Strategic Planning – Do I Need It?

As a consultant to the trucking industry, I have had the privilege of being able to “take a look under the hood” so to speak, of numerous trucking companies. I have also been fortunate enough to have had very personal and honest conversations with both the leadership and the general personnel working at these companies.

Through these conversations, we developed several solutions which we added to our current offering and will be of significant benefit to the future of the trucking industry. Specifically, we now have a basic, trucking-specific, Strategic Planning Blueprint. What I have witnessed during my visits with carriers is that owners often enjoy growth and success which come from hard work, determination and passion for their business and the trucking industry. However, as a company grows, there is more required than just sheer determination. Once a company starts to expand, some entrepreneurs begin to struggle because of the ongoing growth. Some can no longer wrap their arms around the entire operation. Consequently, they need others within the organization to step up. Often, well-intentioned people are put in necessary roles without the training and proper tools to do the job. The selected candidates for these positions require a role description as well as a pre-determined explanation of what success can look like.

What is often lacking is a formally structured business blueprint showing where the owners want their business to be in the coming years. Also lacking is a functional, corporate structure including the role descriptions mentioned above, as well as a three to five-year visionary business plan. In addition, there needs to be a twelve-month plan that includes financial goals, action items and personnel accountability in relationship to the financial budget. In short, an Owner must allocate enough of the right resources to properly run each segment of the business, thus guaranteeing a successful future for the company, management and employees.

The lack of a formal plan while building a solid organizational structure for a company can lead to a variety of issues. Examples are sub-standard financial results, high driver turnover, poor accountability of staff at all levels, CSA scores that cause concern, pressure on credit facilities and finally, no real corporate direction. Many years back I experienced all these issues when I ran my business and I almost slid into bankruptcy because of my ignorance on how things should have been done. It was like I had blinders on. I was just not aware of the importance of a well thought out Strategic Plan.

What exactly is Strategic Planning? Simply, it is a systematic process for developing an achievable plan for the business in order to optimize its future success. It is a commitment in writing!

Unless you have unlimited time, money, and people in your company, you can’t afford not to have a strategic plan. Strategic Planning is not an option but a priority. If you are committed to seeing your organization move forward, now is the best time to create a Strategic Plan that will get your team on the same page and moving in the right direction.

When my parents passed away, I was left three trucks. I was a young man in my early twenties, and I thought the objective was straight forward. I had been driving for a few years and knew how to get things done on the road. Namely, pick it up on time, deliver it on time and then go back to work and do it again. And, equally as important, try to make a few bucks along the way. This worked for a while but, before long, we were running 20, then 30, then 40 and then 50 trucks. The truth be known, at first, I did not recognize when things started to go south on me. So, I had what they call a near-death experience and almost went bankrupt. Man, if you ever get close to that edge, you will never want to be close to it again. Thankfully, for me, I was able to turn things around.

A well-executed Strategic Plan in trucking unfolds in a systematic way that should result in a solid playbook for all to follow. It should lay out the entire game plan for the company and should include the following:

* An outline from ownership as to where they would like the company to be in 3 to 5 years, complete with comments and recommendations from senior managers

* A statement regarding the fiscal year or next 12 months, again with contributions from senior managers and involved shareholders, outlining what they can do to achieve the annual target

* An organizational chart with job descriptions for those people who have specific responsibilities to achieve the 12-month plan or annual budget. This chart should tell you if the right people are in the right areas to achieve the goals. If not, you either must recruit the right individuals or train them in-house

* Each department should submit a detailed outline of the goals they will try to attain as part of the overall target

* There needs to be monthly management meetings with each department manager who reports on progress to date

* There also needs to be a periodic performance review for each employee which speaks to their contribution to their department

* All of this should be captured in a Corporate Strategy Binder which will become the fiscal or annual playbook. Every month, department financial results are filed in the binder which will eventually show the financial results for all 12 months of the year. From month to month, each department’s numbers will be compiled to give a consolidated and complete company financial blueprint to date

*After 12 months you should review the results, correct the shortcomings, and prepare a new, achievable budget based on the last year’s performance

Planning for it in this fashion does not necessarily mean a successful future because unforeseen things can happen that will affect performance. However, statistics show that the companies who do the heavy lifting with Strategic Planning are far more successful than those who do not. Easy, no! Rewarding, yes… if success is your end game.

The title for this column is “Strategic Planning – Do I Need It? The answer is Yes!

On a final note, thank you to all the Knights of the Road for keeping things going and putting yourself in harm’s way for all of us. I hope the positive vibes outpouring towards our industry coming from John Q. Public lasts long after the virus is gone.

Take good care and safe trucking.

Ray J. Haight

About Ray J. Haight

Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.