HR in the Car - Episode 10: "One Way In, Two Ways Out”
You hear a lot about people who are self-made, and Trent fits that bill. Our episode features his description of how he got where he is today (yes, by car is part of it). You’ll be inspired to hear about what he includes in his figurative Roadside Assistance Kit (Thanks Jen Massey!). He’s a shining example of being open to the possibilities of what people can do for you if you just give them a chance. Buckle up and enjoy!
More about Trent
Trent Griffin-Braaf is the founder & President of GB Logistics which has a partnership for Amazon's last-mile delivery for XL packages and service-related delivery, & Tech Valley Shuttle whose mission is to combat poverty through transportation solutions. Our catalyst program “Driven to Work” helps organizations utilize commuter benefits to take away the dreaded question “do you have reliable transportation from the job application.” Trent is distinguished by his ability to identify, leverage, and develop businesses. Throughout his career, he has helped managers, and owners increase company morale and bottom line by addressing team issues, offering leadership, team development, marketing, and budgeting. He has a contagious enthusiasm and passionate belief in people that inspires them to become prouder, stronger, and more valuable contributors to their organizations.
Founder & President, GB Logistics / Tech Valley Hospitality Shuttle
Voiceover: Welcome to HR in the Car with Miriam Dushane and Tom Schin of Alaant Workforce Solutions, where exciting HR professionals and business leaders share laughter, insider stories, and maybe even a few tears about HR in today's world. Buckle up for the best half hour of your week.
Tom Schin: Miriam, I think I met this next guest probably right before the pandemic and it seems like he was just getting his start, but boy, he's run through this whole area by storm.
Miriam Dushane: I didn't meet him until the pandemic. I happened to meet one of his sales people on a virtual networking call and I was like, " Hey now, I need to learn more about Trent and Tech Valley Shuttle and what this guy's got going on." Yeah, I think he's taken the place by storm in an amazing way and I can't wait for everybody to hear what he had to say about him and his business and how he's moving forward.
Tom Schin: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to HR in the Car from Alaant Workforce Solutions. I'm Tom, I'm here with Miriam and today's guest. We've got Trent, who's the CEO of Tech Valley Shuttle and GB Logistics. We're excited to have you here today, Trent. My first question to do is explaining your story, how did you get here today?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Ironic, given the name of the show and what I do, I drive, we drive people, we're in logistics, so I drove here today. But in all reality, to get here today, it's definitely been an interesting path. I feel like I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur forever, since I was young, it was in my spirit. Had a couple of detours along the way, some included incarceration as a youth, but basically through my experience in the hotel industry, working my way up from driving their shuttle to general manager is what gave birth to my shuttle company, originally wanting it to be a shuttle for the hotel world. That's what got us into the door. Today we're more of a community- based transportation supplier and doing a lot around the region to help tackle food insecurities, to reduce recidivism rates, rate of return to prisons, helping the homeless as well as individuals who are battling addictions. I think just all of the community- based stuff that we do mixed with having a really good product is what got me here today.
Miriam Dushane: Trent, one of the things that I know about you and your business is the service that's provided to people who do not have transportation to get to work and how you partner with those individuals or their employers. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, because I think that it's getting more popularity, people are learning about it, but I still actually think it's probably a little bit of a best kept secret here in the region.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: We call that our Driven to Work program. Essentially, it's a program in which we used to do B2C, but we realize it's more beneficial if we do B2B with it. We really focus on partnering with organizations, it starts with education on commuter benefits. Our whole premise is we want to help organizations take the dreaded question of do you have reliable transportation off their applications.
Miriam Dushane: Amen.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Right, because we know how that affects ultimately people in underserved communities. The more companies we can eliminate that, the more people we know have access to employment.
Miriam Dushane: Obviously we're in the employment business, and when I started my career we did every level of industrial- based staffing, office, clerical, and that was a question that really prohibited us hiring people that we really wanted to hire for different jobs because they didn't have the reliable transportation checkbox. I had said to one of your salespeople a couple of months ago, I was like, " I wish I'd known about this 10 years ago." Our business has evolved and changed, but one thing that I always keep in the back of my mind and when I'm talking with my recruiters is do not let that be an impediment, because if you know somebody who needs that, you need to tell me so we can call you and try to get that worked out. I think that's really, really important.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: It is, and that's the whole mission of the Driven to Work program. That's the mission of it, so we can help employers remove that question. Like you said, it's definitely picked up a lot of steam, COVID I think played a huge part of that, the great resignation, but we are seeing that and we're able to show, studies support that our product is helping companies recruit better, retain their employees, as well as take away that barrier for others. I love it.
