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Last Update: Monday September 20, 2021

Key Idea: Be The Company People Want To Work For

Many people have worked at Jet-A-Way for over a decade and the company has been recognized by the Small Business Administration as an outstanding employer.

Key Question:


First be a person others want to be around.  Next, give them something positive to work toward.

Q:  How did Darlene prepare herself to lead the company?

A:  We've already talked about her conservative approach to cash.  Growing up poor taught Darlene that she could live without tons of money.  This made it easy for her invest in a new truck for the business rather than a flashy personal car.

She also learned that long hours and hard work moved her from poverty to prosperity.  She recalls going with her grandmother to clean houses and somehow Darlene never became bitter about her struggle.

Dr. Keith Grint is Director of Research at the Said Business School, Templeton College, Oxford.  He has done extensive research on the topic of leadership and he's the one who taught us that there is no leadership if there are no followers.  Seems obvious but you should think hard about this.

He says that a leader:

  • Thinks about others more than they think about themselves.

  • Asks for honest critique.

  • Is an excellent negotiator.

  • Is humble.

  • Puts systems in place.

This reads like a perfect description of Darlene Jeter.

Think about it

What do you do that you know makes people feel good? What do you do that you know makes people feel bad? Do you think about how people feel when you in the room? Would the people who work for you rather you be in the room or out of the room?

Clip from: Jet-a-way

Host-producer, Hattie Bryant, with Jesse Jeter, the son of the founders

Boston: In this episode of the show we take you inside Jet-A-Way, a recycling company for construction and demolition waste, commercial waste, and recycled paper. They are also a transportation company to pick it all up and, then when it is all sorted, to bring it to refinement centers and sanitary landfills.  You'll meet Darlene Jeter and her family. 

Darlene and her husband have been recognized by their community and by the nation for their achievements.

With over $10 million in sales and 50 employees, this business has been in  operation since 1969.  Darlene has endured enormous setbacks -- the death of the love of her life,  her husband and business partner -- and major swings in the construction business in Boston. It is a dusty, tough industry. There is a lot of heavy metal -- trucks, tractors, and front-end loaders. Darlene not only survives, she thrives with grace and dignity.

Darlene Jeter has tenacity. No moaning, blubbering, sniveling, whimpering or whining; she gets the job done and then gives back to her community.

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Jet-A-Way, Inc.

Darlene Jeter, CEO

47 Kemble Street
Roxbury, MA 02119

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:
transportation, waste management, recycling

Year Founded: 1968

Be The Company People Want To Work For

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Darlene's sister-in-law, Margo Jeter, heads the service department.

When did you come to work here?

MARGO JETER (Service Department, Jet-A-Way): Oh, I've been here forever. I think I may have started in '71.

HATTIE: OK, so early on in the business.

MARGO: Very early on. Yes.

HATTIE: When your brother started it, did you think he was crazy?

MARGO: Well, no. I didn't, no.

HATTIE: No. You thought...

MARGO: I thought there was money in trash.

HATTIE: And now you...

MARGO: I know there's money in trash.

HATTIE: What do you look for when you're hiring people?

MARGO: I want someone with a solid record. I need to know that they have made a commitment to a company. I don't like to hire employees who have jumped around. I want to see at least one to two years of solid performance on a job. Every three months changing jobs, that tells me something.

ROBBIE (Employee): I'm checking the tread that's on the tires.

HATTIE: How much does a tire like this cost?

ROBBIE: I think about maybe $800.

HATTIE: For one tire?

ROBBIE: That's correct.

JESSE: Eight thousand dollars.

HATTIE: A thousand dollars?

JESSE: Ten thousand dollars to outfit a truck with tires. So you can see the importance of somebody like a Robbie maintaining your tires.

MARGO: Jet-A-Way is an excellent company to work for. And I think that people know once they come here or in talking to other drivers, they find out that it really is a family kind of atmosphere and that people are very comfortable working with each other. There's not a lot of tension that you may find at larger companies.

HATTIE: So the attraction is, people feel good here.

DARLENE: I believe in people power. We can do anything if we work together. And if we have a common goal and we work toward that, we're gonna do it.

MARY McILENNY (Small Business Administration): Jet-A-Way has won two awards from us. In 1981, they were the Small Business of the Year, and last year, they were the Minority Small Business of the Year.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) I met Mary McIlenny of the Small Business Administration's regional office.

MARY: Well, one of the things that we look for and one of the things that put Darlene Jeter to the top and Jet-A-Way is also their commitment to the community, a commitment to public service. And I think that you find that throughout America, that the small-business people, as busy as they are and as hard as they work, they are the ones who contribute to their communities. They stay in their community, they live in their community, they work in their community and they contribute to their communities. And Darlene Jeter does that. There are a lot of small businesses in Boston. There are thousands of small businesses in Boston, and Darlene Jeter represents the cream of the crop. She's the best.

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