By Olan Beam, Photography By John Walsh

Keith-and-Joy-Jones-BB&T-Perspectives

Keith and Joy Jones

Keith Jones enjoys his success, but sharing it with family, employees and friends makes it more than just a job. “He has his heart in it,” says his wife, Joy Jones.

Keith Jones grew up in Charlotte County near Abilene, in south central Virginia. While growing up with little money and six siblings was difficult, it was also rewarding. “We actually got along well,” he says. “My parents worked hard and expected – and needed – the same from us. I think having to work together to survive made us closer. My father operated a sawmill and later owned a service station. I learned how to drive a truck at 13, and later hauled lumber for my dad. I haven’t quit driving since.” Keith went on to work in a variety of jobs through the years, but ultimately, he came back to the trucking business.

Joy Jones, Keith’s wife for more than 47 years, says, “Ever since I met Keith, I knew trucks and transportation would be where he would make his living. He grew up driving trucks and I could see he loved it – every part of it – not just driving. It is more than just a job to him.”

He worked for Roadway Express for 14 years and was one of their most successful salesmen. “I loved driving trucks, but my experience with Roadway helped me understand the business and the relationships with the shippers in the area,” he explains. “That experience led me to start a trailer leasing business and Abilene Motor Express in 1986. I sold the trailer leasing business 13 years later, and the proceeds gave me the capital I needed to grow Abilene.” More than 25 years later, Abilene Motor Express generates about $100 million in revenue annually.

Jones Family Values

What has led to the success of Abilene Motor Express? “I guess it is appropriate that our company is named for the small community we grew up in,” Keith says. “Some of the values I learned back then are some of the reasons we have been successful. Kolen [Keith’s brother] and I believe in doing what we say we are going to do and never asking anyone to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. Our oldest brother, Kenneth, had a big influence in helping me learn those lessons. He is the hardest working, most honest man I know.”

Family is a big part of Abilene Motor Express. Kolen cofounded the company with Keith and is its president and chief operating officer. Brother Kurtis is a vice president. Alan Jones, a nephew, is vice president of operations. Kermit Jones, the youngest brother, is a successful tractor and trailer sales representative, and has worked closely with the trucking company to spec trucks and trailers for their operation. Our sisters, Opal and Linda, helped our mother care for the younger children. They all learned working together is crucial to success as a family and a business. The family gets together often and still believes strongly in family values.

Keith-Jones-Abilene-Motor-Express-BB&T-Perspectives

(From Left): Keith Jones; Kolen, Keith and Alan Jones at Abilene headquarters.

At Abilene Trucking, though, being family doesn’t mean getting your way. “Oh yes, we have disagreements from time to time,” Keith says. “Kolen and I oftentimes look at things differently. But, that is part of what makes us successful. We recognize we have different points of view and different strengths. I think we take advantage of those differences. We are stronger, smarter and a better company by working together.”

Showing The Passion

For the Joneses, mixing work and fun seems to come naturally. Growing up, enjoying vehicles didn’t stop with trucks – tractors also became a passion for Keith. “The first tractor I restored was an old John Deere that was my uncle’s,” he says. “It was sitting out in the field beginning to rust away when I bought it from my aunt. I hated to see it just fall apart. I guess I kind of got the bug after that.”

keystone-tractor-works-logoKeith ultimately bought a former paint factory in Colonial Heights, Va., and now has about 235 antique tractors, trucks and cars displayed in the 75,000-square-foot facility. Keystone Tractor Works and Grille is open seven days a week and welcomes visitors year round. Tractor and truck enthusiasts come from miles around to visit, and the museum hosts meetings of enthusiasts and collectors groups.

Walking through the museum, Keith has a story about each seller, the condition of each tractor when he bought it and how he envisioned transforming each one into something amazing. Listening to him, you can understand how the sellers could see that vision too – and want to be a part of it.

Keith-and-Joy-Jones-farm-Tractor-Works-BB&T-Perspectives

(From Left): Keith and Joy at Keystone Acres horse farm; Keith inside Keystone Tractor Works with his first tractor.

