Queen of the Road

When she took her tod­dler son and fled an abu­sive hus­band, she left with noth­ing but her dreams. One was to start her own busi­ness. To­day, Tana Greene is aim­ing to be­come …

Inc. (USA) - - FEATURES - By Burt Helm

Tana Greene knows her com­pany’s plan to dis­rupt the truck­ing in­dus­try will face ma­jor re­sis­tance. But she’s been through worse. Much, much worse.

ON THE MORN­ING of her first day of work, Tana Greene, then 16 years old, woke up, made break­fast for her­self and her hus­band, fed her baby, show­ered and put curlers in her hair, did her makeup, and walked into the hall­way of their home. There, her hus­band, Larry, stood aim­ing a shot­gun at her face. “Go ahead,” she re­mem­bers him say­ing. “Walk out the door.” Greene crum­pled to the floor, and raised her hands pro­tec­tively above her head. She saw rage in his eyes, but oddly, he was also laugh­ing.

“I think his idea was ‘If I give her enough fear, she’s go­ing to be­have at work,’ ” Greene says. “Af­ter about 30 min­utes of that, he let me go.”

As she re­calls the or­deal, which hap­pened in 1975, Greene, dressed in a white cash­mere knee-length vest, black leather pants, and stiletto BY BURT HELM Pho­to­graphs by Dina Li­tovsky

boots, is poised and smil­ing, and her eyes are sparkling. She is youth­ful for both her age, 58, and for what she has en­dured. It’s hard to be­lieve she was ever that cow­er­ing teenager—“a shadow,” as an old friend of her ex-hus­band re­mem­bers her.

Even Tana Greene doesn’t rec­og­nize much about that girl any­more. She is now a serial en­tre­pre­neur: She’s the co-founder and CEO of two North Carolina–based na­tional staffing com­pa­nies that, to­gether, are on tar­get to hit $80 mil­lion in rev­enue this year. Greene’s suc­cess has brought her a life­style that she couldn’t have imag­ined in her younger years. She and her sec­ond hus­band, Mike Greene, live in a pala­tial, coun­try club home on Lake Nor­man, just north of Charlotte. She and Mike hob­nob with the lo­cal mon­eyed set. Most re­cently, she founded Blue Blood­hound, a startup that has raised roughly $9 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing from in­vestors in­clud­ing Os­car Salazar, the for­mer CTO of Uber; Cur­tis Arledge, the for­mer CEO of BNY Mel­lon’s investment man­age­ment and mar­kets group; and John McCabe, the re­tired head of global op­er­a­tions at Pay­Pal. The com­pany aims to trans­form how hir­ing works in one of the most heav­ily reg­u­lated, con­ser­va­tive, and good ol’ boy in­dus­tries in the United States—truck­ing.

Greene’s will­ing­ness to wade into this no­to­ri­ously tough, male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try is tes­ta­ment to just how far she’s come from her teenage self. And pow­er­ing nearly every step she’s taken away from the ter­ri­fy­ing lost years of her youth has been a dream—to build some­thing no one can ever take away.

BLUE BLOOD­HOUND’S staff is as­sem­bled in the com­pany’s head­quar­ters, in Hick­ory, to dis­cuss the re­sults of their Strength­sFin­der as­sess­ment, a Gallup per­sonal-strengths test that Greene is a fan of. Hir­ing, as­sem­bling a co­he­sive team, lis­ten­ing deeply to peo­ple, con­vinc­ing them to be­lieve in her vi­sion and their own, and push­ing them to the ends she has imag­ined have all evolved as Greene’s most im­por­tant, and prof­itable, strengths.

“Tana is one of those peo­ple who is an in­cred­i­bly good lis­tener, is gen­uinely cu­ri­ous about learn­ing from oth­ers, and uses the in­put she gets to in­form her own ex­pe­ri­ence and im­prove,” says Peter Bloom, a re­tired part­ner in an in­ter­na­tional growth eq­uity fund and an in­vestor in Blue Blood­hound. “Those are the peo­ple you want to bet on.”

