment. Not in my favor or against me. I am knowledgeable about this business, I know equipment, I have ideas, I like building business partnerships, and I enjoy making a profit. I want to use the skills I have developed to compete in the game.

My goal is that someday, perhaps with my help, I will have more women on my “team” in the board room to help “kick the ball over their heads.”

 

Accelerate! Conference & Expo

From Monday, November 6th to Wednesday, November 8th, I will be joining transportation, logistics, and supply chain peers at the Accelerate! Conference & Expo, hosted by Women In Trucking. If you will be attending and would like to meet, please complete the form below.

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Women in Trucking

The Women In Trucking Association is a non-profit organization with the mission to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry. For nearly a decade, we’ve been focused on this clear mission. It’s supported by a passionate leadership team, highly engaged members, and committed sponsors and partners. We continue to build a strong community among our members (primarily business professionals and professional drivers) who believe in and support our mission.

Milestone Trailer Leasing Sean Ellison

Meet Sean Ellison

Traveling across the country and having an opportunity network and meet great individuals along the way. This is what Sean Ellison says is the best part of his job as Vice President of Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing.

For two weeks of every month, Ellison visits Milestone’s various branches in the company’s national network – consisting of 25+ locations in the US, spanning from the Eastern Seaboard to the West Coast. A member of the Milestone leadership team since 2008, Ellison shares about his typical day, his proudest accomplishments, and what elevates good customer service to the “great.”

Day-to-Day

Tell us about your responsibilities as Vice President of Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing. What does your typical day look like?

A typical day consists of managing our branch network. I oversee/assist with the buying and selling of equipment, coordinating deal fulfillment, and satisfying customer needs across our national network. I also manage the day-to-day personnel of operations out in the field. The great thing is that no day is the same.

When does your day start and when does it end?

My day starts the moment the alarm clock buzzes and goes until I sleep. Customers in the transportation industry have needs that are 24 hours a day. Assistance is needed around the clock. Our operations people are fielding requests at all hours of the day and our team is always there to help them when in a bind.

Core Competencies

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I am most proud of assisting and developing our branch network. We started out really small and now we’re capable of serving transportation needs of all sizes all over the country. I’m also very proud of the culture that we’ve established, and the personnel that we’ve built. Our customers will get same service in York, Pennsylvania as they would in Los Angeles. I’m proud of that cohesiveness.

What are your thoughts about leadership? What’s key in building good teams?

It happens with extensive amounts of one-on-one time. When we’re onboarding our employees, we spend a lot of time with them at our branches. We go over best practices and best ways in interacting with our customers. That kind of training takes a lot of time and energy. We are intentional about educating them on the way that we develop services and a lot of that comes from other employees who have been in this industry for a long time.

What is the key to customer service? What separates the good from the great?

The “great” is empowering individuals at branches to make the best decision for their customer quickly and effectively. And giving them the tools to do that. Not having to tell customer, “I’ll have to get back to you with an answer,” and instead allowing our employees to have the flexibility to provide on-the-spot answers and having the confidence to do that.

Challenges

What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today?

The trend toward e-commerce and just-in-time deliveries. The need for everyone to have everything done yesterday. This all leads to the challenge of tying together the right equipment, in the right place, at the right time. But there’s a whole other piece to it – the logistics piece, the moving of product, getting trailers and fixing trailers. There’s the physical part, the “moving of iron,” and melding it with the technology part, that’s the challenge. It come down to meeting and balancing expectations.

How is Milestone addressing those challenges?

The best way to do it is by developing the best network – An excellent group of repair and delivery vendors and employees. Both in the field and at our head office. I’m confident that we have that in every network and that we set realistic expectations with our customers. I’m confident of the vendors that we’ve chosen to partner with. Our repair vendors provide the backbone to our capabilities.

What sets Milestone apart from the competition?

Having a vast network of experienced and knowledgeable transportation professionals who are empowered to make quick decisions benefits Milestone customers. It really comes down to the educated people in the field who can take our vision and our customers’ requests and put them into action.

Why Milestone?

What do you like best about your job?

I like the fact that technically it’s a big industry, but the country gets smaller and smaller with technology. Being able to network with people around the country is something I love. I get to travel around the country and meet with people. My favorite part is being well traveled and connecting with fantastic people along the way.

