Women in the Truckstop Industry: Creating a Destination for Drivers

The truckstop and travel plaza industry is full of outstanding operators who continually make life easier for their customers. Throughout 2018, Stop Watch is highlighting a handful of the women who make the industry great.

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Delia Moon Meier: A Second-Generation Industry Leader
Delia Moon Meier, senior vice president of Iowa 80 Group, was six months old when her parents started Iowa 80 Truckstop, and she has worked in the family business for as long as she can remember.

“We were always picking up trash or painting curbs, washing antique trucks getting ready for the Jamboree, handing out flyers or serving pop,” Meier said. “This is where our parents were, so it is where we were. I always lived a few miles away.”

The Moons also planted their garden at the truckstop because there was extra land and no shade. “I remember complaining about being out here because we were supposed to be weeding,” she said, adding that she has many fond memories as well. “We would come here and eat. It was fantastic because they had these jukeboxes on the table and we’d look at songs. We could have anything we wanted.”

Meier said she hadn’t given much thought about entering the family business until she got to college, which is also around the time the Moons started taking on new business projects. “My parents were doing this juggling on the side of buying truckstops, fixing them up and selling them to the manager. They did that a couple times,” she said.

While earning her business degree at the University of Iowa, she took on a project assisting with the family’s building of the Joplin Petro in Joplin, Mo. “I helped my dad with the projections and then we took it out on the road and were making presentations to various banks to get money to build the location. We were able to get a loan. By that time I was hooked,” she said.

When Meir graduated, the Joplin Petro was under construction. “I went there and started working, reading blue prints, picking things out, hiring people, training people,” she said, adding that she was involved in the littlest details, such as the toilet paper holders, to the big things, such as the overall layout of the complex.

She has continued on with the family business, and today oversees operations from Iowa 80 Group’s headquarters in Walcott, Iowa. “I do a lot of strategic planning and work on big goals,” she said. “For the past 16 to 17 years I’ve been focused on our retail operation and our all new construction and projects.”

A good portion of time is also spent on managing the people involved in the company. “The truckstop business is all about the people you have, and I think the No. 1 thing owners are doing is finding the right people who will make the right decisions and understand customer service,” she said.

One of her favorite parts of the business is thinking about what Iowa 80 Group can do to wow customers. “Thinking about new concepts and new merchandise and keeping it fresh so every time you show up it is a new place, that is all fun for me,” Meier said. “I love going to places and looking for ideas that I can bring back to Walcott.”

Meier is also heavily involved with NATSO, and said getting involved with NATSO was one of the best things her father encouraged her to do. “He said, ‘I signed you up for the Government Affairs Committee.’ Before I knew it I was on a flight to Nashville and went and met everybody and jumped right in,” she said.

Meier said she always recommends everyone in the industry find something at NATSO to get involved in. “Share your enthusiasm for your business with everyone else,” Meier said.

Carolyn Moon, Meier’s mother, was one of the early supporters of NATSO and an early leader in the industry. “My mother was a great role model for me and she was a great role model for her six grandaughters and two grandsons. She worked hard, she was smart and she was loyal to the business and her family,” Meier said. “She loved NATSO and supported it in every way she could.”

Meier said that when she was growing up, the industry was full of families running truckstops and travel plazas. “My mom wasn’t the only woman in the room with the truckstops, but she had been with her previous job with

Boeing,” she said. “As I was growing up it was never all men to me. It was great fun and welcoming to women.”

Over time, things changed and it became more unusual to see women leaders, Meier said, “but that wasn’t the way it was when I started. Now I see there are a bunch of daughters coming in. I always want to say, ‘Yay! Come on. Join the Government Affairs Committee. There is plenty of room here and we need people like you.’”

Meier’s daughters may also enter the family business one day. “They spend their summers here and are getting business degrees. I think they will be an active part of it, but in what capacity I don’t know,” she said, adding that even if her children aren’t involved in the day-to-day operations, they will always be a part of the family business. “The European way to think of it is that your children are part of the family business. You can go and be a teacher or something else but you’re always a part of it. I thought that was very thoughtful and a good way to put it.”

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Marsha DelMonte: Creating a Destination for Drivers
Marsha DelMonte entered into the truckstop and travel plaza industry by accident, starting as an office manager for Pride 15 years ago. Today she is going on seven years as the company’s president and overseeing the operations’ two truckstop locations, the third truckstop location it is building, 30 convenience stores and 12 Subway locations.

“I work very closely with all of our operations people, the human resource department and loss prevention. I spend a lot of time working with marketing and accounting. I touch every department,” DelMonte said.

It is the variety of each day that keeps DelMonte engaged. “I truly just love working with all of the people and being a part of the big picture,” she said.

Moving into a leadership role involved a lot of trial and error, but DelMonte said those early mistakes have made her stronger over time. “I’ve learned to be a better leader by saying, ‘How do I not let that happen again?’ Whether you’re directly responsible for something or you’re responsible because of your position, you look to make things better or easier,” DelMonte said. “I think looking at things that way helps you become a better leader and I can teach people who work for me to not make those same mistakes.”

Finding talent and getting the right team players in place is a constant challenge, DelMonte said. “You want to build a team that can help you accomplish your goals and help take care of the guests,” she explained. “We’ve been fortunate to attract some really special and talented people. We do that by running a good business.”

DelMonte said she has had people approach her and say they’ve been to the company’s stores, seen the operations and want to be a part of the team. “I have a really good team of people that work with me that do a great job and we have good systems set up. They’re able to communicate with me directly either by seeing me or sending me an email,” she said. “We have a lot of good systems in place. We can see through departments and we issue reports on how things are running and where we need to focus.”

As a female leader in the truckstop and travel plaza field, DelMonte said she has seen changes taking place within the industry. “I went to my first Ambest meeting maybe 10 years ago, and I felt like I was one to two women in the room,” she said. “I have slowly started seeing more women in the room.”

DelMonte said she encourages any female leader looking to enter a male-dominated field to just go for it. “I wouldn’t be afraid of getting into the industry,” she said. “There are a lot of talented women out there, and there are a lot of talented women running truckstops or other businesses.”

In serving customers, DelMonte said operators can’t ever take drivers for granted. “There is so much that these drivers need from you. They are needing your stop to be a destination for them and someplace they can trust,” she said, adding that she and her staff spend time on social media learning what drivers like and don’t like. “They want places that are really clean, staff that are really friendly and parking lots that are well lit.

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
Source:
Stop Watch Magazine
Retailer Featured:
Iowa 80 Group

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