Category Archives: Family Business Issues

“I Just Want To Work a 12-Hour Day”

clock_07-00I hear this from busy trucking executives all the time. Sometimes it’s the owner/CEO who wants to work less. Sometimes it’s a spouse or family member in the company who wants a different proportion of work time to non-work time. Regardless, a trend seems to be developing: working all the time is not necessarily the life that people want, even for owners.

Where does the time-suck come from in trucking? There are several, but my customers and prospects in local P&D and related fields tell me of one particular demand that has mushroomed over the past few years. Customers want proof of delivery as close to real-time as possible. Customers will even sometimes leave carriers over this one issue.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, really. Society in general has seen an acceleration of the speed at which people are able to retrieve information of all sorts (on smartphones, tablets, and so on). In the local P&D world, this acceleration takes the form of an expectation by shippers that the trucking carrier should also be able to provide “on-demand POD.”

When the customer calls, we generally want to avoid the following: Frustrated-caller-copy

  • “Dude, am I on hold again while you chase down that POD? That is so 20th-century. You are so lame. ”

So let’s assume you’ve said “okay” to this new demand. Who is going to do it? You? Everyone in the office?

One difficulty is this: Trucking companies are experts in hauling freight. You excel at getting the freight to its destination on time, accurately and damage-free, with special services as needed. You make appointments. Local P&D companies bring a liftgate or 2-man crew if needed, handle inside deliveries or tight urban dock locations, and so on. We might call this “core service.” Superior core service like this is a justifiable point of pride for many carriers. It can take 12 or 14 hours a day from many employees just to give great core service.

  • “So, Jonathan, are you telling me that this is not enough? I need to give my customer instant, on-demand POD too?”

No, I’m not telling you this…. your customers are. That is, they probably are, if you’re listening.

At some point we all have to ask:  What is best for my trucking company, right now? What is best for me, for my spouse, for my people, for my customers, for their customers?

Looking just at the POD requests, there are a number of ways to address the issue.

  1. Add 2-3 hours to each work day. (This gets tiresome pretty quickly.)
  2. Hire more people. (This gets expensive pretty quickly.)
  3. Ignore your customers.

Bury-your-Head-in-the-sand (We don’t recommend this.)

There are other choices too. One is to find technology that can do all this POD work for you, much more cheaply and reliably than a new hire. Depending on your situation, you may be able to satisfy most or all of your POD requests with a self-service web portal, where your customers log in and download whatever they need. In other situations, you may be able to satisfy several key accounts this way, providing some other communication mechanisms for other customers. In any case, given the trends, it’s worth devoting some serious time to thinking this through.

If you’d like to get down to that mythical 12-hour day, you can harness technology to get this done for you. Some effort is required to set it up. Of course, it also takes effort to do nothing and remain stuck in the same situation.

Finally: If POD isn’t the Great Time Suck for your business, what is?  For some carriers it’s billing.  Please leave comments below, or anywhere else you’ve seen this post, so that we can continue the conversation together. I look forward to hearing what you think.

–The Editors

Succession Planning in a Family-Owned Trucking Company

Why do so many people in local trucking feel like it’s impossible to retire?

Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ) writes:  “Experts say that more than 40 percent of family-owned businesses will experience a change in ownership in any five-year period. Of those, only 4 percent have a formal succession plan.” See  http://www.ccjdigital.com/education/ccu/manuals for a little more info.

Is this you?

When we talk with customers and prospects, a recurring theme comes up:  there is often only one person in the company who knows critical things about the business.  In one example, only the owner knows the ins and outs of every special customer rate – and when the owner is away, orders get billed incorrectly. The results are embarrassing phone calls, damage to the customer relationship, and much more time and energy to fix the problem than it would have taken to bill the correct rate the first time.

The problem is not that the owner knows the rate; the problem is that nobody else does.

CCJ also notes that 65% of family-owned businesses don’t make it past the first generation.  Information is power, and perhaps you, as an owner, are afraid of giving away too much power. However, founders and owners in all sorts of businesses shoot themselves in the foot by being stingy with information that could help everyone. In your company, who is there that you can trust to run the shop when you’re not around?  Who can do things the way you would do them? Who can remember the special rates that you and only you have authorized? How will all the stuff that’s “in your head” get into the brains of the people who work for you, so that you really can enjoy that margarita at the pool without having your cell phone ring all the time?

There are a number of ways to lessen the risk of having only one person know everything about certain aspects of your business.

  • Some CEOs gradually “spin off” parts of their jobs, training one key person in that essential skill and another key person in another skill. If this happens, then piece by piece, the owner no longer is indispensable. Over time, this allows the business to survive the “what if Tim gets hit by a bus?” test.
  • Some companies cross-train everyone, so that multiple people know how to rate, dispatch, and bill, and so on. Small businesses and even some smart government agencies do this as well, so that no single person knows procedures that nobody else can replicate.
  • Some companies invest in software. Great software captures all essential order and rate information as soon as anyone knows about it. Great software gives everyone the ability (within reason) to retrieve it, so that nobody has to say “hold on, let me get George…. Oh, whoops, he’s out to lunch…. Can you call back in an hour?”

It’s a lot easier to contemplate handing over the reins when you have a place to download all the expertise in your brain so that others can use your wisdom. While no software package can replace experience and intuition, the best TMS software distills wisdom from decades of trucking experience and puts it to work for you.

At JSY, we make it our business to create easy-to-use tools that address exactly these issues of “who knows what,” reducing the need for anyone to hoard information.  Our customers tell us how much better it is when everyone has the same information and can share it with customers on demand.

–The Editors

 

The Driver Shortage and Local Trucking

The driver shortage continues to make headlines.

http://www.dcvelocity.com/articles/20120213-solutions-to-driver-shortage-elusive/

We have a local angle on the situation, in case you missed it:

http://www.jsysoftware.com/blog/?p=191

Local driving takes some real skills, as our earlier blogpost says. The HOS and pay-per-mile issues that plague OTR carriers, as well as the quality-of-family-life issues so often mentioned, are less applicable on the local scene.

Keep your local drivers safe and busy and you will not have a driver shortage!

–The Editors