Dick Johanson speaks at the 2018 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes event in Fresno, hosted by The Business Journal. File Photo

published on April 29, 2022 - 2:00 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A Central Valley businessman and philanthropist died Wednesday, leaving behind a legacy of stewardship and ethical leadership.

Richard “Dick” Johanson died this week at 96 years old. He founded Johanson Transportation Service (JTS) in 1971, starting the company in a rented space above a truck stop with four staff.

Fifty years later, the company employs 50 people locally and 105 nationwide with a reach expanding from Fresno to Orlando, Florida with offices in Dallas, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin and more.

He was known at his company for encouraging innovating thinking, passing the trait onto his son, Larry, who took on the role of CEO after Johanson retired in 1991.

Johanson served in the Pacific Theater in World War II in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Johanson was a big advocate of education, often giving lectures to Fresno State students about ethical leadership, community stewardship and socially engaged entrepreneurship.

A graduate of Fresno State himself, he also received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the university. He was also awarded the Leon S. Peters Award from the Fresno Chamber of Commerce in 1996. The Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship awarded him the Ethics in Leadership Award in 2017. Johanson even authored a book on the subject titled “A Passion for Stewardship: The Legacy of a Generation.”

In addition to his business acumen, Johanson was a major supporter of local charities, donating to schools of every level, as well as Boys and Girls Club, Bulldog Foundation, Fresno Rescue Mission, Hinds Hospice, Marjaree Mason Center and the Poverello House to name a few.

Johanson volunteered his time among over a dozens foundation boards, including the United Way, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno State, Fresno Business Council, Fresno Rotary Club, Christian Men’s Business Club Fresno, Marjaree Mason Center and the Fresno Leadership Foundation, among others.


Dick Johanson participated in The Business Journal’s inagural 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes event in 2018, sharing his best ideas for success in business.

Here are his ideas:

CREATE A DEMOCRATIC, NOT AUTHORITARIAN, LEADERSHIP ENVIRONMENT.

Every staff member should be openly appreciated for their contribution to the company’s success by a non-dictatorial management. One of the critical components of a successful enterprise is a staff that looks forward to reporting for work because of the positive environment created by those around him or her. 

ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN HIGHEST POSSIBLE ETHICAL STANDARDS.

Nothing creates higher employee aspirations than working in an environment based upon high internal ethical and moral standards. When loyal employees know that a high standard of professional conduct prevails in the core of their workplace, they incorporate that into their individual performances.

ENCOURAGE ORGANIZATIONAL COMRADERY.

Create an interactive workplace where employees eagerly assist each other in seeking the highest possible job performance aura. Most businesses work under varying degrees of job assignment stresses. When stressful situations are alleviated because of an interactive and mutually supportive staff, both the staff and the business benefit.

UNITE THE COMPANY’S FAMILY THROUGH AN INTERNAL BULLETIN.

Create a periodic staff bulletin allowing an opportunity for the promotion of internal high operational standards for the company and the creation of self-esteem among its personnel. It should also recognize outstanding individual employee performances. Such a bulletin further serves to strengthen the bond among multi-office firms and their staff members both individually and collectively.

CREATE COMPANY SPONSORED FUN TIMES.

Calendar off-work opportunities for staff members to get together casually, such as company sponsored luncheons or an after-work “Happy Hour” where staff at all levels can enjoy a relaxing, get-acquainted respite together. A further suggestion — how about a “Happy Birthday” party at which every employee having a birthday that month would be honored?

BROADEN THE COMPANY’S COMMUNITY-BASED ACTIVITIES

Make the community aware of your wish to make it a better place for all who live, work, play and pray within it. Join Service Clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc. Be active in the Chamber of Commerce. Contribute to Boys and Girls Clubs, Scout organizations, United Way, etc. Make charitable giving a line item in the firm’s operational budget. Become known as a giver to and not just as a taker from the area.

HAVE SOME HEROES

Seek out and internally strive to emulate those individuals who exhibit or exhibited the characteristics that the company would like to replicate. Whether that strength centers on internal or external relationships, help staff members become aware of who those individuals may be or were and why they are looked upon as role models for a high standard of interaction among the firm’s current employees and clients

ESTABLISH A BOND OF TRUST WITH YOUR CLIENTELE

This “Idea” obviously does not fit every business, but it is obviously intended for those firms having repeat identifiable clients. Trust — not greed or superficial platitudes — creates successful business relationships. Work to create a close working partnership with valued clients so that each trusts the other to work for their mutual best interests and look to each other for counsel as appropriate.

BECOME AN ENROLEE IN THE NEW TECHNOLOGY EVOLUTION

All businesses, large and small, of whatever description, face the daunting challenge of keeping abreast of today’s emerging technology within one’s business arena. Failure to do so can lead to diminished stature, both internally and externally. Becoming recognized as a leader in creating and utilizing frontline technology by both peers and clients is a sign of cultural maturity.

ACKLOWLEDGE YOUR FRAILTIES

If the firm’s boat has a leak in it, fix the leak instead of bailing out the water. The successful business not only knows its strengths but also its weaknesses. Define them. Analyze them. Correct them. Doing so in a skillful and compassionate manner will not only go far in determining the organization’s future, but will measurably enhance the morale of those who will carry it forward.


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