Anderson University College of Business
Brian Whitley: Lessons on leadership and life
As president of Taimen Transport, Brian Whitley never forgets where he came from.
Appreciative of his Anderson University education and all who poured into him as a college student and as a student-athlete, he gives back by speaking to students in the College of Business every chance he gets. He’s also an active member of the Alumni Board.
How did you discover AU?
I looked at three different colleges. Anderson was my last trip and I absolutely fell in love. The campus and the faculty that I had the opportunity to meet made me feel like it was an extension of home. Really, for the first time outside of basketball camps, I was away from home and it was important to have that connection. Anderson served that.
Having the opportunity to play college basketball while attending AU was a plus. It changed my life forever by meeting my now wife there as students in the late 80s. Go Trojans!
What was campus life like for you at Anderson?
Obviously there’s a basketball side or, as I call it, my basketball family. Steve Lytton, who was the coach there at that point, just did a dynamic job in putting his arms around everybody and making us feel welcome there. Dr. Bob and Mrs. Nancy Hanley were amazing people that provided that level of comfort there. Coach Linton has passed away, but his wife Pam is still my second mom to this day. I stay in contact with her. Her whole family is near and dear to me. I saw her kids grow up. The campus life there was almost like an extended family of that. It was personal; everybody knew each other by their first names.
To this day I still rave about going to the Sunday brunches at the cafeteria. Being able to sit out at the park benches or the swings out front and just getting along with everybody and talking with everybody. The classes were not filled with 400 or 500 people, so from an academic standpoint. I was a C student in high school, but coming there it gave me more of that interaction with that faculty that I probably would not have had if I had gone to a bigger school. That was a major plus for me. The chapel services for me were amazing. That was something that I look back now—having that faith and having that balance was huge.
Tell us about how you’ve been giving back to AU.
I had an opportunity to come back and speak to College of Business students and share my 28 years-plus of transportation and being able to give that foundation back to those rising students that are choosing this path. It’s really important, and not only for me. I can see it in the return in those discussions with those students that are there to be able to do that. I’ve even taken it to the next step. I tell the students LinkedIn is a social media networking opportunity for a lot of career paths. I make sure before I leave there that every one of those students are connected or at least offered to connect with me on LinkedIn if I can provide that continued growth and continue our conversation so I can help them in their careers. Even if they don’t come to where I am at at Taimen, I’m happy to do that.
Years ago I started connecting with supply chain students in the College of Business the business school, and there are students who probably graduated two or three years ago that I’m still having LinkedIn conversations with. They’re at BMW, they’re at the port in Savannah or they’re in Greenville and I’m having discussions with them saying, “Hey, I’ve run into this issue. Any suggestions?” It’s just amazing to be able to have that interaction with those students there. I love how Anderson connects those business leaders with the vertical business units that we have an opportunity to come back and speak.
Obviously I have a crazy schedule, but I try to give as much as I can as a member of the Anderson University Alumni Board. Getting back and being able to help in any way, either financially or supporting in other areas is important for us, because Kelly and I met there. It’s such a special place for us and it’s extremely important what they really did for me. I’m there to be able to give a little bit of that back.
What are some ways your AU education is helping you professionally and in other ways?
Coming out of high school, I was a really reserved, quiet-type of person. I didn’t like speaking in front of people. But I remember I was scared to death of taking a public speaking class, but I really think that class was the foundation that helped me ultimately to the career I’m at now, being able to get up and talk to 300 people or even speak to a classroom there. That was a foundation, to be able to overcome those fears, and the faculty are a pivotal part of that.
Being a student-athlete, time management is a big thing. I'm still applying work-life balance lessons I learned at Anderson University even to this day. I had classes from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., which is when basketball practice started. That ran all the way into that night. Then I had to study. So, time management skills, organizational skills, all those types of things which I did not have as much as I needed coming out of high school, Anderson University helped me develop those skills.
Tell me about Taimen Transport.
It was a company that started in 2012. We have trucks on one side of the division and a brokerage on the other side. We have doubled our growth on both sides of the company.
When I got here in June 2020 we had six or seven brokers. Now we’ve got 21 brokers in the last two years. We’re doubling our growth both on the financial side and on the asset side. We’re expanding, not only just doing truckload services or a couple of service modes, but now we’re starting to do domestically and internationally. That was a big thing for me to expand, and now every mode of transportation was a big thing for my career. We've experienced amazing growth and have an amazing group of people. If this the last place I work before I retire, then I’m pouring everything I have from an experience standpoint into this.
At the end of the day, what gives you the biggest sense of accomplishment?
My biggest thing is to get in here and talk to people every day to foster growth, which includes working with the supply chain students at Anderson University. Really it’s important to me to give back. I want to foster growth and I want to foster career development for people within our organization. Obviously I’m getting paid to do it, but I want to make sure I’m able to provide that. That, to me, is an element of success. If I can take somebody that’s out of Anderson University, for example, and see them go from the ground level to management to director-type situation, I thrive off of that. That’s what I want to do. Everyday for me to be able to give back, try to find out ways that I can foster growth, and I think that has served as the foundation of our growth here, because we’re doing exactly that with our people.
What advice would you give somebody who is about to graduate and enter the work world?
You know, it’s very tough coming out of college to be able to say, “Go find something you’re happy with.” I’ve been blessed to the point now that I get up every day and I love what I do. Love what you do, do what you love. I’ve used that many times. Find that niche. Don’t rush into it. Find the thing that you really enjoy. This is one of the reasons I like coming back to AU. If there are people that potentially like supply chain, being able to give them that transparent truth of what this industry is totally like. I know it’s difficult coming out of college and saying, “Do I want to go this path or that path?”
I applaud Anderson for giving me the opportunity to come back and speak to them to be able to have that type thing. So, in short, I hope students find their niche, find some mentors, and really lean on those people to guide you in that path that will hopefully give you that opportunity as I have had to be able to follow the thing that I want to do every day.
I have absolutely loved the opportunity to get to know Dr. Whitehead and Dean Nail and Kristi Harton and all of those folks at Anderson and to have those connections. Relationships are everything. To be able to know who can give you that foundation and direction and guidance, whatever that may be, is important.