Tom Schin: Yeah, I look at that as create a path to success for people. If you can help them, the Jerry McGuire syndrome, help me help you, if you help them be successful, they're more motivated, they're more energized, they're more likely to be where they're supposed to be.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct.
Tom Schin: The person who's going to flake off is still going to flake off, but if I've eliminated them that one critical checkpoint.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Yes.
Tom Schin: Are there numbers? Do you have an idea of how many folks you've affected over the last couple years, let's say since the pandemic, helping these companies get people to work?
Miriam Dushane: We told him we weren't going to throw him any curve balls and now we're like, "Hey, where's your data? Where's your numbers?"
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Where's your numbers? I can say it's undoubtedly in the hundreds, over hundreds of people. I know we've helped Hannaford, we helped them scale up and employ 40 people in a month's time. We've helped FedEx scale up during their peak season in the same ways, Walmart. We're hopeful that this scales into the tens of thousands.
Tom Schin: That's outstanding.
Miriam Dushane: Now, I also recall that in some of those hires, the individuals that needed the assistance might be what we would call second chance employees, people who have been through the justice system and are now trying to right the ship, make something out of their lives. I know that's a personal, I don't want to say a project of yours, but it's important to you. I know that you're practicing what you preach. Can you talk to us a little bit more about, one, how you go about doing it and just obstacles and barriers that maybe you've had to overcome that other employers might be interested in learning about so that they can stop shutting down and maybe start opening up?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: It's a passion of mine. It's lived experience, I would say even more so than passion, because it's something I've been through. To be able to have been on both sides of the fence and be in a position where now I could create opportunities through that experience, I would say that some of the biggest obstacles that I found is there's a lot of individuals who have gone to prison and who lack soft skills, including myself. I never had a real job as an adult before I went to prison, so post- prison I had to learn that world and that space. I find that there's so many individuals who are the same way, who might have got incarcerated in their youth and it became a cycle so they never had longterm jobs or even a real job.
That's something that we keep front of mind and we offer a lot of soft skill trainings. We make that a part of our onboard and our culture there, is, hey, we actually welcome people to make mistakes because we don't look at them as mistakes, but more so opportunities for learning and coaching. We set the standard from day one as to the expectation, what we expect from each member of the team, what our mission is, why it's so important what they do. We really try to sell the why to the team in hopes of them getting it, being more productive and understanding how much impact they're having.
Then lastly I would say is on top of the why and all of those things, we actually have weekly trainings. Everybody on the staff every single Friday, by Friday, it's due, whatever their trainings that they were for the week. We have a calendar of trainings, every single member of the team has to go through it. That allows us to really help individuals, especially in that space, who might need help with a lot of those soft skills.
Miriam Dushane: Let's go back one step though. What outreach do you do to even tap into that applicant pool before they're in your organization?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: It's really word of mouth.
Miriam Dushane: Okay.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Yeah, it's really word of mouth. I would say a big portion of it, I've been so transparent with my story since I've been introduced to the business world, I led with my story. Through that, like you were saying, people now see he didn't just lead with a story, but he's walking it. Now I think I'm almost front of mind when people have someone that they think, " Hey, this is an awesome person, made a bad mistake and they just need an opportunity." I think people just naturally think of us at this point.
Tom Schin: That's great. One of the pieces that I've talked about in my family was that second chance notion, we can't expect people to make different choices if we don't set them up for those opportunities. We have folks that come out of a system, minor, major, regardless, we want to integrate these folks and give them an opportunity, but no, you can't work here, you can't work here, you can't go there. What's your message to those employers?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: It's 2022. The old way, the old system, we know it's broken. Are we going to continue to do the broken habits or are we going to really focus on change, and not just speaking it, but living in the space of change and thinking outside of the box.
