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.