Your Business is a Blessing and a Burden

Your Business is a Blessing and a Burden

As a business leader who is responsible for your company’s success and the livelihood of all the people you employ, do you have the right resources to help you make the right decisions and choices for your people and for yourself?

Your business is a family that needs wisdom as well as action. It needs to offer compassion and discipline together to reach the goals set out before it. It is a both a blessing and a burden that can keep you awake at night as you navigate the changes across the industry and your local community. Regulatory obstacles, customer and employee attrition, acquisition challenges and budgetary constraints all threaten your ability to lead your company through the coming years.

Whether cultural (vision, people and communication), organizational (structure and leadership) or financial (growth, compensation and expense management), every decision impacts the overall performance of your business. Fortunately, you are not alone in this journey. You just need the right people and partnerships to drive forward.

An executive coach and mentor can provide an objective viewpoint about your business to help mitigate unnecessary risk and to provide the necessary accountability. Coaches can take on the role of confidant, cheerleader, sounding board, priest and task master to bring about the best outcome for you and your business.

TranStrategy Partners provides the pathway to successful achievement of your goals. Over the last 14 years, we have helped companies achieve their plans for growth with measurable and significant ROI:

Over 15% average revenue growth with over 50% average profitability growth in the first year of engagement. Leaders and employees become more engaged and collaborative in the work that they do with a clearer focus on the goals and expectations – the vision.
Find the right partnership to make your business thrive – for you, for your people and for the future.

TranStrategy Partners’ New Offerings

NEW MONTHLY COACHING GROUPS AND WEEKLY LIVE COURSES

TranStrategy Partners is pleased to launch two new offerings with the monthly BrokerXcel coaching program and weekly live trainings through Brokertrain LIVE.

BrokerXcel

Build your business one month at a time! Join us this July for a new methodology to leadership and organizational development with BrokerXcel. This new program, from TranStrategy Partners, takes a different approach to on demand training for leaders and key employees with interactive knowledge sharing. BrokerXcel is designed to provide the power of knowledge and networking to help build your organization and improve performance. Each month, a new topic will be presented. For only $395, you will be able to take advantage of the month’s offerings. It is not a monthly subscription. You choose the month(s) in which you want to purchase BrokerXcel, allowing you to gain more knowledge on the topics that are most pertinent to your business. 

BrokerXcel Includes:

  • Two videos to dive deeply into the monthly topic (July’s topic is culture)
  • Supporting articles and worksheets
  • A roundtable discussion with a TranStrategy coach and other business leaders to address real world examples of the topic to help provide a network context for growth and development.

Brokertrain LIVE

TranStrategy Partners and Brokertrain LIVE offer weekly live webinars. Develop your skills and continue to grow as a freight brokerage professional in these hour-long webinars. They include a pre-course survey, the live course presentation, participant interaction, and a follow up quiz and activity. Each participant will be given a certificate of completion to go in your professional development file.

Saving Culture

Saving Culture

“Seventy percent of American employees report being disengaged at work, and three out of four are currently looking for a new job or are open to new opportunities.” Matthew Baker, Entrepreneur, 6/13/17, Here’s the Secret to Improving Employee Engagement That Every Company Can Afford

Disengaged employees are a detriment to your business – they adversely affect morale and commitment to the defined goals for success.

Why are your employees disengaged? Often, there is a disparity between their goals and the goals of the company; there is misalignment between the values of the organization and the employee.

How can you, as a leader within the organization, combat this disengagement and disenfranchisement? Build a strong and clear Culture for your company.

Culture is the subconscious of your organization. It is the set of values that contextually drive decisions and it is the compass that points True North for your company. Culture exists whether you are actively building it or not- it is the collections of stories about success (and failures). And it is the pathway of your most successful employees and the methods for dealing with your worst employees.

Culture is realized through the relationships that your people have with each other, vendors, customers and the community. It can be a source of pride (in alignment) or a source of derision and bitterness (when not in alignment). The choices and decisions of the business and its employees are reflections of the adherence to the culture framework.

Your business Culture guides your business success, so you need to be very intentional about how your Culture develops. It is imperative to understand how your culture is defined today – from a leadership, employee, customer and vendor perspective – to see what needs to be adjusted to drive the proper expectations.

The stronger and more directed the Culture, the more your people know what defines success and how they can be a part of that success. Your well-developed Culture can reduce attrition and create a compelling message for your recruiting process – allowing you to keep great employees and build your staff with people aligned to the positive Culture that you design.

