All this month in celebration of Women’s History Month, we’ve been shining a spotlight on female leaders within the transportation industry. These women are paving the way for others who someday may consider careers or leadership roles within trucking or freight brokerage. For this final blog in the series, we had the good fortune to speak with Lynette Mathis, the Bennett Family of Companies’ Vice President. Lynette also happens to be the daughter of Marcia G. Taylor, who is the owner, chairman and CEO of the Bennett Family of Companies. The Bennett Family of Companies includes 20 different businesses and organizations, including Bennett Motor Express, Bennett International Logistics and Bennett Truck Transport. In our recent conversation with Lynette, we asked her about her own career in transportation, what it’s like leading a multi-generational family business and much more.
“I went to college to get a business administration degree and marketing degree,” said Lynette. “I’ve always loved marketing because I like to be out front where the customers are. I like the sales side, too, and putting together events. I knew that was always my passion. I leaned toward business because I always knew I was going to work in the family business. I just had that feeling from the beginning. When my parents started the business, they were small and we all had to do things to help, even at a young age. My very first job was filling up the Coke machine. I felt like that was a big part of keeping the drivers moving. Since then, I’ve worked in all the different areas of the company and I never once thought that I would do something else. At one point, we started a travel agency and I worked there for about 10 years, but I still worked at Bennett. I’ve never not worked at Bennett. Even when my mom put me in a different area for a while, it was just a good learning experience.”
Today as Bennett’s Vice President and with 37 years of industry experience, Lynette is focused on strategic planning for the 20 companies and entities that make up the Bennett Family of Companies. As part of the rollout of the companies’ yearly strategic plan, Lynette recently has been holding regional symposiums and one-on-one meetings with employees who are out in the field working for Bennett. She also works on cross-pollination between the different companies and developing strategies for each’s company’s target market. Lynette serves on Bennett’s board of directors and is the administrator for the Taylor Family Foundation, the family’s foundation that provides grants to communities nation-wide. One of the current projects Lynette has been working on is the companies’ sponsorship of an Xfinity race car with driver Austin Hill #21 and NASCAR race car Austin Dillion #3.
“I’m very pleased when I see all of the women that are coming into the trucking industry, and just being a part of that group,” Lynette said. “It’s anywhere from women that have left the home to have a second income to single moms and empty nesters. I’m seeing more and more women truck drivers. We have a Women in the Driver’s Seat program now to highlight just our women drivers to show them we appreciate them being in a male-dominated industry. They’re stepping out and doing the same exact job as the men. On the internal side, we’re a company that promotes women the same as men. We have a woman CEO, but we also have women dispatchers. We have women working throughout the whole company in every department that we have. It’s wonderful to see women stepping into these other roles now, and it’s not just a male field anymore. You see women all the time. I love it because the women bring a softer side to the industry. Some of them are four feet tall driving these trucks and doing it well. They’re making strides and showing these men that they can do it. I love it.”
Lynette’s mother spends a significant amount of time talking with the company’s female drivers through the Women in the Driver’s Seat program. Each year, four drivers from the program get one-on-one time with Marcia to ask her questions and learn from her experience.
“The last one my mom did, she just had tears rolling down her face when she was done,” said Lynette. “She said that it was just the most moving conversation she’d had with someone in a long time. The driver was telling my mom about the challenges she faces on the road and how she looks up to my mom because she’s leading a woman-owned company. It’s just so great to hear those things.”
Lynette shared that several different people have served as role-models and mentors in her career, including her mother, Marcia, who founded Bennett along with her husband JD Garrison in 1974. Lynette’s parents started their journey in the transportation industry when they bought a small contract trucking company called George Bennett Motor Express, which had two contracts, 15 trucks and 30 trailers at the time. Three years later in 1977, the company grossed over $1 million in revenue.
“When people meet my mom, they always say she’s very humble in her way and very soft-spoken, but she’s very smart in her strategic thinking,” Lynette said. “She always mentored me growing up. Now me and my brothers say she was harder on us than anyone else because she didn’t let us get by with anything. Of course, other people thought we probably got away with everything, but she always held us to a higher standard. I looked at her and I thought, ‘This is a woman that can be in front of anyone, from a driver to a CEO of a billion dollar company that we’re moving freight for, and she’s the same person to both of them.’ She always said that God gave it to us, but he could take it away at any time. So just be yourself and be a professional, but be humble in every situation and with whomever you talk to. I think that’s probably been the one way that she’s influenced me the most. Also, just seeing her go from nothing to where she is today has just shown me that as women we can do anything. She never drove a truck in her life and I’ve never driven a truck in my life, but we’re two successful women in transportation and logistics. We can do anything. You just have to have good people that you hire that know what they’re doing and who you can trust to give you the correct information.”
In addition to her mother’s advice and mentorship, Lynette values the wisdom of other multi-generational family business owners such as Steven and Jackie Green of Hobby Lobby and the leadership team at Chick-fil-A. Lynette shared with us that John Maxwell’s Christian leadership books and teachings have inspired her and motivated her throughout her career, as well.
If you’d like to learn more about the Bennett Family of Companies, visit https://www.bennettig.com/.
Don’t miss the previous blog in this series, “Female Leaders in Transportation: Lateasha and Lashanta Witherspoon, Founders and Owners of LLG Transportation Consultants.”