This blog post was updated on March 9, 2021.
What is the purpose of your business? Why do you do what you do? Maybe Dad or Grandpa started the business long ago, or perhaps you decided just last year to go into business for yourself. Either way, the answer is the same. You exist to efficiently transport freight, without damaging it, from one location to another. That’s what you get paid to do. And, regardless of how effective you are in your role, you can’t do it without drivers.
On the one hand, hauling freight is straightforward. You need to get from point A to B on time. Of course, nothing’s as easy as it seems.
We have regulations, limitations, technologies and people that all work together to make trucking a bang-your-head-against-the-wall level of frustrating at times. The most complex and important of these factors is the people, most specifically your truck drivers.
It’s easy to lose sight of this basic principle when the phone rings off the hook, you’re maxing out your line of credit or the boss asks for an updated fuel tax report. These are activities associated with running a trucking company that are far removed from picking up and delivering freight. Yet, you do them all in the name of your drivers picking up and dropping off their next load.
We meet with companies all the time and analyze their business processes looking for opportunities to implement standardized best practices. Making small changes to recruiting, hiring and training processes often get better results. In the early stages of our analysis, we gather documents and materials such as policies, procedures, training programs, job descriptions and loss runs. We also get the organizational chart. We’ve seen hundreds of them and they all look basically the same: the president is at the top of the page and truck drivers - if they even appear - are at the bottom.
The look of an organizational chart is so consistent that no one ever questions it. However, they are an anachronism – a throwback to our feudal past in which the king was the boss and everyone else was subservient. Our military is organized the same way – generals on top, privates at the bottom. But organizing a business in this way is counterproductive.
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Every business in the world exists for only one reason: to provide a product or service that is better, faster or cheaper than the customer can do for himself. Why do we buy automobiles? Because it would be too hard to make our own. Why do we buy our food at a grocery store? Because it’s easier and faster than growing or hunting our own. Why do shippers call you to transport their freight? Because it’s easier, faster, cheaper and more efficient for you to do it than for them to do it themselves.
But who does the actual work? Not you, not your managers, not your dispatchers. It’s your drivers. Without drivers, you’re out of business. In fact, drivers are the business. So why not put them at the top of the organizational chart, right next to the customers they serve? Putting the big boss at the bottom provides a visual representation of what should happen. The big boss is there for one reason – to support middle managers, supervisors and dispatchers. Most of all, they are there to support the drivers.
Viewing your business from this perspective helps you appreciate just how important your drivers are to the health of your business. Then, you can go about making sure everyone else appreciates this as well.
There’s simply no logical reason to stay upside down. You spend countless hours and resources recruiting and training drivers. If you create a company culture that puts your drivers at the top, you can save those resources by convincing your drivers to stay with you instead of going to the competition.
Pull up that dusty old chart and flip it over. Then, post it where everyone can see it. You’ll be glad that you did.
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