Strengths and weaknesses, we all have them. And if you work for someone else, they are very happy to point out your strengths and particularly your weaknesses during your annual performance review. When I was working in corporate America, we were always taught to identify our weaknesses and work hard to improve ourselves in these areas. The new thinking is that once you identify your strengths, if you build upon them and use them every day at work, you will be more productive, happier, and more fulfilled. Instead of struggling to correct your weaknesses, try to find another way to accomplish the necessary tasks without having to physically do them yourself. As freight agents, you are entrepreneurs who own your own businesses, so you have to power make this happen in your life.
What are your strengths? What do you love to do so much that you lose track of time while you do it? Do you love engaging shippers in conversations to learn about their needs and how you can solve their problems? Or do you love juggling multiple loads and orchestrating the coordination of truckers, shippers, and receivers? What gives you a feeling of satisfaction at the end of a busy day, a feeling of accomplishment? What makes you smile? If you take a serious look at your strengths and when you feel like you are in “flow”, as an agent entrepreneur by concentrating your personal efforts in these areas on a day-to-day basis, you can become happier and more successful at the same time.
For me, one of the great things about becoming an entrepreneur is that I was done with having to please a boss or having to pursue someone else’s goals. I could finally do what I wanted to do. One way I identify the strengths that I want to leverage and use is by realizing when I am doing something during which I lose track of time and feel really focused and energized. Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi calls this “flow”. I love marketing, writing, networking, building relationships, and helping others grow! So I now as an entrepreneur, I can leverage my strengths towards growing One Horn. Before our freight agent strategy, I used these skills in business development, finding new shippers for our company to service. Now as the face of One Horn, I leverage my strengths in social media, recruiting, and agent development, and it’s fun!
Now not to be negative, but what are your weaknesses and what do you really hate doing? It could be any of the things I mentioned above, or others. Whatever you identify, if you were to write your ideal job description, these tasks would not be included. In the agent function, they are necessary tasks, but do you really have to do them personally? You could hire someone to coordinate the loads from cradle to grave, and you could do the fun part, sales! Or vice-a-versa, you could hire a salesperson and get to do the fun part, orchestrating the loads with the truckers, the shippers, the receivers. The fun part is all in the eye of the beholder, based upon your strengths. Find what is fun for you, and once you can do it all day, every day, according to this new way of thinking, success and fulfillment will follow. Even an owner of a brokerage who hates or is really bad at financial management might be better served becoming an agent and outsourcing the accounts receivable, accounts payable, insurance, and all the annoying back office functions to another brokerage.
Automation is another option. As an entrepreneur, I, too, I found myself having to do many things which could be defined either as weaknesses or things I just didn’t like doing. Take accounting, for example, it’s easy, but I hate it! I am good with numbers, but it bores me and drains my energy. Thankfully my husband/business partner, Louis, loves computer programming. Through our home grown TMS (Transportation Management System), StrateboTM, he has automated so many of the accounting tasks I used to have to do, so I now have the time to exercise my strengths towards growing One Horn. Our program also automated sending carrier contracts and rate confirmations and replicating and posting loads to load boards, very boring aspects of agent work, so our agents are happier, too.
Now you might say that you don’t have the money to hire someone to get rid of those tasks, yet. You can still craft a plan by laying out your ideal job description, identifying the size of book of business you would need to have to be able to afford a new hire, and then focus your energies every day on achieving that goal. Knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel makes the less desirable tasks less difficult, since you know you won’t be doing them forever. It is happening for me, and can happen for you, too!
In my next blog, I will write about how knowing your “Why” can bring freight agents more success with shippers.
– By Cheryl Biron, President