“She’s the glue of our com­pany,” says Mike, her hus­band of 32 years and busi­ness part­ner for al­most as long. “She knows how to make the or­ga­ni­za­tion a place where peo­ple feel like they are part of some­thing, and con­tribut­ing to some­thing.”

Stand­ing be­fore her Blue Blood­hound team, Tana asks, “Does any­body know what a uni­corn is in busi­ness?” When no one an­swers, she tells them, “It’s a pri­vately held bil­lion-dol­lar com­pany, which is what we will be in five years.”

Even when Greene was a lit­tle girl (then named Tana Bate­man), she got a rush from an au­di­ence. She was out­go­ing and did well in school in her home­town of Ch­e­sa­peake, Vir­ginia. At 12, she was cho­sen by the school prin­ci­pal to read the morn­ing de­vo­tional over the loud­speaker. By 13, she was the stu­dent chap­lain and a mem­ber of the prin­ci­pal’s As a teenager in an abu­sive mar­riage, Tana Greene was a “shadow.” To­day, she’s a suc­cess­ful serial en­tre­pre­neur and CEO. FOR BET­TER OR FOR WORSE

Tana and Larry on their wed­ding day in 1974. Tana’s fam­ily planned a white wed­ding when she told them she was preg­nant. Re­main­ing un­mar­ried was not an op­tion. com­mit­tee. Lead­er­ship ap­pealed to her.

Then, in her fresh­man year, Tana started dat­ing Larry, a se­nior. ( Inc. is not pub­lish­ing his last name for privacy rea­sons.) She says he was pos­ses­sive from the start, but she went along with his de­mands that she drop her friends and ride back and forth to school with him in­stead of tak­ing the bus. “He was Mr. Cool,” she says.

By the sum­mer of her sopho­more year, Tana was preg­nant with Larry’s baby. Her de­vout Pres­by­te­rian par­ents or­ga­nized a big church wed­ding and pro­vided Larry and Tana with a small home to live in. Her dad helped Larry find work roof­ing. Five days af­ter Tana’s 16th birth­day, she gave birth to a son, Larry Jr.

Her new hus­band, Tana says, was a drinker and prone to para­noia. He was con­vinced Tana might cheat on him, so he unplugged the phone every morn­ing and took it with him to work, she says. He’d stop home at lunch and search the house for men. He’d lock her in a closet for the night when his friends came to visit. Mike Knox, one of Larry’s high school friends, says, “He was like a stick of dy­na­mite. It got to the point that I wouldn’t even go around Larry be­cause of what he was do­ing to her.”

Tana tried stand­ing up for her­self, but that ended the night she says Larry grabbed her around the neck and slammed her

head against the wall. Then came the shot­gun in­ci­dent. The fi­nal straw was the night they got into an ar­gu­ment on the way to drop off Larry Jr. with her par­ents. She says Larry hit her across the face, dumped her in her par­ents’ drive­way with the baby, her face cov­ered in blood, and sped off. (In a taped in­ter­view with Inc., Larry ac­knowl­edged hit­ting Tana dur­ing their mar­riage, but de­clined to re­call specifics: “I’ve done enough and I’ve paid enough of a price.” He de­nied grab­bing her by the throat. When asked to con­firm other in­ci­dents, he hung up, and later texted a re­porter: “Told you they were lies so file it un­der fic­tion.”)

With the en­cour­age­ment of her fam­ily, she filed for sep­a­ra­tion. The cou­ple were divorced on Jan­uary 4, 1977, a month shy of Tana’s 18th birth­day.

In the af­ter­math, she says, she felt hu­mil­i­ated and an­gry, but not hope­less. She sat down and wrote out her goals on a piece of pa­per: Fin­ish school. Buy my own house by age 25. Get mar­ried. Own my own busi­ness by age 30.

