What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Its a priceless mantra that we’ve all used many times. However, knowing what you are going measure (and why), how are you going to measure it and how are you going to turn your new knowledge into an actionable and worthwhile result is the real challenge.

What I’m talking about is reducing driver turnover and using the real data that is right at your fingertips, if you chose to mine it and use it for better turnover results. When I ask most companies about their turnover rate, rarely do I get a response that is more than a guess. I find that surprising, to say the least. In today’s trucking environment it is all about the driver, hiring them and keeping them. Here is what I measured, how I measured it and how I used the results when I ran my company.

What

  • We had 6 dispatch boards with approximately 300 trucks. We measured short-term turnover, meaning those who had been with us for under 1 year. We grouped this by drivers, O/O’s and overall. We tracked companywide turnover, meaning the board fleet as a group, again segregating company drivers and O/O’s. We also measured turnover coming out of our training trucks on entry-level drivers. Total reports were 4-5 per board, depending on whether they had ELD or not, and overall total reports were 27 – 33.

How 

  • We used an old JJ Keller formula that I still use, it really doesn’t matter what you use if it is consistent, and it is a rolling 365 day a year tool. We used the following:
  • Short-Term Driver turnover ratio 12 Month = Drivers no longer with the company that were hired in the last 12 months divided by the number of drivers employed in the previous 12 months.
  • Long-Term Annual Turnover Formula    = Drivers no longer with the company (YTD) divided by elapsed days X 365 divided by total # of Drivers. By the way, an employed driver is one that has turned at least one mile of work in which revenue was generated. The fact that you have any no shows at orientation is an entirely different issue.

Action

  • We’re looking for variations in the numbers. Why are some boards results better than others? We’re not looking for bad guys here. The exercise will reveal two things are at play here that can help our results:
    • First, you will likely see where you are getting some stellar results – an individual or two that have turnover rates that are well below the rest of the gang. The obvious question is how are they getting these results? Are there things that they do that can be shared with the rest of the dispatchers? Do these individuals have behavioral traits that we can identify and possibly hire to those traits in the future? Can this person or persons mentor other dispatchers?
    • Secondly, are there things we’re doing or not doing that are creating poorer turnover results on those boards that have the higher turnover numbers? Take a second level deep dive into common root causes on these boards and let’s see what’s really going on.

Once the measurements process is set up and functioning, it is quite easy to generate these reports on a monthly basis. Give it a try and see what opportunities you might uncover. Measure and manage – here we come.

Safe Trucking,

RJH

So, You Think You Don’t Have Enough Time?

We all do things that waste time.  Some of us will do low-value tasks that we really should be delegating (or just not do at all), but we feel that no one will be able to do it as well as we do.  Others will look at a huge project and procrastinate because it appears to be too big and complex, likely doing unimportant tasks to put off that large task that scares us.  Still others are perfectionists who continue with a task long after the return on the additional effort is negative. Alternatively, a perfectionist may put off tasks because they are uncertain that they can perform at the unrealistic level that they set for themselves. Finally, there are some of us who get a feeling of importance by never saying no to requests.  It feels good to be the go-to person that everyone thinks can do the impossible.  However, by never saying no we make everything a priority, and, in the end, nothing gets done.  Let’s face it, time and task management are not something that any of us will ever get perfect.  What we all need to do is determine what is “good enough” and then use that as a starting point towards continually improving.

There are several ways that one can use to improve our time and task management skills.  None of them are one-size fits all.  You may find that some are better at one stage in your career, but they may need to be changed or modified as you change roles and responsibilities.  You may have other ways of managing that work better for you.  The important thing is to create a system that works for you and continue to improve it over time.  Holding on to things that don’t work is another time cost that we put on ourselves!

Organize Work Around Energy Levels

Find your most productive hours and schedule high value and high energy tasks during those times.  As an example, if you are a morning person then do your most critical work when you start your day.  After lunch, your energy level may drop a bit so use that time to do more administrative tasks.

You should also know your energy levels by day.  Most people find Tuesdays and Wednesdays as their most productive days, so scheduling their most difficult and important tasks on those days will lead to getting more done.

Start the Day with Critical Work

Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.  And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”  He was talking about determining what is your most important or hardest task and dealing with it first.  Getting it done will bring you momentum for the rest of the day.  Think about it – if you have already achieved your most important goal for the day then tackling the rest of them will seem easy by comparison and that positive mindset will carry with you throughout the day.  Elon Musk suggests that you “don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t actually make things better.”  Sometimes we deal with the squeaky wheel or the easiest tasks first and never get to what was important.  Resist that urge and leave those simple tasks for that time in the day that you know you are at your lowest energy.

Prioritize Tasks

Knowing how to prioritize is a must – if everything is a priority then it moves towards nothing being a priority.  One way to determine priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix.  The goal is to focus on accomplishing the important and urgent before moving on to the other tasks.

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important Do

Do it now

Examples:

·         Emergencies

·         Pressing clients

·         Deadline driven projects

Schedule

Decide when to do it

Examples:

·         Long-term planning

·         Calling back a client

·         Replying to a specific email

Not Important Delegate

Who can do it now?

