Craig Fuller | Freight Trucking, Fundraising Strategies, and Transitioning To Virtual Events

Craig Fuller is the Founder and CEO of FreightWaves, a leading provider of global supply chain market intelligence news. The company provides supply chain organizations with fundamental data and context that help benchmark, analyze, monitor, and forecast activity, pricing, and risks in the global freight market. Prior to FreightWaves, Craig was the Founder of TransCard, a major provider of fleet fuel and debit cards. He is also a pilot, the CEO Flying Magazine, and was named CEO of the Year in 2013 by Finance Monthly Magazine.

Craig Fuller, the Founder and CEO of FreightWaves, joins John Corcoran in this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast to share his experience working in the freight trucking business. Craig also discusses the experience of getting fired by his father, the fundraising lessons he has learned over the years, his passion for flying, and how the pandemic impacted his business.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Craig Fuller’s experience working with his father and how getting fired affected their relationship
  • How Craig started his own business
  • The fundraising lessons Craig has learned over the years
  • How the pandemic impacted Craig’s business
  • Craig’s passion for flying and his journey to becoming the CEO of Flying Magazine
  • The peers Craig acknowledges for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome everyone, John Corcoran here and the host of this show. And if you’ve listened this program before, then, you know I love to push people to the archives, check out our archives, because we got some great CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs that we’ve interviewed over the years from Netflix to Kinkos, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, go check those out. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest here today, interestingly, I just was following his content on Twitter. He was sharing some good content on there, check them out, learn a little bit about him. It looked like it really interesting guys build an amazing business. The name is Craig Fuller, he is the CEO and Founder of FreightWaves, which is a leading provider of global supply chain market intelligence and news. One of these companies that’s really doing an interesting job of providing content online and turning it into a business. They also have been in event space for a long time. Prior to that he was the founder of TransCards, a major provider of fleet fuel and debit cards came up. It was grown grew grew up literally in the freight industry, trucking industry. So we’ll talk about that. He’s also the CEO Flying Magazine, a pilot, I’ve got aviation in my background. So that was of interest to me as well. And we’ll talk about that he lives with his wife and five kids in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’ve only got four so I’m envious. Get one more than I do. My wife always says that five is crazy. I’m like you got four kids. It’s not. Anyways, this is brought to you of course by our company Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing, and you can learn more about it at Alright, Craig, let’s start here. So you said you grew up in the freight business. Your father had built a business in the industry, you actually got fired by your father, not the first guest of mine who said that that happened to them. What did you do? What do you do?

Craig Fuller 2:28

Dad? It was so it would have been so I had left the trucking business my dad started. So my dad in 1985 started the trucking business, which is now one of the top five truckload carriers United States. And so I had worked with a family business in many ways. It was sort of like a sibling, because our life and our family was sort of identified by this thing that was living, but it was a business. And so I had grown up in it. But I decided I didn’t want to work for my brother who was sort of taking over the trucking company. So I, there was a subdivision of my dad’s company, which did payment processing fuel cards for their own trucks. And I had this business plan to go take it outside of the company and scale up, which we did. And for nine years, we were growing, but we had self funded the business and put about $40 million of capital, my dad’s money into it. And it had gotten to the point where it was grown really quickly, but we had not taken any outside capital. And he would fund it literally every week, I’d call him and say, We need $200,000 for payroll, or 100,000, for this piece of technology or this project. And he got into a cash crunch. And we I wanted to go raise capital, he didn’t. And it became a pretty toxic environment, because he literally didn’t know how we’re going to make payroll. And it was just very, we’re sort of bouncing things around. And I, he and I just had a pretty big impasse, and he fired me, he told me not show up at work anymore. And I had put everything in the business that I had as well and didn’t have any money. I had a little bit enough to survive. So it wasn’t like on the streets. But I had to liquidate everything, I ended really quickly because because that came as a

John Corcoran 4:10

surprise. And this was like it was this seven or eight years into the business

Craig Fuller 4:14

would be this would been nine years into 2014.

John Corcoran 4:17

So I’ll have to say most of the time I hear a story about someone getting fired by their father, who was the business owner, a mother who’s a business owner. It’s like when they were like 15 or 16 This is no

Craig Fuller 4:27

this was 30 Gosh, I’d think back I would have been 3038 3738 years old. What

John Corcoran 4:37

was that? Like was Why is devastating professionally, but also personally.

Craig Fuller 4:42

Yeah, I mean, my dad was an active in the business, but he was the one find it and he ultimately we didn’t have an outside board. He was the board member. It’s the golden rule. It’s he who has the gold rules and that’s pretty much the way it worked. And you know, I was a I was an aggressive founder and most of my life revolved around the business and unfortunately, that guy kind of out. And the problem was, I couldn’t go tell people why I couldn’t sort of share my side of the story because a lot of it had to do with the company being out of basically out of money. And you can’t, I didn’t want to destroy what I had helped build. And so I sort of got, like, sent out on the island, if you will. And it was it was very personally painful. But also I didn’t know what to do, I always thought and sort of give a you know, as a business family, I’d never felt in business. And I consider this a big, big failure of mine.