“I wanted some­thing more for my­self,” she says. “And I saw that the only way I could truly rise up the lad­der was to build one of my own.”

OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS, Tana got her as­so­ciate’s de­gree in sec­re­tar­ial work at Com­mon­wealth Col­lege, a com­mu­nity col­lege in Vir­ginia Beach, Vir­ginia, and landed a job work­ing for an ex­ec­u­tive at a re­gional mo­tel chain, and then at that com­pany’s ad agency. The ad­mis­sions di­rec­tor at Com­mon­wealth, with whom she’d kept in touch, no­ticed her rapid ca­reer progress and asked her if she wanted to re­cruit for the school. Tana re­al­ized she had an in­nate tal­ent for sales—for meet­ing peo­ple where they were and show­ing them what the fu­ture could look like. The prospec­tive Com­mon­wealth stu­dents she met with weren’t young peo­ple with sta­ble fam­i­lies and shiny fu­tures. They were strug­glers and strivers. “I could speak so clearly to them. I could un­cover what peo­ple’s pain was,” she says. So of­ten, their pain was fa­mil­iar. “The pain was hurt pride—the feel­ing that ‘I don’t have any­thing to of­fer be­cause I don’t have a skill.’ To me, the work was all about rais­ing some­body’s self-es­teem.” She was very good at it. In her first year, she made more than $30,000 in com­mis­sions. When she was 22, she put a down pay­ment on a town­house in Vir­ginia Beach, three years ahead of sched­ule.

A year later, she met Mike Greene. He was 31, never mar­ried, and trav­eled from city to city for his job as a safety and health ad­viser to nu­clear power plants. She thought he was charm­ing and am­bi­tious, like her. They de­cided to try a long- dis­tance re­la­tion­ship. She was mak­ing good money, Larry Jr. was 7, and she had found a good man. The fu­ture she had en­vi­sioned for her­self was tak­ing shape.

Tana and Larry Jr. soon moved to Cal­i­for­nia with Mike, whom she mar­ried in 1985. All that was left on her list of life goals was to own her own busi­ness. So to­gether, Tana and Mike de­cided to buy a fran­chise of a Cal­i­for­nia-based cler­i­cal staffing com­pany, Rem­edy, and bring the con­cept back to Vir­ginia Beach. The job would lever­age Tana’s re­cruit­ing skills, and the fran­chiser could help them with skills that were less fa­mil­iar, such as mar­ket­ing and con­tract bid­ding. They’d move into Tana’s town­house to save money.

Those first years were a strug­gle, es­pe­cially win­ning new busi­ness. Turn­ing a profit felt nearly im­pos­si­ble. The Greenes went two years with­out draw­ing a salary. Af­ter they won their first big piece of busi­ness—a con­tract to staff 375 la­bor­ers, fire-watch per­son­nel, pipe fit­ters, and welders at a Nor­folk ship­yard—they re­al­ized they didn’t have enough cash to make the hires. They be­lieved that boot­strap­ping their busi­ness was the way to go—“We’d been raised to think you don’t bor­row a dime from any­body,” Tana says—but they had spent all their sav­ings. They had to get a loan se­cured against re­ceiv­ables to pay the new staff. The in­ter­est pay­ments plus the fran­chise fee wiped out any mar­gin they’d in­cluded in their ag­gres­sive bid. She and Mike learned one hard busi­ness les­son af­ter an­other.

The cou­ple scrimped and scraped, slowly putting the com­pany on firmer ground. When Rem­edy’s Charlotte fran­chise was put up for sale, they bought it and sold the one in Vir­ginia Beach, glad to leave the area be­hind. When their fran­chise agree­ment ex­pired in 2002, they ditched Rem­edy and re­named them­selves Strataforce.

Mean­while, Tana was prov­ing skilled at hir­ing and man­ag­ing staff. She was in­tu­itive, at­tuned to peo­ple’s mo­ti­va­tions, and able to in­spire them about the fu­ture. Soon, Strataforce was gen­er­at­ing about $10 mil­lion in sales and turn­ing a tidy profit. Larry Jr. was grown up, and Tana and Mike had their own young daugh­ter, Kelly.