What is a great story about Milestone Trailer Leasing that you love to share?

I always enjoy sharing Milestone’s history. The original founders and how they came together from across the country to create the basis of what we work with today. When knowing how we got here, it makes working towards those same goals, on a much larger scale, much more enjoyable.

 

Milestone Trailer Leasing - Jeff Alpert

Meet Jeff Alpert

Milestone Trailer Leasing - Jeff Alpert

Introduction

As President of Milestone Trailer Leasing, Jeff Alpert oversees the company’s highway trailer division which consists of 25+ locations across the US and 56,000+ units. The company veteran (he joined Milestone in 2000) recently shared what accomplishments he is most proud of and the biggest challenges facing the transportation industry.

Everyday Operations

Tell us about your role as President of Milestone Trailer Leasing. What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

I’m responsible for the oversight of Milestone’s highway trailer division which consists of 25+ locations and over 53,000 units. My role is to help make everyone around me successful and get obstacles out of their way.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the whole journey. I’m proud of the many years of organic growth to becoming the second largest lessor in the country.

Challenges

Biggest challenge facing your industry today?

One of the biggest challenges is around customer choice and customer expectations. Today, consumers want to have a product in their hand, yesterday, with a click of a button. That sense of urgency impacts everything we do. The challenge is keeping up with the velocity and pace of change. Our challenge is, “What can Milestone do to help our customers keep up with that velocity?”

What keeps you up at night?

How to tackle employee shortages and trying to get young people excited about the industry.

Hard to get a smart college grad to get excited about this space. We’re losing a lot of experience, knowledge-based in the business.

Outlook

What does the future hold for Milestone Trailer Leasing? What things are you excited about?

Back to these ideas of flexibility and being creative problem solvers – for me personally and for the company DNA, it’s about the love of solving pain points and solving problems for our customer. We are continually expanding our knowledge around finding solutions in trailer leasing, especially with how quickly things are changing in transportation.

Personal Story

What is a great story about Milestone Trailer Leasing that you love to share?

It’s related to how far we come. One story has to do with one of the first big acquisitions we worked on as a young company. They asked us about our net worth. It was $1 million. They asked, “$1 billion?” And we said, “No, $1 million.” It was kind of comical because it showed what a small potato we were at the time. And now here we are, close to a $1 billion company.

Milestone Gives Back: Our Recent Day of Service at Youth in Need Head Start Center

One of the greatest gifts we can give is our time.

We recently had an opportunity to volunteer as a corporate team at the Youth in Need Head Start Center in Wentzville, Missouri. More than a dozen team members from across our divisions joined forces on July 21 to work in classrooms with children and on various service projects around the facility.

“Volunteering is very important to us, it provides us an opportunity to work together on a personal level,” says Jennifer Schaefer, Executive Administration Assistant for Milestone Equipment Holdings. “It also gives us a chance to share our talents and skills in the community we live in. Giving back always feels good.”

Team members were all smiles working with the children. Carolyn Mueller and John Reitano enjoyed entertaining 2-year-olds on the outdoor playground. Chris Bachmann volunteered in the 3 to 5-year-old classroom. Patti McAlister and Sarah Mesnier loved getting to know the infants and toddlers.

“I love being able to work for a company that gives back to the community,” says Mesnier, Senior Financial Reporting Accountant for Milestone Equipment Holdings. “Helping kids in need is something that means a lot to me. My mom is a child abuse therapist, so growing up I had a lot of exposure to families and kids who had nothing. It was always very important for my family to give back in any way we could. Youth in Need is an amazing organization, and it was awesome to see everything the Head Start Center does. I had so much fun playing with the toddlers and I hope we can do it again soon!”

Founded in 1974 by community volunteers, Youth in Need offers service and support programs to over 12,000 children, teens and families across eastern Missouri. The organization provides services including education, counseling and support groups, and infant, child and family development at more than 40 sites in six counties.

“The staff at Milestone was a great help to the teachers in our facility – they volunteered in all three of our classrooms doing everything from reading to our preschoolers to helping with the infants, and at one point they were even dancing with the kids,” says Cody Finan, Community Engagement Coordinator at Youth in Need Head Start Center. “Their efforts go a long way in making a great connection in the community.”

