KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Jimmy Haslam walked into a roomful of reporters Monday at the Knoxville, Tennessee headquarters of Pilot Flying J and asked "How we doing?"
How Haslam was doing was fairly obvious. After a weekend spent reading the FBI affidavit alleging a widespread scheme to defraud customers, not good.
"That was the most painful and still is, 48 hours that I've ever experienced in business," Haslam said.
"Eight days ago I think we had the best relationships, the best trust in the trucking industry and we now have the worst," he said. "I understand that, I accept responsibility for it."
What Haslam did Monday was what those involved in crisis management say he needed to do.
"What we tell our clients is that whether or not there is an instance of wrong doing, when your integrity is being questioned you need to do three things; you need to fess up to the situation, you need to fix it up and then you need to tell everybody what you're going to do to make sure that it never happens again," said Howard Fencl of the Cleveland based crisis management consulting firm Hennes – Paynter.
Haslam did that, Fencl said, in the form of the five-point plan he put forth Monday. Those points included suspending indefinitely several members of the direct sales team involved, hiring a chief compliance officer, conducting an internal investigation to see what customers might be owed what and bringing in an outside independent investigator that will report back not to Haslam, but to the Pilot Flying J board.
The key Fencl said is tell the truth.
"If you're not telling the truth up front, it's going to be very, very difficult for you to recover."
"He's got customers, he's got a business to run, he needs to get out in front of them so that he can build back the reputation of his company and that's exactly what he seems to be doing," Fencl said.