Still, some­thing was miss­ing. At Strataforce, she felt like she was play­ing a part. Even though she was pres­i­dent and owned 51 per­cent of the com­pany, for years Mike had been the out­ward face of the com­pany, the de facto leader. He made the sales calls and met with clients. Tana fo­cused in­wardly on op­er­a­tions and mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple one-on-one.

“I just didn’t have the self-es­teem,” says Tana. “I wor­ried I wasn’t go­ing to sound ed­u­cated. I didn’t want to tell any­body that I didn’t go to a good school. I feared peo­ple would think less of me or de­cide I was in­ca­pable—like, ‘Oh, she doesn’t have the pedi­gree for this.’ ”

Even though she had ac­com­plished every one of the goals she’d writ­ten down at age 17, true hap­pi­ness eluded her.

The Greenes hired an ex­ec­u­tive coach, Brenda An­der­son, to help them. An­der­son en­cour­aged Tana to em­brace her lead­er­ship role, but Tana re­mained hes­i­tant and awk­ward. “She was like a lit­tle girl putting on her mom’s high heels and try­ing to walk in them,” An­der­son says.

Then, in 2007, a friend asked her a fa­vor: Would she tell her life story—about Larry, about her es­cape—to a group of high school stu­dents? At that point, she had shared the story

only with close friends. Most of the time, she was em­bar­rassed to ad­mit that she’d never gone be­yond two-year sec­re­tar­ial school, much less that she’d been a 16-year- old mom. But she agreed to do it.

When she started speak­ing to the stu­dents, Greene says, it was as if some­body else had taken over her voice. Af­ter her talk, she felt em­pow­ered. “It was over­whelm­ing joy,” she says. And it led to a story about her in a lo­cal mag­a­zine.

“A woman in a shop stopped me and said, ‘I read your ar­ti­cle, and I gave it to my girlfriend who’s been in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship for 20 years—and she fi­nally got out.’ ”

It was a rev­e­la­tion. By telling her story, by own­ing every sin­gle ugly and in­spir­ing part of it—the beat­ings, the es­cape, the even­tual busi­ness suc­cess and seem­ing fairy-tale end­ing— Greene had helped an­other woman save her­self. She re­al­ized her busi­ness was more than a way to cre­ate some­thing that no one could take from her. It was a way to give to oth­ers.

“I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Ev­ery­thing I want to do—cre­at­ing a world of dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives—I can do bet­ter with my plat­form than I can with­out,’ ” she says. “I was more ful­filled. I felt like I was mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence made me feel more proud, and that gave me an ex­tra step of ex­cite­ment.” (She even­tu­ally de­cided to join the board of the lo­cal women’s shel­ter, and to help raise money as part of its $10 mil­lion cam­paign to build a new cen­ter.)

A gut­sier Tana Greene started show­ing up for work. That same year, the com­pany made a bid on a huge deal—a $9 mil­lion con­tract staffing cus­to­dial and ware­house work for Coty, the beauty prod­ucts man­u­fac­turer. Tana and Mike de­cided that she would pre­side over the sales pre­sen­ta­tion. Be­fore the meet­ing, Mike briefed the sales staff.

“I said, ‘When Tana starts talk­ing, ev­ery­body else needs to shut up and let her go. She is go­ing to close this busi­ness. Don’t step on her toes. Just be quiet and let her go,’ ” he re­calls. “No­body can close like this woman.”

Be­fore the pitch, says Tana, “I re­mem­ber hav­ing the pos­i­tive com­mer­cial go­ing on in my head. What the out­come was go­ing to be, sign­ing the con­tract, I saw it all com­ing to fruition.” She nailed the pitch, and Strataforce won its big­gest con­tract ever. Tana was the sales team’s closer from then on.

