Jamie Heller

RailState CEO Jamie Heller joined David Naster on “You Just Have to Laugh” to share more about the challenges RailState is trying to solve and how the idea for RailState came about. 

Full Interview Transcript:

David Naster (00:03):

Okay, this is called You just have to Laugh podcast. Okay. But listen to this fact right here. I just found this out. Every day the nation’s railroads move millions of tons of raw materials and finished goods around the country on about 140,000 miles of rails. But their safety record is getting new attention because of the ongoing scrutiny of the East Palestine derailment disaster. And yet there’s gobs of derailments all the time. Our guest, Jamie Heller, is there any truth to any of that? And thanks for joining us.

Jamie Heller (00:38):

There’s truth to the 140,000 miles. Okay. There’s truth to, there have always been derailments and what happened in East Palestine was just shown a bright spotlight at the moment on one of those derailments. And when you have a confluence of events, people get really focused and I think that’s what’s happened in East Palestine. And so the railroads are going to have to do a lot of explaining for a while.

David Naster (01:07):

Yeah. As Ricky said, “you need a lot of a explainin, Lucy.” That’s what he said. Yeah. Jamie, thanks for joining us. Can you share with our guests in all 52 countries by the way, and there’s railroads everywhere. What is your experience as an engineer with the railroads?

Jamie Heller (01:27):

So I’m not a railroad engineer. I have an engineering degree and I have an MBA and I have been a consultant working primarily with shippers. So I’ve worked with the railroads in US and Canada and also done some work overseas. And most of my work there is really in a couple of areas. One is helping a negotiation of contracts cause the people who ship things by rail need to have contracts to move them under. And the second is to work on cost and spread in Canada to figure out what things cost the last. Then there’s one other area which is I started a company co-founded a company about five years ago with another guy. And what we’ve done is starting putting sensors along the rail railroads we did, we just finished Canada so that we can gather information about how freight and passenger traffic moves by rail and it’s data that is not under anybody’s control.

(02:38):

In other words, we collect the data, we don’t need the permission of the railroads in terms of how we collect, collected, or what we do with it. And that’s unique. We’re about to come into the United States. We just started doing some of the border crossings and this year and next year we expect to build this network across the us. So we’ll be taking pictures of rail cars and trains. We do it in Canada now. We pretty much see every train, every car that moves every day. And we’ll be able to do the same thing in the us.

David Naster (03:16):

You don’t live in Canada, you live in the United States, correct?

Jamie Heller (03:19):

That’s correct. Okay. I live in Maryland outside of Washington DC

David Naster (03:23):

Okay. Why is this important? Because when we talked in our pre-show interview, the airplanes are regulated, they’re monitor what’s going on there. There’s no kind of monitoring system with railroads in the United States and Canada is there?

Jamie Heller (03:38):

Right. That’s why everybody talks about logistics and supply chain and there’s a tremendous amount of work being done right now to try and make it easier to track movements across the globe. So a shipment originates in China, it goes inland to a port, goes through a dock, gets on a ship, comes across to the us a dock goes through another port here, gets on a truck probably to go to a place where it gets loaded. Some of them get loaded on rail, cars moves by rail. Then the last mile may be is often by truck. And the big hole in terms of getting real time information about how traffic moves by is in the rail portion of the network. And the reason is because for ocean vessels and airplanes and trucks, they largely move on either public or international rights of way. So it’s possible to collect signals and the rail are privately owned so they share. And that’s project was it create another to create a source of information about traffic movements. First we did Canada and then we did the us. Then we’ll be doing the US.

David Naster (05:10):

I want to get to the fences in a minute, but you said something, I want to go in there and find out about you. You said they don’t share the data. Why?

Jamie Heller (05:20):

Rumors are, they were de-regulated in 1980 sort of. And there’s a provision called the Staggers Act. And prior to that, railroads were legally allowed to collude. They could set prices together, they could plan things together. And in the airline industry there was a decision made by the government to deregulate the railroads in the belief that there would be innovation inefficiencies. If you think about the airlines, you think about the telephone network, there was a lot of, as a result of deregulation, we got tremendous innovation and competition. The problem with doing it in the rail industry is that we got innovation and we got some competition, but then we got a lot of consolidation where railroads bought one another and inherently in a railroad, the expense of building tracks between two points means that it’s often not economic to do that. So after the consolidation you have a lot of companies that are served on one end or the other or both by only one railroad.