Responsibility, Discipline, Heart

While leadership comes naturally to Keith, he takes the responsibility of being a leader very seriously. “I have several hundred folks who work for me,” he says. “I want to make sure this company stays successful so they can take care of their families and live good lives. It is my legacy and our legacy as a family.” That responsibility seems to drive Keith, Kolen and the Abilene Motor Express management team.

“To be successful, we need to serve our customers better than anyone else,” Keith continues. “We believe that means investing in better equipment, understanding the most efficient ways to handle each type of freight, and paying and training our drivers well. Our discipline and investments, we believe, give us a competitive advantage in a very competitive industry.”

Indeed, Abilene has become a respected competitor in the trucking industry. They have a fleet of more than 400 trucks and 1,500 trailers, and they operate on a three-year trade cycle to maintain the safest and most efficient fleet possible. Their state-of-the-art logistics management system allows them to track every shipment in realtime. “We’ve invested in technology to help us manage every aspect of our clients’ shipments and ensure the safety and efficiency of our drivers and equipment,” Keith says. Their technology and reinvestment discipline have allowed Abilene to reduce maintenance costs, avoid time-consuming breakdowns, optimize driver hours, improve fuel consumption and maximize revenue per load.

“My team is the best in the business,” Keith says. “We’ve spent our lives learning how to work better and smarter. All the years we’ve worked together have helped us understand which investments are worthwhile and which to avoid. I enjoy coming in every day and seeing the drive my folks have to get the job done right. They all have a real sense of responsibility. I’m proud that Abilene gives them the tools to do their best and I think they appreciate our commitment.”

Joy explains there is another special ingredient to Keith’s leadership that sometimes business people don’t realize. “Keith loves what he does,” she says. “He loves the people, driving the trucks, working with his family and making sure his clients are happy. His heart is in it, and people recognize it.”

Now you know why it is so hard keeping up with the Joneses.

Keith and Joy Jones’ BB&T Wealth advisor is Marcy Brescia.

By Olan Beam, Photography By John Walsh

Keith-and-Joy-Jones-BB&T-Perspectives

Keith and Joy Jones

Keith Jones enjoys his success, but sharing it with family, employees and friends makes it more than just a job. “He has his heart in it,” says his wife, Joy Jones.

Keith Jones grew up in Charlotte County near Abilene, in south central Virginia. While growing up with little money and six siblings was difficult, it was also rewarding. “We actually got along well,” he says. “My parents worked hard and expected – and needed – the same from us. I think having to work together to survive made us closer. My father operated a sawmill and later owned a service station. I learned how to drive a truck at 13, and later hauled lumber for my dad. I haven’t quit driving since.” Keith went on to work in a variety of jobs through the years, but ultimately, he came back to the trucking business.

Joy Jones, Keith’s wife for more than 47 years, says, “Ever since I met Keith, I knew trucks and transportation would be where he would make his living. He grew up driving trucks and I could see he loved it – every part of it – not just driving. It is more than just a job to him.”

He worked for Roadway Express for 14 years and was one of their most successful salesmen. “I loved driving trucks, but my experience with Roadway helped me understand the business and the relationships with the shippers in the area,” he explains. “That experience led me to start a trailer leasing business and Abilene Motor Express in 1986. I sold the trailer leasing business 13 years later, and the proceeds gave me the capital I needed to grow Abilene.” More than 25 years later, Abilene Motor Express generates about $100 million in revenue annually.

Jones Family Values
What has led to the success of Abilene Motor Express? “I guess it is appropriate that our company is named for the small community we grew up in,” Keith says. “Some of the values I learned back then are some of the reasons we have been successful. Kolen [Keith’s brother] and I believe in doing what we say we are going to do and never asking anyone to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. Our oldest brother, Kenneth, had a big influence in helping me learn those lessons. He is the hardest working, most honest man I know.”

