Rodney Dangerfield must have owned a small trucking company. It would sure explain his famous phrase, “I don’t get no respect.”
If you’re as naive as I once was, you might assume that the fact that you are an employer, signing paycheques and paying taxes, should make suppliers and employees willing to at least respect the contribution you make to the economy, and the sacrifices it entails. That foolish notion is usually not only naive, but just wrong.
As somebody who started a trucking business relatively young, I grew accustomed to drivers and owner/operators joining the company, and immediately start telling us how the company should be run.
Their view usually was the opposite of the way we operated, and a carbon copy of the operation of their previous employer.
The irony of the fact that they wanted us to be more like a company they no longer wished to work for was usually lost on them. Occasionally, if I was being “taught” by an employee when I was in a bad mood, I asked the obvious question: “If you’re so damned smart why are you working for me instead of your own company?”
Besides the employee relations, you’ll be amazed at the lack of importance your business and opinions matter to anybody. I’d like to share some samples of phone calls and e-mails I’ve made over the last couple years.
You’ll be surprised at how these examples connect.
• I phoned one of Southern Ontario’s largest trailer dealers, inquiring about used trailers.
• I e-mailed a large trailer manufacturer regarding B-trains, via their Web site, which forwards your trailer request to your closest dealer.
• I e-mailed one of Southern Ontario’s largest tarp and load securement suppliers, requesting availability of $500 worth of equipment.
• I e-mailed two different material handling sales facilities, asking to consign a scissorlift, and put the sales price towards a forklift.
•I e-mailed a small, used truck sales facility, informing them of some commonly requested, but not readily available, equipment for sale.
• I e-mailed a driver representative association, politely requesting clarification of a statement that had been made in a magazine column.
• I e-mailed a popular industry spokesman (former trucking company owner) agreeing with a statement he had made, and asking him a related hypothetical question.
So, what’s the commonality of these events? None of them responded. I bet that had I signed off my e-mails or phone calls giving a fictitious name and title (purchaser or manager of one of Canada’s top 10 carriers), I’d have got responses from every inquiry.
Especially in this era of e-mails, with everyone close to their computer, or glued to their smartphones, how much effort does it take to send a quick, brief response? Try a little refreshing honesty like, “I just don’t want your business.”
I think I’d respect that more than being ignored. At least I’d know where I stand, even if I don’t understand why.
In the case of samples one through five, rest assured they will never sell me anything.
I can go through the Internet yellow pages and find other companies providing the same service. They haven’t yet figured out that $500 to $80,000 deposits in their bank account is the same, whether it came from me, or a larger company.
Examples six and seven possibly ignored me because I’ve been critical of the driver association, and, obviously, large trucking companies. Sounds kind of spineless doesn’t it? As much as I appreciate the favourable e-mails I get regarding this column, I enjoy the disagreeable ones more.
I respond to all of them. Maybe by disagreeing with me, you’ll make a point I hadn’t thought of. Maybe a couple e-mails back and forth will explain my point further, in a way that typical print space restrictions don’t allow.
Either way, nothing will change in this, or any other industry, without healthy debate, which requires differing opinions.
The driver association doesn’t really serve fleets, but owner/operators and drivers.
I think it would be a huge benefit to them to consider the opinion of people like me, owners of small trucking companies.
A simple question answered might change whether or not I encourage employees to join. Respect our input, and see what happens to your enrollment numbers.
The industry spokesman was asked a simple, somewhat hypothetical question, after I respectfully agreed with his published statement, thanked him for his time, and apologized for the intrusion if he was busy.
My low respect level for many large carriers is legendary, due to my ongoing disagreement with typical hiring and maintenance practices, driver pay, freight rates, etc.
This gentleman had the opportunity, with a simple e-mail, to possibly soften my opinion.
Unfortunately, he didn’t think I was worth the time. To those who really dislike my outspoken style, remember, someone had the chance to pacify me, but didn’t bother.
Remember that fact the next time you disagree with me, and, hey, e-mail me to let me know you disagree. I’ll respond, because even when I disagree, I’ll respect your opinion, and the time it took to contact me.
Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation, a four-truck flatdeck trucking company. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.