Industry Associations are Good for your Business

Industry Associations are Good for your Business

You can always come up with reasons to not bother being involved with industry associations. However, we have found that companies are generally better because of such involvement; and time spent bettering your company is time well spent.

Whether your company is a small mom and pop shop or a large enterprise, industry associations offer benefits for everyone.

The key to successful association membership is networking with your peers. Not only does it provide the opportunity to meet individuals who share a common interest, it can also spark the beginning of new friendships and solid business relationships. After all, you can never have too many contacts in this industry.

Most associations provide a newsletter or publication, whether it is weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Contained in these publications is priceless information touching on all the topics that affect the industry–driver shortages, freight trends, and government, environmental, legal and financial issues.

You can find breaking news on legislative decisions; upcoming seminars, conventions or meetings; new industry standards and best practices; employment opportunities; and industry trends. Plus newsletters keep you abreast of the latest developments among your fellow association members.

Being listed in an association directory is also beneficial to your firm, in more ways than one. Not only does an association directory promote the services of fellow members, in many cases it is distributed widely outside of the membership, increasing chances for work both inside and outside of the association.

Many associations have frequent meetings and webinars to discuss topics of concern to members. Meetings are but one of the many events held. Most have annual conventions, award ceremonies, workshops, management seminars and dinners, and even golf outings. A massive amount of information, company promotion and networking takes place in each of these outlets.

Don’t get me wrong, membership in an industry association will not guarantee your organization’s success, but active membership could be a step in the right direction. Plus, many of your competitors are already reaping the benefits.

Don’t be left out of the loop. Join us, along with hundreds of others in getting involved in this industry through the many associations that serve the transportation marketplace.

Too Busy Running Your Business to Build it?

Too Busy Running Your Business to Build it?

At TranStrategy Partners we’ve successfully worked with hundreds of business owners to help them focus their energy, and the energy of their staff, to plan for and grow their business.

Later we often hear clients say, “I wish I’d have done this sooner.”

Why didn’t they?

Most often, they were too busy. Yes, too busy running their business to build it.

Entrepreneurs have their hands full. In the freight brokerage business there is no end to the things a leader could be doing. You have to hire and fire. Deal with problem shipments and carriers. Manage billing, accounts receivable and carrier settlements.

Most leaders barely have time to service existing customers, much less sell new ones.

In the hustle and bustle of a typical day, taking time to consider what you want the business to become takes a back seat. When the action breaks, you want a break too.

We understand. We’re entrepreneurs too.

So how do you find time to plan and grow your business?

First, force yourself to set aside some time-maybe an hour or so. Put it on your calendar, and keep the appointment. Close the door. Turn off your phone. Eliminate all distractions, including thoughts about what else needs to get done or how you should have dealt with the most recent crisis.

Then answer just one question:

When my time here is done, what do I want my business to look like?

With this one step, you’ll learn two things:

1. How to make the time needed to work on your business
2. The desired state of your business-what you want it to be

There’s a lot more to do of course. Seeking some outside assistance comes in handy. Find someone who can take an impartial look at your company, assess its current state, and collaborate with you (and keep you accountable) in planning and implementing a strategy to move you toward that desired state.

7 Steps to Raise Employee Performance

7 Steps to Raise Employee Performance

You’ve gone through the time and expense of hiring a new employee, but you are not guaranteed the employee you hired will be the highly productive worker you hope for.

When employee performance problems arise, you need to deal with them through specific employee improvement conversations. Here are seven steps for conducting effective performance improvement conversations:

1. Start the conversation by stating something the employee does well. This will help the employee be more open to hearing about where improvement is needed.

2. Describe the problem (performance issue) clearly and in a non-threatening way. Talk about the specific behavior, and do not discuss personality traits. Discuss what the person did, not who the person is. Always remain positive, explaining that you will be an active partner in correcting the situation.

3. Ask the employee to help in solving the problem. Discuss alternative solutions and mutually agree on actions to be taken. Try to use the employee’s solution where possible. When the employee’s ideas are part of the solution, he/she is more committed to making it work.

4. Provide resources to help the employee improve. In some instances, there’s an easy remedy to the performance issue. Possibly a better process/procedure is needed to help the employee become more efficient. Alternatively, the employee may need some additional training or a class to develop a certain skill.

5. Set a specific action plan with follow up dates. Ask questions to make sure the employee understands what is expected. Then develop an action plan that specifies performance expectations and the date for completion. (E.g. the first draft of the PowerPoint presentation should be completed in one week.) Have checkpoints along the way so there’s an opportunity for changing course if necessary.

6. End on a positive note. It is important to communicate to the employee that you are confident he/she can solve this problem and make a positive contribution to the organization.

7. Follow up and recognize improvement. Remember to hold the follow up meetings when scheduled. Recognize any improvement and continue to coach the person doing the right things. If improvement has not occurred, move to the disciplinary process.

Although these steps cannot ensure improved performance, they are a start in the process.
Improving employee performance is a win-win for everyone.

The employee wins by learning what is needed to enhance performance, thereby changing behavior and becoming a more productive member of the organization.

The manager wins by counseling a person to achieve desired behavior, thereby resulting in a more productive and satisfied employee.

Lastly, the organization wins by retaining motivated employees who understand their role and the roles of others in contributing to the goals, culture, and success of the organization.

10 Steps to Profit from Process Improvement

10 Steps to Profit from Process Improvement

Anyone interested in growth? Having your employee’s feel important and involved in decision making for minimal expense and maximum value?

Make the investment in a process improvement team and see how well this will work for you.
A process improvement team (PIT) is a group of workers who get together on a regular basis to discuss how to make your business processes better.

The concept is that they take on one process at a time and come up with a way to make that process incrementally better than it currently is. They do this again and again, getting each process a little better each time.

This process improvement works for small transportation companies of two or three people as well as for large fortune 500 type organizations.

These 10 steps will lead to effective PIT meetings, with positive results:

1.Keep the meetings to no more than three employees and another management leader (total of five including you) and limit the meeting to one hour or less.

2.Include your entire group. Leave no one out of the process discussions.

3.With five employees per meeting, topics are discussed in six consecutive meetings. Don’t change topics mid stream. Stay focused.

4.Hold these meetings every two weeks, perhaps over a lunch period. You’ll have six meetings per quarter.

5.Solicit ideas from your entire staff before the beginning of each quarter as to what topics/process may need review.

6.Prior to your first meeting, you as the leader, choose three to four topics for the discussion period, rating each topic in order of importance. Leave the remaining topics for the next group. Do not forget anyone’s topic submitted or you will lose participation. If a certain topic doesn’t require review by the team, advise the employee who submitted the idea and share the reasons why review isn’t necessary.

7.Once you have your core topics, they are discussed in each meeting so all employees have input to include suggestions for fine tuning processes, if any is required.

8.Review the final outcome and group decisions of your meetings content.

9.Make necessary revisions or changes to procedures, functions or systems, notifying your employees as soon as the revisions are complete.

10.Supply your entire group with the necessary feedback from each meeting. Send them an e-mail with the meeting minutes. Praise those who develop a “fix” for you. Keep your staff informed.

By putting aside an hour every two weeks, PIT meetings can be exceptionally beneficial to managers and to your business.

If you are already using a process improvement method, we’d love to hear about it. Give me a call and tell me how you do it. Need some help with process improvement? Give me a call at 888-625-1139 and tell me your needs.

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.