Monday, August 17, 2015

The View from the Middle


I signed up with Constant Contact last week.  Within an hour one of their reps called me to find out how they could better serve me.  But of course, to offer any worthwhile advice, it all starts with this question:

“Pam, who are you talking to?”  

It is an important question, because if I am going to take the time to write a blog, and hope that something I say ends up being helpful, I do need to know who is listening and who may benefit from something I have to say.

I am a truck broker.  My job is about bringing two worlds together.  As a truck broker specializing in produce transportation, this means I need to understand the unique needs and expectations of both the trucking and produce customer.  

When people refer to brokers, all sorts of things come to mind, as much bad as good.  But one thing for sure is that a broker is a ‘middle person.’   And I won’t even touch the question about whether a broker serves a real purpose, because obviously, if this is my business, I do believe that there are ways a broker should be able to add value to both freight and carrier customers.   

But I do think there are advantages of having a good broker on your side.  Here’s the reason I think this is true.

I am a middle child.  Last week I found out there was actually a Middle Child Day.  We are a special group for sure.  As I thought about my family, especially my siblings, I realized that growing up in that position, while at times it was not a fun place to be, maybe it actually has helped me be a better truck broker.   

Even as grown ups, when there arises a situation where someone in the family needs assistance in communicating or solving a problem with someone else in the family, I still can be the kid in the middle that is called upon for one of three things:

Advice, advocate, and camaraderie.  

For example, some advice, “Since you are around Mom all the time, what would she like for her birthday?”  Or, “Do you think I shouldn’t have told Dad that maybe he should….(fill in the blank?)”  

My advocacy role often meant that I would be given the job of presenting a sibling’s problem to Mom or Dad, often being relied upon to arrive at a compromise or complete solution.

And then there have been times that just being available to lend an ear, nothing being needed beyond a chance to vent or test an idea.

Can you see the similarities between being a middle kid and a truck broker?

Sometimes this means that I am between a rock and a hard place, and sometimes it gives me the best of both worlds.  But for sure it puts me in the best position to help both truck and produce customers.



As a broker, managing a load, from pre-dispatch through delivery and beyond, I need to be available and able to help with all sorts of issues that come up in moving produce.  And often the best way to be most helpful is to see and understand both sides of the problem.  Then, hopefully having this perspective will help lead to successful solutions for both sides.

But before any broker can fill this middle position, there needs to be a solid foundation of key qualities and/or characteristics that actually should be part of any solid business relationship:  loyalty, integrity, determination, and a willingness to serve.

So back to the question of who is in my audience, or why write a blog?

Two points to answer these questions.  

First, I have learned a lot in my seventeen years as a truck broker, but it seems like there are always new things to try, to learn and to experience.  This leads me to believe that others are also interested in learning more about the best ways to move produce.  If something I write about gives someone an idea, a new method to try, or even encouragement, then it’s worth writing about.

Second, in reading various articles about whether brokers are valuable in the both the produce and trucking industries, I do sense that there are a lot of customers on both sides of the fence that are not getting what they are paying for when they work with a broker.  This is disappointing to me.  

If nothing else, my expertise and experience as a middle person may be what someone needs to set their own expectations for their transportation service providers.  Because we all get so focused on getting a load of produce picked up and delivered, often there is not a lot of time, and quite honestly, there is a  lack of interest, in being more careful in selecting a truck broker that is the best fit for a transportation partnership.  

Hopefully your middle person has become your advisor, advocate and compadre.  

Good luck and give us a call!