Examples:

·         Booking a trip

·         Scheduling interviews

 

Delete

Purge Task

Examples:

·         Social media

·         Working on a dead report

 

 

  1. Start by writing down all your tasks – at this point don’t worry about the order, just get down everything that you need to do.
  2. Identify what’s urgent and what’s important and note which of them applies to each task. Tasks can have one, both or none of these identifications.  If the task has none of them then find a way to purge it.
  3. Assess value. Look at the important tasks and identify the high value items.  Determine which tasks have priority over others and how many people are impacted by your work.
  4. Now estimate the amount of time is required for each task and order them from the most effort to the least.
  5. Insert the tasks into the Eisenhower Matrix to gain a full overview of your work tasks

Some tasks will be urgent, but not important.  These are tasks that are good candidates to get delegated to others.  You don’t need to do everything yourself and moving these tasks to others can free up time to get the important and urgent tasks done. Remember that holding on to these tasks can have a large opportunity cost – they are time that could be spent doing something that is yields a greater return on your time investment.  When delegating, keep these things in mind:

  • Find the right person – they should have all the necessary skills and be capable of doing the job.
  • Provide clear instructions – write down the steps and be as specific as possible.
  • Define success – be specific about the expected outcome and the timelines.
  • Clarity – have that person explain the tasks back to you. Clarify what they are unclear about, rewriting the instructions if necessary.
  • Expect that the person will not do it exactly the way you did it – in fact they may find a better way. Don’t let your pride get in the way of delegating things that you should not be doing yourself.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

Find the things that you do multiple times a day or week and see if you can use technology to help you work smarter.  Examples include setting reminders so that you don’t forget anything; creating canned responses for emails that you keep writing repeatedly; or creating spreadsheet templates for reports that you do on a weekly or monthly basis.  Find those common elements and figure out ways to stop reinventing the wheel each time you do them.  Saving a few seconds here and a few seconds there will eventually free up 30 to 60 minutes a day that can be spent on your important and urgent tasks.

Next week we will look at eliminating distractions, how to say “no” more often and gaining more time through batching similar tasks.

Driver Retention =Discipline

The core of the TCA TPP’s newly released driver retention project plan is a focus on managerial discipline. It lays out a step-by-step process that is designed to layer a gradual focus on creating a driver-centric culture at any given trucking company starting with the commitment by the senior management team to the successful execution of the program.
Through the process of rolling out the DR Project Plan to a new company, we encourage an on-site visit and workshop that I facilitate. Having done these on numerous occasions, I can usually expect that one of the common concerns that are revealed is that consistency is crucial to the successful execution of the DR Project Plan itself.
The manifestation of this concern among senior managers is in and of itself very telling of the culture of the business and it is a likely sign of a company (although it may be successful) is likely not performing to their maximum potential. What do I mean by this?  This is likely a business that operates in silos and not as a high performing, focused unit. Each department is trying to keep up to the pressures of the day, living in the whirlwind. They are not genuinely supporting each other and suffering when it comes to focusing on either a common purpose or accomplishing a WIG (wildly important goal).
One of the benefits of the DR Project Plan is that at its core it strives to hold people accountable for staying to the project plan. If an individual is not onside, they will be called out on their lack of focus by other members of the team. Hopefully this is done in a supportive way (as is encouraged). This support is a core commitment that each senior manager makes to the others as part of the program, and it is critical to its success. The program also addresses the blame game, finger pointing, and dodging accountability, which of course is nothing but a child’s play and a waste of spirit. The turnover in this industry and at each company I work with is a result of the company’s entire personnel’s efforts to get where it is – period.
Taking full accountability and ownership of the situation each company is in is the starting point for the program. There is no future in finding bad guys or playing the blame game, none. Everyone at the company and everyone reading this article for that matter has done everything perfectly correct and in perfect order to be where you are today. In your careers in your relationships in your communities, you have to own that paradigm, not to say that challenges and in some case significant problems didn’t present themselves to you, but you decided how to react to those issues. No one else but you, so own your successes own your failures, own your past and own your future.
Without this core understanding as a starting point, the DR Project Plan (and any other WIG for that matter) has a very narrow chance of ever resulting in the success that it was designed to achieve. It has been my experience that most new revelations, including the new DR Project Plan, are nothing more than common sense revealed. Hope you agree. You can find out more about the new TCA TPP DR Project plan at: https://www.truckload.org/tpp-retention-project/ or at https://tcaingauge.com/the-retention-action-plan/
Safe Trucking
RJH

Getting from Idea to Action Quicker: The GTD Method

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a time management method created by David Allen.  This method is based on the idea of moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them down into actionable items.  This allows one to focus their attention on acting on tasks instead of recalling them.  For a great explanation, David was interviewed on this edition of The Dealer Playbook podcast.  For a short version of what GTD is, David does a 90 second explanation here.  For a quick infographic on what GTD is, click here.

Most of us are too busy to work on our values, mission and ultimate purpose. Why? Even though our minds are great at creating things, it is terrible at tracking it.  (For a great example see this video from Successful by Design) There is a very good chance that you are tracking tons of things in your head right now. That stuff drains your energy and clogs your creativity because you are relying on yourself to remember it.  This stuff makes it hard to stay afloat on a day to day basis, forget about being able to think bigger.  In this TED talk, David talks about getting in control and creating space:

So, what’s the solution? You have likely been told it’s start at the top and work down.  That’s what’s got you struggling.  Start by mastering the bottom (by mastering getting things done efficiently) and then when you are no longer drowning you can think about your mission, purpose and values.

