I went to Georgetown University, where I majored in finance. After graduation, I went to New York, where I worked for two years in investment banking at Morgan Stanley, before attending Harvard Business School. At that point, I had to decide if I wanted to go back into investment banking or return to the family business. It was 1983 and NFI was primarily a trucking business with very small warehousing, real estate, and truck leasing components.
I’m not completely sure exactly what I was thinking at the time, but I probably felt a certain obligation to join the family business. I’d kind of grown up within NFI. From junior high school onwards, I’d always helped out at the company during summer vacations. I’d worked in the maintenance shop and as a loader in the warehouse. We had always discussed business around the family table as far back as I can remember. So I guess you could say it was in my blood.
When I entered the business, I also had two brothers and a sister working alongside me. So I not only had to figure out how to work with my father, but also with my siblings too. As we were coming up through the ranks, our father wisely refused to appoint any of us as his successor. ‘If I pick one of you,’ he said to us, ‘the others will always resent me and our relationship will suffer.’ Instead, he told us to work it out among ourselves, after which he would sell the business to us.
Our sister decided to make an exit, leaving my two brothers and me. We spent two years working with a family business consultant. It was an arduous process, which demanded that we park our egos so as to try to figure out what our respective roles and responsibilities would be, and set out the guidelines for reaching major decisions. From there, we really created a successful partnership, which has allowed us to achieve magnificent growth in the size of the business. And our relationship as brothers has grown along with it.