Extreme teamwork

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Some of the most creative, innovative ideas can spring from the most unexpected sources. Jim Keller, president of J.J. Keller and Associates in Neenah, Wis., was actually on a vacation enjoying a 30-year anniversary celebration with his wife, Rosanne, when inspiration struck. They were on an Alaskan cruise, and one of the stops offered a dog team tour. A teenage musher, Dallas Seavey, picked up the Kellers in Seward, 125 miles south of Anchorage, and he and his dogs took them on a tour through pouring rain and adverse conditions.

During the ride, Keller couldn’t help noticing how the extreme form of transportation represented the mission of his own company. J.J. Keller and Associates helps trucking companies manage risk and liability, and provides fleets with safety, risk and regulatory solutions.

Two weeks after returning home, Keller contacted Seavey and offered him the J.J. Keller and Associates sponsorship for the 2007 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The 12-day world-class event pits mushers and dog teams across more than 1,100 grueling miles of jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, desolate tundra and miles of windswept terrain.

The sponsorship deal gained momentum, and within six months, Keller-logoed materials, school supplies and sales promotions generated media attention, internal excitement and interest from truckers across the country. Keller says it was a perfect fit. “We know that truckers often work in challenging, extreme conditions where it’s just the individual against the odds,” Keller says. “The Iditarod is the ultimate extreme transportation event that embodies all the characteristics our company stands for. It’s our salute to extreme transportation and extreme commitment to finding innovative solutions.”

It’s also a way to honor another “transporter” who takes his commitment to the extreme. Seavey – the youngest musher to participate in this year’s race – and his team traveled from Anchorage to Nome over a trail that harks back to the routes used by dog sleds to deliver mail and supplies to mining camps. Race teams comprise of one musher and 12 to 16 highly trained athlete-dogs; they stop at checkpoints along the way, where they are evaluated by veterinarians at each point. Seavey completed the race in 41st place out of 58 finishers.

Keller says the feedback from his customers and employees has been phenomenal, and truckers have swarmed his company’s Iditarod-themed booth at trade shows. Sales increased dramatically during the months leading up to the race, and Keller plans to sponsor the team next year. For more information, visit this site.