Purple on the Inside


How J.B. Hunt Transport Set Itself Apart in a Field Full of Brown Cows
Kirk Thompson and Matthew A. Waller
978-1-68226-098-2 (paper)
July 2019


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J.B. Hunt Transport hit the national business scene as a trucking company led by a dynamic founder known for his boundless optimism, untamed vision, and salesmanship. The company has since transformed into a multi-billion-dollar business by balancing business savvy and execution with an enduring entrepreneurial spirit—a rare feat in any industry.

J.B. Hunt’s triumphs and struggles provide a fascinating case study of how business theory, leadership, culture, and organizational best-practices have combined to create one of the most successful companies in American history. Kirk Thompson, with more than forty years of experience inside the company, gives a CEO’s account of the company’s evolution, while Matt Waller connects the leadership decisions to business theories that are transferrable to other leaders and industries.

Purple on the Inside is more than a corporate history or business management primer. It’s a practical case study that illustrates what Seth Godin described in Purple Cow, his best-selling book that considers what characteristics make for a remarkable business. It’s the story of leaders and team members who tap into their founder’s spirit for innovation while maintaining the focus and high level of performance needed to grow. It’s a story about developing partnerships, technologies, and expertise that others can’t easily duplicate. And it’s a story of overcoming disheartening setbacks and cultivating the purple cows that have allowed J.B. Hunt Transport to do what many experts said was impossible—stand out from its competition in an industry full of brown cows.

Kirk Thompson is the chairman of the board of J.B. Hunt Transport and a member of the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. He has spent more than forty years helping guide the company’s transformation into a diversified transportation services company, including more than two decades of service as CEO.

Matthew A. Waller is dean and professor of supply chain management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

“A must read for any executive struggling with sustainability, growth, and profitability in a competitive industry.”
—Gary Norcross, CEO, FIS Global

“Kirk Thompson’s gift for storytelling and firsthand experience along with Matt Waller’s insights on business theory make Purple on the Inside a fun read that teaches some incredibly valuable lessons about innovation, culture, leadership, and building companies that last. This is a book that every leader should read.”
—G. David Gearhart, chancellor emeritus, University of Arkansas

Distributed for Epic Books, the publishing imprint of the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

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