Optimism Redefined: Building the plans for successful achievement.

Optimism Redefined: Building the plans for successful achievement.

Optimism defined: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

In a recent study, it was determined that the younger working class (millennials) is less optimistic than previous generations. In our current technology focused world, we are hyper aware of any local, national or global activity. This hyper awareness shows the granular existence of both good and bad. Less is open for interpretation. Reality can be less filtered through our own comfortable biases and can make one feel less optimistic than the less connected previous generation.

However, optimism isn’t a static existence or experience; it is a dynamic belief of the individual at the time of the questioning. There are moments in all our lives where we are truly optimistic and others where we have a deep pessimism about the future. Much is determined by our ability to understand and have control of the decisions that lead us forward in aligning our future with the perceived success that we desire.

Finding optimism in our personal and professional lives evolves from a clear understanding of our goals. These goals, defined by our desire and bound by our capabilities (both current and future), are at the end of a pathway – a pathway that is varied in both direction and length. There is no straight line between where you are today and where you plan to be. The path changes as a result of obstacles, conflicting choices and the unknown unknowns.

The key to achievement is to develop a plan that takes you to the vision of success.

The first step is to have a clear and honest understanding of where you are today. By assessing your business across multiple factors – financial, cultural, personnel and market position – you have a baseline starting point. Without clarity of this starting point, the following steps (and the decisions that must be made) are built on a faulty foundation and will be unsustainable as you move forward.

The second step is to have a clear vision of what success means for you and your company. Define the goals across the factors – this may be a financial number ($20M), it may be the creation of a sustainable, growing company to pass down through generations, or it may be to become the leading regional LTL provider in the upper Midwest. Once you establish the goal(s), a system is created between your current state (the baseline starting point) and your desired state (the goals and vision of success).

The third step is to take ownership of the plan and its corresponding goals. You and your organization must become committed to both. Each and every decision related to the business from that point needs to be made through the context of the plan and the goals. There is comfort in the status quo and often decisions are made that keep us within this comfort zone, but the goals exist in competition with the status quo and will cause discomfort. Belief and commitment, along with communication and reinforcement of the goals, will keep you focused in making decisions aligned to your success.

The last steps of the process are the actions necessary for achievement. The creation of useful metrics and measurements to assess the movement keeps you, and each person, progressing towards the goal. Regular review of the action steps – where you are accelerating and where you are lagging behind – will help you understand where to deploy resources to stay on track. Support your team through recognition and reward. Hold them accountable to the expectations and behaviors necessary to reach your goals. In short, lead them across the finish line.

Having a clear plan and the tools to work it creates an energy that drives success. This energy is contagious and feeds others within your organization to continue to grow and move forward. This collaborative and motivating energy is powerful. It fosters innovation and facilitates the necessary changes to bring greater value to your company. This energy has a name and that name is optimism.

Home Grown Talent vs Free Agency: Hiring Well in the Transportation Industry

Home Grown Talent vs Free Agency: Hiring Well in the Transportation Industry

Finding the right talent to accelerate your brokerage growth can be a challenging exercise – sometimes there are diamonds in the rough and other times the diamonds are too rough. The goal of any recruiting program is to find the best fit for your strategy and your culture. Too often, management is focused on the immediate revenue return potential instead of a longer view on consistent, predictable revenue growth model. However, a newer salesforce can be slow to gain traction and can become discouraged before it can make noticeable gains. Managing expectations in finding and developing the team becomes the primary role of the organizational leadership. Both talent pools can offer strong results, but careful attention must be paid to adherence to the organization’s strategic plan and culture.

Free Agent Pros

Successful salespeople can inject energy and momentum into a company that may have become stagnant and they can accelerate existing growth. Managed and compensated properly, sales success is contagious. Bringing on a proven sales professional can set the right tone for the team with a focus on growth through investment. Sales professionals bring valuable practices and processes to targeting prospects, lead development and nurturing skills.

Free Agent Cons

In a world of non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, finding the all-star sales rep that can bring an immediate push to revenue is very difficult. Hiring companies are banking not only on the historical book of business, but on the track record of success. It is important to understand the sales methodology and process of an experienced transportation sales professional to see if they can align to your existing process.