“She’s a nat­u­ral peo­ple per­son,” says Mike, “and has a rare tal­ent to in­spire oth­ers. But it took years be­fore those lead­er­ship skills started show­ing them­selves.”

Hud­dling with An­der­son, the cou­ple set their sights on what they wanted next. Tana said, “I want to be a $100 mil­lion com­pany in mul­ti­ple states.” The prob­lem was that the 2008

re­ces­sion was rock­ing Strataforce. As other busi­ness faded away, the Coty con­tract be­came 75 per­cent of the com­pany’s rev­enue. If Strataforce lost it—con­tracts came and went every few years—it would be left in the lurch. Rather than cut costs and re­treat, the newly con­fi­dent Tana en­cour­aged Mike to dou­ble down, by open­ing of­fices in other states and win­ning con­tracts across the coun­try. They hired a chief oper­at­ing of­fi­cer from a much larger com­pany and opened two new of­fices on the West Coast, one in Ran­cho Cu­ca­monga, near Los An­ge­les, and an­other in Sacra­mento.

Such dar­ing moves, com­bined with some new ideas and a lit­tle luck, pro­pelled the busi­ness for­ward. The new COO, Todd Warner, pro­posed they get into truck driver staffing, a busi­ness he knew from his old com­pany. But un­like other temp work, the truck­ing busi­ness was trick­ier: The Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­quired all car­ri­ers and driver staffing com­pa­nies to main­tain records in­clud­ing 10 years of em­ploy­ment his­tory and re­cent drug test re­sults for each driver hired. The work­ers’ comp costs would be higher, too, be­cause of the added haz­ards of oper­at­ing trac­tor trail­ers. But the com­pet­i­tive field was less pop­u­lated and the mar­gins were bet­ter. The con­cept pig­gy­backed nicely with their ex­ist­ing work plac­ing tem­po­rary ware­house staff; they could pro­vide staff on both sides of the load­ing dock. Two weeks af­ter Mike and Tana hired Warner, they de­cided to go for it. They launched Road Dog Drivers in 2009.

Coty, as feared, can­celed its con­tract in 2010, and Strataforce lost money that year. But the de­ci­sion to ex­pand paid off: Road Dog’s busi­ness grew fast enough to make up for the drop-off. In two years, Tana and Mike re­cov­ered and then some.

Mean­while, Tana was look­ing for ways to boost the per­for­mance of her staff and the temps she hired. She got in­volved in craft­ing the com­pany’s core val­ues, and hav­ing em­ploy­ees do the Strength­sFin­der as­sess­ment.

Both Mike and Warner were skep­ti­cal. “I’d heard all the talk about mis­sion, vi­sion, and value state­ments, and I thought it was kind of hokey,” says Mike. “Todd would say, ‘There she goes with that witchcraft.’ ” But Tana per­sisted. They formed com­mit­tees around dif­fer­ent func­tions of the busi­ness, and got staff to sug­gest how to im­prove them. She ham­mered on val­ues and vi­sion, brain­storm­ing with Mike and Warner and delv­ing into her own life ex­pe­ri­ence. “They’re just words if you can’t con­nect the dots to your own story,” she says. They set­tled on four val­ues that felt truest to her: Never set­tle; if you say it, you’d bet­ter mean it and you’d bet­ter do it; dare to be dif­fer­ent; and see the awe­some­ness in oth­ers. Tana asked her col­leagues to dis­cuss how those val­ues played into their own lives, and to tell their sto­ries too.

“It be­came a reg­u­lar touchy-feely process, be­gin­ning from the job in­ter­view it­self,” says Mike. But soon enough, his skep­ti­cism eroded as he be­gan to see the re­sults. “It made a dis­cernible dif­fer­ence in the qual­ity of peo­ple we hired and the per­cent­age of peo­ple we re­tained,” he says. “Peo­ple started mak­ing de­ci­sions on their own.”