Getting Things Done is a collection of processes and habits that aim for:

  1. A clean and updated calendar of time-critical actions;
  2. A clear, current and comprehensive list of next actions you can take anywhere, anytime, without the need for further thought or clarification;
  3. A full list of outcomes (big and small) that you’re committed to achieving in the next 12 months; and
  4. A complete system to organize and keep track of all the “stuff” in your life.

By implementing GTD you will:

  • Never let anything important slip by again;
  • Always have pre-prepared options of actionable and productive things to get on with;
  • Have total oversight of everything you’ve committed to in the near future; and
  • Have a totally clear head with no need to mentally track of remember anything.

In short, it’s a way to get your life under control.  Through getting things out of your head and into a trusted system you will trust yourself more. You will know when to say “no” and still feel confident about handling anything that is thrown at you. By making space in your head that the “stuff” used to inhabit, you will have the time and energy to start working on the bigger things.  David talks about “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” in this video here.

So how does it work? There are 5 Steps plus Planning (David gives a short overview here):

  1. Capture – Collect what has your attention.   Use an in-basket, notepad or voice recorder to capture 100% of everything that has your attention.  Little, big, personal and professional – all your to-do’s, projects, things to handle or finish.
  2. Clarify – Process what it means.  Take everything that you capture and ask: Is it actionable? If no, then trash it, incubate it or file it as a reference. If yes, then decide the very next action required. If it will take you less than 2 minutes, do it now. If not, delegate it if you can; or put it on a list to do when you can.
  3. Organize – Put it where it belongs. Put action reminders on the right lists. For example, create lists for the appropriate categories – calls to make, errands to run, emails to send, etc.
  4. Reflect – Review frequently. Look over your lists as often as necessary to determine what to do next. Do a weekly review to clean up, update your lists and clear your mind.
  5. Engage – Simply do. Use your system to take appropriate actions with confidence.
  6. Plan complex projects to get from multistep outcomes to actions.

Here’s a short video where David walks Dutch TV host Linda Geerdlink though getting started with GTD.

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Capture

This includes all your outstanding stuff. Gather every out of place and unfinished thing in your head, your e-mail, your briefcase and wherever else it is stored and put it into a few external inboxes.  An inbox can be a basket, a notebook, a spreadsheet or any other way of getting it all into a small number of places.  You want to get it external to yourself because otherwise it will stay on your mind, eating energy and killing creativity.

Stuff is anything (an action, commitment, project or object) that:

  • You want, should, could, ought or need to act on, now or later; or
  • Anything that is even slightly unfinished or out of place.

Allen refers to this stuff as open loops.  By not having been closed yet, they cause stress because they are things that we could forget.  They are constantly telling your brain to “think about me”.  That stress is what is killing your energy and your creativity.

By collecting you empty these external inboxes so that you can move to the clarifying and organizing stages.  It’s sort of like doing spring cleaning.  Once it has been collected you will have an overview of everything that is unfinished or out of place in your life and it allows you to do the next steps quickly and effectively.  Once you have the system set up, collecting on a weekly basis will become shorter and easier.  While collecting, do not process as you go – you will be much more efficient if you batch all collecting first before trying to process it (the only exception is for items that can be completed in two minutes or less).  If the item is impractical to move (say you need to sell your old car, boat, etc.), use a physical or digital note as a placeholder so that it gets into the system.  Tooodledo.com offers a great infographic on how to do a brain dump here.

Clarify

Clarifying is the process of determining what stuff is, what’s the desired outcome and what is the next action.  You need to answer all these things.  If you don’t know what something is, how can you tell if it is important? The desired outcome lets you know when the thing has been completed.  The next action follows determining the outcome as this is the next step required to move towards that outcome. By not answering these three questions the item will sit in the system and you will not act on it until you are forced to.  Allen says that “you often have to think about stuff more than you realize, but not as much as you’re afraid you might.”

When determining the next action, be complete enough that someone else could do it without needing further clarification or thought.  If the next action is “call garage to schedule an oil change”, include the phone number.  If you don’t know it, then the real next action is “find phone number for Joe’s Garage”.

A few rules for working through your inbox:

  1. Always start with the top item on the pile.
  2. Handle only one item at a time.
  3. Never put anything back into an inbox.

Not sure how to get your inbox to zero? David offers some advice from his blog in response to a help request from a user here.

Organize

This is the process of:

  • Doing, delegating or deferring next actions;
  • Tidying up useful but non-actionable stuff into its proper place; and
  • Trashing what is left.

There are a few tools that you will need for organizing:

  • A calendar for time-critical meetings, events and actions;
  • A way to take notes for lists of actions, outcomes, plans and ideas;
  • A filing system to store information you may need to reference but can’t act on; and
  • A trash can or paper shredder depending on how sensitive the document is.

