Thursday, May 28, 2015

What is Your 'You-er' than You?


This has been quite the ‘people’ week. All sort of events and celebrations have been happening, and at the center of each one has been a person. And at the center of each of them is a ‘who’ that in many ways influences their lives.


I had a birthday, which of course sprung all sorts of well wishing from wonderful family and friends. Aly had her baby, little Elizabeth, tonight my oldest baby graduates from Hartnell and Tim, my third baby, heads to his first roping clinic.


The wonder of people, as I watched the week unfold, is that we really are all unique. Desires, passions, habits, attitudes and other sorts of characteristics define each of us.  No doubt, even baby Elizabeth, by now only a mere 24 hours old, has begun expressing specific personality traits that she will either come to appreciate or hate in a few years as they probably will affect her life.  


The ‘you-er’ parts of my two children, as is true in most of us, have up sides and down sides. Johanna is very determined, and will be incredibly successful, but has a serious stubborn streak that has at times brought me to the brink of...well, I will leave it at that.  


And Tim, he is so thoughtful! I always hear from people about how kind and helpful he can be. But, and trust me, this weekend will severely test my patience when I watch his clinic because of this particular trait, he has to be perfect. He can catch his cow perfectly, but oh my gosh, if he sees his loop out of the corner of his eye forming anything less than a perfect shape, well, just forget the perfect catch!


On the morning of May 26th, I opened Google and noticed their Doodle was focused on Sally Ride. She shares my birthday. I read a few quick bios about her life, and found that the one thing that seemed to support most of her lifelong endeavors was her love and passion for science. Not only did it drive her pursuits of four (B.A. English, B.S. Physics, Masters and Ph.D in Physics) but it led to quite a notable career at NASA. Later she would become the founder of Sally Ride Science, as well as write books, mostly dedicated to nurture science passion and learning in young people.  


I didn’t take the time to fully learn about her whole life, but I did catch that Dr. Ride was an excellent collegiate tennis player. I also read in several places that she was very focused, and quiet. So it seems as though part of the ‘who’ of Dr. Ride was a consistent determination to excel in the things that mattered to her. Even when the outcome had to be uncomfortable and uncertain at times. While she wasn’t the first woman to be in the astronaut corps, she was one of the earlier women to embark on a career in this program.  She was the first woman to orbit the earth.


Sally has a long list of accomplishments, but the stuff that emerges out of all of this is her ‘you-er’, the part of her that pushed through adversity and setbacks and obstacles so that she emerged with a reputation of honor and courage and 'can do.'
I found her commitment to follow the paths that aligned with her interests and passions motivational. My truck broker world is continually an intersection of competing interests and needs of people in the produce and trucking industries. Often, I see both sides, and in my earlier years of running my business, I found the tension between the two groups distracting and unproductive.   


Something that those who know me and my ‘you-er’ laugh at this, but one of the meanings of my name ‘Pamela’ is peacemaker. It is sort of funny, because making peace (Johanna’s little stubborn streak may have come from me) has not always come easy to me. But I have to say, deep down, I want people to get along. I see much potential when people appreciate and respect each other. This really is a significant part of my ‘you-er.’


I decided about four years ago that if I was going to keep this business, I was going to be happy. I started being more proactive by looking for (and seizing) opportunities to help people understand the parts of the produce transportation industry that were unclear or maybe needed some explanation.  


There is not a day that goes by that there isn 't something in the produce and transportation news that isn't laden with potential conflict or challenge.


Bearing down on the produce industry are issues such as GMO questions, drought impacts, Go Local push, uncertain immigration reform, food safety changes, and the debate over how to get people to eat more produce.


At the same time, carriers are dealing with the impact of hours of service , questionable CSA scores, the driver shortage, fuel price inconsistencies, uncertain margins, year round freight, and yes, for them too, food safety.


But in all these challenges and travails there lies the one wonderful constant: the ‘you-er’ that lies in all of us. There will always be those who see beyond the obstacles and issues, those who love to work hard and well, and definitely those who find strength and courage in helping others move forward.   


People are truly amazing, particularly when they find their best ‘you-er’ and use it to make life positive and productive for themselves and others.


One last interesting note about Dr. Ride. Her move into NASA did not happen because she was noticed and sought after by the space program. She responded to an ad in a college newspaper. There aren’t a lot of details about this decision, but it seems like she saw and then did. That simple.


I mention this because sometimes, for various reasons, I make the mistake of hesitating to follow through on something that is definitely aligned with my interests and passion.  One little step for Sally Ride launched her into her amazing career, doing the things she loved!

So what is your best ‘you-er’, and what are you doing with it?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Do Tell! When Saying More Helps You Work Less


One of my favorite things to do some mornings is to pick up a Starbucks for my friends and kids. Usually this is an order of about 6 drinks and a few treats. It is a fun thing to do, but there is one little part of this process that I noticed was giving me a bit of anxiety.  

