Southern Indiana CEOs talk business, life and community
Article originally published by Brooke McAffe in Southern Indiana Business Magazine.
For local business leaders, collaboration and team-building are key parts of their jobs, whether they work in transportation, health care or manufacturing. We spoke with three Southern Indiana CEOs to discuss their approaches to leadership:
As president and CEO of Mister "P" Express, Cynthia "Cindy" Collier has worked for decades to build the family run company from the ground up.
Collier joined her father, Allan Parnell - the Mister "P" of Mister "P" Express - in the founding of the Jeffersonville trucking company 34 years ago.
"It was started with a prayer," she said. "We had no money, no funding, we did not have a small business loan, and we almost went belly-up in the first few years. That was hard."
To help pay for college, Collier performed as a singer and participated in beauty pageants for scholarships, and she received music degrees from Lindsey Wilson College and Campbellsville University.
She worked in the retail industry in sales, marketing and the management of nine retail stores prior to the founding of Mister "P" Express.
Transportation has traditionally been a "man's world," especially when Mister "P" Express was founded 34 years ago, Collier said, but she has seen more and more women in the industry. The company now has an all-female sales department.
"There are women truckers, there are women CEOs, there are women all over in the industry," she said. "But it used to be a good old boy's network with lots of men - men's salesmen taking the people out for a bourbon and cocktail, going golfing, that kind of typical world."
"That wasn't my world. I was a very young mother when we started the company, and I'm competing with three broken-down tractors against people that have 500 tractors, and so I'm asking for one load and they're asking for 10 to 20 loads a day," she said.
Collier worked to slowly build up the company's sales department and customer base. Mister "P" is now a successful company that continues to grow.
In 2019, the company opened a state of- the-art training facility at River Ridge, and Mister "P" owns over 50 acres at the commerce park.
Philanthropy is a major focus for Collier and the company, and they have donated to organizations such as USA Cares, Kosair Charities and the Kentucky Humane Society and many more.
As a leader, Collier said she doesn't ask anyone to do something she wouldn't do herself, whether that's sweeping the floors or getting coffee for a team member, she said. Her philosophy is that "everyone is equally important."
Q&A With Cindy Collier
What do you do in your down time?
“I’m a shopaholic — I could shop all day long. What my background being in retail, I know how to get bargains, and even thought I could afford to do whatever, I enjoy the rush to get the bargains. I love shopping. It is a release for me, and how an alcoholic might see their cocktail time — that’s what my shopping time is like.”
I am never happier than when I am spending time with my family. That is probably the thing I enjoy as much as shopping is being able to spend time with my daughters — they are my best friends.”
What’s your favorite band or musical performer?
“I really don’t [have a favorite]. I just enjoy many, many modes of music. We support the orchestra and the opera, and I enjoy church music...I love soul music, I love to dance — and opportunity to dance I’ll be the first one on the dance floor.”
Who is your role model, and why?
“When I got here, I knew nothing about trucking or transportation, so my father pretty much taught me everything and as been my mentor, to this day. He usually comes in here pretty much every day, he sits down and I tell him all the things that are bugging me, bounce things off of him, vent to him, and a lot of times he’ll give me advice or tell me, ‘you’re doing the right thing.’
My parents got married really young, so my granny was a big influencer in my life. When I was in pageants, she took me around to sell ads to all the little country towns where she lived, so every single pageant I was in I won the scholarship that was for the most ads sold.”
Who is your role model, and why?
“In my opinion, in order to be a good leader, you really have to be involved with your staff, you have to listen. I don’t think you can be aloof or at the top level and just feel like you are too good to participate. I believe that you need to be participating in the day-to-day activities of the company in some shape or form, and you have to continually strive to improve upon what was done yesterday. Never accept less than the best.”
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