(06:43):

And when deregulation took place, the government recognized that those situations were going to be effectively monopolies and where the railroads monopoly power. And so that’s what exists now. And because we never nationalized the rail system and I’m certainly not an advocate for that, but because never did it, the rail tracks are all owned by private companies and for them they make decisions all the time about how much capacity they’re going to provide, how many locomotives, crews they make priority decisions and which traffic goes first. And I think they generally don’t view it’s in their best interest to share that kind of information now. So it remains okay.

David Naster (07:36):

Okay. Now word isn’t, we talked before that Warren Buffet, the guy that’s pretty good with money out of Omaha, Nebraska, that he owns a lot of the rails. Is that true and is that dangerous for the rail system? As far as getting stuff around.

Jamie Heller (07:54):

Warren Buffet, I don’t remember how many years ago. I’ll say 10 but I could be quite a bit off. But the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which is a huge railroad system in the US West, it also goes into Canada, but it’s primarily a Western US rail system. And I think he recognize that that is a tremendous asset because it’s not really particularly competitive. So the ability to charge prices that you know what the market will bear, they can do and by taking it out of the public domain, so it’s called the BNSF no longer files a report no longer has to file SEC filing like public companies do. He relieved them of the burden, if you will, quarterly reports. So a railroad that is continually reporting publicly is scrutinized for how efficient they are, how much money they make each quarter. And it gave Mr Buffett the ability to be longer term in his thinking in terms of how they make money and how they invest money.

(09:18):

So I don’t think it’s a bad thing that he did. I think it’s a sign of his recognition that that’s an incredibly valuable asset and he’s been able to make it more valuable. Bill Gates through one of his investment companies, I think it was called Cascade, also owned significant railroad stocks. And again, I think the logic is these are tremendous assets and Warren Buffet’s bet on America, which is I think how much of his thinking about US companies that are crucial to the country and can make a lot of money, the BNSF is a great asset for him to own, be able to do that. I don’t think having it in the private sector hurt anything. It may help. But I do think that the consolidation of the rail industry has been a real mixed bag. We got some efficiency but we also got a lot less competition.

David Naster (10:24):

And since there isn’t a less competition, does that mean the railroads can pretty much charge whatever they want? Whatever the market can bear

Jamie Heller (10:33):

There. They’re what we call captive situations. And in those situations I think they can pretty much charge what they think the market will bear. The railroads will reject that notion and say nobody is really captive. But the notion of hauling coal from Wyoming to Texas in something other than a rail car makes really no sense. So there really isn’t truck competition and depending on where the destination is, there may be very little rail competition. And so yeah, they can charge what the market will bear. And it doesn’t mean a monopoly charge is the highest number they can think of. What it means is they raise their rates to the point where the person company who’s shipping on the railroad stays in business. But that’s about it. It’s saying the railroad is capable, what economic grants or a lot of the profits that are available. So yeah, where you see these containers piled up the, I’m sure you’ve seen those pictures. Sure, sure. And yeah, some of that can go by truck. So in those cases, the railroads really have to compete and the amounts they can charge are limited by where that can move by truck. So they’ve got some areas where the competitive, but they’ve got a lot of businesses is not competitive.

David Naster (12:16):

Curious. I own one of those big, I own three of those big, what do you call ’em? The containers coming from the ships and I, it’s coming in from China. I’ve ordered some stuff here in Kansas City where I live and it’s got three of those containers and those have to be met at some port and brought to Kansas City. Do I have as a business, do I then contact the railroad and start negotiating the best price? How to do that? Because I’m fascinated by how that works. How do I get that stuff to Kansas City by rail? Are there different people that I call to compete against to go, okay, what’s your price? What’s yours price? How soon can you get it to me?

