As you probably already know, Best Yet Express is a family-owned business. It’s led by Jay Newjahr, Owner and CEO, the son of founders Chris and Sherry Newjahr, and his wife, Lara Press-Newjahr, who serves as President. The husband-wife team has learned a lot along the way. In celebration of another successful year, BYX sat down with Lara and Jay to get a closer look at what it’s really like behind the scenes.
How has doing business changed since BYX was founded?
Originally, much of the business consisted of one-off shipments. Companies with occasional shipments would hire us here and there, but they lacked the volume to offer steady business. This meant we were constantly chasing down the next lead, creating instability.
We still have some of those customers, but the focus of the business shifted to building partnerships with other businesses that rely on us to keep their operations going. We think of ourselves as an extension of these businesses that need us to perform to operate themselves.
Technology has also changed the business a lot. We’ve come a long way from two-way radios and handwritten post-it notes hanging on a pegboard. Everything is done online now and that has drastically changed efficiency. The company started with a pickup truck and a strict focus on trucking. Today, we’ve also expanded into the warehouse and brokerage space.
What’s it like to work with your spouse every day? Any tips for husband-wife business partners?
For sure. This dynamic is not for everyone. We don’t always do this perfectly, but after many years of experience, we have discovered a set of rules we live by:
- Maintain mutual respect for one another
- Communicate openly
- Don’t keep score
- Understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses
- Utilize your partner’s strengths and help cover for their weaknesses
- Don’t overthink it – that rabbit hole can get deep
- “Sit on it” – no emotional reactions – wait 24 hours to respond
- Make it fun
The last is our favorite tip and the most important part for us. We laugh a lot every day. Life can be crazy stressful. It should also be fun too! Set priorities, and don’t stress about the small stuff. So much of it is outside of our control, and that’s okay. Don’t stay upset for too long, adjust your attitude about the situation, and keep moving forward.
Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to working with your spouse.
Most people question how we do this. We joke that it’s unclear whether or not we would have made it if we didn’t work together. For many years, the pressure, stress, and long hours felt really tough and lonely. We had each other to lean on during those years.
We also wouldn’t have seen each other very often if we weren’t working together during that time. We both understood intimately what was required of the other. There wasn’t any anger or resentment towards the other for late nights, early mornings, calls at all hours, etc. which can often leave a partner feeling neglected or less important. We both fully understood what the other had going on at work, and we rode the waves together.
The celebrations are different when they are shared with your partner. You know how hard-fought that victory was, and your partners successes are truly yours as well. It’s also easier to support each other during setbacks because you feel them too.
Plus, employees can come and go. Knowing that the two of you will always be there, fighting together, brings a sense of strength and support that most entrepreneurs don’t have. You will both always be committed to your company’s success in a way no one else will.
This dynamic also creates some challenges. You both have all your eggs in the same basket. That can be scary. Failure is not an option. It’s also tough to not bring home some of the stressors from your business. They can spill over into your home life too. Boundaries are important to establish and can be tricky to uphold.
Naturally, behind the scenes of BYX, we do not always agree on every decision. In fact, we are so different from each other and approach business from such different angles that we often don’t initially agree. We’ve learned to appreciate this. It’s an asset, encouraging us to find a compromise using each of our strengths.
And, of course, sometimes you both need to be in that meeting but the kids also need to be picked up from soccer practice, so we do what they do and “rock it out” (rock, paper, scissors) and prepare to debrief the other later.
Do you have a strict daily routine?
Absolutely. We believe routine is an important part of success. A typical day looks something like this:
- Get up early to exercise, get the kids ready, and take them to school.
- Get ready ourselves
- Spend the rest of the day committed to work
- Handle the kids’ after school sports carpools
- Sit down for dinner together by 7 pm
- Kids off to bed at 8 pm
- Have a check-in with each other about the day
- Lights out around 10 pm
- Get up and do it again!
What do your kids think of BYX?
The kids are the company’s biggest fans! There is nothing they would rather do on a day off from school than go to work with us. They have their own “office” with a sign on the door labeled, “Kids BYX.” They are very interested in the business and love visiting the staff. While they’re there, they enjoy helping with odd jobs around the office.
We believe in a certain level of transparency with them. During dinner, we all talk about our day. We share some of the challenges and triumphs with them. At a young age, they’re aware that business ownership comes with both costs and benefits, and it’s not for everyone. They share in the joys and ask about how big meetings go. We also talk about some of the challenges, and they share their own thoughts and solutions. Sharing these discussions with them has become one of our favorite parts of business ownership. There is some definite indication that we have some budding entrepreneurs on our hands!
Starting a business requires taking risks, as does continuing to grow your business. How do you manage the stress that comes along with making major decisions?
It absolutely comes with a lot of stress. You must get comfortable being uncomfortable and truthfully, early on, managing stress is very difficult. The plain and simple answer: Just keep getting back up. Resilience is a requirement. Find another angle. Try another door. Show up everyday. Don’t give up. That’s the key. Exercise gratitude and focus on the positive and the parts that you can change. Always maintain the belief that good things lie ahead.
Also, very important for stress management is getting enough sleep to, at least, keep you functional. Avoid putting food in your body that will slow you down, too!
Now that we have more support, our team helps us manage the company. That has lessened the stress levels by dispersing the pressure. Now, it’s shared. We all draw from each other’s energy and support each other as needed. Putting the right people in the right seats is key to stress management.
Bottom line? Have faith. Tomorrow is always a new day and a new opportunity.
What’s the hardest part of owning your own business? And the best part?
The hardest part and the best part are related. The hardest part is that there are no true breaks. As a business owner, you never get to truly unplug and take time off. The other side of that coin is the best part: You get to be in control of your own schedule. While that emergency work call that you have to take may come at the worst time, you can also build your schedule to be at your daughter’s award ceremonies when they happen and maybe even volunteer to coach their soccer team. But it took us a lot of years to get to this point.
Also, when everyone else is running out of the fire, you must run in. At the end of the day it’s all on you. That is both overwhelming and oddly liberating. Knowing how to do everything in the company and having spent many years doing the stuff others didn’t want to do was tough but yielded great advantages.
What do you think are the most essential qualities of an entrepreneur?
What will you never compromise on with your business? (Non-negotiable values that you’ll stick by, even when it’s not convenient)
We’ll always stick with what we’re good at, and focus on what the company was built on. Our philosophy is to keep our trucks going. A location that holds a driver up on a single pick-up all day long isn’t for us. This philosophy also means that we work in a Business-to-Business relationship model and focus on clean, palletized freight.
What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned through running BYX?
Two things, really. One, don’t take things for granted. What’s happening today could change tomorrow. Two, be patient. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow climb that must be worked towards every day and the journey to it never ends.
The BYX family works hard and plays hard
In the South Bay, that’s not hard to do. If you live in the area, Jay and Lara are like neighbors. Let’s get to know them!
What’s your favorite thing about living in the South Bay?
The beach, of course! But also the community feel, proximity to great shops, restaurants, and entertainment, and the amazing educational opportunities for the kids.
Name your favorite activities to do as a family in your time off.
Watching our kids play sports! On the weekends you’ll likely find us on the sideline of a soccer or baseball game, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. On the rare occasion that we have a weekend off from sports, you can find us at the beach, riding bikes, eating out, and hanging with friends.
If you could sit down and chat with one renowned business person, who would it be and why?
Henry Ford. He was a true visionary who came from a humble background. He found his path in a non-glamourous industry and failed several times before achieving success– A lot like most of us who work hard behind the scenes at BYX.