Why Not Us?

I have done a dozen or more Retention Action Plan rollouts over the past couple of years.  One of the key questions that I pose to folks during the on-site workshop that revolves around the TCA’s “Best Fleets to Drive For” contest and “The Safest Fleets in North America” contest is as follows, “What do the fleets that go up on that stage to accept these awards have that your company doesn’t?”  From the outside looking in, they have trucks, they have drivers and they have a supporting infrastructure that strives to pick up and deliver the freight on time, the same as every other fleet in the industry – right?  So, if that is what you are doing, why aren’t you folks up there in the limelight?

By agreeing with that statement, you would be spot on in the notion that they have the same key elements that any other company has, but there is so much more to it. When you look a little deeper, these winning companies also have several clearly stated core values that are rock solid and unflinching. They also have a commitment to a level of performance that brings with it a thirst to become better every single day, in every element of their business.

If you can create that type of culture in your business, you will be standing on stage accepting awards on a regular basis. If you are not on stage collecting these types of awards, you are likely wondering how to get at it and be that carrier. It starts with a refocus on accepting your current situation and owning it. What I mean by that is you need to take responsibility for where you are at with your business. The good, the bad and the ugly. Because, if you don’t you will not be able to move on from where you are at and create the winning culture that you are looking for.

If your CSA scores are not where they should be, own it. You let it get there, no one else. Is your turnover not anywhere where it should and could be? Own it. You set everything up exactly right to get the numbers you have. Profitability has been sliding and you don’t see a clear path forward to black ink? You did that. Are there too many unseated trucks against the fence crunching your cash flow? You own that one too. You did it so take responsibility for it. Whatever it is, before you can move on and take control of the situation, you must accept the concept that you created the environment/culture within your business to allow this type of subpar performance.

Allowing the blame game to creep into your business almost certainly guarantees a multitude of excuses that are designed to divert responsibility to anywhere but where it belongs and that is at your feet and the feet of your people. Poor CSA scores mean that safety likely does not have a proper seat at the table in your management hierarchy. Safety is a moral obligation to the communities you operate in and to everyone in your business. What authority do they have in your business to achieve best in class performance? The turnover in your business is directly related to your company’s efforts in creating a driver-centric culture. What strategy do you employ to effect change in your retention numbers? Do you have your frontline workers engaged in this effort? Do they have the authority to contribute to the effort? How do you foster that? Is your profitability not what it should be? Are you so caught up in the whirlwind of operating your business and not on your business that you can’t see the dollars flying out the window because you are forever putting out fires? Where is the stability in the day to day operations you need? It’s there, you just need to bring the right discipline and structure to the table and above all, that sense of responsibility to a higher standard of performance.

You get the idea here, we all reside in the communities we live in because we are comfortable there, we are in the relationship that we are in with our spouses, friends, children and so on because we are happy around those folks. We’ve got their backs and we know they have ours. A winning company shines above the rest because they have created a positive sense of community within their business. Workers have a sense of autonomy; they believe that what they do contributes to the overall success. It’s fulfilling work.

Ask yourself this simple question? If you were a Driver or Owner Operator looking for a carrier to work for, would you work for your company? If not, you must ask yourself why? That’s a good starting point. Next question, if you were a driver looking for work, would the fact that a carrier has won multiple awards influence your decision when deciding where it is that you are going to spend your career?

So, why is it not you representing your company up there on stage accepting these awards? Only you can answer that question. Could it be that the status quo has become a comfortable place for you to work in? Is accepting second best good enough? I think that this quote comes close to the facts: “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Busting out of the mold of being okay with results that are just not as good as they could be is not easy, but neither is anything worth pursuing! It all starts with the first step. This is where good can be the enemy of great! The leaders in charge of the companies accepting those awards were not afraid to jeopardize good performance to go for great results. It takes a good team, a good plan, and leadership that is dogged in the pursuit of being named best in class. It’s never too late folks. If you would like to discuss this subject further, please drop me a line.

Take good care.

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.