Tom Schin: Right, I love that. Obviously, being in the staffing realm, we've seen a lot. I can remember folks telling me they came out and they'd done the worst, the worst. To some extent you're thrown aback, but then you talk to other folks, they made a mistake, they're 17, 16. We used the term in our HR world, young and dumb. Were you young and dumb and you did something? Okay, let's move past it. But to have an opportunity, to have organizations like yours, I'm sure other organizations, and that's part of our message here is try and share some of those success points, what can they do? If you had to pick one or two things to advise some of these organizations, shift what you're doing, here's the first step, what would that look like?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: I think the first step in my opinion is just being open, I think it starts with that. A lot of people are just closed minded and if someone went to jail, you're a bad person. That's what we've been conditioned to think, instead of, yes, I made a mistake, it doesn't necessarily make me a bad person. Like you said, there's nobody who hasn't made mistakes, and especially in our youth. I just think first is just being open, being willing to give someone an opportunity, because I can tell you, from being that person, that all I needed was an opportunity to show. There's thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who literally just need an opportunity.
Miriam Dushane: We've talked about the employer side of it. It was funny because in my brain I'm like, " Just open your mind." Have a different mindset, let's get out of the habits of the past that we know are frankly bad, they're just bad. They're stupid, they're dumb and they're bad, because too many people worry about risk and liability, and I'm not saying don't worry about those things, but if you do it right it's not an issue, but-
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct. You can get bonded. For those employers out there, you can get bonded by bringing in individuals who have a criminal record and you are protected in that way. There's tax incentives, there's all sort of things that employers can benefit big time by helping out someone who's been formally incarcerated and giving them a shot. Again, the system is broke, let's think a little different, outside of the box.
Tom Schin: Right, they hear that word felony and the wall goes up.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct, right. Yes, yes.
Miriam Dushane: Yep, right away.
Tom Schin: I can't consider anything else because we haven't done it that way before, so I can never do it that way again. But for years I know the Department of Labor folks would shout from the rooftops, " Bonded, bonded, bonded. We do this," and no one wants to listen. I'm glad you're bringing that up, because it is a valuable tool, it's a valuable resource. I know that the candidates coming through that pool are given some education on those fronts and I love that you were talking about how you provide that opportunity for training and giving some of those soft skills, because you're right, if not you, who?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Who? We have something in our organization called One Way In, Two Ways Out. Basically, it's if someone comes in as an entry level class E driver, our goal is to at least by the time you leave, if nothing else, help you get your commercial driver's license. Let's say you came in as a Class E driver, hey, maybe we could help you learn some sales skills. We always want individuals to leave better than when they came with us. My goal and the team's goal is to build individuals up.
Miriam Dushane: It's so interesting, and I love that, because there's another pandemic happening in the employment world and that's the flight risk, we don't want to hire somebody because they're not going to stay that long, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. I love that you're like, " I want you to be better and maybe it will be that you get better here and you go on and you continue to advance your life, your career," which, oh by the way, is a roll over domino effect to our entire community and everyone else in it.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct, correct.
Miriam Dushane: I love that you think that way, because I don't think a lot of employers ... Employers or hiring managers are just like, " I need this job done. I want someone that I can make sure they're doing this job for 10 years," and that's just not feasible anymore.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: It's not.
Miriam Dushane: Why would you want to do that to somebody?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: We like to look at our team as our customer, right?
Miriam Dushane: Mm- hmm.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Before we even touch a customer, our first customer is our team. If we're not in tune with our customer, that being our team, as what their goals are, what they're looking to do and achieve in life and being willing to help them do that, like you said, odds are they'll be here for as long as this is good for them and then they're gone, but when you actually have skin in the game and show that you care and have concern for your team, I find that they're willing to do almost anything for you.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: That's what you want in a team and that's the buy- in you need to continue to grow and be a successful organization. But I think it has to come down to it's not just dollars and cents, but also humanity and really just caring for people on your team.
Miriam Dushane: Be a good human.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: There it is.
Miriam Dushane: This is my new tagline. I've been saying this more and more on networking events and in just different circumstances because all of this stuff comes down to being a good freaking human.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: I agree, I agree.
Miriam Dushane: It's done, come on.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: It's simple as that, simple as that, be a good human.
Miriam Dushane: It's not hard, people, right?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Agreed, agreed.
Miriam Dushane: What would you tell someone on the flip side? The prospective employee that has a past and for whatever reason they probably have their own demons about their past, they have to overcome that, plus they have to go out there and put themselves out there to get that job, what advice would you give to them?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Own it. I led with my story, I lead with my story. I say own it. If you know have a felony when you come in there, let that be the first thing you get right off the rip, own it. " Hey, I made a mistake. I'm not making any excuses for it. I own it. I did my time or whatever it looks like. I'm past that and now I'm ready to do this." But I say own it, don't tiptoe around it, don't be scared. The sooner you own it, the sooner that is no longer really a thing.
