Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Meet the Mid-Market CEO Award Winners

Since 1986, Chief Executive has honored outstanding CEOs with its annual Chief Executive of the Year award, a peer-driven award that has honored many extraordinary leaders, from Jack Welch and Bill Gates to Ann Mulcahy of Xerox and David Cote of Honeywell. Over the years, judges have tended to favor leaders of large, complex companies. Chief Executive felt it was time to honor outstanding, mid-market companies that deserve recognition. These enterprises are the backbone of the economy, generate tremendous growth and often become major, global firms in their own right.

Coyote Logistics: Excellence in Optimization

Leadership Lesson

“We bring in new employees in groups of 12 to 16 and I participate as much as I can in their training,” says Jeff Silver. “I try to get to know them. We have a database, but it’s better for me to get a sense of who they are, and it’s good for them to hear our story directly from me. Our people are really the critical piece of this. Our employees are on the phone with their customers carriers every day, interacting all different ways. The experience that anyone has when they interact with Coyote is really what dictates the future success of the company.”

Jeff Silver thought he left the trucking business for good in 1999. American Backhaulers, the company he’d help grow into the country’s second-largest third-party logistics company, had just been sold and Silver planned to retire at the ripe age of 37. Fortunately, after a seven-year hiatus—during which he collected an MBA, spent some time studying optimization logistics and parented his seven kids—he decided to jump back in.

“I looked for something else to do, but I never found another industry that had the same growth potential,” he explains, noting that an estimated $130 billion worth of “potentially outsourceable” transportation occurs in the U.S. every day. Huge amounts of freight moves across the country on a daily basis, many of it at far less than peak efficiency simply because trucks with excess capacity struggle to link up with the companies that need their services. “The basics of what we do is trying to find ways to put those two together,” says Silver.

That simple concept is at the heart of what is actually a very complicated logistics industry. Companies like Coyote use complex algorithms to manage on-land shipping and distribution for their customers—and this is the first of several areas in which Coyote excels. “I designed the software that runs our business on a day-to-day basis and I’ve been doing this my whole life,” explains Silver. “Most of our competitors have had IT people design their software, which means that it’s never optimized for what they do.”

“We find that kids who played college sports usually have a tremendous work ethic. They are competitive, but in a cooperative way; and they know that if you lose today, you have to come back and do it again tomorrow.”

While proprietary software provided an edge, it was Silver’s commitment to service that distinguished it from competitors early on. In 2006, when Coyote was launched, there were thousands of regional companies across the country but only one large business—C.H. Robinson, the company that had bought American Backhaulers. “The attitude across the industry was that you had to take the easy loads and give those that were problematic back to the customer or take care of them the next day,” explains Silver. “We took a different strategy.”

Silver tasked his team with moving every load the company committed to, regardless of difficulty. Often, the strategy meant spending more or working harder; but ultimately, it paid off. “The market was looking for another competitor,” he recounts. “When we came in and started delivering service that was in the high 90s when people were used to the low 80s, people converted right away.”

Behind this service edge is an ultra-committed work force, adds Silver, who makes a point of recruiting “people who have shown passion in all sorts of things” during their college lives. “We hire a very different type of person than most of our competitors,” he says. “We find that kids who played college sports usually have a tremendous work ethic. They are competitive, but in a cooperative way; and they know that if you lose today, you have to come back and do it again tomorrow. We care a lot more about what you did in college than we do about your GPA.”

The company also doesn’t rest on its laurels, instead continuing to reinforce its service mantra and refine its technology. It now employs a mobile app called Coyote Go, which helps the company track its drivers’ locations and supply them with dispatch information, improving efficiency by reducing the need for expensive and inefficient phone communication.

Such efforts have paid off over the past three years, with Coyote racking up a 139.7 percent growth rate compared to its industry average of 11.4 percent.

“Growth has been great,” says Silver. “There is a continued need in this difficult economy to find better solutions than what [have] been out there. Once someone tries us and we perform, it’s a done deal for us.” —Jennifer Pellet

Meet the Winners

Chuck Runyon, Co-Founder & CEO, Anytime Fitness

Steve LaBella, Founder & CEO, iSend

Jeff Silver, Founder & CEO, Coyote Logistics


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.