After beginning her business career under the leadership of her grandparents, Wendy Fletcher-Hardee followed in their footsteps and opened her logistics business in 2004. With modest growth and an entrepreneurial spirit, she opened Atlantic Coast Trucking, Inc. in 2006, providing local as well as long distance transportation services for well known customers such as Butterball, ConAgra, Kraft and J & J Snack Foods.
Adding multi temp warehouse distribution has allowed a continued growth of a multi-million-dollar business. Becoming a certified women-owned business has provided opportunities for us to expand our exposure to other major companies. Wendy is proud to be a SBA-8M Certified Woman Owned Business, DBE – Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and NCDOT HUB member.
In 2017, Wendy expanded with Atlantic Coast Trucking by adding a fleet of dump trucks.
Wendy’s most recent endeavor was to open Atlantic Coast Mulch and Stone in Holly Ridge offering top of the line mulch, soil and rock products.
Being diverse is just one of the many strategies her grandparents taught her. Don’t settle, get a good education and believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything.
Wendy says she owes her success to her Grandmother especially because she invested in her with lots of time, undivided attention and acres of love. Wendy also has a degree in Nursing and uses her experiences everyday to apply her quick assessment skills to her “ER on Wheels”. Nominated for 2015 WBE Trailblazer of the Year Award by the Greater Women’s Business Council.
Wendy is married to husband Brian, a mother of 2, her son Andrew and daughter Ashley and they are her heart beat. Wendy believes in paying it forward by mentoring to young women and has been a volunteer assistant volleyball coach for 12 years. What we invest today will be reflected tomorrow. She feels her greatest accomplishment is molding and shaping success in others.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this is going to be a good one. Today, we have with us Wendy Fletcher-Hardee, and she’s with Atlantic Coast Trucking. Welcome, Wendy.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:00:29] Good morning. How are you?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] I am doing well. I’m excited to learn all about Atlantic Coast Trucking. What are you up to? How are you serving folks?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:00:35] We are serving folks in many different capacities. I started in the trucking business back in 2006, and was given an opportunity by my grandparents who raised me. And I went to school to be a nurse. And after about eight years of doing that, I decided that I was going to trade my 3/12s for working seven days a week and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:05] So, now, how has the trucking industry evolved since that time? I would imagine with technology, it’s kind of a different industry now.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:01:13] It has changed greatly with the introduction of electronic logs a few years ago. It has greatly changed the way that we do business, but it’s been for the good. Definitely you can track where your loads are on any given time. It’s a minute-by-minute update that you can give your customers. So, the tracking of your load is readily available, which makes it very nice. There’s no doubt of where the load is at any given time. And the customer definitely wants that minute-by-minute notice so that you can give that up to the minute service.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:54] Now, in the trucking industry, what are some things that maybe a layperson doesn’t appreciate? I think we take it for granted that there’s trucks and that my stuff has to go from point A to point B. But what are some things that you’d like to educate the average consumer about when it comes to the importance of the trucking industry?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:02:14] I think one of the things that the layperson may not understand is the time and the effort that it takes to get something either from the farm to the table, or from production to warehouse, or to the retail location. There’s a lot of backroom planning. There’s a lot of time and energy that goes in to, as you would say, logistically planning to get something from point A to point B. That the customer has absolutely no idea what it took to get that from the warehouse or the distribution point actually to either the grocery store or to the warehouse where they may actually purchase the product from.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:02] And isn’t this happening now, I would imagine, with the advent of so much new technology is that it’s becoming more and more efficient, which requires more and more kind of technology to help it become more efficient. And that makes it more complex, I would imagine.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:03:18] Yes, it does. Absolutely. It used to be a time of where warehouses kept an enormous amount of stock on-hand. And then, the change came to just-in-time delivery. And, now, especially with the pandemic we have going on, trying to keep any kind of stock has become an enormous challenge. And everybody has kind of tried to go back to stocking their shelves on a 24-hour basis, which is a challenge for everybody.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:54] So, like, the service that you’re providing for your clients, where do you come into play? Are you the actual trucks? Are you the logistics? Kind of the management? Are you the technology? Like, kind of where do you fit into this puzzle?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:04:10] Well, we are a full service transportation business. We not only offer the logistical side where we have a brokerage firm that arranges transportation for our customers, but we also are an asset based company where we have our own trucks that we can provide the transportation from our customer to the actual retail facility. So, we offer a full service business that we can arrange the transportation for an outside vendor or we can put it on our own trucks and deliver it directly to the customer.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:50] Now, do you work in certain industries? Are there certain types of things that you’re typically delivering? Or it can be anything?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:04:57] We have, actually, two different modes of delivery that we do. We have a refrigerated division that delivers goods all over the country. And we also have a fleet of dump trucks that we deliver rock, asphalt, and sand to our customers.