Be aware that, if a sales rep is looking for other opportunities, he/she may carry some baggage related to their previous company.

New Hire Pros

By enlisting new and fresh people into a transportation sales role, you have a clean canvas available to create the perfect salesperson. It is important to find the talent that embodies and exhibits, through past action and previous responsibility, the behavioral components of future success in the transportation industry.

New Hire Cons

Ramp up time and consistent progression are often the largest hurdles to overcome when brining on a new and untested salesperson. Folks who are new to sales don’t often understand that rejection and disappointment are part of the process and that failure comes before success. Attention must be paid to the process – with regular communication and feedback to reduce burnout.

Align for Success

By hiring for cultural, behavioral and organizational fit of salesforce members, the company can build a team from a strong foundation. As with any hire, you want to find alignment to your organizational vision and goals. The faces, voices, hearts and brains that make hundreds (and thousands) of contacts every day must be fully invested in the company’s plans for success.

Train and Develop Skills to Maximize Results

Invest in your people and give them the tools and skills to achieve. Create a comprehensive and sustainable training and development program that, in turn, creates a winning team that will drive your growth and success.

To learn more about hiring and training programs designed for brokerage success, visit our website – www.gotranstrategy.com – or reach out to me directly – andrew@transtrategypartners.com

Differentiate Your Business from Its Competitors

Differentiate Your Business from Its Competitors

There are three basic ways to position or differentiate your business from its competitors:

1. Be a market leader. Choose a particular market and focus on being the leader in that market.
2. Be unique. Offer something no one else or just a few shippers do.
3. Be a price leader. Focus on providing low cost services. Wal-Mart is a good example of a successful business built on this strategy.

Warning: Trying to be all things to all people will inhibit your growth. Instead, be the very best at something. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes what he calls the hedgehog concept. A hedgehog is an animal that protects itself by rolling into a ball that cannot be penetrated. Your marketing strategy should protect your business in exactly the same way.

Whatever direction you choose, commit to it and do everything you can to be the very best at what you do.

Next identify your company’s unique selling proposition. What makes your company different? Is it the way you communicate with your customers, your unique transportation services, the technology you use, or something else? Figure out what makes you “the purple cow” that stands out from everyone else. Even if your uniqueness is not 100% unique, treat it like it is. Make it work to your advantage.

Tip: Your unique selling point should be about more than your equipment or what you haul.

Once you are clear on what your unique selling proposition is, design everything about your business around it, and make sure that your employees fully understand it and know what they need must do to underscore it and deliver on it. Then, go after customers that are seeking that uniqueness, making sure that you clearly convey to them what distinguishes your business from the competition.

Tip: When you offer something unique, you can usually charge a bit more than firms that don’t offer what you do and/or you will be able to minimize your price competition.

Yet to Come……

Yet to Come……

Over the weekend, I watched Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri with my family. When it ended, my 15 year-old daughter was left unfulfilled because she didn’t know what was going to happen next. I told her that the ambiguity of ‘what’s next’ adds to the drama and texture of the story.

This conversation got me thinking about our collective need to know what happens next in our lives (and in the lives of others). We are overstimulated with bites of abject predictability. Our online platforms are directed by algorithmic certainty and similarity so there is little need to explore or challenge beyond our comfort zone. Unfortunately, reality is never quite so certain or so perfectly resolute.

While there are occurring factors that compound the uncertainty (universal entropy), the vector of our future is dictated by the choices that we make and the choices we do not make. Are the choices you make, both consciously and unconsciously made, directed towards your desired outcome – or are they consistent with the present pathway of ‘good enough’?

By gaining clarity in your goal definition, you can see the structure of the decisions laid out before you. Through the lens of your goal(s), you can focus on the changes that need to be made from your current position along the path. The speed at which you reach the goal is also determined through choices – often requiring multiple interconnected choices from all members of your team/network/family.

The collaboration of focused decisions purposefully moves you towards your defined goal.

Use your choices to build the texture of your own story in its movement towards the ending you desire.

How effective is your team?  Identify and root out dysfunctional areas threatening your business.