Jamie Heller (12:52):

So it works in different ways. If you’re Walmart or Target or Amazon, then you probably have an arrangement with an ocean shipping company or a rail, a trucking company. And then the container that you’re going to receive in Kansas City that it’s going to come. You have a commitment that it gets there in a certain period of time. The company, let’s say it’s the ocean shipping company that is responsible for getting the container into a port and then loaded and shipped to you by railing, by truck. They have flexibility in terms of determining for example, which port they might go to or if they have a contract with a particular railroad, then when it goes to a port, it may go on their truck on that railroad and then be delivered. So you may have competition, the person who’s bringing those containers in, if you’re just bringing in one container, chances are using some sort of a forwarder and they would be the people who handle that freight. Okay. What’s interesting, and it’s part of this project called real estate we created is we would provide information to the shipping company or the trucking company about what those rail rail routes look like. Cause they can get now real time information about how that traffic moves. And that should make a difference in terms of being able to decongest some of these areas.

David Naster (14:35):

Okay. Okay. I’ve I kind of derailed from your fences, no pun. Well that was a big pun. Big pun intended there. But Jamie it you just have to laugh. Podcast, we got to keep it somewhat light here. Hey Jamie, explain your fences that you have along the railroad tracks in Canada. And what is that, how’s that going to be advantageous to that information? To the safety of the railroads? Because I’m going to tell you this que well I’ll get to that in a second. Just if you wouldn’t mind answering that question, how your fences work.

Jamie Heller (15:07):

Sure. So the way the sensors work are, it’s about the size of a small TV set and what they have inside of them are the same sort of microcomputers that are being used down autonomous vehicles. So they can do a processing of a tremendous amount of information and we have a camera on there. So the camera gathers in, the sensor gathers information, it is then processed partly on the device. So what we’ll do is take a picture of trains going by and it’ll take hundreds of pictures of each train and then what we call stitch them together so that you get a panorama of what the train looks like. And then we can use the artificial intelligence, we can tell what the car type is or there are numbers on the side of the car and use machine learning, optical character recognition to grab the numbers and we can bump those up against the database, which also tells us something about the car type. So we’ve got at that point, the train, the direction, the speed, the number of cars, the number of locomotives. We can also tank cars which carry hazardous, some of them carry hazardous materials and they’ll have placards on them and we can actually read the characters on the placards. So it would tell us something about what’s in the car. And that is of great interest to people who are concerned about safety.

David Naster (16:44):

That’s what I was wondering. That information that they have, pardon me for interrupting sir, but once they had that information, they had that information. Who is that good for? Who is that information advantageous for and how would they use it?

Jamie Heller (16:58):

Yeah, that’s a great question David. Cause obviously with having East Palestine, there’s a lot of curiosity I think about where these dangerous goods move and how they move. So if there is an accident for example, then first responders have access to information about what’s in the rail car, what’s called in the train. And that can tell them something about if there’s hazards materials there, what they are and how to remediate. What happened in East Palestine was they tried different things to contain the problem and some work didn’t work so well. Sure. What we’re doing would gather that information for whoever, meaning I don’t know if East Palestine had any idea what was moving through their town on a regular basis and or the citizens did. But we would have that information. So I understand that it kind of cuts two ways. One is it’s important I think for the public to know what’s going on.

(18:22):

On the other hand, you don’t want the data and end up in the hands of anybody who want to do bad things, but people who want to do bad things to trains, it’s what they call an outdoor sport, meaning it’s all you can see everything. And so what we would be doing is just collecting data and we could make it available to a town for example, so they could figure out what’s going on or to people who live by the rail, the rail track. And with these numbers you can tell what’s in the car so they would know what’s going by. And that I think is, that’s a change that would be something that could be important to people in the public.

David Naster (19:06):

What I was going to ask you was ahead, what I was going to ask you, don’t forget where you were. So I was going to ask you what you just said, how that could affect the safety of the cars coming through that information. Would that make the people when they knew it was coming through a lot more careful, a lot more cognitive of what’s going on? Let’s be really super careful with this stuff. How would that make it more safe? You understand my question?

Jamie Heller (19:29):

Sure, I do. So it makes it in what sense? It means that the communities that have these things going through them, I’m sure prepare. Everybody does disaster preparedness, but they would know both what’s coming through and it’s not same all the time. So things which could be seasonal or root patterns change, they would know that and it would give them a chance to prepare, make sure that they have the equipment and whatever supplies they need to keep it as safe as they can keep it. It’s the railroad responsibility. Once these goods are on the track, they have custody of them. So they’re the ones who are responsible for keeping them safe.

David Naster (20:25):

Okay.

