Pros to Know: TA Services' Chris Bahr Named Overall Top Shipper

Chris Bahr, EVP and chief information officer for TA Services, was named an overall winner of the Top Shippers category for this year’s Pros to Know award.

C Bahr Headshot1 (1)

Chris Bahr, EVP and chief information officer for TA Services, was named an overall winner of the Top Shippers category for this year’s Pros to Know award, presented by Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

We talk exclusively with Bahr about his journey, his goals, what he would tell his future and past self and the importance of supporting growth initiatives and integrating culture.

Supply & Demand Chain Executive: Let’s first talk about you. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey to get to this current stage in your career?

Chris Bahr: I was first introduced to the logistics industry during my sophomore year at Auburn University when I decided to pursue my degree in supply chain and logistics. Auburn has an amazing program, and I felt the curriculum was a good fit for my analytical nature. I graduated in 2005 and accepted an entry-level position with a 4PL that managed transportation and warehousing for several large customers, primarily in the automotive industry. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to work on-site for several of these customers, and that’s where I learned how critical inventory and transportation planning was to the manufacturing process. 

In 2008, I entered the freight brokerage industry and never left. My first role as a “cradle-to-grave” freight broker proved to be an invaluable opportunity because it required me to learn several aspects of the business, including sales, operations, and pricing. I later moved into an inside sales role where I gained a new appreciation for creating and sustaining relationships. Three years later, in 2017, I joined TA Services as central pricing and business intelligence manager with the goal of creating internal reporting and standardizing the contractual pricing process. This role provided a great opportunity for me to impact an entire organization rather than only focusing on my individual book of business. It was also my first exposure to creating interactive reporting to help operations make data-driven decisions when managing their business, which has evolved into a true work passion. 

After I had progressed to the role of VP of business intelligence and pricing, where I exclusively managed the pricing and business intelligence team at TA Services for three years, I began to also oversee the company’s freight brokerage operations. Acting as VP of brokerage operations for TA allowed me to be more involved in the daily operations of the business, giving me the ability to make better informed decisions that had a greater impact to our operations and processes. It also provided me the opportunity to sharpen my leadership skills. Overseeing around 100 employees – each with unique perspectives, ideas, and methods of doing work – forced me to grow tremendously both as a manager and as a leader.

I’ve recently moved into a more strategic role as EVP and chief information officer, where I continue to oversee contractual pricing and work to provide our team members with impactful data around the business. My focus is largely on creating efficient and innovative systems and processes through enhanced tools and reporting that provide greater performance visibility. My new role will also allow me to become more involved in TA’s strategic M&A activity.           


Supply & Demand Chain Executive: One of the things outlined in your submission is you are a strategic force behind many of TA’s growth initiatives, including operations, pricing, data analysis, sales, risk management and integrating culture and systems in your merger and acquisition activities. That last part being so important today. Walk us through some key takeaways about the importance of supporting growth initiatives and integrating culture.

Bahr: When evaluating an acquisition target and integrating post-acquisition, we focus on three major areas: people, process, and technology. In my opinion, the freight brokerage industry will always be a people-driven business, regardless of the increasing adoption of automation. So, at TA, we always start by looking at companies that we feel are already a good cultural match for us. Do we share the same values and beliefs? Do we align in our mission? Is the overall atmosphere and environment similar to the rest of our facilities? These kinds of questions allow us to consider whether a company would be a conducive fit for TA.

Once we make that determination, the most critical component of any successful M&A both during and after the integration process is to set team members up for success by providing the communication, support, and resources needed to help them perform their job function in the most effective way possible. Understanding the processes used to manage the business and being open to adopting different approaches helps expedite the path towards best practices for all. TA Services has adopted countless processes from acquired companies and integrated them into our legacy business. Understanding that someone else may have a better way of doing something and being willing to learn goes a long way in creating trust.

Integrating technology takes a significant amount of planning, support, and time to ensure that any changes that are made do not disrupt the business and the people managing it. Being transparent about intentions and explaining the benefits of any potential changes in advance helps to drive early adaptation and creates an environment of trust. After that, the TA culture speaks for itself. From company challenges and events to spending rewards points on our company-funded webstore – it’s hard to not want to be immersed in it.       


Supply & Demand Chain Executive: There’s so much going on in the shipping world, and in the supply chain in general. What have you and your company done to help customers improve visibility and optimization?

Bahr: Obviously technology is a huge driver of visibility for shippers. When possible, we utilize EDI and API connections to provide real-time visibility into statuses and locations of our shipper partners’ freight shipments. If a shipper does not have the ability to connect electronically for tracking and status updates, we ensure that timely, traditional communication is consistently provided. We don’t sell tangible commodities, so the real value we can provide a shipper is unparalleled service. 

Timely, accurate communication is a vital component of customer service in our industry. Another area where TA Services provides superior value to shippers is through problem solving, which can include optimization. Any brokerage provider can contract a carrier partner to haul from Point A to Point B, but I feel strongly that our team is focused on providing the absolute best solution for any particular shipper’s needs, especially if there are unique or challenging requirements.   


Supply & Demand Chain Executive: If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you tell him?

Bahr: I would tell myself that hard work will inevitably lead to positive results. Not everything you do will come naturally or be innately easy, but if you are persistent and put in the effort, good things will happen.


Supply & Demand Chain Executive: What would you want to tell your future self?

Bahr: I hope my future self is able to say that he had no regrets. So, I would like to say to my future self that I will do my best to make the most out of the opportunities presented. I will seek to find the lesson in everything – both good and bad – that comes my way. I will vow to share the knowledge and insights gained throughout my career with others and to always lead with honesty, transparency, and integrity.


Supply & Demand Chain Executive: You’ve been named an overall Pros to Know winner for the Top Shippers category, which recognizes professionals in the transportation space. What advice do you have for others in the shipping space, especially considering all of the challenges this particular sector has been and will continue to face?

Bahr: From new platforms and technologies to evolving processes and methodologies, the transportation industry is constantly changing. The way you work today will likely not be the way you work in the next five years, so be open to change and learn how to adapt well and quickly. 

And remember that supply chain logistics will always be a people-led business, so building relationships and trust with the people you interact with will always be imperative to succeed in such a competitive landscape. Do everything you do with integrity and honor. It’s a smaller world than you think and the connections you make in this industry usually have a greater reach than you’re aware of.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the 2024 Pros to Know winners.