Leading by Example

Coyote Logistics’ young and driven staff embrace the company’s mantra to work and play hard.

A stringent hierarchy is completely absent at Coyote Logistics. Members of the executive team, including founder and CEO Jeff Silver, work on the floor right next to their teams, ready at any moment to jump in and help.

The word “dynamic” rarely applies to a company’s culture, but for Chicago’s Coyote Logistics, it is the most apt description. When Bryan Calliger, a Coyote enterprise operations lead, walks into work each day, he says you can “feel the energy.” Alycia Klocke, a national account manager, says “the culture at Coyote is palpable.”

Coyote provides multimodal, logistics-management services to shippers in a variety of sectors. One would assume making a work environment fun in this stressful industry would be nearly impossible, but founder and CEO Jeff Silver has placed an astounding amount of effort into creating one of the most vibrant work places in the country. “Our company culture really is the most important thing to Coyote’s success,” he says. “Coyote’s competitive edge comes from our culture. We hire the best people we can find right out of universities and train them for months in a very serious way. When I say the best, I mean the most driven, involved, committed people who have demonstrated those traits through athletics, through work while in school, and through social and community involvement.”

The energy comes naturally to a majority of Silver’s employees because, as Silver implied, they are all quite young. Coyote hires 15 new college grads every two weeks or so, and many have graduated from Big Ten universities within the last three years. Silver devotes as much time as he can to Coyote’s newest trainees, spending at least an hour each day with them. There are many strong opinions swirling around about young people today, namely that they lack commitment, don’t want to work hard, and are self-involved. According to Silver, “that’s a bunch of garbage.” The CEO says he is constantly blown away by his young employees. His wife, Marianne, who is in charge of hiring, has no problem finding incredibly driven, ambitious, and passionate young employees who care deeply about their company and their communities.

Coyote not only has a fresh take on hiring, but the company approaches its business with a very different mentality. Silver cultivates an open environment, one where no executives—including  himself—sit in offices; they’re all out on the floor with their employees.

Silver’s approach to business is also reshaping the industry. “Before Coyote, many of the nonasset-based logistics companies delivered a level of service that was subpar,” he says. “It was okay to move 90 percent of the shipments customers needed moved. The industry lived with this level of service, which allowed third-party logistics providers to maximize margin. Since inception, Coyote has come at this market with a different approach—placing service to the customer ahead of profit. This means that Coyote will never fail to move a shipment for financial reasons.”

As a result of this approach, customers have begun to raise expectations on the industry and reward Coyote with unprecedented growth. Working at this pace requires a dogged work ethic, but Silver believes in balance and prides himself on Coyote’s attitude of working hard and playing hard. There are a number of Coyote athletic teams, including three hockey teams, a basketball league with more than 100 participants, volleyball teams, and a lacrosse team.

In short, working at Coyote isn’t a bad gig. Quite the opposite, in fact: “If you take our work environment—wide open, no offices, jeans, excitement—and add to it our incredible growth and all of the opportunity that comes with that growth, and finish it off with the ability for new employees to come in and contribute quickly while more experienced employees grow their careers within the organization, it’s clear you’ve got a great place to work,” Silver says.