Jamie Heller (20:26):

Okay. What I was going say was that the government has regulations that are specific about, for example, if you have a commodity that’s toxic, then it usually you can’t bump that up against the locomotive or dangerous, you have to have a buffer car in there. And I think there’s limitations on how many cars you can have in sequence of a various type. And I don’t think the government has the ability to verify any of that. So this kind of information would make it easier for them to at least have a check whenever the railroads tell them about how these cars are configured. And that I think could be quite helpful in terms of the government has a verification responsibility in addition to monitoring what goes on. So I think it’ll be helpful there as well.

David Naster (21:31):

And these are all your fences and this is all in place now in Canada, is that correct? They’re all up and moving in Canada, is that right?

Jamie Heller (21:38):

That’s right. We’ve got about more than 120 of them now in covering everything from Vancouver to Halifax.

David Naster (21:45):

And you want to get that measure in place and you want to get that into the United States, correct?

Jamie Heller (21:50):

Yes. We do.

David Naster (21:51):

Okay. And you said something in our pre-show interview I thought was interesting. A lot of times the railroads may not want you or anybody to gather this information. Do I have that correct?

Jamie Heller (22:03):

Yeah, you do.

David Naster (22:05):

And of course the question is why?

Jamie Heller (22:10):

So generally, making visible something that’s opaque is usually on the part of the entity that is not sharing the information I mentioned before. There’s a reason for it. They may consider it commercially sensitive, they may not want the public to know, they may not want their competitors to know the people who are shipping the goods on the railroad may not want the railroad to divulge it. It’s been a contested area for decades. The government has often tried to get this information from the railroads and it has been a fight and generally not a very successful one. Part of what we talked about the beginning was that the railroads are only partially regulated. So when the government tries to get information from them, if the railroads argue that they’re operating like competitive enterprises, then they’ll argue very strongly that it is not in their best interest to expose the city or be able to, and as I said, they use it cause they make decisions about the amount of capacity they’re going to provide, obviously pricing, and they make decisions about the priority that they give different kinds of traffic. And if all that information is in the public domain, I believe the railroads will operate differently.

David Naster (23:54):

In what way would they operate? In what way do you think Jamie? They would operate differently?

Jamie Heller (23:59):

So if they’re giving railroads, negotiate shippers all the time about goods moving over there and they’ll say that you’re being treated like every other shipper who ships grain in this area (and I’m making this up). But you wanted to make sure that we would haul your cars three times a week. But right now we don’t have sufficient equipment to do that. So you’re only going to get two poles a week. And don’t worry, everybody is being treated the same way. Well we didn’t know if everybody is treated the same way. Sure. Or they’ll say that we have a capa, you don’t remember the details of this, but there’s a chicken farmer I think in southern California who was embargoed in terms of chicken feed going to the chicken farmer. And actually the chicken farmer went to the government and asked for an order explicitly to make sure that they got their feed deliveries because the chickens were dying or going to die and the government stepped in and ordered it, but they have no idea whether or not why that was necessary.

(25:22):

Was the line full up? Was there no equipment? Were other people getting their deliveries but not these guys. So you can imagine David, with transparency then those questions are no longer mysteries. You’ll be able to see what’s going on. Moreover, if that problem built up, everybody who’s operating on the line who has access to these data would be able to see what’s going on. And here’s the beauty of this, which is, the people who are affected by poor service on the railroad will have the ability to see what’s going on and see it in sufficient time for them to be able to make decisions that are going to benefit everybody, including the railroads. Because companies acting in their own best interest to get out of trouble are going to make decisions that will free up capacity and basically make the system operate better. Which is why I think eventually the railroads will be our supporters.

David Naster (26:40):

Well here you have all this information. You’re gathering all this right now that you’re do that. You’ve come up with this technology and you gather this information and if the government found out you were, and then eventually they’re going to, if they don’t know it already, people in the government know you have this information. They come in and step in and go, we’re going to have a federal mandate and we need this information to make this safer and do that. It is that I, I’m of course in this day and age, anything’s possible like that. But is that a concern of yours?

