Whiterail Recruits founders, David and Daniel Ostrov, use their industry know-how and a digital solution to improve recruitment by focusing on understanding demographics and connecting authentically with skilled professionals in the trucking industry.
Episode 292: Ready to revolutionize your recruitment strategy? Discover how David and Daniel Ostrov, the founders of Whiterail are solving the complex challenge of technician shortages. With their two decades of industry marketing experience, they reveal the importance of having the right people in your business and showcase effective ways to recruit during challenging economic times.
In this discussion, we learn the value of understanding your customer demographics and how to target the right people. The Ostrovs emphasize the need to be specific when identifying your ideal customer and how to pinpoint the right skill set for aspiring trucking industry professionals. They also share insights into the importance of breaking down qualifications by vocation and how to eliminate the need for resumes.
In the digital era, technology can be a game-changer in hiring. The Ostrovs introduce Whiterail, a cutting-edge digital solution tailored to help companies combat staffing shortages, scale their brand, and recruit successfully. Finally, we delve into the challenges of finding the right people with the right skills for the right roles and stress the importance of authenticity and making connections with potential employees.
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Transcript of Episode
You are listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the place where we have conversations that empower heavy-duty people. For years now, we hear about the shortages in the trucking industry, whether it be drivers, whether it be the technician shortage, both on the repair side of the business and the part side of the business.
Now, this is an ongoing issue. I remember one quote I heard from Bill Gates. He said, if the top 30 people left Microsoft and went across the street to the competitors, they’d be out of business in 18 months.
Why is that quote important? I think it just highlights the importance of having good people in your business. And my mentor when I started in parts always said to me, “Jamie, this is a people business. Always has been, always will be.” And when you talk to people in the industry, that is one of the things that they mentioned the most is how important people are in the trucking industry.
So what we’re going to talk about today is how do we get the right people in our companies, especially during situations like we face today, where there’s economic uncertainty, there are shortages, but there’s also potentially because of the economic uncertainty, the future of layoffs. And then after that, we’ll have to recruit again.
So this is a big problem. It’s an ongoing issue. It’s something we have to, as leaders of our companies, work on every single day building the best team possible. And we want to introduce you to some tools and some ideas that are going to help do that better. To help me with this, I have my guests today, and it is guests plural.
So we have David and Daniel Ostrov. They’re the founders of Whiterail Recruits. They have two decades of experience in the service industry, marketing. This includes the truck and automotive repair side of the business. Daniel founded White Rail in 2011, and David has been the founder of multiple startups, including one that was acquired by none other than Microsoft.
Really, this 20 years of experience in marketing, in recruiting, in technology is all coming together with these two gentlemen, and so I’m excited to have a conversation with them. David, welcome to The Heavy Duty Parts Report.
Nice to meet you
Daniel, glad to have you here as well sir.
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having us.
So let’s start off by talking about the overarching trends when it comes to people. In the intro, I didn’t even mention things like demographic conversion and all the baby boomers retiring and not enough young people, but there’s all these shortages. We hear it all the time.
There’s a shortage of drivers, there’s a shortage of technicians. So in 2023, right now we’re recording this just at the beginning of Q4. What is the trends that you’ve been observing over the last little while and what do we need to know?
We think of the current business trends, the framework of where are the diesel technicians? There are technicians that have jobs that are happy.
There are technicians that have jobs that are unhappy, and there are technicians that don’t have jobs that are on Indeed. Now, one of the primary trends that’s happening is that everybody’s been looking for these guys on sites like Indeed and Monster and whatever else is out there, but that’s kind of the lowest level.
By the time they’ve dripped down to that stage, they’re looking at a variety of different companies and they’re looking at bottom dollar. The place to find the technicians that are out there is the guys who already have a job, the guys that are unhappy. That’s the core source of where companies need to focus their time.
So we kind of break it down into guys that are happy that you can’t get, the guys that are unhappy, that you can get, but don’t know who they are.
And the miserable guys that are indeed on the job boards that probably aren’t around, they’re all being picked over by UPS and FedEx and all the big guys, and you need to compete very heavily in terms of money at that point because they’re going to play you off against each other. So it’s hard. It’s very hard.
