I recently started to do some consulting for a small trucking company who’s name shall remain anonymous, there a 50-driver fleet in a specialized niche market, lets call this company “Freight Hauler Express” or “FHE” for this article. FHE’s story is not at all uncommon from too many companies I have seen over the years and in fact this situation is one I have lived through first hand with my own experience as my company grew. Simply put FHE suffers from growth pains and with that come Human Resources issues, driver turnover resulting in management by crisis and because of these issues customer service is being somewhat sacrificed.
So I thought it might be interesting to document my interaction with these folks and share with you some of the direction and advice that I will offer them over the coming months. The good news for FHE is that leadership is determined to turn the tide on their issues and they realize they need some help, and they still have black ink, profit, which of course is always a good thing. They also suggested to me that they’re long-term goal is to become a market leader and continue to grow the company.
I spent the first day with FHE on site at their terminal documenting my observations, then after collecting my thoughts for a few days I spent some time reviewing my list for accuracy with the leadership of the company, this part is never easy, it’s a reality check. The Coles Notes version of my list in addition to those issues named above, included HOS noncompliance, no written discipline policy, there is a lot of back biting going on or as I call it playing the blame game. In addition an inventory of supplies used on the trucks is not done resulting in lost items, no accountability, technology is not being utilized properly, there are issues with the insurer, and the company is not quite sure where their wage package stacks up against their competition among other things, but these are the major performance shortfalls. After much deliberation I decided that this was going have to be a marathon race and not a quick sprint if FHE is determined to achieve their goals.
It was quite easy to make a list of a lot of obvious technical things that they needed to get at to stop many of the issues that they were having, luckily I did not send them that list as the starting point, we’ll get to that stuff later. In order to effect lasting change there must be a solid base to work off, a company Value Statement is that base. Here was my direction to FHE,
Dear leadership of FHE
I have been thinking about the transformation of your company and what you’re trying to achieve. This process, done properly, evolves over time you will need to move slowly and continually communicate what’s happening to people as we go. I advise that the first move be to tell people that changes are coming and that the company is evolving. The message might take on the mantra that ownership sees great opportunity at FHE but for it to achieve the growth results that are available to it, and for our company to become the leader in it’s industry sector. FHE has to become an organization that can react when opportunity is recognized and deliver to our customers the service they deserve. To be successful in the long run FHE must create the capacity for change.
To evolve to that position FHE needs everyone’s involvement and contribution. Over the coming months we will begin to reposition and organize our company to a best in class service provider to our customers and employees. A great place to begin is to define exactly what our company core Value Proposition is and then build the infrastructure around that foundation. Please participate in the exercise as it will affect your future at FHE, the results of the development of a Value Statement will define how we interact with each other, our customers, our suppliers, our regulators and the public, moving forward.
So here is what we need you to do, we are asking you to provide us one paragraph, one sentence, or a simple list of words, you can put your name on what you produce or you can leave it anonymous, your decision. What we desperately need is your input, so the question is,
“If you worked at the ideal company that you were perfectly satisfied with. In words, how would you describe that company?” We thank you for your participation in advance and for helping us design the future of FHE!
The outstanding thing about this exercise is that ninety percent of what is collected will be the same; the words will be honesty, respect, and a sense of community, integrity, open, and accountability. What we find out through this exercise is that our core values show the same desires, there is commonality sure there will be some things that wont fit but for the most part this is an outstanding place to start the transition of where FHE is today to where they want to be tomorrow. From this simple statement, change can happen, people can relate to how things are happening and they can see that there is now a new standard that has been set for the company; the bar has been raised so to speak.
Don’t be fooled though there will be fallout from this, I warned FHE that some people will not want to come along for the ride; fear of change is a powerful thing. It must be realized that if staying same is not an option then the only way to create change is by moving away from your comfort zone! Loyalty to the past when it comes to running a business can be poison!
Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations. All posts by Ray Haight