It seems like more often than not when I am rattling off the order into the talk box something happens. What should have taken a few minutes ends up being more like ten minutes, and then sometimes we don’t even get what we ordered.

Why is this so difficult? How could this end up so bad when it seemed so simple?  

Being a specialist in logistics, I have become adept in recognizing situations that require a logistical solution. I definitely needed to improve my odds of getting my order correct in reduced time and less drama.

I had an idea and gave it a try a few days ago. As soon as the voice welcomed me to Starbucks and asked me how I was doing, I said, “ Fine, thank you, I am going to order 6 drinks, all talls, and two treats. Tell me when you’re ready.” I waited for the response, and when I heard, “I’m ready when you are”  I started in.

Guess what? Perfect! Actually 5 talls and 1 grande because smoothies only come in grande and Venti, but voila! Pain free experience! No confusion, no wrong drinks and nothing missing from the order.  

As I drove down the highway I was thinking about how communication can streamline a process. And in particular, giving clear information at the right time raises the likelihood of success and creates a win-win situation for everybody.

Why is communication so challenging?  Really?  Putting an order into Starbucks should not be a daunting endeavor. And probably for many people, it isn’t a big deal. But the more I thought about why I was uncomfortable, I realized that it was only multi drink orders that were causing my discomfort.

Hmmm...what was really going on? Why would asking for a few drinks be easier than 6?  Then it hit me!  I was mentally putting myself in the shoes of the clerk, who I assumed would be bummed about having to take such a big order.  

The underlying issue for me was this: I thought that a complicated drink order would be unwelcome news to the clerk. My new method of ordering, telling the clerk up front that I was going to have 6 tall drinks, prepared him for the work that he needed to do to deliver according to my expectations.  Helping him get the picture helped me relax.

So what’s the big deal? Why talk about this in a truck broker blog?

This is the essence of quality logistic service. Loading produce and getting it delivered on time as ordered is full of ‘potholes’ that are definitely avoidable when the right information is delivered in a timely manner. But often, the most critical information is not always the most welcomed or positive news, and therefore ignored or hidden.

One time Aly and I were talking about the pros and cons of being a broker, and she noted that despite the problems that do arise, most often everything is manageable. What she meant by that was, challenging situations do arise, but if everyone is kept in the loop and advised of what may or may not lie ahead, most confusion and disorder can be avoided or at least kept at a minimum.

Are you familiar with the scene from Jim Carey’s,The Grinch, when he is in the mailroom flinging mail containing unwelcome news?  “Jury duty, jury duty, jury duty, black mail, pink slip, chain letter, eviction notice, jury duty.”

A broker’s version would go something like this: “Late truck, no product, broken truck, smashed boxes, tipped pallet, early truck, DOT stop, alternator out…”  

There have been many days when I would have preferred jury duty over the job of telling someone a truck was late, or a delivery appointment moved to the next day, etc. Ya, a pink slip would have been a dream!

Honestly, there is so much good that arises in these complicated situations, especially if the information is communicated completely and timely, that to ignore the chance to tell the truth is simply not a sound business practice. The obvious positive results are that time and money are not lost to the degree that they could be if the situation careens out of control.

But the real value, at least in my opinion, is found in the opportunity to build honesty, trust and competence into the relationship. Complications are part of this business. The best customers in both the produce and trucking industries are those who are not expecting problem free loads as much as they are counting on a service that best handles challenges. Confidence emerges when hard truth is quickly and fully disclosed, despite the ‘ugly’ of the situation.

Two thoughts about this aspect of communication in produce transportation.

First, it is very important to have the people who are dependent on my information to have the information, good or bad. Not only are they paying for it, but what they know is their key to serving their customers. Our goal as a broker should be to make our customers’ lives better. One of the best ways to do that is to be honest and clear with important details about their loads and trucks.

Second, something I did not do to complete my experiment at Starbucks was to follow up with the clerk about whether how I placed my order was helpful to him. This a great example of what not to do! I gave my order in a manner that I thought may decrease confusion and increase the level of efficiency. However, was that true for him? Maybe I actually made things more difficult for him to get his job done.

I drove off thinking I was ‘all that’ because I solved my problem. But I have no idea if my process was beneficial to the clerk. The take-away from this lesson? Make sure that whatever we are doing, or not doing, is aimed at making the customer’s life better.  

How?

Assuming, like I did, can really backfire in transporting fresh produce. Ask questions, test your methods, and be willing, ready and able to handle the communication segments of a produce load in the manner the customer expects and/or needs.  

And then enjoy the rewarding awareness that the people who work with you are delighted about how you handled their business!