Allen prefers physical systems but the choice between physical and digital is yours.  Just make sure that the setup is relatively easy and works for you. Want to know what apps David uses to keep his lists?  He discusses them in this short clip here.  David offers some other ideas on what tool to use here.

In the note taking tool create four new notes with the following headings:

  • Waiting For – a list of all things that you are waiting for from others;
  • Next Actions – a list of every doable next action to progress to an outcome;
  • Outcomes – a list of every multi-step outcome that you’re committed to realizing in the next 12 months; and
  • Someday – outcomes or actions you may like to undertake one day under different circumstances.

In your filing system create two new sections or folders inside of it:

  • Plans – visualizations, milestones and next steps for complex outcomes; and
  • Ticklers – stuff you will “mail to self” for later re-processing.
    • Within the ticklers, set up 43 folders:
    • 1-12 are labeled with the name of each month; and
    • The remaining are labeled 1 through 31.

How does this work?  Say you received an email for and event that you want to attend that opens registrations in February.  There is no actionable item for right now, but there will be, so file that invitation in the February folder for later re-processing.  The remaining folders are for items in the current month.  The items will go into the folder representing the day that they are due.

Once an item has been clarified, you now have five choices:

  • Do – if the next action takes 2 minutes or less, do it now;
  • Delegate – if the next action can be done by someone else, delegate it;
  • Defer – commit to acting on a next action at a specific or general time in the future;
  • Tidy – find a proper place for everything and put everything in its proper place; and
  • Trash – dispose of anything that is no longer important or needed.

The best approach is to keep things simple.  Have one proper place for everything and put everything in their proper place. Try to only use one list and fewer folders wherever possible.  Sort things alphabetically – avoid the urge to categorize by sequence and priority.  Reducing complexity will just add thinking that will result in things not getting done and undermining the system.

The one place where many is better is in your next actions list.  Allen recommends splitting next actions across several lists by context, such as place (where you must be), person (who you must be with) or tools (what you must have on hand).  These contexts will help you to remember to be in the right place, with the right people and at the right time.  They will also allow you to batch similar actions together.

David explains what he means by being organized in GTD in this short video here.

Reflect

At a minimum, do a weekly review where you look for items from the previous week that have not yet reached their desired outcome, have been deferred for various reasons or just have not been actioned on yet.  Re-run steps 1 to 3.  Review, update and refresh every one of your folders and use your freed-up headspace to get creative, think big or maybe start a project from your someday list.  For each item answer the following questions to determine what to do with it:

  • Where am I on this?
  • Is it still relevant?
  • Is it still in the right place?
  • What’s the next action?

Engage

Once your system is up and running, this is where you will expend most of your time and energy.  At this point all that is left is the doing and because it has been organized, the doing is much simpler. Everything has been funnelled to your calendar and your master list of next actions.

So how do you decide what to do next?  First, rule out things that you can’t or shouldn’t do based on:

  • Context – what can’t you do based on where you are or what tools you have available?
  • Time available – What can’t you do based on the time until your next appointment?
  • Energy – What shouldn’t you do based on your mental or physical state?

Out of what is left, trust your gut and do what feels most important right now.  Even if you procrastinate, as long as you are working from your list you will be making progress on something.  However, as you get more proficient, there will be less and less reason to avoid doing anything.  David discusses procrastination here.

Something to keep in mind is to never respond instantly to work as it shows up, no matter how “urgent” it is.  Spend a couple of minutes running the request through steps 1, 2 and 3 of GTD. Review any next actions you have identified within the context of all your next actions.  Only engage with the new request if it still is the most important and urgent thing on your plate.  David offers more tips on how to deal with interruptions in this 4-minute video here.

Plan

Sometimes just a moment of thought and effort that’s needed to identify a project’s next action, but its usually better to have a plan.  A good place to start is:

  • Define the purpose and principles – why are you doing this and what are the constraints?
  • Visualize outcomes – what does success look like?
  • Brainstorm – what are all the ideas that you can think of and eliminate the bad ones.
  • Organize – what ideas will you use, which are the most important and what order to do them in.
  • Identify next actions – what is the very next physical action you can take to progress the project?

The goal of GTD is to get things done, so don’t make planning an end in itself.  It must draw out next actions!  Jacob Bronowski puts it as “the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation.” If you are spending half of your time building and maintaining your system, you just aren’t doing it right.  Trust your instincts, simplify your system and get things done!

Further Resources

Want more information?  Start with David’s website – https://gettingthingsdone.com David does a monthly podcast where he talks with people who use GTD – https://gettingthingsdone.com/podcasts/ or subscribe to them on iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, Google Play Music, Spotify or Soundcloud.  The site also has a blog (https://gettingthingsdone.com/gtd-times/ ) that David updates every few days.  His book – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – is available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore.  Buy the 2015 edition as it has been updated with the most current information and research. He has also started a YouTube channel with several short clips that help you understand GTD better that is available here.

Mashable offers a toolbox of 100+ resources for Getting things Done here.