By 2015, the com­bined com­pa­nies had an­nual rev­enue of $49.9 mil­lion, more than dou­ble their 2012 sales. In 2016, sales in­creased again, to $65 mil­lion. Strataforce and Road Dog to­gether have 81 full-time em­ploy­ees, with 11 of­fices plac­ing drivers in 14 states and 10,000 tem­po­rary work­ers.

AS MIKE AP­PROACHED his 65th birth­day, he says, he started to think about re­tire­ment. Not Tana. Her am­bi­tions had only in­creased. The cou­ple had built a na­tional busi­ness, and she was look­ing for the next thing. What if, she asked, she started a com­pany that trans­formed an en­tire in­dus­try? The Road Dog busi­ness had sparked some ideas. De­spite the truck­ing in­dus­try’s oner­ous com­pli­ance re­quire­ments, car­ri­ers still hire lots of drivers as W-2 em­ploy­ees. The car­ri­ers feel the need to hire and “hold” drivers to en­sure that as de­mand ebbs and flows, there is al­ways a qual­i­fied, FMCSA- com­pli­ant per­son avail­able to go wher­ever.

“I felt like I was mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence made me feel more proud, and that gave me an ex­tra step of ex­cite­ment.”

Drivers, on the other side of the deal, are paid only for the hours they drive, so many sign on with mul­ti­ple car­ri­ers. Still, no mat­ter how many car­ri­ers they work for, they are left with lit­tle con­trol over their work­load or pay. They’re em­ployed, but of­ten find them­selves un­der­uti­lized with no set sched­ule and hav­ing to rely on what­ever is of­fered to them. Driver turnover at the car­ri­ers, as a re­sult, is strato­spheric. Truck­ing is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of an in­ef­fi­cient mar­ket­place.

Todd Warner had spit­balled an idea: What if the busi­ness worked an­other way? What if there were a plat­form where drivers could set up their own FMCSA-com­pli­ant driver file and any mo­tor car­rier could hire any ap­proved driver for any run? Tana imag­ined start­ing a busi­ness to usher in such a model. It would build an app that let drivers up­load their safety in­for­ma­tion. When they had avail­abil­ity for a trip, they could log on and find jobs that matched where and when they wanted to drive—rather than wait­ing for the car­ri­ers to call them. Mo­tor car­ri­ers would be as­sured that if drivers were on the plat­form, they were in com­pli­ance with FMCSA—no re-ver­i­fi­ca­tion re­quired.

Mike told Tana she would need to run this com­pany her­self. He wanted to re­tire. Tana dove in, de­spite the fact that this time, she wouldn’t

be sell­ing just to clients. She’d need to per­suade an­gel in­vestors to write her checks for sev­eral mil­lion dol­lars to get a startup go­ing. She wasn’t a Sil­i­con Val­ley wun­derkind. She was a mid­dleaged woman with no ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a tech com­pany.

At a party in the win­ter of 2014, Greene met Jef­frey Leck, co-founder of a bou­tique pri­vate eq­uity fund.

“She says, ‘You have to come in—I have this great busi­ness plan and I need some­one to back it,’ ” re­calls Leck as he shakes his head and rolls his eyes, mak­ing clear his reaction was “Sure, lady.”

Leck agreed to meet with her, but to fend her off, he showed her a Pow­erPoint deck de­scrib­ing the kinds of in­vest­ments his fund looked for: min­i­mum $2 mil­lion in ex­ist­ing cash flow and typ­i­cally around $10 mil­lion in rev­enue. In other words: not you. “I thought I had nailed the cof­fin shut pretty strongly af­ter about 30 min­utes,” Leck says.

As Leck spoke, Greene smiled, wait­ing pa­tiently. When he fin­ished, she showed a Pow­erPoint deck of her own. “I un­der­stand what you’re look­ing for, but this is re­ally a very dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­nity,” she told him. She out­lined what she saw: The in­ef­fi­ciency in the $726 bil­lion truck­ing in­dus­try is the cur­rent hir­ing sys­tem. If mo­tor car­ri­ers could hire ap­proved drivers quickly and eas­ily, and drivers could take jobs at their con­ve­nience, it would un­lock mil­lions of hours of un­tapped pro­duc­tiv­ity. She aimed to build the plat­form that would make the mar­ket. With her work at Road Dog, she was uniquely po­si­tioned to do so.