Working Together for Success: Sales and Operations

Working Together for Success: Sales and Operations

Have you overheard conversations like these in your brokerage?
Salesperson: “I met with ABC Shipper this morning and was blindsided when they asked me about how I plan to resolve ‘this issue’. I had to tell them that we were reviewing the potential options and would be back with them later today. I called into the office and I am still waiting for useful information about what happened and how we plan to remedy the situation. I feel like I am a second-class citizen within my organization.”
Operations: “I’m not really sure what ‘salesperson’ does each day. We keep having to find cheaper trucks for his customers and we haven’t had a decent new customer in quite some time. How are we supposed to grow without new business? I feel like, without the new business, the lower rates are going to keep us from providing the service to our customers, which will cause us to lose more business, and on and on.”
Too often there is a disconnect between the sales department and the operations department. The sales goals of margin maximization, combined with customer acquisition and expansion are not aligned with the operational needs to cover the load and find incremental load volume increase. Daily service issues are not always communicated throughout the organization which leave salespeople scrambling to provide the assurance to customers to allay their concerns. New rates and customers arrive to the operations team without a defined strategy for service and growth.
This disconnect between goals and activity causes an ‘us versus them’ dynamic to form within an organization that can permeate the culture and stifle growth. At the heart of these issues is leadership and corporate vision in defining expectations, behaviors and belief.
Clarity and communication of the company goals across the organization is essential to building the belief in the strategic direction. Leaders need to provide the context (the Why) and the process (the How) to support the overall strategy. Clarity is achieved through simple crafting of the vision and goals. The clearer the message, the easier it is to retain, repeat and remember. Regular communication of the message helps all people begin to internalize and promote the message.
When people know their responsibilities (and the reasons for them), along with the responsibilities of others, in achieving the goals of the organization, the team begins to gain cohesion and will rally around the goals together. Within the team itself, collaboration builds credibility and trust. Regular communication and review to recognize success and identify obstacles improves the responsiveness to pivot as needed to move forward.
Relation Shipping

Relation Shipping

“People don’t care how much you know until they know that you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Be interested in the person (people) with whom you speak. Each person or company that you touch has a depth of knowledge and experience that is valuable and valued. They have hopes and fears that need attention. They have gaps in understanding that need to be filled. They have much to share with you as well.
Be sincere in your approach and find the commonality that links you. Spend time to learn what you can about the person or company to find the links and important information that you can talk about. People inherently want to find a connection with others and talking about themselves, their successes and/or their company makes it easier for them to open up to conversation.
Do not shy from vulnerability. Humility and humanity exist hand in hand and show a genuine truth to your personality.
Be impactful. Create solutions to the needs that are expressed (explicitly and implicitly). Provide information that is a benefit. Focus on allaying fears and providing a sense of togetherness in building security and value in the relationship.
If you are looking for a short term or transactional relationship, then you can kick, bite and scratch your way to get the business. But be prepared to continue to fight each time, because only the strongest survive in such a battle strategy.
It is more worthwhile to spend the time to build the long term relationships that will be protected against the variances of market conditions and the immediate pressures of competition. However, you must continue to learn, build and share to keep the relationship strong and resilient.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What got you here, won’t get you there is the message that we are increasingly delivering to our clients.

At TranStrategy Partners, our executive clients are very successful people, typically the owners and senior leadership of freight brokerage businesses. They have grown their companies through brains and hustle – lots and lots of hustle. Definitely a battle-hardened group of entrepreneurs.

These guys and gals are masters of the freight management universe and experts at cold calling, carrier network development, load tendering, customer service, problem solving and everything else needed to run a successful freight brokerage.

They come to us because they want to get to the next level, which means something different for every one of our client. Our engagements typically begin with a 360-degree business assessment to understand the current state of the organization. From the assessment, we make recommendations and partner with companies to develop:

· Strategy and implementation
· Training and people development
· Improved organizational structure and accountability
· Sales and marketing muscle

Our recommendations are changing somewhat, because doing the same things more effectively and more efficiently isn’t enough in the rapidly changing transportation market. To win in the new competitive environment, freight brokerage companies will need to do different things.

Do These 4 Things to Get There

1. Be an Industry Expert
Shippers are looking for a company who can solve their problems – ideally a company that specializes in solving problems for people just like them. If you are the shipping manager for an ecommerce company, wouldn’t you rather work with a company that specializes in ecommerce shipping? Stop generalizing and start specializing.

2.  Become a Total Solution Provider
Freight brokers have a narrow niche – they match great carriers with great shippers and manage every step of the process. But shippers often have other transportation needs like LTL, courier service, freight forwarding, etc. It might make sense to expand your service offerings. The fast-growing ecommerce company you serve no doubt has LTL and home delivery shipments and your competition who moves those loads, will be pushing hard to take over the shipments you currently manage.

