One of many thoughts rolling around in my skull these days is a lesson many of us hear in our younger years. “Two ears, one mouth,” or maybe this one — “You will never learn a thing with your mouth open.” Although I still cherish the sentiment, there are many times I have added value to an effort as I tried to explain the essence of the project, either to an industry colleague or more likely, to my better half, Connie, and ideas have been enhanced through conversation.
There were many times I felt inadequate as I sat in board rooms and listened to professional talking heads as they explained what was going on in my trucking company and what I should do next. After all, they had the credentials, they must have something figured out, and on top of that, they don’t stop talking. It took me years, and an outstanding business coach, to finally listen to my inner voice. My coach repeatedly drilled into me that I needed to trust my instinct, that inner voice that many of us ignore in favor of cursory advice from so-called uninvested professionals.
My thought process has advanced to the point where I value the principle that the accumulation of a single lesson learned every day is the secret. It is that small accumulation of ideas and experiences that add up to a person’s principles or standards of behavior — one’s judgment of what is essential in life and business. The accumulation of the victories, failures, and scars in and of themselves do not bring value unless we learn something from them. This wisdom comes from experience, not a classroom. I don’t have anything against formal education, far from it, but it can be limiting without hands-on experience.
I feel extraordinarily lucky to be doing the many things I am now involved in. Holding the title of Truckload Carriers Association Profitability Program’s Retention Coach has allowed me into the inner workings of many companies. We talk about bettering a company’s driver retention, which, as my title suggests, is the primary goal, but what we’re talking about is the client’s company culture, which is at the core of the issue with almost all of the companies I talk to.
Changing a company’s culture from where it began has precipitated changing the high driver turnover of the business into a place where people want to work and stay. It is monumental, no? Of course, not; I tell folks that during our work together, they will do the same things they are doing today but just in a different, more driver-centric, way. I call on ten years of experience driving long-haul. I call on running a successful trucking company as well as almost running a company into bankruptcy. I call on holding leadership roles in national trucking associations. Recently I have been able to call on the experience of working with dozens of trucking companies and seeing what has and has not worked in their efforts to improve their culture. Have no doubt that the culture at your company either brings drivers in and makes them feel valued and supported or drives them away without a second thought.
I am often asked for endorsements on my work, and I am fortunate to have several success stories that have been very generous with their support. I have also had companies that have not seen the success they should have, and I will take ownership of those experiences. How can one take ownership of the wins without addressing the ones that didn’t get what they expected? Changing company culture can be like trying to turn the Titanic — they don’t turn on a dime. It is the commitment component where things can wane. Just like the accumulation of one good thought a day that can mold a person into a valued resource, these things take time and patience that is just not as prevalent in many companies in our industry as we wish it were.
I have recently become a virtual colleague with Brian Fielkow, the author of Making Safety Happen. His teachings mirror many of my own, but he goes at it through a different lens, and I love it. Brian owned Jetco and was faced with changing the culture from where it was into an industry leader in their safety culture, and he did it. Like my own, his offering is nothing more than a strategic plan predicated on learned experience and trial and error that resulted in success. You can find Brian’s offering at www.brianfielkow.com.
The other common element that draws us together is legacy. Both Brian and I would like you to buy our products, after all we are and will always be entrepreneurs. But what drives our passion for what we do comes from our core values. I feel that if I can help a company drive its turnover down, I have helped numerous drivers from having to deal with the personal failure that comes with looking for new employment—that interruption in household income along with the family stress associated with turnover. In Brian’s case, if his program can help companies act in a manner that is dedicated to safety as a moral imperative, he has saved lives and the carnage that comes from heavy-vehicle accidents, workplace injuries, etc.
These days I am enjoying regular coaching calls with many good trucking company executives about turnover through the TCA. If you’d like to learn more, they have a landing page for me that is located at www.truckload.org/about-tpp/tpp-retention-project.
Take Good Care and Safe Trucking.