Crafting the Roadmap: Getting from Idea to Action

This post is the third in a series of five focused on narrowing or eliminating the gap between ‘Knowing’ vs. ‘Doing’. In our personal lives, we all know what we ‘should’ be doing, but our daily habits and tactics don’t always line up. Similarly, in business, a business without an achievable strategy, a business will ultimately deteriorate to the point where it’s simply a series of fires being put out. The Knowing Vs. Doing series is a lead-up to our TPP Seminar on December in Indianapolis  focused on preparing trucking enterprises for success in 2019. Take the Knowing Vs Doing Survey here.

In last week’s post, we reviewed the S.W.O.T. process. This mechanism, regardless of industry or size, is a crucial step in developing a short and long term strategy for success. Specifically, discussing and owning your company’s current weaknesses and failings is the type of introspection that should occur regularly, with feedback from all roles in the business – from the C-Suite to the Driver’s seat. Further, I’ve always felt that successful businesses, and their leaders, should always be a bit paranoid – in both good times, as well as bad. After you’ve gone through the S.W.O.T. process, and you’ve determined the major objectives for the business (see Part 1 of this series), it’s time to put the plan into action. In general, all well-executed plans have the following key components:

  1. The goal is well defined. Each team member understands what IS to be achieved, and the impact on the business – whether from a financial, as well as from a corporate culture point of view. Each member of the team assigned to the objective should be able to clearly communicate verbally the objective, and the key benefits to the business.
  2. A timeline is established. Execution does not happen without a deadline. Put that on the wall in every room of your business. Conversely, if you want to remain on the treadmill of mediocrity, don’t set deadlines.
  3. Make your people accountable. This part may seem like a no-brainer, however, being a fan of business, I’ve read about (and witnessed) many well-known businesses that got too comfortable. This comfort was rooted in a lack of accountability – from the Board room, all the way down to the front lines (e.g. Kodak, Sears, Toys R Us). Making specific people and teams accountable will ensure continued momentum. This step is also an important vetting process for future business leaders. The ones who step up, and want to reap the rewards (and the potential penalties) are the type of people you build your business around
  4. Incent, Incent, Incent, Succeed. Within TPP, many of the top performing companies use variable compensation to light the fire for success. Outside of asking your people to become shareholders, there are very few other tangible ways to ensure that your people have Skin in The Game, other than variable compensation. Proper variable compensation plans need to aligned with, and constantly readjusted to make sure they tie to the goals, deadlines and the overall financial impact of the individual actions and decisions made by people and teams. While contemplating these programs, ensure that the compensation program methodology is easily understood, and the objectives, variables and measurement are within the control of the individual and teams being rewarded.
  5. Review and Adjust Regularly. No explanation needed here.

In all industries, leveraging existing frameworks for the above process can vastly improve the speed of developing and executing on a strategy. In TPP, we have a significant amount of discussions on the items above. Further, many high performing companies have implemented third-party programs such as the Four Disciplines of Execution. Using 4DX or another third-party program narrows the focus, and clearly defines the steps needed to rapidly move forward. Next week, we’ll move from the Macro to the Micro, and discuss the importance of time and task management to executing on your plan.

For your Sunday viewing pleasure, here’s a short video about the 4DX program to get you thinking about your action.

It All Starts with a SWOT

No General leads his or her army into war without knowing both the terrain he or she will face and what the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy they will face. In the current market environment, achieving profitability should not be difficult, even with pressing weaknesses. However, just like seasons change, the market will swing the other way. The smart companies know this, and are reinvesting their profits into building networks and advantages, to put themselves ahead of the their competitors when tide goes out. Knowing what your business needs to do next comes naturally to some business leaders, but for most, setting a course for the future requires equal parts Collaboration, Introspection and Honesty. An excellent way to get you started on this path is with a SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal business factors while Opportunities and Threats are external factors and variables. There are several different templates out there that can be found with a quick Google search and each organization will have their preferences. However, the physical form is not as important as actually doing the exercise.

This analysis is not just for use at the enterprise level. It is equally powerful when done at the division, department or even product line/customer account level. You are probably already doing a similar analysis on all your top accounts but possibly not in as formal a framework. By using this method in conjunction with being closely integrated with your large account you should be able to foresee any threats to that client and be prepared to fend off any attempts by other carriers to take over some or all of the business.

Strengths
Look at factors such as:
• What are the organization’s advantages?
• What do you do better than others?
• What unique resources can you offer (ideally ones that a customer will pay for)?
• What does the marketplace see as your strengths?
• What is your unique selling proposition?
When looking at your strengths, also look at where you are in relation to your competition. If all your competitors are achieving 98% on-time deliveries then you achieving that is not a strength, it’s a market necessity (a table stake). Also take the viewpoint of the customer as they are the ones making the buying decision!

Weaknesses
• What could you improve on?
• What should you avoid or eliminate?
• What does the marketplace see as your weaknesses?
• What does your competition do better than you do?
• What causes you to lose sales?
• Are their perceived weaknesses that you could easily overcome?
Be honest in this step as downplaying weaknesses will not allow you to move forward and address them.

Opportunities
• What are emerging trends?
• What changes in technology are coming in the near, medium and long terms that you are posed to exploit?
• What competitors are family owned and are showing signs of cash flow issues?
• What new developments are your current customers working on?
• What new businesses are coming to your marketplace?
One approach to take is to look at your strengths and ask if they open any opportunities. At the same time ask yourself if the elimination of any weaknesses could also create an opportunity.

