Just back from a few days of making calls in the Chicago market. Wow, was it cold!
While in the Windy City, we made a pit stop for gas and a bathroom break. I nearly stopped at a stand-alone gas station, but I thought a convenience store would have a cleaner bathroom for the ladies. So, I went up another block and stopped at a Thornton’s. They had one of those “We take pride in having the cleanest restrooms!” signs on the mirror glaring at you while washing up. The sign was fake news. Nothing in the restroom was clean–paper towels on the floor, water splashed and dried on the mirror, toilets unflushed and it stunk to high heaven! It was nasty.
I started thinking about owning a truckload brokerage. Yes, I realize that probably sounds a little strange; equating dirty bathrooms to my business. Here’s my thinking. Any gas station or convenience store can plaster a sign on the mirror saying they pride themselves on the cleanliness of their bathrooms just like any freight brokerage can say they are better than their competition. We at R & S Delivered work so hard to change the way some shippers view brokers–Seen one, seen them all. You know the “How do you differentiate yourself?” question. Think about it. The Journal of Commerce estimates there are over 18,000 truckload brokers in the United States. Every broker who calls on a shipper, no matter their age, experience, qualifications or passion, pretty much says the same thing.
Every broker says they:
1) are pro-active in communication
2) have thousands of carriers
3) rarely, if ever, use load boards
4) are passionate about what they do
5) have long-term carrier relationships
6) vet all our carriers using the most stringent rules
7) are all about trust and integrity
8) are transparent at all times
9) have hundreds of years of combined office experience
10) can solve all your problem lanes
and so on.
When “Mr./Mrs. Decision Maker” is sitting and listening, how do they determine who really has the “cleanest restroom?” While the sales pitch may solve all the shipper’s problems, do the actions mirror the pitch?
Here’s what we at R & S Delivered think:
First, does the broker provide value to you the shipper? If they don’t, then they should be removed and replaced. I was talking to a prospect a few weeks ago, and he said, “I need another broker like I need another hole in the head.” If selected properly, I truly believe one or two brokers can easily do the work of many.
Secondly, do the services the broker offers match up well with your business? Sure, the big guys do it all, but if you are in a specific industry sector and your broker does very little in that sector, move on.
Thirdly, does the broker provide industry sector references? If you are in the foodservice business, then ask the broker for contact information for the foodservice companies with whom they do business. Follow through. Call or email them. Seriously, I can’t remember a shipper asking me for references other than on an RFP, and then the references were never contacted.
Fourthly, who is sitting across from you telling you about their business? Is it someone of authority? Is it a decision maker who will continue to be involved in your business and take ownership of the process? What is your gut telling you about working with this person and the character of this company?
Fifthly, will the broker honor their contract rates? This has been especially important in the past year when hurricanes, ELD’s and a red-hot economy caused many brokers (and asset carriers for that matter) to abandon their contract rates and move to the spot market. A lot of brokers use a short-term strategy to maximize profits instead of using a long-term relationship strategy. It is the broker’s responsibility to find the “right” carrier to haul the loads, so, if rates go up, the shipper is insulated.
Anyone anywhere can put a sign up telling you how important it is that their restrooms are clean. Be sure you’re asking the right questions of a potential broker. You don’t want to find out too late their advertising is false, and then find yourself having to clean up the mess. #truckload #truth #brokers #shippers #chemicals #plastics #food