Enabling Success

Enabling Success

When you look at your team, across sales, operations and administration, are you confident that they have all of the tools necessary to succeed? Do they have the systems (both technological and organizational) that enable them to be effective? Do they have the requisite training and development to be productive and grow? Do they have the right leadership and vision to keep them motivated and moving in the right direction?

As a leader of your company, it is your responsibility to provide the necessary resources to your team and to foster the best cultural elements for success.

Process Systems

The work that is done, from accounting to dispatch to lead generation, requires a repeatable and cohesive process. Manuals, documents or workflows are important to explain how deposits are made, how documents are scanned or how claims are filed. Setting metrics that are tied to the work processes will guide employees toward efficiency and improvement. Technology and innovation can rapidly increase productivity across the processes and allow the team to focus their energy on more important activities.

People Systems

Recruiting, Hiring and Training your team are the three pillars of the people system. Target the right people. Find those that understand the true nature of customer service and have the fortitude to make proper decisions in alignment to your company’s values. Don’t be limited by the need for industry experience. Ours is an industry that can be taught and trained. The softer skills of empathy, collaboration and self-motivation are much more valuable.

Support and compliment these inherent skills with a training program that outlines tasks and expectations within the context of a larger goal set. Take the time necessary to build competence and confidence and allow the freedom to develop mastery and expertise, which can be further leveraged in support of new customer needs.

Culture Systems

With the right people and processes in place, it is vitally important to guide them under a cohesive and powerful vision. This vision should incorporate the financial and character drivers of the company. It should be the lens through which each decision can be clearly seen and made. It should be bold, yet it should not be impossible to attain. It should include a certain amount of slack and resiliency to weather changes in the regulatory and market environment. It should embrace change as a necessary component to growth. And how you communicate any change and how you relate to each member of the team sets the tone of your business.

As the leader and/or owner of the business, it is your duty to all stakeholders (employees, customers and carriers) to express the strongest organization possible. Review your business processes, your people and your culture to locate gaps or deficiencies. Partner with the right people, both internally and externally, to fill those gaps and provide the greatest impact for your profitability and sustainability.

Romancing the Truck

Romancing the Truck

While the shipper customer drives the top line revenue number of any brokerage operation, it is the ability to source capacity efficiently that drives the profitability of the company. Throughout the industry, the focus on capacity (retention and transactional coverage) is market driven and reactionary.

Building a strong core carrier network is essential regardless of the market situation. While there appears to be a general shortage of trucks (aging population of drivers, ELD compliance, market pressures), it is often just a shortage of trucks available to you. Your network is balanced when the market is balanced, but when the pendulum swings either direction too much, the carriers will depart for more profitable freight elsewhere.

You must understand the carrier’s needs (take the time to ask questions and learn about what drives them and what they are trying to accomplish):

1) Due to the high cost of their operations and assets, carriers are often driven by cash flow needs. (how quickly do you pay? Do you have multiple payment options?)

2) Carriers are comfortable moving within a particular zone of operation. (Does your freight regularly keep them within that zone? If you move them out of the zone, do you provide options to get them back to the zone?)

3) Carriers work with companies that they trust and show them respect. (How do you communicate with carriers? Do you thank them? Do you recognize their efforts? Do you work with them to solve problems or just blame them?)

4) Carriers want consistent utilization for their equipment. (Do you provide regular freight opportunities to the carriers? Do you work with them to identify opportunities that serve you both well?)

Of the thousands of carriers in your network, how many move more than 1 load per month, per week, per day? Having 10000 carriers in your network has little value if they only move your freight when it suits them or when you provide the highest rate.

Leverage your stronger carrier relationships by showing that you are interested in helping them achieve their goals. Report to them how they work with you (metrics, volume, payment history). Learn from them how your company fits their plan and how well you are positioned to retain and expand that relationship.

Often, brokers are the de facto sales force for the carrier so treat the relationship accordingly. Communicate regularly about plans and activities designed to find new freight for their fleet(s). Work in tandem to identify shippers and customers that will support your shared goals.

As pressure from automated brokerage programs continue to undermine the transactional business model, brokers must strengthen their relationships with carriers to compete. Share the love and commitment to your carriers to position your own company for success. Carriers are true partners in growing your brokerage.

Building a case for WHY

Building a case for WHY

Throughout our industry we place significant focus on the execution of process. This focus is directed at the granular activities that drive revenue. The HOW and the WHAT that we do is fairly straightforward and is easily grasped by the majority of people within the organization. However, it is often very transactional and allows for only marginal, incremental growth. By harnessing the power of the WHY within your organization, you can experience a more systemic and explosive growth.

