After visiting Acme Truck Stop with several members of the NATSO staff before The NATSO Show, I had the opportunity to talk with James Bloodworth, general manager of Acme Truck Stop in Orlando, FL, about what inspires him in his work as a general manager during the conference.
Catching the Entrepreneurial Spirit
James caught the entrepreneurial spirit from his grandfather who had his own oyster business in Raleigh, NC, where James grew up. “Granddaddy did oysters for over 50 years. Born in the 1920’s, Granddaddy had stocks and bonds. It was unheard of for a black man to own his own business during those times,” James shared.
James started working with his grandfather in the oyster business when he was a small child and was the only family member that took a real interest in the business.
Inspired by his grandfather’s example, James knew at a young age that he wanted to run his own business.
From Oysters to Truck Stops
After James’ grandfather passed away James’ family decided not to continue in the oyster business.
James went to work for the EPA in Raleigh.
After a time, the EPA decided to transfer James to Miami, but James didn’t want to relocate to Miami. Around this time James’ sister-n-law asked his then wife to move to Orlando and join her in opening a property management office for vacation homes. So, James declined the transfer to Miami and he and his wife at the time moved to Orlando.
Upon their arrival in Orlando, James’ wife at the time introduced him to DP Sahni, the owner of Acme Truck Stop. DP asked James what type of work he did. James told him that he used to work for the EPA in Raleigh but was currently unemployed.
One day DP asked James to meet him at the Acme Truck Stop, his newest acquisition. DP took James on a tour of the truckstop and explained that the former manager of Acme had trashed the truckstop in an effort to get out of his lease.
DP offered James a job as the general manager of Acme Truck Stop, which was left virtually empty by the previous manager. James accepted the offer, cleaned up the truck stop, repaired what was damaged by the previous manager and restocked most of the merchandise.
Then James met someone from NATSN who told him about NATSO. “I joined NATSO and started learning how to manage a truck stop and started meeting my peers and sharing knowledge,” James shared.
Balancing Work and Family
James and I discussed how he balances his work as a general manager with his family obligations.
“My phone is constantly ringing. I don’t have an assistant general manager, so I don’t have any help. It’s hard to separate work and family. I may be out with my family and (find out that) there’s a problem at the truckstop. If I’m at a movie with my two youngest kids (Zoe, Age 6 and Davyan, Age 2), I have to leave the movie and take my kids to the truckstop and handle the problem,” he shared.
James shared with me that these instances are especially difficult for his daughter Zoe. “She doesn’t like it when we have to leave a movie or another outing, because there is a problem at the truckstop.”
James admits that when he first started in the business he used to drop everything to attend to matters at his location. But he says that over the years he has learned to prioritize. “Unless it is a crisis that is gonna result in the truckstop burning down; I postpone it so that I can continue to be with my family,” he said.
Advice for Aspiring Managers
I asked James what advice he would give someone who is interested in being in a leadership role at a truckstop.
James said, “It’s a lot of work. Be patient. Be prepared to work hard. Things are not gonna happen the way you want them to happen right away. People know that you are just starting out. They are gonna try to give you advice. Listen to what they have to offer; never just disregard it. But don’t act on everything someone tells you or think you need to implement every idea you get.”
In addition to the knowledge he has gained through his involvement with NATSO, James also finds encouragement from his grandfather’s memory and legacy. James keeps a framed newspaper article about his grandfather and his oyster business on his office wall.
“I look at that article every day and it keeps me going. If it wasn’t for my granddaddy and (my) wanting to be a better person because of granddaddy; I probably wouldn’t be doing anything as meaningful today. My life is meaningful because of my grandpa’s example,” he shared.
Share Your Story: NATSO is actively seeking the stories of owners, operators and general managers of color. If you are an owner, operator or general manager of color and are interested in sharing your story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
/// Read more Truckstop Travels here.
Photo Credit: Afua Smith/NATSO
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