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:18] Now, during the pandemic, you mentioned that, I would imagine, in a lot of areas demand has been through the roof and insane, in some cases, and maybe even unreasonable. And I’m sure as we get into the holiday season, that same level of unreasonableness is going to rear its head again. Are you seeing that?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:05:38] It has been.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:38] Like, how do you manage the expectations? I mean, it seems like the consumer, at least, has these expectations of I want it when I want it. And they’re not really appreciating how many moving parts go into getting something somewhere.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:05:54] The demands are unreasonable. And we have laws that are governing what we can and what we can’t do. Thanks to electronic logs, there are no paper logs that most of us have to comply with. Unless, there are some other regulations that are exceptions to those rules. If you have an older piece of equipment, you can fall under those rules. But majority of people are using electronic logs that stipulate what you can and what you can’t do, and how long you can operate, how long you can run. The demands are through the roof. We are in the process of adding some more trucks to our fleet as we speak because of the demands. But the expectation is through the roof.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:06:47] And we’ve learned over the years – this is our 16th year of being in business – just being upfront and honest. The loads are evolving up until the time that the doors are shut and the product leaves the facility. But having constant communication with the receiver, letting them know where you are, how you’re going to get there. Sometimes there are delays that are beyond your control. But I learned very early on just being upfront and honest with your customer and keeping in constant contact with them will get you very far.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:22] Now, your business, I would imagine, is growing pretty rapidly because of the demand and the services you provide. Is this something that you need more trucks, you need more truckers? Like, what is kind of the bottleneck that would help you grow even more?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:07:43] It’s a twofold, honestly. There are a lot of independent truckers out there who like to be able to manage their own and do their own thing. So, our brokerage business has done very well, and so we are able to offer service in that regard. And then, having our own fleet where we can control and manage some of the more difficult services that we offer, multi-drop loads, being able to service more facilities on one truck, making more stops. Your individual truckers typically don’t want to take those loads. So, we put those on our trucks that supplies a demand for our customer. So, we’re able to give both of those and it helps on both sides. It helps the individual trucker, we have loads that supply their needs. And then, we do the more difficult things with our trucks. So, it helps everybody all the way around.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:50] Now, having seen the industry evolve over the years, as you have, what’s been kind of the most rewarding part for you in leading this company?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:08:59] The most rewarding thing for me is I love solving problems. I don’t call them problems. I’m a solution finder and a solution maker. And everything is not a problem, but it’s an opportunity. And through COVID, through the pandemic, there have been lots of, not only challenges, but an enormous amount of opportunity. And being able to take the challenges that have been put for us, before all of us, the shortfall that has happened in manufacturing because not as many people have been able to come to work, the demand has greatly increased. But the amount of supply has greatly decreased because not as many people have been able to come to work. So, when you don’t have as many people working in manufacturing, the amount of product that’s produced is greatly decreased.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:09:57] So, just being able to work around those obstacles, coming up with good solutions, being able to build better loads, that put things in better perspective. Which also comes in with the amount of planning, logistically planning, so that we aren’t wasting time and miles being able to get product to customers as swiftly as we can with the best amount of planning so that people aren’t having to be without. Those are the things I love being able to do. And I think my experience has greatly come in handy in that regard. A lot of common sense, a lot of planning, enormous amount of planning has gone into being able to put all that together. And it makes people happy, that’s the part I love being able to do. You’d be amazed at what people smile about these days, and I love that part of it.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:56] And, to me, it’s almost like three dimensional chess. You have to be like this mega problem solver to be able to understand how all these pieces are going to fit together, and how the puzzle is going to look at the end, and what you have to do to make that happen. It’s a lot of brainpower to be good at what you do.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:11:16] Yes, sir. It is. It’s an enormous amount of brainpower and it’s an enormous amount of communication. A lot of time spent on the phone, a lot of time looking at a map, a lot of time understanding who has what supplies and where we need to go to get those, being able to formulate a plan together and then put it all together. One of the things I’ve always said is, my nursing degree has helped me enormously by being able to look at a situation, then formulate a plan, and then put it into action. That’s part of the nursing process. And that’s one of the biggest ways that I feel like my business has grown and I’ve been able to do the things I’ve been able to do, is, take that experience and then be able to put it on the road.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:10] Now, talk about the GWBC and becoming a certified woman business owner. Why was that important to you? And how has this organization helped you in your career?