3. Provide Insights and Recommendations

Business intelligence, big data and analytics seem to be all the rage these days even though most people have only a vague idea what they mean. I like to keep things simple. I think all those fancy terms refer to collecting data, analyzing it and providing actionable insights. Your company’s transportation management system (TMS) collects and stores all sorts of useful information. Talk with your ecommerce customer and determine if data in your system can be used to help them make better decisions. Perhaps, shipment data from the last 6 months holds the key to a solving a big problem that your customer has. Put your data to work.

4. Focus on Marketing
The freight brokerage business has historically relied on cold calling, which isn’t working as well as it once did. Savvy transportation companies are using marketing, usually digital marketing to fill the top of their sales funnel. A focus on marketing and lead generation is a big shift for many companies that have lived and died by “smiling and dialing.” To be found online via digital marketing takes just as much hard work and dedication as cold calling. The good news about the web is customers find you and if you do it right, they will reach out to you. When customers reach out to you, they know they have a problem and they think you can fix it, which is a much better way to begin a business relationship.

A Culture of Change

A Culture of Change

Change is inevitable. As time moves ever forward, change is woven into its fabric.

It can be small and incremental or it can be large and disruptive. How one deals with change defines whether the experience is positive or negative and varies by degree. Change, from a business perspective, can accelerate an organization’s growth, produce a surge in productivity or it can bring an organization to a screeching halt. The keys to positive change can be found in a well-designed company culture.

PREPARATION

While we may ‘know’ that change is inevitable, change takes humans out of the comfort of the familiar. The nature of change is a different pathway. Prepare your organization to accept change as a natural part of its evolutionary process. This should become a belief within the company – to see change as both welcome and necessary for growth and success.

Develop a process through which change is an activity like paying bills, selling or marketing your brand. Administer regular strategy sessions with the leadership of your organization to identify how and when change fits into the overall vision of company success.

COMMUNICATION

Any change that occurs should be in alignment with the strategic planning of any business. Through this alignment, all communication will have a proper context. Employees will need to understand the reason for the change, how it aligns with the strategy, their part in the activities related to the change and how they will be measured before, throughout and after the change process.

Involve people throughout the organization to review the need for change and various options for change. Create a team (or teams) from different departments to drive the process from inception through implementation.

Define and create the necessary training to provide employees with the tools to be successful at implementing the change.

ACCOUNTABILITY

By setting clear and proper expectations for key stakeholders, the success of the change can be measured and redirected as needed. To achieve the desired ‘buy in’ for the changes, each affected employee must know what is expected of them and how their success will be measured. Create a simple dashboard or tool to clearly see the impact of each area (individual, team, company) on the defined change success goals.

FEEDBACK

Through measurement of the expectations at the individual, team, department and organizational, the change can be managed properly. Share the results on regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly –  depending on the size of the change and the affected business areas). This will allow the area employees and managers to see where activity is effective and where improvements must be addressed.

Provide recognition for success to foster goodwill and celebrate the accomplishment of the change. Be sincere with praise and communicate how these success metrics drive towards the vision of the company. Change is inevitable. Be in a position to make that change a positive and successful endeavor.

Why Does Your Customer Buy from You?

Why Does Your Customer Buy from You?

Every business depends on their customers choosing them over the competition. This concept is so simple and obvious, that we forget about it sometimes.

We take it for granted that the customers we have will continue to work with us. A quick review of your customer list from last year, will most likely demonstrate that customers leave.

At TranStrategy Partners, when we ask our coaching clients why their customers buy from them, they often give superficial answers. Frequently, we hear “my customers buy from us because we provide great customer service” or “low pricing,” or “our integrity.” Customers may also buy because you have a specialty geared toward their business or because you make it easy to work together. Customers definitely consider all these factors when choosing a freight brokerage, but there is so much more that is missing.  

Irrational Buyers

There is significant research that suggests buyers make irrational buying decisions. Perhaps, your company was never the best option, but they chose you anyway. As a business owner, you need to know why your customers buy from you, even if the reason is a little out of the ordinary or off your radar.

Regardless of the reasons, your customer chose your company. Your company was considered the best option at the time, but…

Times Are Changing

There is new and different competition facing freight brokers. There are full-service 3PLs that offer a suite of services usually not offered by brokers. Carriers, who traditionally didn’t broker freight have opened freight brokerages. Lastly, there are new web-based freight marketplaces that will enable shippers to connect directly with carriers.

Shippers, including your customers, will consider these options. With the internet, it is easier than ever to research options. It is also easier than ever for your competition to find and connect with your customer.

Your freight brokerage might have been the clear winner when your customer compared your company to other freight brokerages, but how does your brokerage measure up against the new competitors?

The Questions are Easy, but the Answers are Hard

At TSP, we only work with freight brokers and transportation companies. We help our customers understand their customers and why they buy.

