In the transportation industry, problems are a part of life, mainly because there are so many moving parts in a transportation transaction. Some people like to reframe them into challenges or opportunities, but for many of us problems are problems, and problems are stressful. My business partner/husband Louis loves to solve problems. With two degrees in Engineering as well as an MBA, he was one of those guys in business school whose brain was full of ideas on what the company should do after reading the Harvard Business School cases. I, on the other hand, do not naturally enjoy encountering problems. My first thought was “Who knows?” upon my first reading of those cases during my time at Wharton. But I did manage to train my brain to recognize that there is always a solution if I open my mind and look hard enough. When I personally encounter business problems, I have found several steps useful in helping me find solutions, so I wanted to share how you can apply them to issues you may experience when a load goes wrong:
Step 1: Become the Observer. When we encounter problems, getting past the emotional response is the first step to finding a solution. When we get emotional or stressed about a problem, our body releases stress hormones like cortisol to prepare our body to fight or flee. But in the business world, we are usually sitting at our desks, not preparing for a physical response, so the result is a narrowing in our field of vision for the possibilities of finding a solution. So the first step is to become an objective observer of the situation, and remove ourselves and our emotions. It’s understandable to get upset if a load is refused by a receiver due to damaged pallets, when it’s no fault of your own. I will use this real life example and how one of our agents solved this problem to illustrate my framework. Research in the field of Positive Psychology shows that the mind can come up with more creative solutions once the stress hormones are at bay, so removing oneself becoming the observer is a key first step.
Step 2: Evaluate the Problem from the Vantage Points of All Involved. Once you’re done being angry, frustrated, or upset, looking at the problem from the points-of-view of all involved enables you to fully understand the consequences to all parties. So if you can observe the situation from the receiver’s point of view, the shipper’s point of view, and the driver’s point of view, you can come up with a solution to make all the stakeholders in the load get what they want. The driver wants to be empty so they can go about their business on the next load. The shipper wants to sell their product at minimal cost. The receiver really wants to have stock in their store. Getting into a fight with the driver regarding how the damage occurred will not solve the problem. The driver will just dump the freight in a cold storage, then you will be left with an even bigger problem, helping your shipper recover the freight, which could cost a great deal of money. This is one example of why seeing the problem from different vantage points is crucial to finding a creative solution.
Step 3: Create a Win-Win Solution. When faced with a load that was being refused by the receiver due to damaged pallets, one of our agents created a win-win-win by finding a cold storage in the area where he contracted to have the material repalletized for a fee agreed to by the shipper. He then managed to get a real person on the phone at a large retailer who normally does not reschedule shipments manually the same day. He got them to agree on a redelivery the same day. So in the end the driver made the delivery, and was compensated for the extra work. The shipper saved on the return or recovery of the freight. And the receiver got the goods they needed to put on shelves for their customers.
And our agent? He was happy as a clam, because he finds it very rewarding to solve problems for his shippers. When he told me this story, I could just hear the pride and sense of accomplishment in his voice over a job well done in service of his shipper. That made me happy, because that is what One Horn is all about. But it also reinforced the idea of the framework I described above that can help those who do not naturally embrace problems.
In my next blog, I will share four tips for building shipper relationships by sharing of yourself. Happy Holidays from One Horn!
– By Cheryl Biron, President
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