It is hard, and I love the fact that you’ve broken it down into those categories of people. I think one of the problems that I see anyway, from our consulting side of our business at the Heavy Duty Consulting Corporation, we work with a lot of companies on their sales, their marketing.
We’re always talking to them about who’s your ideal customer? And they’ll say things like, well, we sell to distributors or we sell to fleets. And it’s a pretty low definition description.
What I’m hearing you say is that companies have a pretty low definition description of who they’re looking to recruit. We’re looking to recruit technicians. And what I’m hearing you say is that there’s various types of technicians and you need to get a little more specific in order to be able to reach the right people.
And in fact, again, we were going to have to talk about this later, but it’s relevant now is because we’re a technology company and a marketing company, when we do campaigns on behalf of the clients, we target techs, we target our diesel techs, we tire lube techs, tractor trailer technicians, specifically at the creative level because if you’re saying mechanically inclined, what the hell does that mean? Anyways, you need to be very specific.
And I also think that there are generational differences. Absolutely. So you think of an older technician, maybe a baby boomer, a Gen X, a millennial. There are generational differences.
But even within that, I remember one technician I met, he was like, I don’t even know how old he was, but this guy was old and he was one of the most proactive people on technology that I had met. And he was like, well into his eighties, and he owned a shop and he just kept plugging away, but he loved this stuff.
So if you were to just label this guy as well, he’s old so he’s anti-technology. So that wouldn’t have been accurate. Now, I’m not saying we’re looking hire 80 year olds. What I am saying is that we have to be careful even within different generational groups that we don’t like typecast them, right? Everybody’s unique, everybody’s different.
They’ve built different skill sets. So I like the idea of breaking it down by the different vocations because that also gives you a real insight into their educational background, their experience, and the skillset they could bring to your company.
And in fact, the general approach, we, we’ll talk about the tech a little later, but because we ask questions, we’re getting rid of the resume because the guys that we’re targeting, they don’t have resumes, which is another big problem.
Again, another trend you spoke about earlier, how do you recruit people that aren’t looking for a job actively, and you need to be able to do it in a way where they don’t have a resume and you can’t ask for a resume.
In fact, you can’t even really ask for fill out a job app until they really want to come work for you. So what do you do? You got to ask questions. Like in the case of how do you get sneaky? Can you lift 50 pounds? In other words, how old are you without asking them how old they are?
Exactly. So let me ask you something. Is it harder to find people today than it was let’s say 20 years ago?
We weren’t doing this 20 years ago, so it’s hard for to say us, to say what it was like back then. But we can say that what we find is there’s a lot of tendency, despite the CRMs and the new technology, the company is used in the cloud-based systems. They’re still trying to do business the old fashioned way when technicians were plentiful, but they’re not plentiful because as you said earlier, people tend to be retiring.
There’s not as many people entering the field. There’s a real recruitment process going on to get them into the field. So what we’re seeing is a trend that needs to happen away from the HR administrator processing resumes, having key performance indicators that state we were successful today. We looked at 150 new resumes, we reached out to a hundred new people.
And in fact, at the show we were at, we met you, Jamie, we met you at TMC. We talked to more than one company. In fact, several companies and the managers we were speaking with who were there representing their firms were like the HR people say they’re getting people, but we’re seeing no one coming into the interview process. They’re not there.
How many people were they processing?
Over 120 is what the numbers they were giving.
I want to reinforce that meeting that we had. He said that the HR people were reaching out and they were calling and they were trying to connect with them, but these diesel technicians were not responding.
They were not getting back to them. But these are people who are on the internet posted as being available on Indeed or whatever, but they’ve already been solicited by a gazillion companies. Go ahead, David.
So basically several things are happening is the HR people are being measured on the wrong things. It should be based on qualified candidates. It should be based on their skillsets about recruiting, because if you don’t have some sales in your soul, you will fail in the new world, you will fail, you will fail, you will fail.
