Did you ever feel stuck, like things were not working for you in your professional situation? Well we have, and by following the three steps outlined below, we successfully reinvented our company and are well on our way to achieving our goals. I hope that by sharing the One Horn story and by giving examples of people in the freight industry, our experience can help you reinvent yourself to create a happier, more successful professional life!
- Assess your current situation:Is it working for you? The first time we reinvented One Horn was in 2007 when we had an asset-based carrier and a traditional brokerage business. Unbeknownst to us, we were right on the verge of the Great Recession. What we know was that our business was not working for us. We had about 10-15 tractors and 80 trailers, mainly flatbed, working for shippers in steel, lumber, and other construction materials and equipment. The housing market crashed and the freight started to dry up. My business partner/husband Louis had been a strategy consultant at a top firm out of MBA school, and I did marketing strategy during my corporate life after my MBA, so we decided to reengineer ourselves.
If you are not getting the results that you want in your business, now could be the right time to assess your current situation. Perhaps you are an employee on salary at a brokerage, and you know that you would be making way more money with your shipper base if you were out on your own. Maybe you are an agent, but you are not getting the care and attention you need to grow your business, because you are lost in a crowd, feeling like a number. Maybe you have a great customer who wants to ship more with you, but your brokerage is holding you back because it won’t grant you the credit, even though your customer is a great payer. Maybe your customer base is produce, but the margins are trending down. Maybe you are an agent, but the uncertainty of the commission-only situation is too stressful for you. Whatever your situation, analyze it to uncover what is in the way of achieving your goals.
- Do more of what’s working and stop doing what isn’t, even if you invested time and money into it. Our analysis revealed that the trucking side was not working but the brokerage side was, so we decided to divest the trucking business and pursue the brokerage model. For several years, I did sales and business development while Louis and our other employee handled the operational side of the business. We diversified out of flatbed into dry van to pursue some more recession-resistant industries.
In our pursuit of more recession-resistant industries, we got certified as a minority business enterprise (MBE) and a women’s business enterprise (WBE) so I could leverage my corporate background selling to the top levels of large corporations. Unfortunately, as a broker we found that lots of these companies had internal brokerages and really just wanted asset-based carriers, so even though we were successful getting to the right people, in the end it was not a good fit, so we abandoned the strategy. It was hard for me since I spent a lot of time and effort in this area, but it was not working so we had to stop doing it.
For that employee, his/her shipper relationships are working, it’s the compensation side that is not. The first agent enjoys being an agent, but needs help to grow, however there is no support in his/her current environment to help pursue that goal. For the second agent with a great customer relationship, the brokerage does not have the financial wherewithal to support his/her growth. For the person in produce, maybe he/she loves the business and is skilled at customer service, but produce is not the right industry for him/her to make a living anymore. For the third agent, maybe staying in the business as an employee would provide the stability he/she is seeking.
- Reinvent yourself or your company. In our case, we reinvented our company. We actually did this twice, first in 2007 from asset-based carrier to traditional brokerage, and again in 2010 from traditional to agent-based brokerage. In 2010 we realized that we would not be able to double, triple, increase by tenfold our sales by doing more of the same, so we decided to pursue the agent model. This has set us on a curve towards achieving our sales goals, while keeping the feeling of One Horn Hospitality that our agents love, by only hiring premium agents who want to grow and need help and support to get there.
The employee could reinvent him/herself as an agent to monetize the true potential of his/her shipper base. The second agent could find an environment where he/she could build an agency with a brokerage that provides the strategic coaching needed to grow. One of our top agents was in the position of the second agent, and when he moved to our brokerage, his business flourished since we were able to provide the credit he needed for his shipper. The produce person could start to learn about flatbed work, so he/she could leverage his/her strengths in customer service in an industry where such skills are more appreciated and the margins are higher. The third agent could join a company as a salaried employee and give his/her shippers to the brokerage. Our first and only employee did just that, and now she has stability and manages our agents. BTW, we love her and she loves working with us in this capacity, so it was a win-win for all!
Reinvention is not easy, it takes courage and a lot of hard work. We reinvented One Horn twice and are constantly looking for ways to improve our business to better serve our agents and their shippers. But we love it! Even our agent manager reinvented herself.
In my next blog, I will introduce you to some great ideas I learned from Michael Allosso about how to be your best self to improve your business and personal relationships.
– By Cheryl Biron, President
*Click through for full references on books that inspired us: http://onehorn.com/agents/get-inspired