Carriers, freight brokers, and logistics professionals converged in Houston, Texas, earlier this month for a sole purpose: growth. Even amidst a challenging freight economy, the FreightFest atmosphere radiated determination, resilience, and a commitment to evolve.
Our team from Denim experienced the spirit of FreightFest firsthand. Unlike other conferences, this event was laser-focused on growth through learning and networking. Every session was buzzing, with attendees diligently noting key insights and encouraging their peers. It wasn't just about absorbing knowledge; it was about fostering a community.
Let's dive deeper into some of the most impactful points from the conference:
1. Embracing technology to stand out
"You want to make it so easy for someone to do business with you that they don’t have a choice." - Adam Wingfield, Founder of Innovative Logistics Group LLC.
Integrating technology into operations is no longer optional. Adam suggested using real-time cameras inside reefers, illustrating the proactive measures carriers can take. Such advancements make the process transparent for customers, allowing them to track their product conditions.
It's the age of convenience, and as rightly pointed out, even a hint of tech can edge out traditional advantages like being a family-owned business.
2. Excellence in service as a deal-breaker
"Shippers are going to be more selective with brokers. They will look for a specific kind of service, and we will see service offering push farther and farther.” - Kyle Litner, Strategic Advisor vHub, Rocket Shipping.
It's about more than just successfully delivering a load but providing a 5-star experience. Shippers in an oversaturated market have a plethora of options. While competitive pricing is crucial, what will set businesses apart is the ease and efficiency of their service.
3. Laser-focused business strategy
"We’re closer to the market shifting than not. If you know your business, you will attract the right business out there.” - Chris Jolly, The Freight Coach.
Awareness of market trends and a deep understanding of one’s business is pivotal. As observed in recent months, market dynamics have shifted. However, businesses attuned to their core strengths and market needs remain successful.
4. Cold calling is still the most effective way to build a business.
“Cold calling is the most effective way to develop business. You have to get on the phone. Make 10,000 calls in a few months.” - Desmond Clark, Bear Down Logistics.
And who said cold calling is dead? The personal touch of cold calling remains unbeaten in business development. The unanimous agreement on its effectiveness during the Broker Panel reinforces its importance.
5. Patience in business development
"Building a successful business requires patience and adherence to four core principles: 1. Call or meet face-to-face as much as possible. 2. Believe in yourself and stay positive. 3. Showcase unwavering persistence and consistency. 4. Demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges. " - Tyson Lawrence, President and Founder of Diablo Freight Ventures
Relationships and trust don’t happen overnight. Patience is key. Staying positive, consistent, and pushing through tough times can set a broker apart.
6. Transitioning roles for scalability
"Step out of the role of being the all-star player to being an all-star coach to make my new team be all-star players.” - Kamard Johnson, CEO of GTT Commercial Tires
In the early stages of a business, CEOs often wear many hats, driving growth with their direct involvement. But as a company scales, successful leaders recognize the need to transition from being the leading player to a guiding coach. This shift is pivotal for sustainable growth.
To effectively make this shift, CEOs should prioritize hiring talent that aligns with the company's vision, empower them through trust and delegation, and foster open communication. This approach not only allows leaders to focus on broader strategy but also ensures that the entire team can evolve into all-star players, collectively driving the business forward.
7. Staying in business is the ultimate goal
"All markets have strong and weak cycles. Do not allow that to force you into fear or unnecessary decisions. The ultimate win in business is staying in business.” - Kamard Johnson, CEO of GTT Commercial Tires.
Market fluctuations are inevitable. Yet, enduring the ebbs and flows without succumbing to panic is the mark of a resilient business and business leader.
8. Reducing owner dependence
"You are the lid on your business's value-creating potential. The only way to remove the lid is to give your influence and authority away to your team.” - Spencer Tenney, President and CEO of Tenney Group.
To maximize growth, business leaders must transition from being the central figure to facilitating team potential. A company that's overly reliant on its owner can be vulnerable. By empowering and upskilling their teams, owners not only elevate their business's potential but also make it more attractive to potential buyers and investors.
9. Selective clientele
"Play with those that want to play with you.” - Mitchell Ward, CEP of MW Logistics.
Choosing the right clientele is as vital as offering the right services. Time and resources are wasted on clients who aren't a good fit for your business model or values. Prioritizing clients who align with and appreciate your ethos ensures better collaboration, smoother operations, and increased profitability.
10. Technology as a Growth Catalyst
"We’ve reached 92% automation with accounting software. The goal is not to replace people. You want people to stay and continue to do good work.” - Mitchell Ward, CEP of MW Logistics.
Embracing technology shouldn't equate to sidelining human resources. Instead, automation should be viewed as a tool that alleviates routine tasks, letting employees focus on value-added roles. By optimizing processes, technology allows businesses to scale efficiently while preserving the integral human touch.
11. Financial Prudence
"We close our books in 3 days. Cash is so important. And make sure no one customer is more than 4% of the business.” -Mitchell Ward, CEP of MW Logistics
Maintaining financial discipline ensures business longevity and resilience against market fluctuations. Promptly closing books indicates efficiency. Ensuring no single client dominates the revenue stream protects against potential losses. This approach fosters diversification, buffering the business against unexpected downturns.
12. Embracing Change
"Don’t be afraid to be redirected.” – Jorie Myers, Founder of Transportation & Logistics Clubhouse and Atlanta Dispatch
Change is the only constant, especially in dynamic industries like freight and logistics. While it's vital to have a direction, flexibility in responding to market shifts, technological advances, or client needs can open doors to innovative solutions and untapped market segments, fostering growth and sustainability.
These events aren't just about the latest in tech or business strategies. They're about the handshakes, the exchanged business cards, and the real conversations. In an era dominated by digital interactions, there's something irreplaceable about meeting face-to-face. Both industry veterans and newcomers walk away with fresh insights and meaningful connections. It's a testament to the enduring importance of coming together to share and learn.