Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Value Added Moments

Valentine’s Day 2015 has come and gone.  Gifts and words were given and spoken all over the world with the hope that a special relationship might share an exceptional, rewarding moment or even reach a new milestone.

Speaking of relationships, there is advice galore about this unique dynamic between people.  Not only in our personal lives, but in just about everything we do, there is a touch point in another person’s life that probably has some affect on them, if not in that one instance, certainly cumulatively.

That’s why, even in business discussions this past week there were reminders and admonitions to take a serious look at one’s relationships.  Are they healthy?  Are they making our companies stronger and giving us opportunities to reach our fullest potential?  Are we giving, helping, making our customers’ and suppliers’ lives better in how we serve them?  

Another aspect of relationships that often gets recognized during the Valentine season is that of longevity.  This was my twenty-fifth Valentine with my husband, my twenty-first as a mom, and my sixteenth as the owner of our company.  Time has its way of merging all our moments into one life, and after a few years, it’s hard to remember when business was not part of my marriage and family life.

When we talk about longevity, it’s easy to focus on the milestones.  Again, not only with our loved ones, but this is very much true, at least for us, in our business.  Our first load, our first contract, anniversaries, new carriers and customers, they all have had significant meaning to us as we have moved through the years.  But why have those milestones become so important?  

Rose Kennedy said it best.  “Life is not a matter of milestones, but of moments.”  I don’t know a lot about this lady, but I have to think that she had a good measure of both milestones and moments that led her to have this opinion.  If she is right, maybe we should be measuring our relationships, personal and business, in a different way.  There are reasons why this may be true.

Distance makes the heart...wander.

Yeah, I know.  Some people think that distance makes the heart grow fonder.  Maybe.  But it seems like the waiting period between milestones has much more potential to be longer than that between moments.  Moments are really what we make of them, and often how many we make of them.  

The more genuine, meaningful contact I make with the people in my business community creates more opportunities to do things for them that are helpful and move them forward in their own businesses.  Momentum builds as conversations happen and chances to work together arise.

Conversely, the more time that slips away between moments of contact, valuable traction gets lost.  Not only does the milestone (mutual goal) get further away, but the value of doing exciting, rewarding things with people gets diluted, or worse, infrequently realized.

Shorten the gap, communicate often, and work hard to capture as much contact and experience with your business friends as possible.   As the distance disappears, you and the people with whom you share the moments will be rewarded in meaningful ways.

The ‘Juice is Worth the Squeeze.’

The value of what it takes to get to most milestones often rests in what it takes to get there.  So it is worth serious consideration before pursuing goals.  

My dad is the one who often asks, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” It has become quite the measuring stick in our company’s history.

This summer we will celebrate sixteen years of loading trucks.  Lots of decisions have been mulled over and made about who to work with, which type freight best fits our business model, which carriers will mutually benefit from our determination to be different in the transportation industry, and which customers care the most about how their strawberries or mixers are delivered.

As we have reached different milestones, it’s the moments that have led to these achievements that mean the most to me as the owner.  The decisions we made going in made the accomplishments coming out worth it. The planning, calling, organizing, and all the work that goes into the relationships and experiences added value to the final outcome.  

Of course, after sixteen years, we have had our share of disappointments and things that didn’t turn out as we had hoped in every endeavor.  A few claims, late trucks, layovers, miscommunications etc are all part of our past. But nothing is ever wasted, unless we have squandered it.  So even the less than desirable endings ultimately have had favorable results because of the things we have learned or new relationships and opportunities gained.

Maybe instead of asking “What’s in your wallet?” the question should be, “What’s in your milestones?”  Hopefully lots of value added moments!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Stitch in Time

This is Parton.  He is normally a very handsome American Hanoverian.  He has a few siblings that are very talented and have made their owners lots of money.  Parton however, cost me a whopping dollar.  It’s true.  There is no such thing as a ‘free horse’ and there was a reason that he was such a steal.  But I have learned a lot from owning this horse, and when I pulled him out of the pasture the other day and saw his face, I saw another ‘lesson’ coming my way.

Things start so uneventfully.  Looking at him, one would think that he got in some serious pasture brawl.  But actually, he did it to himself, on a fence.  He was trying to scratch an itch.  Of course, once he got going on it, there was no stopping his rubbing on things that pretty much took his hide off in numerous places.  After a lot of work, and lots of time in the wash rack, he is much better.   As for his bald spots, well, they will be there for awhile.  

As I started grooming him, I thought about how similar things like this happen to people involved in moving produce on trucks.  Of course, the end result is not as obvious, no one ends up with bald spots like Parton, but truly disastrous results happen when a small thing gets out of control.

Aly and I were talking the other day about some of our carriers that will not pick up a mixer.  After spending a few minutes listening to their past experiences, I was not surprised that they avoid this type of load.  Yes, they take more time and effort, but when the pieces are managed carefully, mixers can actually be more hassle free than a straight load.  

On the produce side, there are many people who have opportunities that are on hold because they have been unable to find trucks that know now to competently make the pick ups.  Again, it is all very manageable, even if there might be a bit more work at the beginning.

But make no mistake, ignoring a problem or not thinking ahead about potential issues has so much potential for a disastrous, and often needless, outcome.  Eliminating or minimizing risks should be one of the primary goals for a broker as he or she starts to put a load together, and often times this is the ‘Which truck is best for this load?’ part of the process.  

While it is still early in the year, now is the time to make sure that the potential for disruptions or unforeseen (and often unnecessary/avoidable) problems don’t negatively affect your 2015 business plans.  

I think I am going to this picture of Parton on my desk for days when I don’t want to take care of a small problem.  Why let something that can be so pretty end up very unattractive?

Have a great year moving produce!  And do yourself a attention to who should be paying attention to your details.