Tom Schin: Yeah. I've seen over the years, folks are afraid. They're afraid to bring it up because they don't want to be ruled out, they don't want to be judged. There's an embarrassment piece to it for some of them.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: A hundred percent, a hundred percent.
Tom Schin: Now, mind you, I've had discussions with some that have said, " I've got this in my past." Then you do your due diligence, yes, that's there and then there's four others.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Right. True, true, true. True indeed.
Tom Schin: True indeed. That happens.
Miriam Dushane: Selective honesty.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Selective honesty.
Tom Schin: Then they go, "Well, I told you." I'm like, " Yeah, you did, but you left out the other pieces."
Trent Griffin-Braaf: You forgot about this, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yep.
Tom Schin: But I love that, put it out there.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Agree.
Tom Schin: I've always had the best conversations with folks that have come to me and just be honest.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct.
Tom Schin: I'll tell you what I can do, I'll tell you where I can suggest you go for what employers will be able to do, who has a history of being able to help you get off the ground, get you in a successful situations.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct. Mm- hmm, I agree.
Miriam Dushane: Definitely.
Tom Schin: My question to you, I was watching a reel, yes, I watch reels. You get sucked into these things, holy cow.
Miriam Dushane: Social media is addicting, it really is.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: It is.
Miriam Dushane: I don't know what they're putting in that screen, but it's bad.
Tom Schin: MSG.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: They know.
Tom Schin: It's MSG.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: They know, yes, yes, yes.
Miriam Dushane: It's like MSG for your brain.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Yes, yes, yes.
Miriam Dushane: But go ahead, Tom.
Tom Schin: I was watching this naval officer, she was writing a message to herself, " Hey, 2010 self, you did it. You had those days where you got there and you cried and you fell apart and you felt like quitting." What's your message to your younger self?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Man, that's a good one. My message to my younger self would be, I like that, " Hey, you did it," or, " You're doing it, you're going to do it." The message to my younger self is have confidence, have upmost confidence in what you do. I would say to my younger self, I feel like I was always a leader, everyone used to always say I was mature for my age, but now I look back at it I think that was more my leadership that they recognized and they just didn't see it at that point.
Miriam Dushane: That way, mm-hmm.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: I would tell my younger self to continue to lead, lead by example, lead the charge, don't be afraid. I would tell my younger self, just like I tell everyone, you have greatness in you, you just have to find it and pull it out. I would tell my younger self that the sky's not even the limit, there really is no limits. Take it as far as you can, you only get one shot at this thing. I would probably just tell my younger self, " You're going to have four kids. Did you know that?"
Tom Schin: That's a warning message, right?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Right, right.
Miriam Dushane: Uh-oh, uh-oh. Warning, danger, danger.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Right.
Miriam Dushane: God bless you, God bless you. I have a question for you. Just first, thank you so much for joining us today.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Oh, thank you for having me.
Miriam Dushane: I have loved our conversation, but diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace is the trendy thing, but it's also a topic of conversation. Even locally, a lot of businesses, the Capital Region Chamber and all these other places, they're talking about it a lot more. I think that's good, because I think we need to talk about it and we need to squirm in our seats when we hear people's stories, but because I'm going to learn from you.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct.
Miriam Dushane: And you're going to learn from me and vice versa.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct.
Miriam Dushane: But knowing that only 1% of Fortune 500 company CEOs in this country are African American, what would be a piece of advice you would give somebody who is striving to become successful in the business world?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: One, it's 2022, we need to change that metric. I would tell them that. I believe right now entrepreneurship is, again, a hot topic, just like diversity, equity, inclusion. I think a lot of people are running towards entrepreneurship, so I would tell them that, that change is coming and you can be a part of that change.
Then I would also highlight though, there are a lot of one to 3 percentages just in general. You can always either be with the pack or you can be the one outside of the pack. I would encourage people to be outside of the pack as much as possible. Even though that it might seem unattainable, once again, all things are obtainable if you're willing to put the work in, if you're willing to strategize, if you're willing to execute. I would tell anyone, join that 1%, be a part of that 1%. But hopefully that number scales up and it's becomes a larger percentage.
