If you’ve been in logistics long enough you have seen ups and downs. When I bought my first truck in 2001 diesel could still be found for under $1.00 per gallon in parts of the country, so I decided to buy 30 more. Since then we’ve all been through the Great Recession, fuel at $5.00 per gallon, economic collapse of banking and normal systems, new transportation regulations starting with hours of service through current on-board recorders, natural disasters, multiple supply and demand market corrections.
Personally for me that has meant complete destruction of my first business and personal life, 30 trucks and 100 trailers auctioned off and a decade worth of debt to repay, a broken home and family relationships, many ups and downs as an agent for large national firms, port strikes, polar vortex, ice in Texas, changes in customer transportation managers, complete corporate acquisition of a large long-standing customer resulting in their strategy change, and finally a successful move to be a fully independent company again once professionally and personally recovered. Rebuilding is very difficult, but through those experiences I have found one thing that we can all do to remain a valuable partner to any current or prospective relationship is to be as open as I am being with you in writing this message.
The most striking and direct quality you can offer is complete, unequivocal, absolute, transparency. I’m not sure why transparency is so uncommon in our industry. I suppose it is because none of us are truly on site to witness what is happening. Drivers can say the truck won’t start when what they really mean is that they don’t feel like starting it. Dispatchers can say a truck broke down when what they really mean is that they never had a truck to begin with. Transportation execution departments are staffed in national corporate offices far from actual shipping and receiving locations. Finally, everybody seems to pretend that they are either not making money, or losing money on each transaction. If that were the case, then none of us would be here.
Trust me, your customers already know that brokers make a lot of money sometimes. They also know that brokers lose a lot of money and go out of business sometimes. We open our books to our customers, share our margins with them, discuss how many loads were profitable, how many we lost money on, our net profit dollar amount and percentage for the time period, the maximum amount of money we made on a load, the maximum amount of loss we incurred on a load. We open our TMS so that they can see the rate confirmations we are sending carriers and how much they invoice us. We take all of this info and present it so that we can all sit down and collaborate on how to approach the next project as true strategic partners. The result is that the more truth we give them so that they can make informed decisions about their supply chain the stronger our relationship becomes. If your objective is to be a collaborative strategic partner with your customers, then try transparency about everything every time.