“She’s proved she can grow a com­pany,” says Leck. “It’s a prod­uct that ev­ery­body in the in­dus­try should use. Put those things to­gether, how can I not in­vest?”

Leck and his busi­ness part­ner John Kirt­ley be­came Greene’s co-founders, each putting in $1 mil­lion of his own money. They called the com­pany Blue Blood­hound. Greene started hir­ing a staff and seek­ing in­vestors for a Se­ries A.

“It’s funny. I didn’t call her to in­vest. I called her to do due dili­gence for my friend,” says Peter Bloom. “Af­ter 30 min­utes, I said, ‘Can I in­vest?’ She ar­tic­u­lated the mis­sion so clearly.” Any­one can hire tech ex­per­tise, Bloom thought, but it’s hard to find some­one with Greene’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the truck staffing world and her guts, lead­er­ship, and vi­sion.

Greene will need to de­ploy all of those qual­i­ties as she builds the com­pany, be­cause she and her co-founders face stiff in­dus­try head­winds. Early on, she signed about 25,000 drivers to Blue Blood­hound, an im­por­tant step. To build crit­i­cal mass, Greene hired staff to cold­call truck­ing com­pa­nies to see if they had avail­able jobs and then phone truck­ers to get them on the job. But car­ri­ers who hire drivers through Blue Blood­hound are still legally re­spon­si­ble for what hap­pens on the road and have been skit­tish about lean­ing on the plat­form.

This spring, Greene de­cided she had to jump-start the busi­ness. In March, she hired a new vice pres­i­dent of tech­nol­ogy to over­haul the plat­form. In May, she laid off seven of the com­pany’s 30 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing the head of mar­ket­ing and the cus­tomer ser­vice staff. To win the con­fi­dence of the mo­tor car­ri­ers, Greene asked the FMCSA to de­velop a spe­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for Blue Blood­hound. She is also seek­ing the im­pri­matur of in­dus­try in­flu­encers and plan­ning to ac­quire pro­fes­sional li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance.

She’s not giv­ing up on Blue Blood­hound—far from it. She’s just go­ing slow, not re­cruit­ing new drivers while the com­pany re­works an app to fit the needs of mo­tor car­ri­ers, drivers, and reg­u­la­tors. She com­pares it to her ear­li­est days in the staffing busi­ness, when she and Mike had to fig­ure out the nuts and bolts of cash flow af­ter the ship­yard con­tract.

Mean­while, Greene’s orig­i­nal busi­nesses con­tinue to grow. This year, Road Dog plans to open three new of­fices, in Hous­ton, near San Fran­cisco, and in Wash­ing­ton State. She’s rolling the Strataforce and Road Dog busi­nesses to­gether and nam­ing it Road Dog Crew, sell­ing truck staff on one side of the load­ing dock and ware­house work­ers on the other. Todd Warner runs daily ops for Strataforce/Road Dog while Greene fo­cuses on the startup. But even with these suc­cesses as bedrock, the challenges she’s fac­ing with Blue Blood­hound “hum­ble you be­yond be­lief,” she says. “It makes you question ev­ery­thing about your be­ing and your strength. It re­sets you to zero.

“But I wouldn’t have got­ten to the place I am, I wouldn’t be able to tol­er­ate what I’m tol­er­at­ing now, if I hadn’t got­ten self-as­sur­ance from all those past strug­gles,” says Greene. “It’s al­most like all those things that have hap­pened in my life have brought me to this place.”

“I called her to do due dili­gence for my friend,” says Peter Bloom. “Af­ter 30 min­utes, I said, ‘Can I in­vest?’ ”

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