Strategic Planning

This is the time of year when Strategic Planning begins to enter the planning process for many well-run, competitive organizations.  If this is something that your organization is not currently doing, I would suggest that you are missing the boat on the profitability of your company and possibly, working harder than your fellow truckers.

Wikipedia defines Strategic Planning as: “an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. Data is gathered from a variety of sources, such as interviews with key executives, review of publicly available documents on the competition or market, primary research (e.g., visiting or observing competitor places of business or comparing prices), industry studies, etc. This may be part of a competitive intelligence program. Inputs are gathered to help support an understanding of the competitive environment and its opportunities and risks.”

By the end of a year, a successfully executed strategic plan will have increased shareholder value. A company is only worth what the market is willing to pay for it at any given time. So why don’t all small businesses look at their company in the same light and focus on how it would be measured against the market?

To expand on this thought process, it has been my experience that many small trucking companies do not really understand the underlying principles of what success looks like through budgeting and strategic planning. During my consulting career it has not been unusual to receive looks of confusion when owners are asked to define what a successful year for their business looks like to them.

In its simplest definition; a successful year would be one where one’s company has increased its shareholder value at a pace that achieves the prior years Strategic Plan and corresponding budget. Contrary to popular belief, this may or may not put additional hard cash in the owner’s pocket.  Success depends on other objectives that were set during Strategic Planning of the prior year. Maybe
that strategy included paying down company debt or having less reliance on banking institutions, or maybe the plan included significant expansion. Perhaps, the plan is to diversify revenue streams or increase market penetration.

If every privately-held company in the trucking industry had the discipline, on an annual basis, to have their company valued to the market as if they were going to sell, there would likely be some very shocked folks. What this would do though would be to begin the discipline of an annual company reality check and as a natural off-shoot, set a path to strategic planning
and budgeting.

All of this brings me to the new tool that is available to the industry called inGauge; this tool is invaluable to the process and as one of the contributing architects, I humbly suggest it has the potential to change the industry. My partners and I have optimism of its success. Why?  Because it is simply ‘that good of a product.’  We began to build this product by sitting down and doing a “what if” exercise and then we built it.  So here are the ‘what ifs’:

What if we could build a benchmarking tool that would tell trucking companies how they are performing, not only to their own historical data, but also to their specific market competition. So a 100-truckload van fleet would compare to another 100-truck truckload van fleet in their geographic area in over 50 areas of operations KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) including the biggies: fuel cost, insurance cost, equipment cost, driver expenses, maintenance, EBIDA etc.

Pretty good eh!
But, what if we could also show companies not only where they are underperforming but also the dollar opportunity that is available to them in any of the areas they are benchmarking themselves to? If we could do that, it would allow the company to prioritize where their focus needs to be to have the greatest impact to their company’s results.

Neat stuff but, what if, in addition to giving them a monthly scorecard showing where improvement to market is needed, we also provided a goal setting and goal tracking feature that could be pushed out to the frontline people in the company? This would require an administrator within the company to send the specific data to those folks who work in that area and not the entire data set. Now were helping folks manage, right to the front line employees.

That’s great but, what if we also provided a goal setting feature? One that the administrator could configure with action items along with due dates and also have access to what other companies action items were, that relate to the same goals. We also could identify when actions item get off track or behind schedule in a visual way. So all that’s left for a company is to close the loop.  We have identified shortfalls in performance, we have quantified the financial impact of addressing the shortfalls and we have provided an accountability, goal-tracking tool.

But, what if we close the loop with an information resource for each of the 50 plus items that we are benchmarking; a depository of documents, videos, pdfs etc. that could be rated as to relevance and popularity on any given subject?

So fast forward from idea stage to our September 2015 release date and we now have a service in the marketplace that has all the elements described above and more. We are currently at over 100 company profiles; both publicly traded and privately held companies and we are growing daily.

If you’re not using Strategic Planning, I strongly urge you to get at it. If you are, inGauge has the platform for your company to work off that will ensure you are focusing on those areas of your company that will yield the greatest results.

We welcome any and all feedback,

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.