How effective is your team? Identify and root out dysfunctional areas threatening your business.

In his leadership fable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni defines the dysfunctions that hinder the development of a cohesive, effective team as Lack of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability and Inattention to Results. While each of these dysfunctions can damage your organization, when combined, they truly threaten its foundation and can lead to the dissolution of the organization.

Working with your team to overcome these dysfunctions will help reorganize and reenergize your business to fulfill the vision of growth and achievement.

TRUST

Trust is built on a foundation of respect, vulnerability and experiential behaviors. Alignment to organizational goals, instead of contradictory self-interest based goals, sets the stage for greater collaboration. Make sure everyone understands the roles and expectations for each team member and how they impact the overall strategic plan helps to clarify the parts of the whole and the applicable responsibility.

CONFLICT

Within any group of individuals, there is bound to be conflict of some kind. Too often, the conflict is not directly addressed or shared and remains hidden under the surface of conversations and meetings. Disagreements on direction and tactics are natural and should be communicated as they develop. The team should recognize that the opinions are tied to a desire to improve the organization and are not the ideological representation of the person. Disagreements and conflict should not be personal, but professional. Tying the opinion or idea to the persona of an individual can be detrimental for current and future projects.

COMMITMENT

Individual and collective commitment to the overarching vision and strategic plan for an organization is imperative to the achievement of its goals. Clarity in that vision and the regular communication of expectations are key components to building that commitment. Focus on the objectives, intrinsically energized by the commitment, drives and accelerates your team forward.

ACCOUNTABLILITY

Accountability is the insurance for organizational risk. It also acts as the integrator for the other areas. Accountability begets trust from other team members by taking responsibility for activity and tactics, outlined in the strategic plan. Conflict can arise when productivity and results are not met. Use accountability as a focal point to discuss the how and why failure may occur and a champion for improving those areas toward achievement.

RESULTS

Results matter. Results are defined by the productivity against the metrics. If those results are not reviewed or addressed appropriately (either positively or negatively), the entire team loses their trust in both the measurements and in the culture that did not value the goals. If 90% of the financial goal is acceptable, neither the goal nor the effort to reach it have true value in the organization. Set the right goals and the right processes to achieve them.

When reviewing your team, in times of growth and in times of change, look for the potential roadblocks caused by these dysfunctions. Address these challenges before they rot the foundation of your organization and limit your ability to create a healthy and sustainable company.

4 Gauges to Avoid Sabotaging Growth

4 Gauges to Avoid Sabotaging Growth

In contrast to the success that you have had in building your company, there are always obstacles and challenges present that minimize growth potential and inhibit maximization efforts to forge greater success. The challenges could manifest as people/personnel issues, operational inefficiencies or, perhaps, even barriers to new customer acquisition.

Often, these obstacles are multifaceted and the correction of one does not provide the expected result. Cultural and Structural hindrances are interwoven into all aspects of the enterprise and are not so easily resolved. It is necessary to understand the holistic interaction between all of the factors in order to produce a best functioning solution.

Gauge your People – from administrative and front line to the leadership level.

Assess their skills, strengths and behavioral composition to discern how they best interact and what gaps may exist within teams, within departments and within the entire organization. Having this people intelligence will allow you to hire, fire and redistribute resources in alignment with the over-arching company vision and goals.

Gauge your Communication – in meetings, in person and in your marketing.

How well you manage change is directly correlated to how well you communicate the need for, the impact of and the benefits from that change. Poor communication in any of these areas leads to fear, confusion and uncertainty from the teams. Absence of clear expectations and reasoning leaves a void that is, too often, filled with competitive behaviors driven by self-interest. Strong communication of your messages is built on alignment to stated goals, clarity and consistency. When people can ‘see’ it, ‘understand’ it and ‘own’ it, they can incorporate it into their work and their own communication.

Gauge your Processes – in operational workflow and sales growth.

Your processes are the assembly line of production in your brokerage operation. Order fulfillment from load acquisition to collections follows a defined and organized workflow. The steps along this workflow have different levels of efficiency and value that can be reviewed and improved. By documenting the people and system interactions along the way, you can identify potential gaps and bottlenecks that reduce productivity to build better process solutions.

