This Director of Recruiting proves that any background is the perfect background for the trucking industry. Starting off in the sports field with college studies in Sports Management, Destin Smith cultivated his marketing skills to make a big impact in what he calls, “the land of opportunity.”
While working in the operations department of Total Transportation of Mississippi, Smith won Fleet Manager of the Quarter multiple times. He attributes these wins to driver cooperation and the tools provided by his company.
HM: Tell me a little bit more about your background and what brought you here.
DS: I was offered a job with the Mississippi Braves, a farm league organization owned by the Atlanta Braves baseball club. I spent six years with that organization, navigating through multiple departments on the player development side. I ended my career there as a marketing agent within their front office staff in 2014.
I was approached by a representative at Total Transportation to join the team here. I started in the customer service department, navigating my to the operations side where I spent time as a fleet manager, training fleet, operations manager at Olive Branch terminal. Then I moved back to Jackson working in the XD Fleet for Total. After 10 months, I merged into the load planning department covering the Northeast Region. In 2019 I accepted the role of Operations Manager at the Richland terminal and just under a year, accepted the Terminal Manager position. Shortly into 2021, I had an amazing opportunity to become the Director of Recruiting, which is where I am now and definitely something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and a department I am grateful to be part of.
HM: How did you find your background in sports marketing lending itself to your career in this industry?
DS: I like to use sports analogies to my advantage because that was my initial professional background. It’s just like anything else, in sports, you always have to stay sharp and continue to work hard to stay at a top level. To translate that to the marketing side of things, it’s all about staying fresh and staying relevant. The market continues to change — daily, weekly, monthly, by the year. With that, we have to change.
We have to adapt, as well. Everyone’s always looking for the next best opportunity and we have to put ourselves in a situation to be that opportunity. The only way to do that properly is to stay in tune with what the market’s doing, what the drivers are doing, and what they expect so we can meet those expectations.
HM: Speaking of “always changing,” we put out surveys to find out what drivers want. What do you think sets Total apart from other carriers?
DS: We’re a family oriented company. I mean, I work here, I’ve got a twin brother that works here. He’s actually the individual responsible for asking me to come here. I also have about six co-workers that I went to high school with as well. So, by us surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals, we can maintain that family atmosphere. We can maintain our open-door policy, which is something we really stand proud for because not a lot of drivers can work for a trucking company and be more than just a number.
A lot of drivers cannot just walk into the office and sit down with their manager or someone in leadership. We welcome every individual inside and with open arms to make sure we put them in the best situation for success. But again, that just goes back to us being a family-oriented company and treating those drivers like our family. I think that is the true key to success, because once the driver feels that, it’s contagious.
HM: What has been your primary focus in your position?
DS: We do have department goals and agendas that everyone is geared towards reaching. But, I think the biggest focus that I kind of carved out for myself initially was to just tell the good word about Total, be a beacon of light.
I want to let everyone know how good of a company we really are. I’ve been here for almost seven years so I can speak on raw experience. I have witnessed turnover in my career, but I do see a lot of drivers that leave us and come back. That right there shows the evidence of who we are, what we’re here to do, and what we can do. So, I just spread the good word about Total and how we can help people.
That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to make an impact and if I can change someone’s life by just telling them about Total, getting them to Total and helping them succeed, then we’ve accomplished our mission.
HS: What would you say are some key components to the recruiting approach that you find successful?
DS: Drivers just want you to be honest with them. That’s the main thing, and recruiters get a bad rap, specifically because it is similar to a sales position. They are trying to get someone to join our company and most of those individuals are presently at another carrier or they’re unemployed at the moment. We have to really sell who we are to get them on board.
But, I think a lot of drivers feel burned by previous carriers. So we’re having to combat that right out of the gate and we want to make sure that they understand that we’re not sugarcoating everything. We do want to highlight what we do well, but I think it just comes down to the raw fact of just being transparent with these drivers up front, being honest with them and just building the trust over the phone and getting them here for them to truly see who we are.
I think honesty is key and not making any false promises. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career in transportation, specifically because everything comes back around as this world spins, it’s to not make a promise because there’s so many uncontrollable factors, not just in life but in this industry. And if you say “promise” someone, they hold on to that. That’s almost set in stone, so again I just go back to being transparent, being open and up front and honest with every person we come in contact with. Always set us up for the most trust out of these drivers when they come to Total.
HM: Is there any specific attribute a driver can have that draws your eye to them? Is there something specific that makes you want to pick up the phone and call them right then?
DS: You know, I think it just comes down to our needs. We obviously want to capture every individual we can. I think we want to give everybody an opportunity; that’s the major goal here and stress to my staff. Don’t miss anyone; everybody deserves chance. Some individuals may have made mistakes years ago, but if they pass and get through our guideline procedure we want to make sure they know they have an opportunity with us. Obviously, experienced drivers are great.
We do want to have as many experienced drivers as possible. However, sometimes those individuals have old habits. Who are we to try to change that? We also try to get as many new individuals in here as well that have little to no experience so we can show them the Total way.
HM: What is the strangest request you have received from a potential driver?
DS: I’d have to say that the strangest requests that I’ve ever gotten from a driver was in regards to a pet. This was before my recruiting days, but I was in operations and a driver had a pet squirrel. She asked if she could keep the pet squirrel on the truck with her. Individuals are very connected to their pets. I got our respective department involved and they made sure that we followed our guidelines with our pet pass. In their eyes it was really no different than having a rabbit or small cat or pig, if you will, on the truck.
HM: What do you do with your time away from work?
DS: I’m definitely a family oriented individual, I think that’s why I’ve had some success here Total. In regards to my personal life, I’m a huge sports fanatic. If I’m not in Starkville watching Mississippi State play baseball or football, I’m usually in Brandon, Mississippi, where I live spending time with my family. I have two nephews, as well, so I spend quite some time with them. And, you know, I guess in my spare time, I spend time on the golf course. I’m a huge, huge golf fan. I played in high school and in college. And then, depending on the season, I’m dressed in camouflage with my sights on a buck or a turkey.