Where in the world are Jim and Niki Stamm?

Nov 04, 2008

Atlas chairman to retire.

They might be somewhere in the great southwest, tooling across the desert. Perhaps they're taking in an awesome vista as they cross the continental divide. Or, maybe they're sitting by the fire in a rustic New England restaurant, swapping stories with fellow travelers.

Like the famously itinerant Carmen Sandiego, Jim and Nicki Stamm will soon embark on a great adventure. Jim, Atlas World Group Chairman, will exit the top post in February 2009 after more than 20 years with the company. And he's stepping down in style, right into a tricked-out Newmar Essex Diesel Pusher.

"It's 45 feet long," says Jim. "I figure that gives us enough room when we need our space...like when I get under Nicki's skin."

During the winter months, the two will dock their land yacht in Port St. Lucie, Florida. When the rest of the country warms up, they'll follow their whims to whatever destination suits them.

"We've been to every state and all the provinces...and the only sights we've seen are hotels and airports and meeting rooms," says Jim. "So, for the first two or three years, we plan to wander around North America. And, if we ever see snow, we'll know we've made a wrong turn."


Jim wasn't always averse to snow. He grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he logged thousands of miles snowmobiling. Arriving in Evansville in 1987, he and Nicki parked the family's snowmobiles in the driveway. "When a neighbor asked if they were a new kind of jet ski, I knew I'd brought the wrong toys to the wrong climate."

It may have been the wrong climate for snow but, as it turns out, it was the right environment for an experienced logistics pro with a gift for organization and the drive to excel.

Jim traces the decisions that influenced his success back to his college experience and a first year that was less than stellar. After indulging in buckets of freshman fun, Jim followed his dad's advice and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served three years, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. "It was my four-year degree," says Jim. "One year at IU and three at USMC."


Back in civvies, Jim essayed a couple of factory stints. He found the jobs less than challenging, if more than a bit stifling. In 1968, he went to work as a dispatcher in the Special Products division of North American Van Lines.

"1968 was the second year for the salmon run in Michigan," Jim recalls. "My only goal was to earn enough money that summer for a long fishing trip in northern Michigan. But a funny thing happened. I liked my job."

Jim liked it so much that he stayed 17 years. During that time, he was promoted to Vice President of Sales before rising to Senior Vice President of Transportation Services in the Commercial Truckload division. When opportunity hailed from the west, Jim relocated to Salt Lake City to join Ryder Freight Systems as Senior Vice President of Transportation and Administrative Services. It turned out not to be the opportunity he had hoped for. He made his third and final career move to Atlas Van Lines, stepping in as President of the SP division in 1987. "I'm a real job-hopper," Jim quips. "I've had three during my 40 years in this industry."

Jim was at the helm of the SP Division when it morphed into Atlas STG, bringing special products, commercial truckload and international business together in 1991. In January 2000, Jim became President and COO of Atlas Van Lines. Subsequent promotions took him to President and COO of Atlas World Group, then Vice Chairman and COO. In September of 2007, he was named CEO and in January of this year he was named Chairman. He will maintain the office of Chairman until he officially retires in February 2009.

His tenure has spanned the good and not-so-good times. Through it all, he has seen in Atlas a remarkable example of what people can do when they work together.


"When we were owned by Wesray, there was unrest in our agency family," recalls Jim. "When we bought Atlas back in 1988, we had nothing. The disciplines we had to learn are many. To the credit of our people, we did it. We created a steady rise in revenue and profit and, more important, in quality." He points to a recent example – ISO 9001 certification for Atlas Van Lines earlier this year. "We've done what's needed for us to validate our superior quality and ensure that it continues."

He feels confident, too, in the quality of the leaders who succeed him. Glen Dunkerson takes over as Chairman and CEO; Greg Hoover becomes President and COO.

"Watching the management of this organization grow has given me great satisfaction," says Jim. "Atlas is fortunate to have Glen and Greg, capable men who bring knowledge and leadership for the future. The three of us have prepared for the transition, and I am confident they will do well for the company."

"Anybody can manage in easy times. A true test comes in difficult times. While our numbers are not where we would like, we've done well this year – we've grown market share, and we are outperforming our competitors in all lines of business."

Jim's last day with Atlas is February 27, his birthday. He and Nicki have already cleared the biggest hurdle for a timely departure by divesting themselves of bricks and mortar. "We listed our home early, but it sold in 17 days," says Jim. For now, they are enjoying a loft apartment in downtown Evansville.

Eventually, Jim and Nicki plan to again put down roots. It will no doubt be where the climate agrees, the golf is good, the fish are jumping and the vistas beckon pleasant motorcycling. Until that day, one can only wonder:

Where in the world are Jim and Nicki Stamm?

A Guy Who 'Got Things Done'

stamm-podium"Jim was absolutely excellent as COO," says retired Atlas CEO and Chairman Mike Shaffer. "He has one characteristic in particular that is rare and valuable in a corporate culture – he is a guy who got things done. Once a course of action was agreed, you could turn him loose and know it would happen."

Mike was heading up RSG Operations when Jim joined Atlas. He soon saw firsthand why the company had recruited him.

"When Jim was brought aboard, it was to give us some direction in specialized transportation," says Mike. "He saw that Atlas was ripe for expansion, and his expertise was critical in getting us to become a player in that arena."

Mike remembers a simple message Jim crafted to help Atlas agents better understand the opportunities available to them.

"Jim saw an analogy in McDonald's restaurants," says Mike. "For years, the fast-food retailer didn't open for business until lunch. Then it added a breakfast menu and realized a whole new potential for business. Jim pointed out that Atlas already had the infrastructure and resources for new business – he said we just needed to 'open for breakfast'."

Jim also played a key role in bringing Atlantic Relocation Systems into the Atlas system – the largest-ever agent conversion in the history of Atlas.

"He knew Ted Alger (Atlantic Relocation Systems Chairman & CEO) well," says Mike. "Jim brought a lot of credibility as the one heading up Atlas' SP division."

Atlas World Group executives Glen Dunkerson and Greg Hoover found they had much to learn from Jim.

"When Jim joined Atlas, few of us realized how strong-willed he was until we had direct dealings with him," says Glen. "I saw in Jim a smart and complex man from whom I could learn a great deal about our industry. If I had to describe Jim with one word, it would be passionate. He feels deeply about everything he undertakes. Whether in business or personal life, Jim is absolutely determined to find out more and do the best he can."

"When I consider my relationship with Jim over the years, the best thing about it was our ability to hash out differences – sometimes heatedly – and come to a more soundly developed conclusion," says Greg. "That is valuable to any relationship, but especially between a mentor and student. Jim can be demanding, but there is no one who will be more firmly in your corner."

Such qualities earned the respect of Atlas agents and board members, too.

"Jim brought Atlas a tremendous amount of knowledge that helped us grow in the specialized transportation area," says Atlas Board Member Don Hill. "His business savvy has been important to many of our acquisitions, and to our continued success through several leadership transitions. Atlas owes Jim a lot of thanks for all he has done."

"Jim is one of the best executives Atlas has ever had the privilege to employ," says Atlas Board Member John Westerberg. "He is straightforward, knows his stuff, and presents challenges and problems clearly so they can be understood. Atlas has been very fortunate to have him."

"Jim brought a keen understanding of operations and a vision of how Atlas could be more than just a carrier with a special products division," says Atlas Board Member Todd Winter. "Among his accomplishments, he played an important role in the conversion of Atlantic Relocation to the Atlas philosophies. I wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement."





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