Threats
• What obstacles do you face?
• What are your competitors doing?
• What technological game changers are coming that you are not ready to exploit?
• What is your financial position – any cash flow or debt problems?
• Are quality standards or specifications for your product or service changing?
• Are there any weaknesses that could seriously threaten your business?
• Are there any Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural or Technological (PEST) factors to consider?

Once you have made an exhaustive list for each category, it is now time to pare down the list and prioritize each item. Where possible ensure that all statements are precise and verifiable – for example you want “a cost advantage of $0.05 per mile on the Chicago to Des Moines lane” instead of “competitive pricing”. Finally make sure that any options generated are carried through to later stages in the strategy formation process. Make certain that you follow through and create a strategy once the analysis has been done.

An important task is to measure the gap between where you are and where you want to be. This helps you create goals that can be measured and verified. It’s much better to say “achieve a 5% increase in miles per gallon” than it is to say “improve fuel efficiency”. Understanding what these gaps are will guide both you and your staff towards implementing an effective strategy to get to where you want to be.

Finally, be prepared to revisit this analysis on a periodic basis – possibly yearly for the entire enterprise, more often at the product or customer level. Look at what has changed. Did you improve or eliminate any of your weaknesses? Did your competitor find a way to close the gap on your price advantage? Did something new that has the potential to be a game changer come on the market recently? This should not be a static document and it should be one of the first things you turn to when a new threat or opportunity comes on the horizon. By understanding what is happening on the playing field means that you can make the proactive moves of a market leader instead of reacting like a follower.

Knowing Vs. Doing Part I: Setting Priorities

This post is the first in a series of five focused on narrowing or eliminating the gap between ‘Knowing’ vs. ‘Doing’. In our personal lives, we all know what we ‘should’ be doing, but our daily habits and tactics don’t always line up. Similarly, in business, a business without an achievable strategy, a business will ultimately deteriorate to the point where it’s simply a series of fires being put out. The Knowing Vs. Doing series is a lead-up to our TPP Seminar on December in Indianapolis  focused on preparing trucking enterprises for success in 2019. Take the Knowing Vs Doing Survey here.

Setting Priorities

Most senior managers are very aware of the things they need to do to reach greater levels of profitability and growth. However, many don’t have the time to come up for air to determine which actions they should take, and in what order to build momentum. Everyone wants to reengineer their freight network, implement a shipper scorecard, fix their billing process, eliminate redundant tasks, implement new maintenance practices and measured etc. This list can be endless. I would suspect that they vast majority of those reading this post are shaking their heads, saying ‘yep, yep…”.

Now, let’s stop for a moment and remind ourselves of the following quote:

“Well done” is always better than “Well said”.”

There will be a small percentage of readers who can state, with confidence, that they have a well-defined strategic plan, and have assembled a series of tactics to achieve this plan. For everyone else, it’s time to set step back, catch your breath and prioritize.

My two favorite methods/systems of prioritization are extremely simple, and are/were used by two very successful individuals – Warren Buffett and President Dwight D Eisenhower.

The Buffett Method of Prioritizing Strategies and Goals

You can read about the Buffett method here. In a quick summary here’s how it works:

  1. Write down up to 25 goals – big and small, that you have for your business. This needs to be done by both principals and senior managers.
  2. Combine all the goals you listed with those of the rest of your team
  3. Circle the top 5 goals that are achievable in the next 12-24 months. This is your ‘List A’. The remaining goals are your ‘List B’.
  4. Although it’s not technically part of the Buffett method, when it comes to execution, size and scale matters. For Large carriers (e.g. over 500 trucks), 5 important goals is a ‘doable’ thing in 12-24 months. However, for smaller carriers, I would pare the five down to 2 – max. For mid-sized carriers (100 – 500), 3-4 should work.
  5. Now that you have List A and List B. What’s next? Simple develop a strategy and a project plan to achieve each item on List A and adjust where necessary. Make sure every person on your team knows what is on List A, meet weekly to discuss. List A needs to become engrained in the fabric of your team.
  6. What happens to List B? Easy, store each of those goals away and don’t consider them until you’ve completed / achieved List A. They are not given any more time!

The key difference between the Buffett Method for personal vs business is collaboration. In order to build long-term business value, the decisions on which goals make List A must be done in conjunction with those in c-suite right through to the driver’s seat. You want buy-in, and a thorough understanding of what is achievable, and what’s not. For larger companies, this typically would involve departmental goals, and strategies, for smaller companies, company wide goals and strategies.

The Eisenhower Method: Prioritizing Daily Tactics, Tasks and Habits

Everyone has the person on the team that fills their day up with ‘busy work’ that provides little or no value to the business. People always ask me what is the number one cost-saving opportunity for trucking companies. Regardless of the industry, it will always be removing those people from your businesses. The longer you wait, and the more you grow, you are tacitly telling your team this behavior is acceptable, and suddenly you have a business full of ineffective people. Cut them from the team. It will improve culture, set a new course for that role in the business, and add to your bottom line.

