Rick O'Dell doesn't shy away from a challenge. He lost his dad when he was only 19 and admits he had to grow up fast. His career has been on the fast-track, as well. O'Dell, who's been in the trucking industry for three decades, is CEO of the now profitable Atlanta-based Saia LTL Freight, which posts $1.27 billion in annual revenue and employs 9,000 workers covering 34 states. His advice for younger workers is succinct.
"I was a middle-management person in 1995," O'Dell began. "By 1999, I was made the president of a company with more than $300 million in annual revenue. That's pretty crazy.
"You can't always define your career path. But you can do your job, gain experience, sign up for projects and get exposure. That will create opportunities."
Keith Parker | CEO, MARTA
In high school, Keith Parker participated in Junior ROTC and became president of the Gentlemen Athletes and Scholars organization. The experience he gained by taking part in those high school groups has helped to define the leader Parker is today. He spoke about that.
"I learned that if you can lead a group where you have no ability to punish or reward people, but you can still get them to do things, then you can do anything," said Parker. "I tell that to young managers all the time. If you ever have to say to someone, "I'm your supervisor, so you must do what I just told you to do," then you've already lost. Your leadership is compromised.
"It is much more important to be true to your word and for people to see the way you conduct yourself to deliver results. That's the reason they'll follow you."