John Corcoran 5:32

And so I have to also say, CEO of the Year in 2013, by Finance Monthly Magazine, to go from that to then being fired a year later, just got it.

Craig Fuller 5:42

So it, but I went to Dallas, and I sort of went off the grid of sorts, and sort of you know, I think there’s a great saying, there was a founder who started the business during age, and I can’t, he ran an e-commerce business. And we watched this video where he was talking to students, and he said, When your company goes bankrupt, your ego goes bankrupt. And while trans card had not gone bankrupt, it certainly was on the brink of bankruptcy. As far as I was concerned, my 10 year was bankrupt. At that point, and I just sort of disappeared, and I was in many ways didn’t didn’t have a real view on what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I had writer’s block, I think it’d be the right term or entrepreneur block. And I didn’t have the self confidence to sort of get back up. And it took me a year to sort of get back into the game, if you will. And it was great. Because I did it without my dad, which was the first sort of real first time in my life that I had to do something without that sort of safety net of, of my father, and my family being around it, and you’d

John Corcoran 6:45

like Prince Harry or the freight industry?

Craig Fuller 6:47

Well, I’m not going to write a book I don’t I’m not gonna sit there and just throw shade. And Phil sort of self loathing I. But there’s certainly elements of that where you growing up in a family, especially a high profile family, that you sort of identify part of that. But there’s also negativity that comes with it. But I’m not here to talk about all the negative elements, because, frankly, there’s an enormous amount of benefits from it.

John Corcoran 7:10

Can I ask you, though? It must have been hard on your relationship to how did you work on repairing it? Or did you work on repairing it later?

Craig Fuller 7:20

Oh, we’re great. My dad and I talk like to have a fantastic relationship probably never been better. In some ways, I’ve sort of broken out of the, I wouldn’t say there’s a control element, because that sort of looks like my dad is sort of has this element of narcissism. That’s not what I’m suggesting. But it’s more to do with the fact that I think, you know, successful entrepreneurs, you know, are in many ways successful because they, they believe that they can not only provide for their family provide great opportunities for the family. And when that was no longer available to me, nor would it would I expect that in the future, in many ways, that relationship became quite different. Now, it took a while to get there. And it took my own successes. My dad said you should never be a CEO. Should you can’t handle the stress, you should never start a company. And words, well, it was at the time. But now I’ve proven that I don’t eight eat him and be he’s wrong.

John Corcoran 8:20

So he said them intentionally because he knew that no, I really

Craig Fuller 8:24

believe that I was I was completely useless in his mind. You know, trucking is a cash flow business, you had bootstrapped this business. And it was, you know, a $2 billion company that was bootstrapped demand, you know, it was pretty big. But it’s is a business that generates cash flow, and it sort of operates the way traditional businesses do. And when you’re running a technology business, like trans card, it requires a lot of capital. And as you scale it requires it consumes capital, because you have to make and it was not in the cloud. The whole technology stack was brick and mortar racks, if you will servers. And so you have to go by problem is we had as we scaled the business, we had to just consume our capital to sort of to build the infrastructure. And we outran our ability to sell fun that and so the problem was that he never understood that he always felt businesses should cash flow and that you shouldn’t be in a cash deficit business. But I had ambitions of growing this fast growing technology business and all of a sudden people grow in it. And we were burning more cash than we had. And so I think for him in his mind, I was a really bad CEO because if you’re running a cash flow business, I hadn’t cashflow the business and so in his mind, I was not a good I was not a good choice for before any to run a company, if you will. And so it’s okay, like it turned out I spent sort of two years sort of figuring out what I wanted to do did some consulting and then I had had a little bit of money so it wasn’t like I had nothing but I had a little bit of money. And I took up day trading i e gambling in the stock market. Okay, I was really bad at it. And I was gambling on trucking stocks. Because I felt like I knew the trucking industry at the time, my dad’s business was not public. So it wasn’t like I was trading his stock. But the thing about Trucking is, is a commodity. And I was day trading, unsuccessfully. But one thing that became very apparent was that there wasn’t any good data sources in the freight market just wasn’t real time data, you can go to any commodity market in the world, oil, nat gas, even, you know, crypto today, there’s all these data and news services that provide sort of real time information about what’s happening. And it just didn’t exist. And so I had this epiphany to go create a data and information service business, in the trucking business. And that was sort of how I went about it. So my dad, certainly my family’s Foundation have given me an understanding of how the freight market works is, you know, I is absolutely credit to my dad, and having that opportunity to sort of grow up in it. But I also, you know, it didn’t was didn’t have the opportunity, nor did I tried raise money for my father and went out and raised money through venture capitalist, and with just a PowerPoint presentation, and that was just how it got started was had this plan. And, and that was sort of 2016 how we got going,

John Corcoran 11:15

there must have been a new world for you then not having done that before starting this new endeavor. Sure. You grew up in the in the family was the family business, in a sense. But what was that like in the early days when you’re,