When he arrived in Overland Park, Kan., last July, James Welch began his plan to restart YRC Worldwide by cleaning house at the holding company, starting at the top.
Gone in short order were the chief operating officer, chief marketing officer, chief administrative officer and chief customer officer. The chief accounting officer, Paul Liljegren, left last week, his departure part of a process aimed at making YRC Worldwide a more traditional holding company for its operating subsidiaries.
“One of the first things I wanted to do was to tear down this whole holding company that I felt was way too involved with the operating companies,” Welch said.
YRC Worldwide had come to be “almost disruptive” in the way it exercised control over YRC Freight, New Penn, Holland and Reddaway, he said. Eliminating duplicative management layers put the subsidiaries back in the driver’s seat.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” said T.J. O’Connor, president and CEO of Clackamas, Ore.-based Reddaway. “We’ve moved decisions closer to customers now,” said Steven D. Gast. “When James arrived, he said, ‘Freight is not a dirty word.’ When you think of that and the rebranding of YRC Freight, you see a theme. We’re truckers. Let’s focus on that and do it well and make customers happy.”
“I like to say that James got the clutter out of our way so we can actually execute our business,” YRC Freight President Jeff Rogers said. Under the prior management, “there was so much interaction (between the holding company and YRC Freight) that I don’t know that anybody could have been successful in my role here.”
With the regional carriers running profitably, Welch focuses much of his attention on YRC Freight. He put Rogers, who turned Holland around after the carrier stumbled while expanding in 2008, in charge of YRC Freight last September.
Welch left YRC Worldwide and Yellow Transportation in 2007 “categorically opposed” to Yellow-Roadway merger, which left the national carrier “like a rudderless ship,” he said. “Yellow was a good company, Roadway was a good company, and they made one bad company out of them. The carriers were mish-mashed together without a clear sense of what we wanted this company to be.”
Welch has a very clear sense of what he wants YRC Freight and YRC Worldwide to be: a North American, LTL trucking operator. YRC has sold assets that aren’t core to its LTL operations, such as truckload carrier Glen Moore and Chinese trucker Shanghai Jiayu Logistics. “We only want to keep assets that help us focus on North American LTL,” Welch said. “Freight is what we do best. Hell, we invented LTL.”