tom schmitt

Tom Schmitt, CEO, Forward Air
ROI Podcast Episode 98

In CEO Podcast Series by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

Tom Schmitt grew up just north of the Lake of Constance in Germany, and enjoyed a very quiet, small-town upbringing. He describes his parents as very down-to-earth, good people. In this episode, Tom tells the story of how Casey Kasem’s Top 40 radio program and its slogan “Keep reaching for the stars but keep your feet on the ground” inspired him to want to go to the United States someday. Tom tells us about his childhood and his love of music, how an overabundance of teachers changed his life path, and why the will always be home for him.

In this episode, we talk about the importance of balancing academic learning with social time, and how boldness can help you get to where you want to go—sometimes literally! Tom’s take on leadership—including that that no matter what, one should always keep commitments, that adding value is important no matter your title, and helping your team grow—is refreshing and insightful, and there is wisdom in this episode for everyone!

About Tom Schmitt

Tom Schmitt took on the role of President, CEO and Director at Tennessee-based Forward Air Corporation in September of 2018. He was elected Chairman of the Board in May 2019. Forward Air is a market leader in expedited pallet and truckload transportation across the U.S. It is Nasdaq-listed and has a strong track record of profitable growth.

Prior to joining Forward Air, Tom served as a Management Board member for Schenker, a Freight Forwarding, Transportation, and Logistics company, operating in 140 countries with $20 billion in global revenues. He headed up a team of 22,000 in the Global Contract Logistics business, where his strong emphasis on continued and accelerated profitable growth paid off for the company. In his first two years, the division reached record revenue and profit levels and was awarded the “best Logistics brand in Germany,” as well as the prestigious parent company’s DB Award for Customer and Quality. In addition, as Chief Commercial Officer, Tom led Schenker AG’s global sales and marketing activities. In his first full year in this role, the company grew by more than 1 bn € – as much as in Schenker’s previous 10 years combined. 

Before joining Schenker, Tom led Aqua Terra, reporting directly to the Board as one of the company’s owners. Aqua Terra is Canada’s leading provider of natural spring water and Tom’s leadership transformed the company into a Canada-wide Nourishment company with an export business of its premium water. 

Tom served as CEO and director on the Board for Purolator, Canada’s top parcel and freight transportation company, and under his leadership, the company saw growth in the same year for both market share and profitability for the first time in more than 10 years. During Tom’s tenure, Purolator doubled its presence in the U.S. market and enhanced its penetration in small and medium business- es and retail segments with double-digit revenue growth. He also transformed the company into an industry leader in environmental stewardship with more hybrid vehicles than any other transportation company in the world. Purolator is a $1.6 billion company with 12,000 employees. 

Tom came to Canada with a proven track record in place after 12 years at FedEx in Memphis, where he served as CEO of FedEx Supply Chain, a FedEx operating company. He also led FedEx Solutions, a FedEx Services division that developed and executed specific and integrated turnkey supply chain customer solutions. Tom built the organization from a team of fewer than 50 employees in the late 1990s to more than 800 people in 2008. 

Tom is a member of Xynteo Leadership Board, an Oslo-based highly diverse, impactful group of leaders who bring their vision, values, and game to advance a shared mission. 

He also serves as a Non-Executive Director of the Ferguson plc board. Ferguson plc is the world’s largest specialist trade distributor of plumbing and heating products to professional contractors principally operating in North America and the UK. Ferguson plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: FERG) and is in the FTSE 100 index of listed companies. Tom brings his significant operational experience and deep knowledge of running large international logistics and supply chain businesses to the board. He sits on the board’s Nominations, Remuneration and Audit committees. 

Tom was also a Director on the Board of Dicom Transportation Group in Montreal, Canada, and during the four years of his tenure, revenue and profits doubled. 

Tom served as a Director on the Board of Zooplus AG, the leading e-commerce-based provider of pet foods and supplies in Europe. In this role, Tom supported the Zooplus team with advice on strategic areas such as supply chain. Stock price quadrupled during his Board tenure due to a laser-sharp focus on store brands and profitable growth. In addition, his resume includes a five-year stint as a Director of the Board of Univar, Inc. where he prepared the company for an initial public offering on the NYSE. He also reshaped the company for more geographic diversity, driving a strategy to locate where distribution, manufacturing, and consumption will be, not where they have been. Tom also served on the board of Cyberport GmbH in Dresden, Germany, and was a key player in its transformation to a differentiated electronics etailer with the broadest assortment of electronic goods. 

It was in Memphis that Tom began to develop his deep commitment to community involvement. While serving in an unprecedented four-year term as Chairman of the Board for the Memphis Chamber of Commerce, he co-designed and oversaw the biggest and high- est impact economic development program in Memphis history. He was also an executive board member of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy and the Greater Memphis Ballet. 

Tom holds an MBA as a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School; as well as a Bachelor of Arts in European Business Administration, First Class Honours, from Middlesex University. He was named one of the 100 most Influential Tennesseans by the BusinessTN Power 100. He is also the co-author of Simple Solutions, a successful management and leadership book that lays out simple and pragmatic tools to draw on both the analytical more creative sides. Now in its second printing, it was published by Wiley & Sons, the premier business publisher. 


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