As part of our engagement, we do a complete competitive assessment of your company to determine how your company stacks up. If there are holes in your service offering, it is better that you discover them before your customer.

With the permission of our client, we interview their customers to understand why they buy and what they like about your service and where you can improve. We keep the interaction with your customers very positive and constructive. These exercises result with our clients having a much deeper understanding of their customers. This understanding almost always drives service and sales messaging enhancements.

If you want help getting the hard answers, like why do my customers buy from us, please contact TSP.

About the Author – Mike Temple

Mike Temple is a Senior Partner at TranStrategy Partners and the Director of the Xcelerator Leadership Program, which is designed to be a catalyst for accelerated growth for 3PL and freight brokerage businesses. The Xcelerator Leadership Program is a yearlong program that utilizes a unique process that maximizes business results with minimum disruption to day to day operations. Does My Freight Brokerage Business Serve Me or Vice Versa?

Ask the Coach: How Do We Grow Up?

Ask the Coach: How Do We Grow Up?

The “Ask the Coach” program is produced by TranStrategy Partners, the recognized leader in freight brokerage / 3PL coaching. Since 2004, TSP has helped hundreds of freight brokerage owners and top executives build the companies they want.  

Question: I read your recent article, “The Freight Business Grows Up” and as the owner of a freight brokerage, I agree with your assessment, but I am wondering where do we start? What would be a good first step to growing up? Tom in PA

Mike Temple:
Tom, thanks for the question. There is more than one way for your company to grow up, but to keep it simple, I will suggest that you find a way to add more value for your customers.

Before I elaborate on “adding more value” let’s examine the competitive environment as it has been over the past thirty years and where it is heading…

Freight brokers have traditionally competed against other freight brokers who have a similar value proposition and similar pricing. In the absence of a clear competitive advantage, freight brokers depended on personal relationships with customers.

In that market, a sterling reputation, a dependable carrier network, fair pricing, great customer service along with personal relationships was enough to be very competitive. The best freight brokers differentiated themselves by excelling at the day to day blocking and tackling.

Of course, every shipper has their own expectations. While some shippers value a strategic relationship that includes a high degree of integration, trust and customer service, other shippers are content with a transactional relationship. The transactional shippers may work with multiple brokers and value a lower price over relationships and customer service.

The Evolving Freight Market
Today, freight brokers must compete against companies that have very different business models, service offerings and value propositions. Shippers have more options than ever before. In fact, it is hard to list all the new types of business models and companies that have sprung up in recent years. A few of the new options are discussed below.

Shippers who move freight in multiple modes may decide to consolidate all their business with a full service 3PL that can manage their ocean freight, drayage, warehousing, LTL and truckload needs.

The transactional shippers (who don’t value relationships) may be lured to some of the online freight marketplacesthat enables them to save by cutting out the middleman. Many people in their twenties and thirties grew up with the internet and may be more comfortable with a well-known website than a broker relationship. For proof, look at what Amazon did to the brick and mortar retailing vertical.

Over the last decade, many 3PLs and brokers bought asset based companies and vice versa. These hybrid or asset light carriers offer the best of both worlds – assets and full service brokerage. When there is a shortage of trucks for a given lane, these companies become a very attractive option for shippers because they can use their own trucks or broker the loads.

Compete by Adding More Value
To compete and win in this new market, companies must find ways to add more value for their customer. Provide such a superior service, that the customer never considers the alternative.

Understand the Customer – Solve More Problems.
To add more value, solve more of your customer problems. Rather than define your customer’s needs as a low price and good service, go deeper to understand the problems facing them and their industry.

Develop a Specialty
Rather than just moving freight for retailers, develop a full-service retail logistics specialty. Do some research on trends and challenges, attend retail logistics events, create reports, case studies and best practices that position your company as the retail logistics experts. 

Provide Insights and Recommendations
With all the transportation management systems, sensors, GPS and other information created, your company can gain new insights into your customer’s business. Use these tools to gather the right information on problems and challenges facing your customer. Providing raw data isn’t always that helpful. The value is when you identify trends and opportunities from the data created.

Expand Your Services Offering
Many brokers and 3PLs are partnering with other transportation providers to expand their service offerings. For instance, if you specialize in retail logistics, it might make sense to align your company with a home delivery / final mile carrier so you can serve the rapidly growing retail home delivery market.

About the Coach Mike Temple is a Senior Partner at TranStrategy Partners and the Director of the Xcelerator Leadership Program, which is designed to be a catalyst for accelerated growth for 3PL and freight brokerage businesses. The Xcelerator Leadership Program is a yearlong program that utilizes a unique process that maximizes business results with minimum disruption to day to day operations. Check out our white paper: Does Your Freight Brokerage Business Serve You or Vice Versa?