Jamie Heller (27:08):

It’s more of an opportunity, a concern. The only people who could really compete with us, we always felt were the railroads. If they made a decision that they were no longer going to . . . they would share all this information, then they have the capabilities to do what we do and more. But they have never done it. And I don’t see where they’re going to make any major moves for a long time in that direction. And maybe ever. They are putting in technology, they’re instrumenting cars, but the railroads really focus on things that improve their operational efficiency, cut down on maintenance costs. You follow in these Palestine, there is now many, many recommendations about what could be done or what could have been done to avoid this problem. And some of them are putting in just more what are called “hotbox detectors.” So they could have detected this flaming journal. Some of you put in more of those, you put in different spots. Others have offered technologies that would look at what goes on as a train goes by crossings. So that part of the railroads will focus on, has to do with their operation. The part they don’t focus on so much is the customer side of it and what would make life better for the customers.

David Naster (28:35):

And that’s your guys’ focus?

Jamie Heller (28:38):

And that’s really where we’re focused, right? So I think the railroads will be the government to your question. I think what they did in Canada is they said, “Hey, we’ve been trying to get this data out of the railroads for years and we have the power to do it, but we can’t make it happen. So if you can do this…” Transport Canada was tremendously supportive of us in terms of contracts we signed with them that let us accelerate what we were doing. And we’re now talking to the Federal Railroad administration in the US and we’d like to do the same thing. And they are quite interested, because again, it could be done by the private sector. They don’t have to order the railroads to do anything. We do this off the railroads right of way and we’re incented to write the kind of software and make the kind of data that could be really helpful to the government. And that’s the way I think it’s going to go. Not so much of the government would try to do it itself, but they would be supportive supporters of ours. That’s certainly what I hope will happen. And we’re in discussions with them now about that.

David Naster (29:57):

Jamie, I am so curious, where did you come up with this? Were you sitting around the backyard, sitting out there having a lemonade in your lawn chair looking up there going, I got an idea. Where did you come up with this man?

Jamie Heller (30:21):

The reasons began in Canada. Though I’m not Canadian, is because one of the companies that I worked with for a long time up there had exactly the problem that I was describing to you. They couldn’t tell what was going on. They couldn’t get timely information. And what they did get wasn’t accurate. So they wanted us and they really supported us at the beginning. And so then I thought, well there’s a need. Cause I worked for a lot of different shippers as to my co-founder. And so we said, could we really do this? So about five years ago we trundled out to a place called, we had somebody hired somebody to build equipment. There is a system called, if you see on the side of a rail car, you’ll see these little tags. They’re not very big. They’re maybe the twice as size of a cell phone and they are passive devices.

(31:25):

But if you ping them with a signal, they give you information about what’s in the car. So we did a project where we could use that, but it turned out that in order to be able to ping those devices, you had to be on the railroads right of way. And there was a company that did it and they got sued by the railroads cause they didn’t let them doing this. So they took a page out of that. But they actually offered us the equipment and said if you guys can make it work, great. They spent a bunch of money doing this. And so we tried and it turned out we couldn’t make it work. So then I went back and all, how else might we be able to do this? And we’re coming out. There were much better cameras coming out that are really the sort of sensors that you see on cars or traffic cameras. They were far more powerful than they had been. And NVIDIA was producing far more powerful microprocessors. So we put these together, we had a company put a prototype together for us. And then three of us went out to Selkirk, New York about four years ago and we found a park where we could be a couple yards away from the railroad track. We brought laser flashlights and tripods and some computer equipment.

David Naster (32:45):

You went covert.

Jamie Heller (33:02):

Yeah, one point we in the middle, the woods, you could hear the train, you couldn’t see it. It was bizarre. So then we went and tried something better and years. Years. But we had a crew that we got to build the software for us that they’re really good. And then we’ve got people who knew how to build technology, who knew how to build hardware. It’s a, there’s about 20 people working on it. It’s a very neat project. So anyway, that’s my. It’s the late stage of my life. That’s what I’m doing it. One of those things you sort of get into, you grab it and then you realize that I really want to finish this thing. So that’s where we’re now.

David Naster (33:51):

What’s so cool about that, and you just have to laugh does and specializes in and focuses in is here you have a difficult time. You’re going through as far as getting the technology. Some of it’s failing, some of it’s not. And yet you stick to it and go through it and it goes to that whole thing. If you don’t succeed, try again. But also when you get this idea, you just have to stick with it and just figure it out, don’t you? I mean it’s really no more complicated than, I mean it’s complicated of course Jamie, but you just have to stick with it and figure it out. Because Einstein said that, he said, I wasn’t no smarter than anybody else. I just stuck with a problem longer than anybody else. And you guys have stuck with this. So now it’s working.