Each if us also has daily habits and tasks we all do that are either redundant (not needed or done by someone else), or those that are not moving the business forward. Doing an audit of your daily and weekly habits and tasks is an important one that should be done by everyone in your business. Once you have that cumulative list, it’s time to prioritize. The Eisenhower Matrix is a phenomenal way for people in all roles, and at all levels of responsibility, to do a gut-check on their daily activities. How does it work?

President Eisenhower would regularly create a matrix to properly categorize and prioritize his daily activities. This eventually turned into a mental model that his team used to decide which things they should bring to him, and which things should be immediately delegated, or perhaps eliminated. Here are sections within each matrix, and how to consider those daily tasks and habits:

1.Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).

2.Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).

3.Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).

4.Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

Although setting priorities can sound boring, it can be the main difference between success and failure. Hopefully the above two methods provide you with some food for thought. Are you expecting too much from your team, from yourself? Do you need to be part of that email chain? Are you going to keep allowing people to use their time ineffectively and inefficiently? Does your team know their collective priorities other than the daily ‘busy work’? Take some time, give this some thought. Take action.

Time to Get Serious About Safety

I have a real issue with complacency from carriers when it comes to driver turnover. I will arrive at this from two different angles. When I look at a motor carrier that has excessive turnover I see any number of things that ring of serious issues that may threaten the companies very existence. When operating with high turnover, there is almost always CSA issues; this still comes with deteriorating marketability to the available insurance markets, which equals higher rates. There is a direct correlation between high insurance rates and operating ratios. There is a direct correlation between high turnover and accident rates, which is a rabbit hole in that professional drivers want to work for safe companies. Conclusion, if your company with high-turnover and poor CSA scores and a tightening insurance market, you better hope the current excess capacity the industry is experiencing stays around for a long time because when it does slow down, and it will eventually, you’re going to seriously up against it, as they say.
How do I know this? inGauge has data from over 170 carrier profiles with granular, detailed comparable data points that reveal what I have stated as fact. No more speculation or conjecture, this is now factual predicated on hard data. Being an unsafe carrier is terrible for business, you threaten the public and severely limit the return on investment, profitability.
Good news is that it is never too late to start doing the right thing, investing in a better safety program and tightening the policies, processes and bring a culture revolving around doing the “right things right”. The biggest issue here is the commitment to change, getting everyone’s buy-in and getting things started – change scares people, and change they must if you’re going to win when it comes to this stuff. So if you’ve decided to do this, the place to begin of course is with the senior management team, they have to understand and buy into the reality that living in a company with excessive high turnover is a losing proposition with a limited future. After that, you’ll need to get all the folks inside the walls onside, and that is a bit of a sales job in itself, we call it the ‘WIIFM’ = “what’s in it for me,” and there are many nice WIIFMs that come with this. For instance, back to inGauge data, we know that companies with lower turnover have the fewer accident and their CSA results are in much better shape than those folks with high turnover. Lower CSA scores and accident rates mean lower insurance premiums, which just so happens to be a direct correlation to better than the average operating ratio, profitability.
We also know that bringing in a safety-first culture into a company typically brings in tighter management practices in every area of business. Companies that operate in this fashion have a higher truck to inside worker ratio; they embrace technology at a quicker pace than their competition another direct correlation to above average profitability. We also know this, and this is a big part of the WIIFM, these companies typically pay their inside workers a higher than average wage that most companies.
If none of that works, try this, no one comes to work with the intention of failing at his or her jobs, doesn’t happen. However, here we are in many cases with turnover numbers that would make a longshoreman weep. If you can’t convince your people inside the walls that every departure from your company, whether voluntary or not, needs to be taken personally, you need new people. Every day many folks who worked at your company have to go home and tell their family’s that they don’t have a job, that the next paycheck isn’t coming, that sucks.
We all know that most can pick up another job pretty quickly, that’s not the point it’s disruptive, it is a change, again people don’t like change, people like routine in a comfortable setting. Companies call them job jumpers and refer to the situation as driver churn. Give it all the labels you want to they left because you didn’t give them a good enough reason to stay. You have to make your company sticky, sticky as in setting yourself apart from the competition.
It’s a paradigm shift that your needing and here’s one that fits. Are you a motor carrier that requires drivers to fill the seats and move the freight, or are you a motor carrier that differentiates itself from the competition by the quality of its workforce.  Think about it both of these situations would have the same amount of people in them, at which one would you want to work?
I know where I would want to hang my hat, don’t take me wrong here the transition is not an easy one, but whoever told you that running a business would be easy. A challenge yes, it is, but it is indeed a challenge worth taking in my mind, but only of course if you want to be safer and make more money.  If you’re interested in discussing this further, please go to www.tcaingauge.com/retentionscore fill in the questionnaire and let’s see where things stand.

Building a New Facility – Follow Up

I spent some time this week talking with Jarit Cornelius, the Vice President of Asset Maintenance and Compliance at Sharp Transport.  One of the topics was my recent articles on site selection and building a new facility.  Jarit is very involved with the Technology & Maintenance Council and currently is the Vice Chairman of the S.5 Study Group (Fleet Maintenance Management). He mentioned that the TMC has developed Recommended Practices for New Facility Development.  This was a result of many consultations among various industry experts and real-world experience.