Each phone call to a customer or carrier has the potential to drive revenue. The effectiveness of those calls is more important than the volume of those calls. Preparedness for each call, in regards to information gathering and negotiation methods, positions your company to capture value. Look beyond “what do you have for me today?” towards “how can we help you tomorrow?”

Gauge your Metrics – to reinforce the activities and behaviors that drive success.

Metrics that are aligned to the organizational expectations and behaviors proved the benchmarks and trends of activity. Measuring your people, communications and process allows you to recognize where there is success and where resources will need to be deployed. Look beyond general metrics like load volume, call volume and new client volume towards more telling metrics of customer expansion, carrier load ratios and quality customer acquisition. Find metrics that support the behavior that you are expecting from the teams and individuals.

Your organization is a powerful enterprise that provides capacity solutions for its clients, fleet management support for its carrier base and both a livelihood and purpose for its people. Don’t let internal obstacles undermine this mission. Gauge your company and be open to changes needed to drive the business higher.

Re-purpose Your Employees

Re-purpose Your Employees

Purpose and Vision are key components in the development of the proper culture for your organization.
Clearly communicating that Purpose and Vision to your employees helps to align them and creates a pathway to greater engagement and satisfaction.

Every employee can act as an accelerator for your organization if they feel confident in the clarity of their role, how they can be successful, how they can develop and how the work that they do makes an impact on the business and its community. Each additional employee that is aligned with the purpose and vision further accelerates the organization by magnitude through focus on the goal.

Setting proper expectations for the activities and behaviors associated with each role, along with objective measures to verify achievement, creates focus on the objectives and allows for improvement through regular feedback reviews.

Balancing the intrinsic motivation (Vision and Purpose) with extrinsic (Compensation and Reward) becomes an important part of the leadership puzzle. Without a proper balance, frustration from the company or the employee may subvert the culture and create unwanted activity incongruent with the Purpose and Vision.

The organization must have a compensation structure that supports the goals of the company and the employees, while allowing the company to grow and thrive in a volatile market environment. While compensation, defined by the metrics of expectation, is an important part of employee satisfaction, the investment in employee development must also be addressed. The creation of a process focused and consistent training program can further align employees to the purpose and vision by building skills to successfully execute the expectations and behaviors that the organization deems relevant.

Together, purpose and training move in a consistent and connected way towards the strategic vision of the company. The training plan should be based on a combination of industry knowledge, company specific experiential learning and broad skills development that blend the general and the differentiators of your organization’s brand/value proposition.

This investment in employee growth allows them to move through the training with a deeper belief in the purpose of the organization and greater energy to collaborate in achieving the expected success.

Your people are the manifestation and expression of the Vision and Purpose of the organization. They are the Brand Ambassadors of the company. Give them the proper lens and filter through which they make informed and insightful decisions. Give them a Vision and Give them a Purpose.

Managing Expectations

Managing Expectations

In every aspect of your growing business, you set expectations – of yourself and those who work with you. Whether you are a dedicated list maker or not, those expectations must be communicated to the affected parties.

New Employees

Every new employee has the potential to help your business grow and succeed. To do that, they are expected to learn your business and methodologies and execute efficiently within those frameworks. However, they will not be 100% effective from day one – their development is a process that has defined steps. Where should they be along the process on day 10? On day 30? On day 90?

Having measurable goals at each stage allows you to manage the development and improve the chances for a successful engagement by each employee. By explaining these goals (and how the company will help them achieve the goals), the employee can visualize the pathway to success. Regular communication and support along that path keeps them aligned and moving towards fulfilling those expectations.

Existing Employees

Too often, development diminishes once the employee has reached an acceptable threshold of competency. Communication becomes less frequent as the challenges of competent execution are minimized. However, employees tend to reach plateaus that are ‘good enough’ in order to maintain the status quo and/or retain their employment.

By setting expectations for the continuing development of employees, they are challenged to be better and to grow with the company. Industry specific training, skills refinement and leadership options exist to support this endeavor across all price points – some free options and scholarships are out there as well.