Jamie Heller (34:28):

I really believe that to be true. Edison, Einstein, the same thing. My wife is tolerant of this.

David Naster (34:40):

Whoa. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Stop. She’s what?

Jamie Heller (34:44):

Tolerance of this, in other words, this is before I began this startup, I had started and sold other companies and then was doing work, the people who worked for hire risk consultants. But after I had sold these other companies, I had no more employees. I had no more offices, I had no more payroll. Life was good. And then in starting this, it turned out to be, it’s really time consuming. And it requires a lot of attention. So I promised her when we began this that I wouldn’t do anything that hurts our standard of living, but it was something that needed to be done. And given where I was and what we knew, what I knew with the other people I was working with it, we should do it. We really, it needed to be, we do it. But it doesn’t mean it’s going to succeed. Most small businesses don’t. And so this one, a lot of ups and downs, but it’s working.

David Naster (36:03):

But it’s working. Jamie, how long would you guess it would be or guesstimate that this would be implemented in the United States?

Jamie Heller (36:12):

Is that, oh, we sent our first sensor out to LA Long Beach about two weeks ago. Okay. And within about three months we will, we’ll start building the network now we’re raising financing right now. Cause we raise financing to do Canada. We’re doing it again now. Did you call again, it’s one of those,

David Naster (36:35):

Did you call Warren? Did you call Warren? Hey Warren, by the way, since you like this railroad stuff.

Jamie Heller (36:43):

Yeah. If you can make that happen, David, that would be great.

David Naster (36:48):

I’ll check with my contacts.

Jamie Heller (37:00):

This next near death experience. But this one, there’s a lot, I have a lot of confidence that we’ll be able to pull this off. We’ve got a lot more, we can show something now. At first it was really . . . I think the fear of the company that helped us originally. And I tell them if it didn’t work, I’d give it to them. But I think their fear was I would show up in their offices one day with a bunch of wires and cameras and boxes and say “here, sorry, we tried.” Yeah, but there was a long, long time ago. So no, we’ve got something that really works.

David Naster (37:34):

It’s so funny, man, is the reason I stopped you is I’m talking to another guy and he said, David, you need to do a podcast about these people that have near death experiences doing that. So I thought you said my wife had a near death experience. Whoa. Wait, wait. I’m going to have to talk to her. But you were talking about business, that’s why you just got to laugh, man. You just got to laugh. Yeah. Hey I’ve, I’ve been wanting to ask you this question and wanted to ask you this before we got out of here because you are a Harvard Business School graduate, is that correct? Did I get that information correct about you?

Jamie Heller (38:07):

Somebody told you that, but yes, that’s true.

David Naster (38:09):

Oh, well of course Don did. Don got my buddy Don. Don told that. Okay, so I’ve, I’ve never asked anybody who’s been to the Harvard School of Business this question, but everything you’ve done now and Don, did that really help? The information, everything you learned, Jamie, did that help you pursue in the world of business?

Jamie Heller (38:29):

Wow, David, that’s a complicated question.

David Naster (38:36):

The reason I ask is there something going on? You go, oh yeah, I remember in school we talked about this and did this and oh yeah, we can do this. Or did you learn the stuff? Go I’m, I’m sorry man, I’m just jumping. So throwing so many questions at you here or is it something you learned just by doing it?

Jamie Heller (38:56):

So I was raised in a family where my father had run small businesses. Some of them were ok, some of them were not successful. So the talk around the bus, the dinner table would’ve been what it was like to be in a small business. And then I would hear stories that people worked for, big companies that got laid off and their careers ended. And so in terms of all the risks you think about taking in your life, the risks around being in small business or starting it didn’t ever scare me. Cause I understood it, I grew up with that. Then I went to business school and I learned some things there that were really helpful in terms of how to organize, how to run a business, how to write.

(39:53):

They don’t do it anymore, I think. I had an undergraduate degree in electric engineering and they took me in business school right out of of undergraduate. So I didn’t know anything. So I’m sitting there among all these people. Everybody else in the class I think needed three to five years of experience. So if they were asking questions about getting a raise or launching a product and I would contribute what I could, but I didn’t really know anything. So it was really after I got out and started, I worked for a while for the Environmental Protection Agency and then worked for another consulting firm, that I started to understand what I had learned in school.