Some of the relevant Recommended Practices (RP) when looking at a new facility include:

  • RP 510A – New Facility Development offers a great overview of what steps are needed to design a shop either from scratch or renovating an existing one. It offers guidelines on things like layout, energy efficiency, how to calculate or estimate the number of services required and much more.
  • RP 518A – Fuel Station Planning offers similar guidance for developing on site fueling stations.
  • RP 512A – Mechanic Staffing Determination – provides a formula to calculate the number of mechanics required to adequately staff a heavy-vehicle maintenance shop
  • RP 513 – Estimating Number of Service Bays – gives an analytical methodology for estimating the number of service bays required in a facility
  • RP 515 – Maintenance Shop Design Considerations – a listing of critical elements that should be considered in the design
  • RP 517 – Managing Environmental Compliance – guidance on compliance education/training, self audits and record keeping.

These have undergone many updates and amendments over the years as the study group constantly looks at new and upcoming technologies and how to integrate them into individual shops.

Other Recommended Practices offer guidance from the following study groups:

  • 1 – Electrical
  • 2 – Tire & Wheel
  • 3 – Engine
  • 4 – Cab & Controls
  • 6 – Chassis and Brake Systems
  • 7 – Trailers, Bodies and Material Handling
  • 8 – Cost Control Methods
  • 11 – Sustainability and Environmental Technologies
  • 12 – Onboard Vehicle Electronics
  • 14 – Light & Medium Duty and Specialty Trucks
  • 15 – Specialty Trucks
  • 16 – Service Provider
  • 22 – Onboard Data Systems

Copies of the entire Recommended Practices Manual are available at https://www.atabusinesssolutions.com/ATA-Store/ProductDetails/productid/3921373 where you have your choice of hard bound books, CD or PDF formats.  You do not need to be a member to purchase these manuals.

The Bounce-Back Driver

Guest Article by Steve Hitchcock, COO of Duncan and Son Lines, Inc.

I’ve been with Duncan for almost 8 years now.  One of the most perplexing things I have observed is the number of “bounce-back” drivers we’ve had.  What is a bounce-back driver?  It’s a driver who leaves us, but then later decides to come back.  Why is this phenomenon perplexing to me?  There are a few reasons.  All of them beg questions.  First, why are drivers leaving in the first place?  If they are unhappy and they leave, why do they come back?  Is there any way for us to get in front of this to keep them from leaving in the first place?  I think I’m finally starting to fill in these blanks.

Drivers (and all employees for that matter) can weigh many things when they decide on an employer.  And it’s important to note that they choose their employer every single day.  These factors (not an all-inclusive list) are what they should consider when deciding where to work: pay, commute, supervisor relationship, co-worker relationships, how rewarding the work is, advancement opportunity, work schedule/flexibility, time off, home time, benefits (med/dental/ancillary), being in-the-know, equipment, work culture, access to senior leadership, etc.  Not every employer is a good match for every driver.  Companies are seldom going to be good at everything on that list.  If a driver really values something that the employer doesn’t excel at, it’s a bad fit.  Hopefully the things we’re not good at are low on the totem pole for our drivers- otherwise, they’ll leave.  So, what’s the deal with the ones who leave, but then come back?  I think there are three main reasons for the bounce-back driver: burnout, a specific pain point, and not considering/ranking everything they value in an employer.

We have drivers leave because of general burnout.  We run the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.  It’s a great regional gig that gets our drivers home every other night.  The downside is the ports themselves.  There’s down-time.  There’s bad traffic.  The port terminal personnel don’t always treat our drivers with courtesy, professionalism, respect and dignity that they deserve.  We have drivers who get burned out on port work, quit Duncan, spend some time away and re-charge, then come back with a fresh outlook.  We offer some ways for our drivers to take a break from the ports, but they don’t pay as well as running the ports.

Sometimes drivers leave because they have a specific pain point that they are frustrated with.  It might be their dispatcher manager relationship, pay, the work schedule, or something else.  It eats at them until they find something else.  That something else is the promise of greener grass.  They make the leap and, often times, solve that problem.  Maybe our pay or lane was their issue, so they move to the promise of better pay or a better route.  But then they realize that they don’t get home often, or their schedule isn’t flexible, or they don’t connect with the manager.  Many bounce-back drivers have expressed that they just traded one pain point for another- or multiple pains.

Drivers also leave because they just didn’t know what they really valued.  They didn’t consider all of factors when choosing which company to drive for.  No job is perfect.  But they needed to ask themselves if the good outweighed the bad?  Generally, these bounce-back drivers got stuck on one or two negative aspects of the job and forgot about the good parts.  We are lucky that sometimes their next employer shows them the things we do well by failing at them.  Once they start considering all the aforementioned factors- and once they start ranking them by importance- they get a clearer view of what they need to look for in an employer.  This is when we bring them back home.

As an employer who competes every day for drivers, the ball is in our court.  We need to make sure that our employees know about and consider everything, not just one or two things.  We need to celebrate, communicate, and market all the things we’re good at- both internally and externally.  We need to be honest and upfront with ourselves, our employees, and potential employees about areas we’re not as good at.  We’re not for everyone, and that’s OK.  It’s our job to make sure that every day, when our drivers decide who they are going to drive for, that they make an educated, well thought out decision.