You have to be able to represent a message for your company. And the word we use is being a hiring ambassador slash hiring advocate, and you need to know what equipment you have in your shop because some guys want to work on certain kinds of equipment, not other kinds of equipment. I’m looking at this as a technology guy in software, not a mechanic guy. So I don’t want to tell you what to have, but these people do care.
Another example, we talked to another gentleman at another show and we asked him about why would you change shops? Well, he said, I just want to be somewhere where I’m happy. His big bar was not even equipment or money. He just didn’t want to be miserable all day long, which is also interesting, back to the millennial conversation you asked earlier.
Yeah, it’s more of a qualitative measurement as opposed to a quantitative, I want make $5 more an hour. I want to be happy. Well define happy, and how do you attract people to your company and say to them, in essence, if you work for us, you’re going to have a better work experience and you’re going to be happier.
So to me, what I’m hearing you say is it makes me think of the old days when 20 years ago, everything was done on reputation, and I only applied for my first job. I was 18, I applied for my first job. I got into the industry. Every job I’ve ever had since then has been through reputation and word of mouth and people know you, but I had to be in that sphere, that person’s sphere of influence.
I had to be there. They had to know who I was for them to offer me a job. And now we’re in this world where if I’m hearing this right, there’s this great opportunity for companies to create a reputation which is a brand and to get it out to the right people and to spread that much farther than the actual people we know in person. And to start attracting those people to our company for specific reasons. Do I have that right?
And engaging with them too in this case, not just in meetings or in trade shows or at the local county fair, but using technology like text messaging to stay in touch with, Hey, we’re doing something new at the shop here.
Come on over, see this. There’s all kinds of interesting things that are outside the normal realm of ways to connect. So it’s a community, it’s an extended community.
I would argue using tech and making that shift away from the HR administrator to the hiring ambassador that is the face of the company. That creates a reason for somebody who may not be happy in their current job, but creates a pathway for them to move from company A to company B who makes them feel welcome and ushers them in.
As an example of that, we’ve got a client in Kansas City Champion Fleet Care. They got about 10 guys that work there, I think 10 mechanics, and they were down three, and they had been looking for months and months, and we had a referral from a client of ours in the towing industry, Santa Fe Towing, and they went to high school together, ironically. So they knew each other.
They trusted each other. They brought us in and they got a guy there named Bubba. Now Bubba is this wacky, charismatic storyteller. We attracted, is it 42 candidates? I think Dan 42 candidates came in and 16 of those were qualified, and then he had lunch with them, dinner with them, spent hours on the phone. Being that hiring ambassador, he hired three in 30 days.
And these are not just beginners. These are highly qualified guys with in some cases, over eight years of experience.
I know from working with some of my clients, they’ve seen a big difference between when they’re hiring, let’s say administrative staff. They use LinkedIn, they have a lot of success, but then they try to use LinkedIn or Indeed for the technicians, and it just doesn’t seem to work.
So is there a difference between hiring more of a white collar side of the business than the blue collar? What’s going on there? Why is that happening?
Yeah, absolutely indeed. LinkedIn, they’re phenomenal tools for the right job.
To hire a guy who doesn’t work on computers with a computer, it makes no sense. You’re trying to hire people who are never on computers using computer backend server technology. It’s stupid. It’s a white collar platform.
Meet people where they are, right?
Yeah, that’s better. If you want to go fishing, then hang out with the fishermen. Go to the fishermen’s place. It doesn’t make any sense. It was there artificially for a number of years, I feel, because people felt like they had no choice.
They wanted to get a new job. Now they have a choice. They don’t have to do it. They’re not going to go back to these platforms because they don’t need to. It was a temporary fix 10, 15 years ago. It’s not going back again.
So if you’re going to recruit technicians, you need to go on mobile. That’s where they spend their time, whether they’re at the bar, hanging out with the kids, their wives, or with the buddies on their spare time, they’re on their telephone.
We know how to get in front of them with our technology and advertising. But if there’s a city where all the mechanics live, buy a darn billboard, it would probably work. You’ve got to go where they are. It’s not rocket science.
