CEO Interview: Leading With Candor and a Dash of Empathy

CEO Interview: Leading With Candor and a Dash of Empathy

While she thrives on the fast pace of transportation and logistics, Nicole Glenn also knows how to slow it down when it comes to growing her company thoughtfully.

Nicole Glenn thrives on chaos and enjoys creating solutions on the fly that make someone else—her customer—into a hero.

“Customers call with their hair on fire,” says Glenn, founder and CEO of Candor Expedite in Plano, Texas. “A shipment got routed incorrectly, someone missed something. When I tell them we can make it happen, it’s rewarding to hear their sigh of relief.”

Glenn founded Candor—a logistics company for time-sensitive shipments—in 2017. We talked with her recently to learn her history and how she’s leading Candor into its next stage of growth.

IL: Why have you made transportation your career?

I fell into it as an administrator, but then I found I loved the opportunity to talk with people. Back in 2000, we still did a lot of our work over the phone. I enjoyed crafting relationships that way. I had friends—trucking company owners—all over the country who would call me when they had shipments. Now, I don’t think I could work in any other industry. I’m too used to the fast pace.

IL: Tell us about an event that helped to shape you as a leader.

I worked for many years as a transportation sales rep. There’s a mindset in that role that you should hustle to get as much freight as you can and increase your commission check. When I was asked to become vice president, I almost turned it down because I’d trained myself to constantly ask, “What’s next?”

Leadership requires slowing down to think about the next step in the company’s journey, and slowing down wasn’t my style. But I took the position, and soon fell in love with managing people, figuring out how to help them grow. I went from having to be selfish to having to be selfless. Now that I own my own company, I get to do that every day.

IL: What changes have you seen in Candor’s business since the start of the pandemic?

In 2020, things went into radio silence for about five weeks. Then we started transporting some new commodities, such as hand sanitizer and respirators going into New York City. After a while, as e-commerce grew in importance, we started a new division that helps business-to-business companies with final-mile service. We also started crafting creative solutions for customers with specialized needs.

For instance, one shipper struggled to find refrigerated capacity. They typically moved one pallet at a time, but they were so desperate, they were willing to pay for an entire truck. We suggested an alternative solution we called “wrap and run”: we wrapped the product in insulation and delivered it without refrigeration to distribution centers within a 300-mile radius. We also considered putting the product in coolers.

IL: What’s new and interesting at Candor these days?

In 2021 we developed a time-sensitive truckload division that services a number of verticals. Responding to customer demand, we recently started to offer first- and final-mile solutions that are non-exclusive, which means we can put more than one customer’s product on the truck or van.

Currently, we’re launching The Circle, an online platform where carriers offer quotes to shippers who need expedited capacity. Our goal is to get a price and a truck back to a customer in 10 to 15 minutes, with all the details confirmed.

IL: What characteristics make you an effective leader?

One is empathy. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes, to understand what they’re going through as I coach them. I also like to challenge people. If someone tells me they can’t do something, I try to instill them with the mentality that they can. They just have to break the process down into a series of steps.

IL: How do you give criticism or correction when it’s required?

It’s not by accident that my company is named Candor. I believe in being blunt and forthright when I express my expectations—with a dash of empathy.

IL: What makes you excited to go to work each day?

It’s watching this company grow from where it was in 2017. In the beginning, I was deep into the operations, moving freight alongside my team, getting dirty. Working remotely during the pandemic taught me that I have to trust my people. That allowed me to do other things I love: make new relationships, strategize about where the company can go, put people in uncomfortable new roles so they can grow. I’m also excited about the opportunity for constant learning.

IL: What’s the hardest aspect of your job?

Knowing only what I know. I’d like to have the answer for everything. Making sure I’m coaching my team in the right way is a challenge. To keep reiterating our core values, our mission, our vision for where we want to bring this company, is hard. So is generating new ideas and executing them.

IL: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be?

I’d like to hear Brené Brown’s ideas on vulnerability and putting yourself out there. I’d also like to talk to Warren Buffet, to learn how he became a serial entrepreneur. I’m so passionate about my business, it boggles my mind to know that someone has such a huge portfolio of companies that all run successfully. I’d also want to hear about his philanthropy.

IL: Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time?

I’m one of the founders of a podcast for women in business called the Ladies Leadership Coalition (LLC). We are six women who own businesses focused on logistics. This project has given me the chance to meet some amazing people and hear their stories.

I also have three kids—twin boys who are 13 and a 17-year old daughter. I try to spend quality time with each of them, one-on-one, whether we drive go-karts or take vacations.

One unusual fact about me is that I like to crochet. It’s good stress relief. My mom, my daughter, and I sit down together, get our needles out, and talk.

Wisdom to Share

Looking for leadership advice? Nicole Glenn has a few suggestions.

The first is a book called The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber. “It helped me through that pivotal moment when I went from the operations side to running and growing a business,” Glenn says. “It explains how you need to trust others, build a solid plan, share your vision, and keep people going on their paths.”

Next is Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast, where guests describe how they’ve overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. And then there’s Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. “It’s about being very intentional, owning both the good things and the bad things that happen, and always working to be the best leader you can be in an organization,” Glenn says.