Why are those men and women so happy? What explains the loud, enthusiastic and joyous tone that filled the reception rooms in which these competitors met? Expedite NOW interviewed a number of these people by telephone and e-mail to find out.
It happens only once or twice a year that expedite carrier
CEO’s, owners, presidents and top managers gather in large numbers in one
place. This writer attended one such event for the first time in February,
2012, and went home wondering, why are those men and women so happy? What
explains the loud, enthusiastic and joyous tone that filled the reception rooms
in which these competitors met?
Expedite NOW interviewed a number of
these people by telephone and e-mail to find out.
The event was the Sylectus Annual Conference 2012, in
Orlando, Fla. This conference was attended by the leaders of over 100 expedite
carriers that use Sylectus transportation management software. Most of these
carriers have fleets ranging in size from five to 400 trucks.
While these people are competitors, they also cooperate with
each other, using the Sylectus software and network to post freight when they
have no trucks and post trucks when they have no freight. It is common for
these companies to meet their customer needs by sharing each other’s resources.
Running an expedite carrier is no small challenge. CEO’s
have many things on their minds, all day, every day. When you have trucks and
drivers on the road, accidents can happen that may be serious and even deadly.
When CEO’s were asked about the negative aspects of their work, accidents
topped the list.
Other items on the list include: DOT, fuel tax or IRS
audits; new government mandates that increase costs that must somehow be passed
on to customers; service failures; the unpleasant and embarrassing task of
telling your largest customer that you do not have the trucks to meet his or
her needs; the increasing number of competitors; watching freight rates fall as
certain carriers post phantom trucks; releasing a quarterly report when the
numbers are not good; losing one or more key employees; losing a number of
owner-operators at the same time; losing a major customer; difficulty in
finding quality drivers in a decreasing labor pool; laying people off when the
business does not exist to support their positions; and a decline in general
General economic conditions weighed less on people’s minds
at this 2012 conference than they did in recent years. The Great Recession is
over. Those present are the survivors and grew stronger through the experience.
For people whose companies rise and fall by their financial results, the
numbers are better this year than the year before.
On that topic, Load One, LLC president and CEO John Elliott
said, “Most had a very good year. After going through a rough economic
period, the [carrier] owners, much like the owner-operators, are relieved and
happy to see things improve.”
But a modestly improving economy and improved business
results do not fully explain the effervescent joy that filled the room. Other
trucking groups have conferences too.
People who attend those also survived the recession and posted improved
numbers. Yet the mood at those events, while upbeat, comes nowhere close to the
unrestrained joy seen at the Sylectus conference.
Most attendees came in business-casual dress, some were in
full business attire, some were dressed like truckers on the road. All of them
seemed happy to see each other. They did not sort themselves into small cliques
and stay there. They worked the room, moving about to warmly greet as many old
friends and new people as they could. Someone attending the conference for the
first time was quickly introduced to others by those who were better acquainted
with the group.
It has been said that it is lonely at the top. CEO’s do not
have in their companies other CEO’s with whom they can have Miller time after
work. One observer said these people like being together because they don’t
have to be on their best behavior. They can drop their guard and tip a few
because they are among their friends and peers.
Steve Barrett, president of Barrett Directline, explained,
“All of us have a common bond. [After attending my first meeting] I came
home and told my wife, I finally found people that experience the same thing I
do day in and day out. You know, this is our lives. We spend more time at work
than we do probably at home. When you have that common bond, it’s just a real
treat to be around other people like that.
“We’re competitors but in most cases we have a mutual
partnership. We have a good business relationship. Most everybody in the room
is my customer and a majority of them are vendors for me too.”
Jung Express sales manager Mike Sanders voiced the same
theme. He said the people in the room “[know] we all face the same
challenges in this unpredictable business … Also, there is a certain level of
trust with the Sylectus group that doesn’t always apply when doing business
outside of it.”
Bolt Express owner and CEO Ben Bauman said, “We’ve know
each other, most of us, for seven/eight years, almost 10 years, some of us.
We’re friends. Even though we’re competitors we’re still friends and have a lot
of respect for each other. We also are working with each other every day. Our
companies are interacting and trading business back and forth. It’s a good
thing. It’s not a competitor in the normal sense. We’re kinda working partners,
all together, helping cover freight and solve issues for people.”
These expedite companies all use Sylectus software to work
together in the way Bauman describes. When one of these companies has a truck
but no load and another company has a load but no truck, and when they work out
a price at which the load and truck will come together, the software makes it
possible for both companies to exchange information with a mouse click and
instantly integrate that load and truck into their respective systems.
Because they use the same transportation management software
and work together in this way, these CEO’s understand each other’s businesses
very well. That common resource and understanding makes it easy for these
people to talk business when they meet.
Time is not wasted getting acquainted. Even if two of them
have never met before, they may know each other well from doing business on the
network. It happened several times in the reception rooms that known screen
names would be matched with previously unknown faces. Two people would be
talking in raised voices to be heard over the crowd, their faces would light
up, warm handshakes were made as one said to the other something like “Oh!
you are (company name)! We’ve done business together. Thanks for your
help on that Albuquerque load. It’s great to meet you face to face.”
For companies doing business this way, trust is essential.
Company A must trust that company B will supply a reliable truck and driver.
Company B must trust that company A will supply a good order. Most important of
all, the companies must trust each other to not directly solicit the business
of another company’s customers.
That trust is well established in this group. It has been
built over years of CEO’s sharing
resources with each other to serve their customers and build their
Why are these expedite CEO’s so happy when gathered
together? In a word, trust. With trust already established, these cooperative
competitors can drop their guard among friends, mingle with their peers,
celebrate their business growth and revel in the unique business fellowship
they have created.