What we’re doing. It’s fairly kind of basic. You get stuff in front of people where they live and work and play. If you don’t do it, they don’t even know who you are, what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to accomplish. They don’t know there’s a job that might be perfect for them.
Fantastic. Well, we’re going to take a quick break. When we’re back from the break, we’re going to learn more about your specific solution. And I got a lot more questions for you guys, so we’ll be right back. This episode of The Heavy Duty Parts Report is brought to you by Find It Parts, your ultimate destination for heavy-duty truck and trailer parts.
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Their website has an intelligent product search engine, and broad coverage of suspension, steering and fifth wheel components. Expect more. Expect Sampa. Visit sampa.com today. We’re back from our breakup before the break. Gentlemen, it was great talking to you about some of the trends. We know that there’s a lot of companies out there struggling and there is a solution. So let’s talk a little bit about the solution that your company provides.
You’ve already given us some examples, but let’s get into a little more of the details. So what I heard you say before is a lot of companies are still trying to recruit the old fashioned way. There is digital technology that is available that helps them scale their brand, and there is a different approach required. So break down for us what your solution, what makes it different, and how do we go about using it?
We came about this in a very strange sort of way. So I launched Whiterail in 2011, and our focus was to do marketing and marketing automation for the towing industry. We have some great solutions, yada yada. David completed his sale with his partner of marketing pilot, sold him off to Microsoft, came over to Whiterail, then we launched a marketing company. Great.
We grew when businesses need business, they hire marketing until they hit a certain point when the staffing shortages really became extreme and drivers heavy operators did not exist. And so we were trying to sell to these companies and they said, we can’t hire you. We can’t run the business we already have because we don’t have the operators to do this with.
So it was a capacity issue internally that they just couldn’t take on more business.
Correct. So we couldn’t make money. They couldn’t make money. Everybody was stalled. So we had this idea, if we can solve this problem, we may be able to get somewhere to help them. We can make more money, they can make more money and everybody’s happy.
So to do this though, we took an analysis of the industry as a whole, and we looked at what are the systems that companies are using to try to find. At that point, it was drivers, and of course we’ve now extended into diesel technicians, et cetera. By default, they use Indeed, right? They use other job seeking online databases. The problem with this is that everybody and their brother is using the same sources.
So you are recruiting from there. The guy down the street is recruiting from there, and the candidates are just looking for bottom dollar. Can I get 50 cents a dollar more? Great. In addition, we all know that diesel technicians don’t tend to use computers unless they have to. It might be in their repair bay to do diagnostics
A diagnostic laptop or a tablet or something.
Thank you. Exactly. But they don’t want to write a resume. And these guys tend to not have resumes, and if they do, they’re not updated. It might be two years, five years, seven years old. So if you’re trying to reach somebody and require a resume, you’re going to hit a wall.
So we thought about this idea and said, what could we do to get beyond this wall? Do they need a resume? No. We only need to know some basic information. How many years of experience do you have as a diesel technician? One to three years, four to six years, seven plus years.
How many years do you have an ASE certification? Do you have a reliable mode of transportation to work? Because let’s face it, a diesel technician that doesn’t have a reliable mode of transportation to get to work isn’t a diesel technician, and we can pre-qualify this information right up front in about 40 seconds.
So we ran the test, Jamie and the initial test, we weren’t sure if it would work or not. We ran on flatbed drivers initially. Mechanics, obviously not in other roles.
Also, we had 120 flatbed applicants, the first job we ran, whereas prior to that, it was like two or threes what they were getting out of Indeed in 30 days. It was insane. We go, oh, I think we’re on something. And then we continue to grow it obviously.
So we invested some money to try out a test that we thought maybe this could be something, but we didn’t know. We use software. That’s a lot like what Amazon uses, like what Walmart uses to advertise to.
So example, if you’re on your telephone and you’re looking for a new car or you’re looking for a new telephone or computer, and then an ad follows you all over the internet onto websites, on phone apps, on social media, it’s the same kind of software, but we use it very differently.
We geofence advertise to a specific region, let’s say Cincinnati, Cleveland, Ohio. But then we demographically target because let’s face it, the internet knows everything about everybody knows that I’m an online marketing knows that so-and-so is a diesel technician.