Family is a big part of Abilene Motor Express. Kolen cofounded the company with Keith and is its president and chief operating officer. Brother Kurtis is a vice president. Alan Jones, a nephew, is vice president of operations. Kermit Jones, the youngest brother, is a successful tractor and trailer sales representative, and has worked closely with the trucking company to spec trucks and trailers for their operation. Our sisters, Opal and Linda, helped our mother care for the younger children. They all learned working together is crucial to success as a family and a business. The family gets together often and still believes strongly in family values.

Keith-Jones-Abilene-Motor-Express-BB&T-Perspectives

(From Left): Keith Jones; Kolen, Keith and Alan Jones at Abilene headquarters.

At Abilene Trucking, though, being family doesn’t mean getting your way. “Oh yes, we have disagreements from time to time,” Keith says. “Kolen and I oftentimes look at things differently. But, that is part of what makes us successful. We recognize we have different points of view and different strengths. I think we take advantage of those differences. We are stronger, smarter and a better company by working together.”

Showing The Passion
For the Joneses, mixing work and fun seems to come naturally. Growing up, enjoying vehicles didn’t stop with trucks – tractors also became a passion for Keith. “The first tractor I restored was an old John Deere that was my uncle’s,” he says. “It was sitting out in the field beginning to rust away when I bought it from my aunt. I hated to see it just fall apart. I guess I kind of got the bug after that.”

keystone-tractor-works-logoKeith ultimately bought a former paint factory in Colonial Heights, Va., and now has about 235 antique tractors, trucks and cars displayed in the 75,000-square-foot facility. Keystone Tractor Works and Grille is open seven days a week and welcomes visitors year round. Tractor and truck enthusiasts come from miles around to visit, and the museum hosts meetings of enthusiasts and collectors groups.

Walking through the museum, Keith has a story about each seller, the condition of each tractor when he bought it and how he envisioned transforming each one into something amazing. Listening to him, you can understand how the sellers could see that vision too – and want to be a part of it.

Keith-and-Joy-Jones-farm-Tractor-Works-BB&T-Perspectives

(From Left): Keith and Joy at Keystone Acres horse farm; Keith inside Keystone Tractor Works with his first tractor.

Responsibility, Discipline, Heart
While leadership comes naturally to Keith, he takes the responsibility of being a leader very seriously. “I have several hundred folks who work for me,” he says. “I want to make sure this company stays successful so they can take care of their families and live good lives. It is my legacy and our legacy as a family.” That responsibility seems to drive Keith, Kolen and the Abilene Motor Express management team.

“To be successful, we need to serve our customers better than anyone else,” Keith continues. “We believe that means investing in better equipment, understanding the most efficient ways to handle each type of freight, and paying and training our drivers well. Our discipline and investments, we believe, give us a competitive advantage in a very competitive industry.”

Indeed, Abilene has become a respected competitor in the trucking industry. They have a fleet of more than 400 trucks and 1,500 trailers, and they operate on a three-year trade cycle to maintain the safest and most efficient fleet possible. Their state-of-the-art logistics management system allows them to track every shipment in realtime. “We’ve invested in technology to help us manage every aspect of our clients’ shipments and ensure the safety and efficiency of our drivers and equipment,” Keith says. Their technology and reinvestment discipline have allowed Abilene to reduce maintenance costs, avoid time-consuming breakdowns, optimize driver hours, improve fuel consumption and maximize revenue per load.

“My team is the best in the business,” Keith says. “We’ve spent our lives learning how to work better and smarter. All the years we’ve worked together have helped us understand which investments are worthwhile and which to avoid. I enjoy coming in every day and seeing the drive my folks have to get the job done right. They all have a real sense of responsibility. I’m proud that Abilene gives them the tools to do their best and I think they appreciate our commitment.”

Joy explains there is another special ingredient to Keith’s leadership that sometimes business people don’t realize. “Keith loves what he does,” she says. “He loves the people, driving the trucks, working with his family and making sure his clients are happy. His heart is in it, and people recognize it.”

Now you know why it is so hard keeping up with the Joneses.

Keith and Joy Jones’ BB&T Wealth advisor is Marcy Brescia.