The WHY provides the context and motivation for decisions related to change and opportunity. Building internal belief around the WHY excites and accelerates the individuals and teams within your company to both imagine and produce great things. Creating a WHY story provides a tangible and clear expectation for people to rally around. Tools like Cameron Herold’s Painted Picture/Vivid Vision provide a framework for the organizational leader(s) to distill the vision into clear images and steps along the pathway to success.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, many of you understand the drivers that move you forward – from the inception of the business plan to the plans for future success. Sharing those motivations (financial goals, growth metrics, community support and people development) becomes a key component in establishing the context for the entire team. Each individual that rallies around the vision increases the velocity through collaboration to reach the defined goals. Clarity of purpose removes obstacles by centering the teams on a shared goal set. Ideas and decisions can be made through the lens of WHY by simply asking if they align to the vision of success. If they do – proceed; if they don’t – rethink and reframe.

The Purpose of your company, whether focused on carrier relationships, premier service offerings, specialized cargo or any combinations thereof, acts to focus your uniqueness and to define your brand. Marketing around the story and the unique qualities of your business helps you foster authenticity and stand apart from your competition. Know who you are, what you stand for and the WHY that drives you. Build these answers into the content and communication strategies that connect with your prospective customers, vendors and workforce.

The WHY inspires the people in your organization. It energizes them to step outside of their comforts to achieve the realization of the WHY vision. WHY narrows possible outcomes to align with the vision and simplifies once difficult decisions towards the goal.

Develop your competence in the HOW and the WHAT through training and process improvement, but drive growth and engagement through clear communication and expression of your organizational WHY.

Customercialism

Customercialism

At the recent annual TMSA Conference, Align4Growth, the idea of consistent messaging across all dimensions of customer contact reigned supreme. The purpose of that contact is to build trust with existing and prospective customers. The credibility of an organization, particularly in the early stages of the relationship, is developed through the crystalline focus on the customer: what they need, how they engage and what they are trying to accomplish.

The First 50 – The Story Projects

Research across industries (B2B and B2C) shows that somewhere between 50% and 75% of the customer journey is made prior to the first true engagement with the business. Potential buyers are exploring, learning and comparing possible solutions. Digital presence and past performance are key indicators for these buyers to take next steps in the decision process.

Clear product definition, particularly in a service industry, is instrumental in providing useful information to those buyers. Explanation of the features, benefits and success outline how solutions are positioned and create a more holistic approach to your communication model.

First Contact – Building Credibility by Placing the Customer First

Sales rarely happen during the first contact – or second or fifth. Too often, the sales team disregards the process and message that brought the prospect to the table in the first place. They are focused on the close, getting a lane to quote or other misaligned metrics that drive compensation instead of driving the relationship.

The process needs to be focused on trust building which can be accomplished through the continuation of the messaging aligned to the digital experiences already experienced by the prospect. Sales should ask questions designed to elicit information and needs.

There is power in establishing both what the company can do for the customer and what it cannot do. By establishing such parameters, it shows the prospect the recognition of your own capabilities and intentional limitations and, ultimately, honesty and respect.

At The Close – Aligning Solutions to Needs

Once Trust is achieved, the relationship accelerates. In developing trust with customers and prospects, they become more attracted to the company and the people within it. This attraction builds a desire to spend more time – through a business relationship that endures.

In many cases, once trust is established, the business relationship becomes a foregone conclusion. The focus becomes imagining of how the solutions will be executed to meet the customer needs and help them accomplish their goals.

Beyond Carrots and Sticks

Beyond Carrots and Sticks

Motivation is not simply about carrots (compliance) and sticks (non-compliance). It is about context and relevance to goals. It is about the flow from here to there and the achievement of success. It is about communication of expectations and the appreciation for reaching the goals. It is about removing obstacles and creating pathways to success. Motivation of the people on your team and of yourself is critical to growth and leading through change (both expected and unexpected).

Recognizing what drives you (and others) is vitally important to the overall success of your endeavor. Your energy reserves are depleted by activity that doesn’t align to your drive, while it amplifies when you are focused on activity that matches your passion. Activities that sap your energy are often done poorly – either rushed or mistake-laden due to inattention. Activities that energize you are given full attention and commitment to produce strong results. Assess your drivers and the tasks you perform to map out what you do well and what may suffer.

By reviewing the activity and responsibilities within your organization, you can assign the tasks that best utilize the energy of the team. List out each activity that occurs within your daily workflow and the people who are available to complete each. Delegating tasks based on drive/energy versus simply role/responsibility can provide a greater level of productivity and velocity in completing each task.

Historical structures and roles provide accountability, but they do not always provide the necessary flexibility to handle changes within the market or industry stressors. Mapping out your activities provides you with a framework of action, but also helps to identify gaps (both in role/responsibility and in energy/drive). This map can provide a blueprint for personnel needs – for both hiring and re-organization – to best serve company objectives.