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:12:21] I had been in business for several years before I actually became a certified woman in business. Roz Lewis has been a very instrumental part in me doing some of the things that I’ve been able to do. 2015, actually, a customer of mine suggested that I certify my business. And at the time, I didn’t really see the significance of it, but I went ahead with the process. It is a lengthy process, but it’s so well worth it. The relationships that I’ve developed, the networking that has come along with it. Just being able to have some of those conversations, you never know who you’re going to meet, who you’re going to get in the elevator with, especially back before COVID happened. And you could go to conferences, being able to give your elevator pitch, a 30 second conversation, you had no idea what impact that could have.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:13:29] 2015 served such an impact for me. I was given an opportunity to be in their mentor protege program. I was nominated for Trailblazer of the Year. I graduated from the Wells Fargo School of Business. And I will always, always be a ambassador for the Greater Womens Business Council because it set me apart leaps and bounds. If you’re willing to show up, you will go up, but you got to put the work into it.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:05] Yeah. That’s a great lesson for the young folks that are listening, that, it’s one thing to join an organization and be a member. But the people that really benefit are the ones who kind of lean into it, and immerse themselves in it, and really serve the organization. And you get out what you put in and you have to do the work. There’s no shortcut. There’s no organization out there that just by joining you win. Like, you win by showing up and doing the work.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:14:35] Absolutely. And that’s true with anything in life, you’re only going to get out of it what you’re willing to put into it. And they have so many good programs, so many opportunities. Even with the pandemic that’s happening and you’re not able to meet in person, they had so many good opportunities of just hosting lots of different things for you to be able to come together and network with other people. But even virtually, they have a lot of things that they’re offering now.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:15:10] If I could give advice to anybody, whether you’re new to the program, you’re seasoned in the program, you have no idea who is going to be virtually on there with you. It could be a senior executive with BMW that’s looking for somebody that needs loads of parts moved. I just got an email about that not too long ago. So, you just never know who’s going to be on there. But if you don’t show up, you will not have any idea of what the opportunity is that’s laying before you. So, show up so that you can have an opportunity to go up.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:53] Now, in your business, how do you kind of look into the future and plan for next year? There’s so many kind of variables. How do you even kind of forecast? Are you kind of optimistic about the coming years?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:16:09] Well, you can be in business and not be optimistic. So, I always say that the glass is half full. It’s never half empty. It’s all in how you want to look at things. There are challenges, no doubt whatsoever. The State of North Carolina as a whole is experiencing a huge shortfall right now with the Department of Transportation, which is the part where my fleet of dump trucks greatly operated.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:16:37] And so, where COVID has greatly increased one part of my business, which is Atlantic Mulch and Stone, where people were stuck at home and, you know, “What am I going to do? I want to be outside. The weather’s been nice so let me do some yard work.” So, that part of my business has greatly flourished. But my fleet of dump trucks have been greatly compromised because we aren’t doing any road work, because the state doesn’t have a whole lot of money. We generate our revenue through road tax. And when people were forced to be at home, every month that people were having to work at home, we were losing over $100 million. So, when my money is generated through road tax and people were forced to stay at home, it greatly impacts our budget and projects that need to be moved along. Those projects are being forced to be done later.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:17:38] So, we’ve been impacted in a twofold way, one a good and one a not so good. But I’m optimistic. Hopefully with the new vaccine that’s just come out, our local area, tomorrow, will receive its first round of vaccines. I have an employee here whose husband is a paramedic and he’s going to get the vaccine. So, we’re optimistic in every way that we can be. We have to be. Nobody here wants to get down and out. We’ve been down and out enough. So, we’re looking up and, hopefully, things are going to turn around.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:16] Yeah. I think that says a lot about your team and I think entrepreneurs as a whole. We’re pretty resilient folks. I mean, we are always looking at ways to solve the problem, not to be the problem.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:18:28] Amen.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:28] Now, Wendy, if somebody wanted to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on your team about their logistics or trucking needs, what’s the website?
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:18:38] It is atlanticcoasttruckinginc.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:44] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:18:48] Thank you for the opportunity. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And I look forward to the coming year and the opportunities that we’ve been given. We have been greatly blessed 16 years and continuing to grow. And I look forward to what the New Year brings for us. It’s going to be a good year. It’s got to be better than 2020.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:14] Amen to that. Thank you again, Wendy, for sharing your story.
Wendy Fletcher-Hardee: [00:19:17] Yes, sir. Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:18] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
GWBC® has partnered with dozens of major companies who are committed to providing a sustainable foundation through our guiding principles to bring education, training and the standardization of national certification to women businesses in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.