I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with freight brokers, so I figured I knew the business. But as I prepared to moderate two industry events recently, I found this old dog has a lot to learn. At the first event, I invited six industry leaders to sit down for a state of the union. These are all “first generation” freight brokers—baby-boomer entrepreneurs who have been breaking trails for an industry that didn’t exist 30 years ago.
I’m convinced that Nat King Cole moonlighted in sales. There is no other way to explain how he could write a song that describes the mind-set of the sales department come July 1. That’s the day “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” kick into gear.
If you’re in the transportation business, you’re also in the acronym business. It’s amazing how many of them are part of our industry lingo. In fact, there are so many that Gene Orlick, a trucking pal from Canada, produces an annual list. The 2014 version of Gene’s List contains 138 legit entries, plus a dozen zingers that only his closest buddies will get.
It’s like clockwork. Whenever someone calls me about selling their company, they respond to my spiel with the exact same question: “What’s my business worth?” My answer is always the same but never the one they expect: “It depends.”
The need to fill the widening social media pipeline with “content” has everyone writing studies. As a regular columnist, my inbox is inundated with white papers, surveys, and reports from consultants that almost never get read. During a recent email purge, however, I came across two studies written almost 10 years apart that reveal a lot about transportation pricing.
I’m continually puzzled by our industry’s approach to contracts. Few carriers feel the need to have contracts with customers, and many flat-out refuse to see the value in them. We have no problem spending millions of dollars in equipment so a customer can “try us out.” If he doesn’t like us, we expect him to cordially return the iron so it can rot against the fence until sales can find some other “tryout” customer.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer surprised people when she recently decreed that the tech company’s employees would no longer be allowed to work from home. Never one to miss a chance to grab a headline, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, reacted by calling her decision “old school thinking.”
Every January I see a surge of suppliers who want to set up meetings. It seems like every Dale Carnegie comes back from the holidays committed to working harder and being a better version of last year’s model. It’s the same reason the company fridge is full of salads the first month of the year. I call it the “January Syndrome.”
It didn’t hit me until my bride and I were going through customs in France, excited about our much-needed European getaway. After scrutinizing my passport, the agent raised his head and asked what I did for a living. I whispered, “Unemployed.”
Yes, in October, my partners and I sold the freight-brokerage/trucking hybrid we started 22 years ago in Toronto with a phone and a fax machine. I was no longer in sales management; no longer had a paycheck.
I cringe when I look at some of my older columns. Time has made some of my thoughts so contradicting, I wonder what song sheet I was singing from back then. One area where I’ve changed my tune is the value of customer surveys. In the past, I’ve penned how essential they are, insisted they be done annually, and made a lot of important business decisions based on their results. Fast-forward a decade and I think customer surveys of any kind are totally and utterly useless. A waste of your time and your customers’.
The day you become a parent is the day a trip to Disney gets automatically added to the family bucket list. These days, it’s almost mandatory that every kid feels the “Magic” and parties once with Mickey, Goofy, and the rest of the gang. As a parent, you stand zero chance of competing against one of the world’s strongest brands and the apparent guilt that goes with not taking the chickadees to the Magic Kingdom.
Twitter is by far and away the fastest growing social media site (even more than Facebook). Two hundred and fifty million times a day, someone tweets a 140-character message telling followers, “Here’s what I’m doing.” It’s the central theme of Twitter.
Frankly, I never got it. Other than my immediate family, I have zero interest in what someone else had for dinner. Even more confusing to me is why anyone would have one iota of interest in the mundane details of my life when I barely do.