Work/Life Balance, we have all heard of it, and when we think of it, we often think of constant struggle. We say, “How can I ever achieve Work/Life Balance?” But how about thinking of it as Work/Life Integration? Sounds much better, right? I thought so too when I was reading an interview with psychologist Ellen Langer in the Harvard Business Review’s March 2014 issue (yes, I am really behind in my reading). Langer states that “balance” implies they are two opposing forces, but they are really both about the people experiencing work and life outside of work. When we think about balance, particularly as women, we also think about how we can “have it all”—career, family, time for self. But if we think if it as integration, because we are one person playing many roles, it can become much more manageable and achievable. The lifestyle of a freight agent can really help us integrate all the roles we play in life.
Here are six reason why being a freight agent is the perfect career for Work/Life Integration:
- Freight agents can define their own success: As a freight agent, at least at our company, you can define what success means to you. There is no “corporate” determining what revenue you have to achieve in a given day or week, no quotas. You are an independent contractor, and as such, you can decide how large a book of business you need to live your desired lifestyle. As you are on your way there, you can integrate the things that are important to you, like coaching your child’s sports team at 4:30 in the afternoon, into your Tuesday by not taking that extra load. Success does not involve the same amount of money and personal time for everyone, so you are free to define and live it for yourself.
- Freight agents have the freedom to design their own business models: Similar to the point above, as an independent contractor, you can decide if you want to stay a stand-alone agent or if you want to have an agency with support staff helping with sales, finding trucks, or following loads. It’s all up to you, the sky’s the limit. So if you are early on in your career and have young children who need more of your time, you are free to decide accordingly how your business fits in. Either model could make life easier for you, but you get to decide what is right for you.
- Freight agents can work from a home office: Not having to report to a physical office has changed my life! No commute, no boss looking over my shoulder demanding things that are not priorities for me. Being home when my kids get home from school, and being able to stay home with a sick child while continuing to work. How much more integration can a person want? Working from a home office does take discipline, though. So if it works better for you to rent a space, it can still be close and convenient without the distractions from home life but also without the boss standing over you, because you’re the boss!
- Technology helps freight agent mobility: We are all so lucky to have the technology that is available for us today, so we can work anytime from anywhere. Some view it as a burden, because “they” can get to you 24/7, and there are no more boundaries. But if you look at it the other way, technology enables you to go to your child’s soccer game you would have missed without it if you are tied to a desk or going to a physical office. In this business, we have to be available to our shippers and to drivers 24/7 anyway, as we are now available to our agents. But wouldn’t you rather spend as much of that time where you want to be, living your life? Technology enabled me to drive to Vermont during a snowstorm when school was closed to get that one extra day in skiing with the kids, while my husband/business partner Louis was on the computer servicing our shippers. And now he takes calls from the slopes on his ski helmet with Bluetooth. That’s why I think we are very lucky to have the technology on our side! How do you leverage technology to enable more Work/Life Integration?
- Sales territories are no longer defined by geographical boundaries: Since freight agents don’t have to meet their shippers in person, they can cultivate accounts anywhere in the country. In the past, you would start at a company and they would say, “Welcome, you are now responsible for the mid-Atlantic region,” and that’s where you had to find your accounts. Although this could still be the case in the very large brokerages, we believe there are enough shippers out there for everyone to freely prospect across the country. If there is a conflict between agents, we have ways of settling it, but oftentimes, one corporate customer can have several shipping locations with different people responsible for each location, so it’s more about established relationships than anything else. Since your territory is not geographical, you can live anywhere and still be very successful, since you don’t necessarily have visit your shippers. I’ve always lived near or in a large city, but most of our agents are happy living in remote or rural areas because they can have the lifestyle they love and still make a great living. Their livelihoods are not defined by the region they are assigned.
- Freight agents are not alone: Operating independently from an office where you’re by yourself could feel lonely at times, but freight agents are not alone. Your brokerage is behind you 100% to help you in any way you need it. The home office and even other agents are just a phone call away when you are feeling lonely, facing a challenge, or just need to vent a bit. So even if you are not working in a main office, surrounded by others like yourself, you are still linked into the larger organization to get the support when you need it, but the freedom to run your own business when you don’t. This way you can get the Work/Life Integration in the direction towards work when it serves your needs to be more successful.
So now how lucky do you feel to be in this business? No more struggle for balance. By framing it as Work/Life Integration, we can all see how fortunate we are to be able to define what success means to us, personally, and then create the lives we want with the support of our brokerage behind us. I used to be in the sales role, now I am in recruiting and marketing, but I still manage to integrate my roles so I can create the life of my dreams and help our agents do the same.
From now on I will be blogging on a monthly basis. In my next blog I will share with you some ideas on why there’s always a solution, even if you’re not a natural problem-solver.
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