NC trend: Tana Greene talks about her path to Greene Group
By Page Leggett
From Greene Group’s Davidson headquarters, about 20 miles north of downtown Charlotte, Tana Greene oversees offices in the Carolinas, California, Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Staffing is her specialty — she has placed maritime laborers, clerical workers and, now, truck drivers. Greene, 57, began matching workers with permanent jobs in 1988. Her newest venture is an online marketplace to find extra work for drivers and the carriers who need them. It’s paying off — Greene Group added 4,574 workers between 2014 and 2016, in which time revenue increased 65%.
So, a trucking company? That seems unlikely.
I describe my latest venture as ‘Uber for truckers.’ We have a call center in an old hosiery mill in Hickory. There are 18 employees there, but last year we had 8,500 W-2 employees all across the country. I know what your next question is. And no, I don’t sleep.
Ha! Clearly. How in the world did you get into the trucking business?
Everyone wonders the same thing. And it’s a long story. The short answer is: It’s about creating jobs and opportunity.
What’s the long answer?
It goes back a long way. I was married at 15, had my son at 16 and left my abusive marriage at 17.
Yes, I’ve been at the very bottom. I learned the importance of setting goals and going for them. I’ve come to understand that life is amazing.
What happened with your marriage at 15? Where did you grow up?
I lived in Virginia, and my father was in the Coast Guard. It was a time and place that, when you found out you were pregnant, getting married was just what you did.
But it quickly became clear that [her husband] was very controlling. I didn’t know the signs then of a potential abuser. But if a man is asking, “Who were you with?” and “What did you spend your money on?” that is not normal.
Wow. But I still don’t know how this leads to trucking.
I decided I would not be a victim. After I left [her spouse], I made a list of four things I wanted to accomplish: finish school, own a house by the time I was 25 (I did by 22), marry a knight (we’ve been married for 31 years) and own my first business by the time I was 30. (I did at 29.) [Note: Greene and her husband, Mike, were business partners as well before his recent retirement.]
You didn’t have a particular business in mind?
No. I just knew it had to be about helping people.
And so …
I bought a business that matches people with a need. I almost couldn’t believe I could make money by helping people find good jobs. [Note: Greene bought a franchise with Remedy, one of the largest U.S. staffing companies. When her contract ended in 2002, she changed the name to StrataForce.] [That] business matched large industrial jobs with contingent workers qualified to do those jobs. I started off with clerical placements, and then went to [maritime] labor and that led down the path of industrial placements. I got big contracts — like with toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker Inc. — and had clients as far away as Indiana and California.
I learned: You start with one location, do a good job and then get asked to do more. Eight years ago, I started Road Dog Drivers [which recruits truck drivers]. My biggest pieces of business are in Detroit, Texas and California. That led to Blue Bloodhound, which I started in November 2015. We match qualified truck drivers with long-haul routes. There was a time when every driver I talked to said they wanted and needed to take on more work. And companies said they were desperate for drivers. But the prevailing wisdom in the industry was that there was a shortage of drivers. I thought, there’s no shortage. There’s just an inefficiency in matching.
I’d been calling it “Match.com meets Uber” until my friends said, “No, Tana. It’s Tinder.”
What’s your best business advice?
Understand your strengths. I am a big fan of StrengthsFinder [Gallup Inc.’s workplace diagnostic quiz]. I’ve taken it, and every single one of my employees has, too.
Wow. I’ve been in jobs before where I wasn’t allowed to use my strengths, and I was miserable.
Right. We’re all happier and more productive when we play to our strengths. And it’s helpful to know the strengths of the person sitting next to you, too.
What are your strengths?
Connectedness. I’m a futurist — I can anticipate what’s ahead. I’m a maximizer; I know how to get the best out of everyone on the team. I’m an activator; I make things happen. And I’m positive.
Never settle. Joy is your birthright.