Do you remember the movie, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio? Probably not, as it didn’t have a lot of commercial success, despite starring Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore. Released in 2005, it’s based on the true story of housewife Evelyn Ryan, who helps support her husband and their ten children by winning jingle-writing contests. She eventually wins a contest sponsored by Dr. Pepper and is able to pay the mortgage and save their house. It is a classic story of Midwestern grit and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The underdog wins, and in doing so, paves the way for a better life for future generations of her family. What’s not to love about this movie? I’ll get back to that in a minute. First, let me tell you about my January travels.
It’s about a four hour drive from my house to Fort Wayne, IN, but you actually arrive five hours after you leave due to crossing into the Eastern time zone. I was very grateful for the mild winter and clear roads as I made that drive to Parrish Leasing Inc., a NationaLease Member. I sat down with Chip and Josh Parrish and Ken Stech. We reviewed some of the NationaLease purchasing programs and discussed the NationaLease Review, one of NationaLease’s newer programs for members. After receiving several requests from members for training on all of the programs and benefits NationaLease offers, we decided to develop an agenda that covers everything from the history of NationaLease, the programs offered through our National Accounts and Supply Management teams, the variety of training opportunities, and of course, the Reciprocal Service network. We offer this training, now called the NationaLease Review, four times a year to our members. Anyone from a brand new employee to a company owner is welcome to attend and learn how to get the most value out of their NationaLease membership.
After catching up with the folks at Parrish, I checked into my nearby hotel. I spent a couple hours catching up on emails, then realized it was time for dinner. Just a couple miles away, I discovered the Baker Street Steakhouse. Once inside, I found a very comfy table in the corner of the bar. The very friendly and attentive waitress suggested the Asian Barbeque Salmon, and it was delicious. The cozy atmosphere, the pleasant staff, and the delightful food made for a very enjoyable dinner. I was full, satisfied, and sleepy as I headed back to my hotel for the night.
The next morning, I made the short drive to New Haven, IN to meet with Ben Ruble at Patriot Truck Leasing of Indiana, LLC, a NationaLease Member. I had a chance to catch up with Ben and Kim Ruble and hear about their growing business. We discussed the upcoming Maintenance Managers Meeting, which will be held in Atlanta on May 13-15. This is the only mandatory meeting NationaLease holds each year, and is the opportunity for maintenance professionals from each of our members to get together and learn from not only our lineup of speakers, but even more importantly, from each other. We also host the NationaLease Tech Challenge in conjunction with the Maintenance Meeting to give all of our extremely valuable diesel techs the opportunity to compete and get the recognition they so thoroughly deserve. The three Top Techs from that competition go on to represent NationaLease at the TMC SuperTech competition, where last year Rick Davis of Hogan Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member took third place. It was hard to pull myself away from the great conversation with Ben and Kim, but I had to get back on the road to Ohio.
It’s a pretty drive from New Haven, IN to Montpelier, OH. You take the highway east, then just before reaching Defiance, OH, you turn north and go through towns like Sherwood and Bryan. You pass the beautifully restored and painted barns that dot the farmland, as well as the very unique drive-through liquor stores that also appear frequently throughout Ohio. Downtown Bryan even has a picture-perfect county courthouse in the middle of the town square. Just north of downtown Bryan, I arrived at Transport NationaLease. I got a warm welcome from Ruby, the energetic Bernese Mountain dog who greets every visitor and makes them feel right at home. Once I got past Ruby, I met with Joe Huston and we chatted about the challenges of hiring qualified people in today’s tight market. We also reviewed some of our supply management programs, the many resources and information available through our weekly NationaLease News, and the quickly-approaching Maintenance Managers Meeting. I had a long drive ahead of me, so I said goodbye to Joe and Ruby, got on the highway, and headed west.
Evelyn Ryan, the real-life heroine of Defiance, OH would be very pleased with the NationaLease members that surround her hometown. Grit, perseverance, Midwestern work ethic, and building a better life for their families are the very qualities that define these companies, and so many of our other NationaLease members who have been family-owned for as many as five generations. Evelyn’s belief that “everything is possible,” surely explains how a group started by 17 family businesses now represents over 900 locations throughout the US and Canada. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, you may want to plan a trip to Northwest Ohio and drive through Defiance, or easier yet, just rent the movie.