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An old-fashioned industry with some very forward-thinking perks

With its unusual workplace perks — and forward-looking name — one could mistake New Age Transportation for a hot-shot startup.

But the third-party freight broker, based in Lake Zurich, is nearly a quarter-century old. Among the work-life benefits at New Age:

—When moms return to work, they can bring their babies with them for four months.

—The company celebrates employee birthdays by holding barbecues on the deck. When customers’ birthdays arrive, New Age staff calls them and belt out the “Happy Birthday” song.

—Among thank-you gifts all 45 of workers have received from founder and CEO Carolyn Gable are iPads and Bose stereos — through which workers blast their favorite tune when they book a truckload of business.

“We love that people get excited about what they’re doing and are excited about their wins,” Gable says.

Creating a winning workplace culture has been key to the 24-year-old company’s longevity and success, says Gable, who will be honored as Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year at the Women’s Business Development Center’s annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference on Thursday at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“These people they give their whole life to me, to New Age,” she says. “They come in every single day and work 40 hours, 50 hours a week. My responsibility is to create an environment where they can grow, where they can feel they have a purpose” and where hard work and fun are in the mix.

That roadmap has helped New Age attract and retain high-quality service-centered employees that have helped her land and keep customers and build a nearly $25 million enterprise, she says.

New Age matches trucking lines seeking customers with companies that have freight to move and provides warehousing, distribution, logistics and consulting services.

Gable entered the industry after waiting tables for 12 years.

“I was desperate to get out of waitressing,” she says. So she got a job as a customer service representative at a freight company.

“I loved it,” she says. “A lot of times you go into certain companies and they’re like Stepford wives — they’re all the same. I would go crazy there. In this industry, you can call on 20 different companies in one day and they’re really different.”

Gable was promoted to sales and later worked for a couple of other freight companies before deciding to launch New Age.

What sets the company apart?

“At lot of my competitors have a rep that comes in that sets you up and gives you pricing, and then you’re part of an automated system,” she says. “You go into the cloud.

“We still have people here on the other end of the line, and there’s still a huge market for that. People like dealing with people and [knowing] there’s a person that’s going to watch [their freight] all the way through until it’s delivered.”


Carolyn Gable has a few tips for creating a winning workplace culture and successful enterprise:

—Engage your employees. And recognize some of the best managers are those who have come up through the ranks. In the next month, Gable plans to meet individually with every employee “in a relaxed setting to ask, ‘What’s going on with you, are you happy in your position and where do you want to go, where do you see yourself?’” she says. “I’m all about bringing up people to the greatest potential they have.”

—Don’t lie. Your reputation always precedes you.

—Stop asking for business “even if it’s a customer you’ve had for a long time,” she says. “They may have other opportunities.”

ABOVE: New Age Transportation’s Carolyn Gable is the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year. Photo by Heath Sharp