So we can actually spend money really efficiently targeting just a specific core market within a small targeted area and do an affordable ad. But the thing is, if they click on the ad and you send ’em to a webpage, now fill out a 20 minute job application.
Are they going to fill it out? Good luck with that. Good luck. So we send ’em to a web page. It’s a recruiting page. It talks about the company, the history, the benefits, and we get ’em off. It’s super duper as fast as we can. Yeah, it’s just there to pull ’em in.
We get ’em into what we call chat-based hiring, which is a questionnaire, an automated questionnaire that asks these questions automatically with multiple choice answers. They can just click on that answer and in 40 seconds they can apply for the job. No kidding, right?
We have their telephone number. SMS text messaging follows up with that. We know what days they can work. Can they work weekends? Can they work night shift? Can they pass a drug exam? Can they lift 50 pounds? How many years of experience? It’s like magic.
You get these people, you’ve targeted them. Now you’ve done a good job of showing a little bit of the brand of the company. You’ve made it super easy for them, but they’ve done the application.
And then in previous stories, in the first segment, you talked about how the old way was, even if people had applied, it was hard to get them to actually maybe come in and do the interview or you would lose touch with them or then they would ghost you.
So once you’ve got this information and they’ve done the application, how is your system different so that doesn’t happen.
Because of what we’re doing technically and advertising messaging wise. We can get companies, we call them at bats, it’s using the baseball metaphor. You can get to the plate, you can get a shot at guys that want to maybe work for you. However, we can get you the at bats, but I can’t make you hit the ball.
No one’s that good. Remember the hiring ambassador thing we talked about earlier that requires things like getting back to the person super duper fast. They apply, get back to ’em within an hour or two, or at least the same day. If you wait, they’re going to lose interest.
Being able to describe your company, why do they want to come work here? Why do guys come work for your company? Are you paying enough money? In fact, I talked to a client today again in Chester, up in, they have a big heavy towing operation up in Pittsburgh.
They do a lot of repair. They just hired a guy. They had four guys they wanted to hire. Two of them were at the state level, and the benefits were so good they couldn’t bring ’em in same money. The benefits weren’t enough. They didn’t get ’em.
So if we take you back into the flow of the process where again, originally there was the Indeed applicant do away from the Indeed and Applicant, because these are now applicants that have a job, but who are interested in a new opportunity.
They apply for the job via a 40 second job application. Now we pull them into our interface here. We have our own recruiting interface that enables you to manage these applicants. These applicants are your exclusive candidates. We don’t share them with anybody else.
They’re yours only. So if you get 40 applicants, 42, like Champion Fleet Care, they belong to you, our system enables you to manage these. Look at their responses, have preloaded templates so you can reply to them really quickly and communicate with them.
Because we integrate with Facebook, instant Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google, wherever they’re coming in from, you can then connect with them via that route or via SMS tech message to communicate and pull them in.
Let me add the most important, I think, Jamie, I think is if the technology piece we do, it works great, we know what we’re doing and it works 95%. It doesn’t work every time because some markets are trickier than others, like any other business.
However, the biggest impediment is a company’s own operations. We’re talking to a firm now and they’re in North Carolina. I don’t want to say the name of the company, the person there, this HR gentleman. I don’t think he gets all the company of his life dependent on it.
And so what do you do with people that are in these roles that can’t do the job anymore? And that’s, I think, a bigger challenge than what we’re doing technologically messaging on the advertising and the technology front. Back to the hiring ambassador.
Yeah, we see that in our consulting business. We can generate great marketing, we can help them tell a great story. We can get people interested.
But let’s say if the salespeople are mismatched, they’re a bunch of farmers, they’re not hunters, they’re not really going to be able to close that and ask for the business if there’s a mismatch in the personality of the person to the job they’re in.
And we have a tool that helps people to solve that problem. But that is an ongoing issue, and I see that at every level of operations. Oftentimes people come to our consulting business, we want to grow. That’s the beginning conversation.