David Naster (40:36):

Ah, gotcha, gotcha.

Jamie Heller (40:38):

And then as I managed the first company that I’d started, it got to a point where it wasn’t growing any more and I wasn’t happy. And it turned out that one of the people who I had worked for after I left the EPA was a really bad manager. And so I picked up his bad management skills and it was making me miserable. And the people who were working for me miserable. So I ended up, there were some people who worked for me, two people actually who were taking the course of Georgetown.

David Naster (41:23):

Georgetown University?

Jamie Heller (41:25):

Georgetown University.

David Naster (41:26):

There was Georgetown. So there was no good state schools there. Right. Sorry, sorry brother. I had to, had to take a shot in there. Okay. So I said Georgetown University, which is another very prominent school, like Harvard business school, very prominent school.

Jamie Heller (41:46):

These people just happened to be there. They were taking classes. One of them’s husband who’d been an Episcopal minister who gave up the ministry and he’d been a trial lawyer, a big deal trial lawyer, gave it out and was going into the ministry.

David Naster (42:03):

Which raises the question, pardon me, which raises a question. How much is an adult class at Georgetown University versus Georgetown Community College? How much more is that? I the class going to be a Georgetown University than there. I I’m just raised a question. It’s going

Jamie Heller (42:21):

Thousands.

David Naster (42:25):

I derailed this back to the point. Sorry.

Jamie Heller (42:27):

It was just so . . I’m Jewish. I hired this guy as a priest to come in and kind of analyze the organization. So he went around and talked to the 15 people or 20 people at the company at the time. And he talked to all of them and it was all in confidence. And he came back to me and he told me what I was doing wrong. And it was, wow. It was stunning. Oh wow. I think I went to bed for a day after that. And so a lot of the lessons, when I told you I learned after the fact . . . So things I learned at business school but didn’t quite understand. And then things that I had learned by having a bad mentor, I had absorbed all of it came together and it was like, “holy Toledo.”

David Naster (43:24):

Book right there, man. That’s a book. You think about that. That’s a book. You know what you learn, learn later. You, I mean, that’s a great book, man. You don’t have anything.

(43:38):

Like you don’t have anything else to do right now.

Jamie Heller (43:41):

David, I’ll leave that to you.

David Naster (43:43):

Okay. I know a guy that can write it. You let me know. I know the guy covered an interview. You get the book. I just think it’s a great idea. So fun talking to you, Jamie, about this. You’re just full of ideas and you take this approach of I can do that. That’s fun. I can do that. That’s a common thread, man. I found out with all the people I’m interviewing and you just have to laugh. There’s these people that went, you know what, I can do that. I don’t know how, but I’m going to go do it. And you just figured it out. And what a cool story all the way you take this class. And a priest is the one who kind of, not set you straight but clarifies it for you.

Jamie Heller (44:18):

Yeah. Right, right, right. It’s wild. Yeah. Life is wild.

David Naster (44:22):

Life is wild. It’s funny. Life is wild. Funny. And you know what, buddy? All pun intended, we got to stay on the right rail. Don’t get off the rail for safety. Hey man. Jamie, thanks. Excuse me. Sorry. Now I’m picking up your cough here. Excuse me. Miles away. Hey man, A fascinating interview. Thank you. Because with that whole thing that happened in East Palestine and the awareness of it, this brings a whole new awareness, which again, to people all over the world that listen to this podcast and thank you for that. And thank you for keeping us safer and more informed, man. It’s just a fascinating podcast. Thanks man.

Jamie Heller (45:03):

Well, thanks for talking, David. I really appreciate it.

David Naster (45:04):

Appreciate it. My pleasure. Don’t, don’t go anywhere. I got to have a big finish. I’ll be right with you. Hold on, man. Thank you, pal. Okay, great. Thank you. Isn’t that cool, man, you just have to laugh. The podcast. And now we’re talking about trains, not planes, not automobiles, just trains how to make it safer. And here’s Jamie Heller and he figures out a way we can make it safe, safer for us. So terrible things don’t happen. Boy, what a great way to live your life. I believe in Hebrew, that’s called “Tikkun olam” – making the world a better place. The gifts you’ve been given. Stay safe folks. Keep laughing and find your way of making the world better. Well listen to each other next time.

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