Paying Attention Pays off for Andra Rush
Paying attention has been a key for Andra Rush. As a nursing school graduate she was paying attention when other nurses complained about unfair treatment and decided she wanted to do something about it—so she enrolled in the University of Michigan’s MBA program so she could do something about how employees were treated. As she completed her business courses and continued to work as a nurse, she was paying attention when a patient described his experience in the transport business. The business sounded intriguing, and so, with minimal experience and minimal resources, Rush took a risk and started her own trucking business. She scraped together the funds to buy three trucks by borrowing money from family and using her credit cards. She specialized in emergency shipping and accepted every job that came her way, even if it meant driving the trucks herself. She answered phones, balanced her books, and even repaired the trucks. She paid attention to her customers and made a point of exceeding their expectations regardless of the circumstances. When the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, shut down local bridges, Rush rented a barge to make sure a crucial shipment for DaimlerChrysler made it to its destination on time.
Rush continues to pay attention and credits her listening skills as a major reason for her success. Rush is distinct in the traditionally white male–dominated trucking industry—a woman and a minority (Rush is Native American) who credits her heritage and the “enormous strength” of her Mohawk grandmother for helping her prevail:
It is entirely possible that my Native spirit, communicated to me by my grandmother and my immediate family, have enabled me to overcome the isolation, historical prejudice, and business environment viewed as a barrier to Native- and woman-owned businesses. The willingness to listen, to understand first, and act directly and honestly with integrity is a lesson and code of conduct my elders have bequeathed to me. Being an entrepreneur has reinforced those lessons again and again.
Her Mohawk heritage is pervasive. Rush’s company logo is a war staff with six feathers representing the Six Nations of the Iroquois: Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Seneca. She believes in the power of a diverse workforce; as a result more than half of the 390 employees at Rush Trucking are women, and half are minorities.
Rush keeps close tabs on her company and its employees. Though the company has grown from its humble three-truck beginning to a fleet of 1,700 trucks, Rush still takes time to ride along with drivers. She has provided educational programs like “The Readers’ Edge,” a literacy program, to improve the skills and lives of her employees. Rush is actively involved in several organizations that work to improve the position of minorities—she’s on the boards of directors of the Michigan Minority Business Development Council, the Minority Enterprise Development/ Minority Business Development Agency, and the Minority Business Roundtable, and she has served as president of the Native American Business Alliance.
Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2015). Leadership: enhancing the lessons of experience (pp. 270-271). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
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