But after we’ve worked with them for a while, it’s not just a sales and marketing issue. There’s an organization issue, there’s a people issue. There’s all these challenges inside of the business of getting, as Jim Collins says, the right people on the bus sitting in the right seats.
You said that elegantly. Yeah, I agree. And it’s the people issues. And then also realizing that you can’t hire young men and women in these roles. You used to be able to, you need people that know the industry in these roles.
You just can’t hire someone out of college and think they can represent your company. It doesn’t work anymore. Maybe in the old days, 20 years ago, per your example earlier.
Some of our best recruiter clients by saying recruiter clients, I mean the recruiter within the company that works with us industry veterans like Brad Burley at Heartland Tire.
These guys tried out White Rail. They got 60 or so applicants the first month, and they hired six A-techs and B-techs and a store manager out of that six people on 30 days in 90 days, they went on and they hired 52 new employees. They’ve got 32 locations.
But the key here is Brad Burley is a monster. He gets on there, he connects with people, he understands where they’re coming from, he knows their life story. He wants to know about them, wants to know their background. What do they like about their job?
What do they dislike about their job? What are their hopes and dreams and what do they want from a company? And he meets them there and he recruits them in by making them feel welcome and bringing them together.
I would argue that there is an ideal job model for this position in the company, and HDC will help you build that because that job model, if you could imagine this, you go into a company, you’ve sold them on the technology and they’re ready to go. And like your point, the person who then has to do all the interviews kind of bombs, well then that makes it, well, your technology doesn’t work well. It’s like, no, it works just fine.
But you guys weren’t able to execute. But imagine if you could look into every company and say, okay, within the company, which employee is best suited to take on the ambassador role? And if you had a job model around traits, we could identify that very scientifically.
So we’ll talk more a little bit about that offline. But this just goes back to a fundamental, you got to have the right people in the right positions to succeed in business. And whether that’s an ambassador that’s representing the company or that’s in sales or marketing or management or leadership, that’s all very consistent.
There’s certain types of people that excel in certain roles, and it’s all about making sure you match the right person to the right job. So that’s exciting. I really like the way that you’ve approached this, the technology itself. I really appreciate it. Is there anything specifically did you want our audience to remember from today’s conversation?
The biggest thing, I think, and Danny, I have his own opinion. We always argue all the time, but that’s what brothers do, is I think it’s be authentic in your hiring.
You got to be who you are. Every place has its culture, it’s nuances, and just live. That’s kind of your messages. You don’t have to hide it. If you’ve got some younger people not doing their job, get them on the shop floor.
Let them learn the business or find someone else that can learn. Because you can teach people the role, but they have to know what’s happening. They’re just not paper pushers. Those days are over.
What I’d like for you to remember, anybody who’s listening, one thing that will really critically impact from this day forward, your ability to recruit new technicians is prepare your 30 second, your 45 second elevator pitch.
So when you have a hot at bat on the telephone, you’re talking to them, you’re connecting with them, you can pitch your company, you know about what the benefit is, what’s going to improve their lives, what can your company bring to their lives and what makes you different than everybody else in your area so that you are the best and you better think and you better believe that you are the best company that they can work with in their area.
If you do not, they can hear that in your voice. They can smell that, and they’re not going to come to you. And likewise, if you’re talking to people on the telephone and then you’re complaining to everybody around you, these guys don’t show up for interviews. They may not show up for interviews, but what can you do to do better to make sure they do?
The problem may not be with them. This may sound kind of crummy, but the problem may be with you. Look at what you’re doing and how you’re projecting your company and selling your company, and you also want to add in a little text messaging in there so that when they are supposed to show up on time, remind them by text message. That’s going to help you out quite a bit too.
You’ve been listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and we’ve been speaking with David and Daniel, the founders of Whiterail Recruits.
To learn more about Whiterail recruits, visit whiterailrecruits.com. Links are in the show notes. David, thank you for coming on the show and talking to us. I appreciate it.
Thank you. It was a good time. Thanks Jamie
And Daniel, nice to have you here. Thank you so much for being on The Heavy Duty Parts Report.
Thank you very much.