Yourself

Do you ever ask yourself “What does my company expect of me?” or “What does each employee look for in each interaction with me?” The goals that you set for yourself need to be in step with the goals that others have of you. They look to you for leadership. They look for your guidance, motivation and discipline (when appropriate and necessary). They look to your vision, your integrity and your energy. Your compassion and empathy raise them up. Your experience and wisdom keeps them from straying too far off course.

Be clear on your expectations of others and yourself, but be open to understanding their expectations of you and your leadership.

Partnerships for Growth

Partnerships for Growth

You don’t lead in a vacuum.

Successful organizations are built with the blood, sweat and tears of many partners – mentors, coaches, employees, clients and vendors. Choosing the right partners to support the company vision becomes a key part of the success.

As with all important decisions, finding the right partners requires a process: first you must assess what you want from a partner and how that relationship can provide value for you, for them and for your organization. By determining your goals from such a partnership, you can begin to ask questions that will verify alignment between potential partners, their goals and your own. Utilize testimonials and references – personal and professional – to get a complete profile.

Do they complement you?

Unfortunately, the downside to certain analytics tools and algorithms match you with like-minded and homogeneous connections, whether they be people or information or opinions. While goals should be aligned, diversity of thought and opinion has greater value in making decisions. The broader the expertise and knowledge, the better the coverage of potential risk factors and potential obstacles than a single mind or train of thought can provide.

If your company is filled with variations of yourself, you are limiting the creativity and innovation opportunities to build and develop the organization.

Do they challenge you?

As an entrepreneur, who is inherently driven forward, and as a visionary, who sees opportunity at every turn, you can become distracted from the leadership necessities of the operation. Other leaders may become paralyzed from growth by increasing responsibility and the fear of failing – both yourself and those who depend on you.

The right partner will not let you be guided down wrong pathways. They will point out folly and push you when your own psyche is holding you back. They can help you overcome these challenges by providing a new lens of vision. They can help to share responsibility and allow you to focus on the important, versus urgent, business roles to improve and grow.

Do they support you?

Alignment to the vision is paramount to achieving success. Initiatives live or die by the focus and support they are given. When decisions are made, the right partner becomes your lieutenant to help communicate the expectations, marshalling team buy-in and directing collaboration to properly execute. They become champions of the process and add their voice in support of the change behavior.

Partners are essential to your company’s success. They can be found throughout the stakeholders in your company. The more partners you have and partnerships you develop, the stronger your foundation and credibility will become. When you treat your relationships with your colleagues, subordinates, coaches (both internally and externally) as partnerships, you unlock greater opportunities.

Respect: Given and Earned

Respect: Given and Earned

Your organizational vision and strategy are the framework to achieve greatness. However, without the right people – in the right positions, on the right path and making the right decisions – greatness is only a dream.

Plans and intentions are only as successful as the execution in delivering results. Analogy alert: All the football schemes, formations and play design are useless without the players who perform and the collective team psychology to seamlessly support each other.

For your business to be successful, you need to have (and recruit) strong, competent development projects – people who can execute based on the business priorities, who make prudent decisions in alignment with the organizational objectives and who continue to build and refine their skills to increase effectiveness.
Your people need to have the Grit (work ethic and fortitude), the Will (the intrinsic motivation to succeed) and the Capacity (the mental and physical wherewithal) to properly deliver on the business promise to your customers, your suppliers, your investors and each other.

As a leader to your company and to the people who breathe life into the vision, you have a responsibility to find, guide and train the best possible team. Finding them requires the creation of a valuable brand that draws the best and brightest to your organization. Your company brand must have a clear vision of success, the expectations and metrics to keep you on the path to success and a proven program to engage and develop your people to reach their own career milestones.

People who are aligned to the company goals, who have the tools and processes for success and who have regular opportunities to grow, will move your organization forward with greater acceleration. The right people, focused on the right priorities, will drive your business. They are the personification and the actualization of your business mission, which ultimately improves your brand and improves your recruiting potential as you grow.

Focus your attention on your people with review, recognition and reward to keep them aligned to the proper process and motivated to achieving mutual success. Strategy, properly supported with the right people, can bring your dreams into reality.