That would be my advice. I look at numbers like that and it doesn't sit well with me, I hate hearing stuff like that, but we have the opportunity to change it. I'll just use an example. In the Capital region, there's never been a Black- owned company that's been nominated as one of the best places to work. As soon as I found that out, that became, for me, a goal, we're going to try to change that. It might not happen this year, it might not happen next year, but I can assure you we're going to change that and then that will no longer just be the status quo. Now people will know it's obtainable.
The same with that 1%, you can be that one Fortune 500 or that top 1% if you're willing to really put the work in and if you really believe. I think a big portion of that definitely comes down to belief, because a lot of people say they want certain things, but I don't think internally they truly believe that they can do it. It has to become something that you know can do.
Tom Schin: It's very similar to, not the same, but in the same direction of you have to take a step in that direction in order to get where you're going. In order to get to 1%, you had to be at half.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct.
Tom Schin: In order to get to 2%, you have to be at one.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Correct.
Tom Schin: There's a progression. You can't be in the swimming pool unless your toe's in the water.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: That's right. I love it, I love it. I love it, you can't be in the swimming pool unless your toe's in the water. It's true, it's true.
Miriam Dushane: It's perfect. Roadside assistance toolkit, this is HR in the Car. Through past podcast guests, we've come up with this concept. Thanks, Jen Massey, again for your wonderful idea that we're going to continue to use until it gets too boring for people to listen to. What's your go- to tool that's in your metaphoric roadside assistance toolkit? Now, it could be actually not metaphoric in your case because you're in the transportation industry.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Right, we really do transportation. That is a great question. You know what? My mental health, that's my go- to, and assuring that I always have a clean head space. I'm able to think, I'm able to digest what's going on, I'm able to take in new information, retain it, and I know that comes from being in a good space mentally. I would say my go- to is definitely my mental health and making sure I'm making for myself, just so that I'm constantly able to show up the best form of me.
Miriam Dushane: I am absolutely in love with you right now, I just want you to know that.
Tom Schin: Don't tell Adam.
Miriam Dushane: Yeah, don't tell my husband, but he would get it.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Your friend?
Miriam Dushane: Yeah. Yeah, my friend. Very good, very good. I agree, I think that's fantastic. I love that you talked about it because I think, again, another topic that needs to be talked about a lot more is our mental health and how we can't be good for our companies, we can't be good for our employees, we can't be good for our family if we aren't good to ourselves first.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Agreed, agreed.
Miriam Dushane: That would be probably another 20- minute conversation of what Trent does to help in that, but even just putting that out there and saying this is important. I really appreciate you being so wonderful with us and honest with us. Will you come back again?
Trent Griffin-Braaf: A hundred percent, a hundred percent. I would love to come back again. I appreciate the opportunity to just come and chit chat and hang out with you guys, so thank you.
Miriam Dushane: Well, you're doing amazing things and I'm so proud of your success. Thank you for everything you're doing in our community. It's being noticed and it's making a difference, so thank you.
Trent Griffin-Braaf: Thank you.
Tom Schin: The thought of second chances to many folks doesn't exist. I'm so glad we were able to have Trent share his story. I really like how he sat there and you saw the gears turning in his head, for us here in the studio, when we talked about the message to the younger self. He's just going back and it wasn't, " Let me fix this and let me fix that," but it's the future focus, think about the things you could do. I thought that was really telling.
Miriam Dushane: There's so many things that I agree with Trent and what he's doing and what he's saying publicly. When he talked about employers changing their mindset, what's the secret sauce, there is no secret sauce. Open your minds and look at the possibilities of everyone around us. Just again, I'll scream that from the rooftops, be a good human and open your mind to the possibilities of others. I loved today's session and I'm so glad he joined us.
Tom Schin: I think my favorite part is when he answered the toolkit question, he didn't go to a wrench, he didn't go to a hammer, he went right to mental health. How poignant is that over these last few years, that that's the first go- to piece, center yourself, that love yourself before you can love others.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely.
Tom Schin: It sets the tone that you've got to pay attention and be in the right mindset. The first thing that I was thinking is never respond to the angry email, right?
Miriam Dushane: Mm- hmm, yep.
Tom Schin: That rings true when you talk about those things. It was fantastic to have him. For those of you listening for the first time, come back to alaant. com and pick up more podcast episodes from HR in the Car. Thanks for listening.