All Aboard! Our Corporate Team Culture Guide

Iowa Northern Railway Company

Since the early days of railroading, every rule book began with the words, “Safety is of the first importance in the discharge of duty.” Beyond those important words, we have more responsibility to Iowa Northern, our coworkers, and ourselves.

Strong core values and a clear set of unifying behaviors provide a solid foundation for Iowa Northern’s culture. Our values are the basis for everything we do. When Iowa Northern people encounter situations, they use their values and professionalism, along with training and experience, to guide their actions and decisions.

Each of us has the opportunity every day to be a leader in how we represent Iowa Northern, how we handle difficult and unpredictable situations, how we use Iowa Northern’s resources, and how we take care of our customers, our stakeholders, and each other. So clearly, being a leader is not confined to those who hold a certain title.

The Iowa Northern family of today stands on the shoulders of those who came before us. The successes we have achieved in the past, and whatever we may enjoy in the future, depend upon the strong desire and motivation of our people to protect the culture of this great company.

With that, ALL Aboard outlines our expectations of what it means to live out our values and leadership behaviors every day. ALL Aboard reflects what each of us must expect of ourselves and of each other. It is my desire that this document be the driving force behind our railroad for generations to come. Our ALL Aboard is timeless. Thank you for your service and of course,

ALL Aboard!


Dan Sabin, President

Iowa Northern Railway Company

Listen closely and communicate openly, honestly, and directly

Encourage positive change and innovation

Promote broad employee involvement

Embrace diverse people, thinking, and styles

Treat each other with dignity and respect

Debate constructively, decide definitively, and support actively

Set clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations

Demand and accept responsibility

Follow through with clear, consistent consequences

Develop and leverage deep customer insights

Be courageous and optimistic

Apply Our Basic Principles

A.    Put safety first – always, in ALL ways

B.    Create value through:

– Superior customer service, Excellent operations, The Best Employee relations

C.    Commit to being a great place to work:

– Provide a safe work environment for all employees. Be responsible to your colleagues and treat them with dignity and respect – “I am my brother’s keeper.” Expect the best and most ethical leadership team in the industry. Develop employees who are motivated every day to serve our customers and exceed their expectations. Provide a high competitive package of compensation, benefits, career growth, and development. Create an open door environment and expectation where employees actively participate, make suggestions, and are free to express their position or opinion on a topic.

D.    Run a financially sound business

– Focus on achieving performance targets each and every month. Achieve and maintain unrestricted cash-flow and high credit availability. Grow our revenue at least 5-7 percent annually. Exercise vigilant cost controls to achieve and maintain industry-leading operating ratio of less than .60.

E.    Be good corporate citizens

– Embrace the opportunity to give back to the places and communities where we live, work, and serve. Carry out our responsibility to minimize our impact on the environment and to conduct our operations in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Know Our Business and Improve It Constantly

A.    Know our customers and care for them:

– Connect with our customers. Superior customer service and relationships can be a strategic advantage that allows us to beat our competitors. Iowa Northern is growing yet we will never have a monopoly. We will always compete with other modes of freight transport. If we continue to grow, it will be because we can expand without losing the unique ‘difference’ that has built Iowa Northern’s reputation to be so positive.

B.    Know our people and care for them:

– Understand their strengths, challenges, and needs – individually and collectively. Value their differences – embrace diverse people, thinking, and styles. Take employee surveys seriously and respond with action plans to always improve employee satisfaction and engagement. Hold people accountable, recognize successes, and invest in their development. Expect employees to conduct their business in a positive manner. Encourage poor performers to improve.

C.    Know the business inside and out. Provide a superior return to our stakeholders:

– Identify the numbers and metrics that are the true barometers of the business. What gets measured gets done. If it is not measured it will not get managed. Manage by exception by focusing on problem areas.

D.    Know the strengths and weaknesses in your business:

– Do not shy away from recognizing strengths and great performance or openly discussing business challenges and reaching specific plans for remediation.

E.    Know the competition, respect the competition, and be humble:

– All of our competitors are superior to us in some aspect of the business. Do not be dismissive of them or we will let down our guard and get beat. No good comes from running down any type of competition. When you “sell” Iowa Northern, sell on facts and not comparisons.

Demonstrate Honesty, Integrity And Respect

Listen Attentively, Speak Openly, Debate Constructively, and Support Actively

A.    Truth is currency. Always be honest. Live with integrity and reflect honesty in all we do and say.

B.    Do not confine the debate to only managers – we learn from the people closest to the work. Intellectual conflict is constructive – that’s how we get to the correct answer.

C.    Be open minded and listen. Always look forward.

D.    Constantly probe and be persistent. Support “a reasoned investigation of the truth.” Ask questions to draw out participants and learn. Always have passion in the pursuit of knowledge.

E.    Avoid long, flashy presentations – if we cannot be concise and reach a substantial conclusion in 10 pages of well-written and organized thinking, then rethink the problem and solution.

F.    No politics. Be inclusive. Do not keep issues, weaknesses, or problems to yourself. Put all the cards on the table. Be flexible – change your mind when persuaded by meritorious argument.

G.    Be positive, direct, and mindful in all conversations. We do not seek blame, only answers. Engage colleagues with the idea that we all have a shared purpose – that no one wants to let the company, our stakeholders, our employees, or our customers down.

H.    Do not interrupt your colleagues – everyone has the right to be heard.

I.    Reach conclusions, assign specific responsibilities, and proceed unified. Follow through with your to-do list from decision-making sessions. Always remember the need to document and follow-up on the “who, what, when, and where” responsibilities. Be a bird dog – stay on the trail until tasks or assignments are complete.

J.    No “pocket vetoes” – do not undermine, ignore, or simply override final decisions or the will of a much larger group just because you can.