Milestone Trailer Leasing - Sarah Johnson

Meet Sarah Johnson

Milestone Trailer Leasing - Sarah JohnsonSarah Johnson, Executive Vice President of Branch Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing, is driven to come to work to make sure her team is successful. “I love what I do,” she says. “I love to help them win. It’s very rewarding.” Johnson discusses how Milestone Trailer Leasing goes above and beyond when it comes to customer service, what the future holds for the company, and her biggest a-ha moment.

 

 

 

Tell us about your role as Executive Vice President of Branch Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing. What does a typical day look like?

My day is focused around supporting branch operations in 25+ locations across the US. This could be through structuring deals for customers, sourcing equipment, and general problem solving. It’s about being in constant communication. Setting up calls every day to review pricing and quantity of trailers; fleshing out details; arming the operations team with data to go out and execute with customers. I spend a lot of time traveling, meeting customers, evaluating the sales approach, helping them to understand their markets, and ultimately evaluating how we can be more successful. That success then drives the metrics, utilization, and overall profitability of the business which is the most important for everyone!

 

Tell us about the transition from Personal Attention Leasing (PAL) to Milestone Trailer Leasing?

It’s always been about focusing on the customer service aspect. We have trailers and our competitors have trailers, but what’s the differentiating factor? For us, it’s about how we better partner with our customers. That gets back to this idea of creativity and flexibility. For me it’s fun to do some creative problem solving; I like innovating in an industry that doesn’t often require innovation. That was the whole foundation of PAL, it was about being flexible. It started out as a local, then regional and now we’re at a national level.

 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’ve been in the industry a long time in a variety of functions. I’ve loved getting out over the past couple of years and building that customer rapport and getting on the frontline and watching those relationships grow. It’s very rewarding. It’s easy to sit behind a computer or on the phone and ask the team to do something, but getting out and doing it with them gives me firsthand knowledge of the interactions and how to help them through day to day issues.

 

Biggest a-ha moment?

Our most successful sales people have a strong rapport with their customers. They take their time to get to know their customer and build trust. They become a partner and not just a vendor. It’s not just about closing the sale, but having the rapport so that when the customer has a problem, they will pick up the phone and give us the chance to help them.

 

What’s the key to unparalleled customer service?

It’s finding employees who are driven to work hard and who are going to be of service. If the team is dedicated to building a successful business that translates into making sure the business is building strong customer relationships. You also have to be good at negotiating with customers; doing what’s in the best interest of Milestone while retaining the customer relationship. Therein lies the art.

 

What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today?

Driver shortage and accessibility to drivers. In addition to new regulations with ELD (electronic logging device), the third thing is the shift to online retail. It’s changing the shape of transportation and who’s participating. It’s in its infancy, so there are a lot of efficiencies to be made on that front.

 

What does the future hold for Milestone Trailer Leasing? What things are you excited about?

Continuing to identify gaps in the industry then where and how to fill them. Thinking outside the box when it comes to industry-wide solutions, as well as continuing to develop a strong team. Nothing is stagnate and we have to be ready to evolve. What’s next? It’s exciting to think about.
What is key to a strong team?

There are many elements that make a strong team. A few worth noting are respect for one another, communication and having positive attitudes. We also have to collectively celebrate the wins (recognize failures) and respect each other’s roles on the team.

 

What keeps you up at night?

I worry about if I was supposed to call someone back and didn’t because the day got away from me or if I need to get an answer to someone so I’m not holding them up. I worry about the overall health of the business and if we’re doing all we can to make it successful. The other thing is making sure I’m delivering the message and everyone is on board and we’re pushing in the same direction. We use the analogy about rowing a boat, and how we need everyone rowing in the same direction. It affects the team if someone is rowing the other way.

 

What is a great story about Milestone Trailer Leasing that you love to share?

We’re pushing on bigger accounts where we haven’t been able to before. We are partnering with bigger companies in a bigger way. It’s been organic growth; everyone pitches in to make it work and it’s rewarding.

 

What is a great customer story that you love to share about MTL?

There was a target account in Atlanta our sales rep was working on for over a year. For a year, she listened to me say, “Why aren’t we in there?” A year spent calling on them, working through several contacts and really cultivating a relationship with them. Today they have over 100 trailers with us. It speaks to the sales rep’s perseverance and drive to win. I love it!