What do chainsaws and trucks have in common? You’d think the answer would be “not much.” For Sarah Carlson, truck ordering manager for Element Fleet Management, chainsaws have opened a whole new avenue to connect with potential customers and maintain a strong work-life balance.
She’s worked with Element, formerly GE, for the past 25 years. After going to school to be a mechanic, she joined GE in 1995 as a maintenance call center employee and worked her way up through the ranks in the acquisition departments to become a truck ordering manager - a role she's held since 2013.
In addition to her time spent helping truck fleets, she's also been involved in chainsaw racing for the past 10 years.
What the Heck is Chainsaw Racing?!
Carlson’s hobby involves a head-to-head race. The rules are simple: two people, one on either side of a log, compete to see who can make three cuts the fastest to win.
“We had a big storm at our house and we had to get a chainsaw. As we started talking to the community of folks, we started getting more involved, and before you know it, we were traveling the country, meeting people, and doing chainsaw racing,” she explained.
Carlson is used to competition, because it’s definitely found within the fleet industry. It’s no secret fleet is still male-dominated, so you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk in order to survive. This isn’t a bad thing, though. Competition keeps you humble and always striving for the best.
“Just because I win a race and I want to say ‘you got beat by a girl!’, that's not a good way to win. I always have to remember there's somebody on the other side of that log,” she said.
Achieving Work-Life Balance
With the pandemic hitting, it seems like it’s harder to achieve work-life balance than ever before. It certainly hasn’t been easy to juggle the potential of catching a life-threatening virus with doing stellar work and maintaining your sanity. However, it’s vital to find that time for yourself.
“Getting outside of work and doing something physical instead of mental, for me, has been a huge benefit. We burn wood to heat our home so there's always lots to be cut. The experience I’ve gained through my hobby made it so I could be more effective contributing to that piece of our household,” she stated.
Making New Connections
Although you might not think it possible, Carlson’s hobby has connected her to potential customers and helped her build new relationships.
“When you work for a large automotive fleet management company, you connect with all kinds of people in everything you do. When I'm off to the races, I'm meeting suppliers and clients that just happened to be at a state or a county fair and want to see what’s going on,” she explained.
Carlson has met hundreds of wonderful people through her career. She believes people with a “truck head” share a special connection when it comes to what they do how they do it.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction in seeing how what you do affects people's daily lives, whether it’s in procuring vehicles, bringing your goods to market, whatever it is, there's just so many people's lives are touched,” she said.
Human connections aren’t the only bonds Carlson makes, however. She is able to link the lessons she’s learned through her hobby to what she does for a career – one of which is you get out of it what you put into it.
“If you're willing to actually engage with what you choose to do, you'll get a lot out of it. Secondly, do what makes you feel good. Maybe try something you've got a little bit of natural ability for or that you've been invited to to kind of help that door open up. It can be intimidating to start something new. I'm always surprised at the level of fellowship I feel when I'm engaging in a new hobby. Whether it's off-road truck driving, chainsaw, or cowboy fast draw, there's always something somebody across the country wants to share with you,” she stated.
Passion for Power Wagons
Another point of interest Carlson might share with fellow truck enthusiasts is Power Wagon. Her primary truck is a 1948 Power Wagon that tops out at about 50 mph…but that doesn't stop her from driving it all over the country.
“I love that old truck smell, slowing down, and being a part of that older era. There is a little bit of satisfaction in knowing how to drive a non-synchronized transmission, which not everybody can do,” she noted.