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Executive / Entrepreneur Leadership

Trucking Company CEOs Struggling with the Driver Shortage: It’s Not Them…It’s You. Part IIver Shortage: It’s Not Them…It’s You. Part III

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ELDs and Their Impact on Driver Retention

Are you content with your ability to keep drivers? Are you concerned that retention will worsen because of the mandate for electronic logging devices?

The clock is ticking for motor carriers that are delaying implementation of electronic logging devices. The fear for some is that this new mandated technology will hurt their business. Ultimately, constricted truck capacity will again upset the economy significantly in 2017.

What’s holding you back? Do you fear:

  • Your drivers will leave to go elsewhere where ELD is not yet required?  Most drivers that have begun to use the new technology are surprised about the value they receive from ‘running legal’ while yielding higher earnings.
  • The cost involved to purchase and maintain the equipment and monthly service will be prohibitive? There are many ways to manage/offset the costs of purchase, training and monthly service costs.
  • Productivity will be lost due to training staff and drivers to use the new technology? Just like adapting to hours of services rule changes, companies learn to accept new restrictions and limitations in operations and manage through them over time.
  • You will experience inabilities to do business as you currently do, to get loads covered, picked-up and delivered legally according to DOT and shipper requirements? The anti-coercion statute, which protects against forcing drivers to violate hours of service law, will soon be in effect. This also meets the ELD hours of service enforcement requirement and will be mandated for all carriers, including your competition.
  • Are you concerned about shippers cutting you off because use of ELD will not allow you to meet their pick-up and delivery schedules? Shippers will have to do a better job of scheduling pick-ups and loading and unloading times to accommodate driver’s hour’s mandates. They will have to adapt to change also.

Shippers and brokers will increasingly pull away from carriers that do not have ELDs in place. Similar to having proper insurance verification before expiration, shippers and brokers will not load you as the deadline date approaches.

Waiting until mid-year or late in 2017 is a terrible idea. The availability of computer tablets or other required hardware or installation capabilities may affect the cost, ability to deliver product and the time needed to train your people while depending upon the overworked support capabilities from the ELD vendors.

No surprise here. Why wait until the last minute?

The critical factor in all this will reflect on your already excessive driver turnover problems. Adopting ELDs can send the correct message to staff and drivers that you are a company that embraces (rather than being forced to) support regulations that protect your drivers. So what’s your strategy to implement ELDs and increase retention instead of losing more drivers at an even faster pace than you currently are experiencing?

If the majority of experts are correct in their predictions for the second half of 2017, the current atmosphere of overcapacity and falling rates will shift to a greater need for more drivers. This will be particularly troublesome as the effect of ELDs is felt as some drivers leave the business altogether while you may be continuing to contend with turnover issues

What can you do to grow in 2017, make money while working through all these pressures and ensure that your driver retention stats improve?

Part IV of this series will explore several ways you can accomplish the goals listed above.

Avoid Faux Pas in Business by Adapting This Precarious Personality Trait

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People, especially business leaders, who obsess over goals or demonstrate obsessive behaviors need to avoid making choices that reject good sense – even if they drive great results.  Obsessive thinking and behavior can be a good thing in personal life and in business if managed correctly.  However, when they drive people away and/or create a culture steeped in “my way or the highway” thinking, that will kill motivation, enthusiasm and any great results achieved will be only short term.

It appears that business leaders around the world are finally getting the message — they can no longer continue with their obsession over short-term profits growth at the expense of a healthy society. (Survey by Price Waterhouse of 1400 chief executives – Huffington Post by Jo Confino 1/20/2016).

As outlined in an article appearing in Business Insider, the CEO of one of the largest fast food chains had a misguided obsession with a competitor that could drive his business into the ground.  He is targeting any customer by stealing market share from the competition and other chains instead of focusing on his core customer base. Thus, the business suffered financial losses for several years. The new CEO of a major internet search engine provider is described as “absurd in her obsession with details”.  The co-founder of another search engine provider is described as “obsessed with efficiency and possessing tunnel vision”.

In each of these instances described above, the CEOs ultimately were successful in varying degrees by turning their companies in the right direction and getting back to profitability but at what price with their stakeholders, customers, employees, Wall Street and the court of public opinion?

What do top logistics companies have in common? “Shrewd and experienced management teams and an obsession with service and operational details.” (Logistics Management, John D. Schultz, April, 2011)

This obsessive behavior makes total sense when it provides high levels of customer satisfaction and expectations.   Making the right choices and imposing high standards in transportation and logistics companies’ operations may be obsessive, but stakeholders understand and support the results. It doesn’t work when obsession without reason or following good business principles dominates the CEO’s thinking

Are you obsessive? Are you managing your passions correctly or are you obsessed with whatever is important to you at the expense of good results, respecting your workforce or being a good leader?

If you know you have an obsessive desire to achieve specific outcomes and recognize that you need to tone it down, then maybe change is possible and necessary.

Want to change? Consider whether these statements apply to you:

  • There are some things that I can’t let go of or delegate
  • I am reluctant to change even when given a reason to do so
  • I am hard driving and very detailed oriented
  • I am firm in my position when dealing with others
  • As a leader, I impose my personality on others

A good example is the small trucking company owner in the Midwest who was obsessed with buying a piece of land and building his own truck terminal rather than continuing to rent. Economically it probably made sense, however, the company was struggling to become profitable.  The CEO’s banker discouraged the project, preferring to postpone it for a year or two.  Then came the economic meltdown of 2007 and the business came very close to collapsing.  It was essentially bankrupt but the owner refused to back off his fixation on the building that had to be built.

The banker terminated his business relationship for fear of the company closing; the owner refused to stop the project and had to resort to some very expensive sources of capital to keep afloat. It took 5 years, enormous anxiety and stress to get right side up financially. This was obsession on steroids.

How can an obsession be useful without overwhelming positive behaviors while still allowing for a success path?

Learn to manage your obsessions and passions – be confident, but don’t be a narcissist—self-centered (instead of success-centered), singularly focused, inflexible and reckless. Leaders who are humble and who focus on others are more successful and capture the cooperation and passion of their subordinates.

Stop believing that you are “special” and no one else can do what needs to be done.

  • Take criticism well and do not be offended or supersensitive to constructive comments about your behaviors, passion or unwillingness to compromise
  • Have empathy for others and their points of view
  • Control your feelings of brilliance, power and unlimited success at the expense of alienating others around you
  • Refrain from soliciting and requiring others to admire you

Managing Your Obsessions for Better Interpersonal Relationships and Results

Being obsessive can have advantages if controlled and if you truly care about results and those that help you achieve them.

Discard your obsessions in place of maintaining a passion for what you believe in and who you are –but make it work for you and not against others.

  • Make a great first, but lasting impression and make it real; don’t disguise your obsessive personality only to have it surface later
  • Give credit to others and take blame when appropriate
  • Be nice! Project integrity, honesty and competence

Consider that in business even achievement can become—in and of itself—an obsession. You can be obsessed for the right reason and right outcome. But when it is blind obsession, it will lead you to negative outcomes.  The true test of an obsession that won’t result in a positive outcome is the notion that you can’t argue with an obsession—it’s there and will appear nonnegotiable.

Things to Think About

  • Lesson #1: Don’t confuse efforts with results. Obsession doesn’t always rule.
  •  Lesson #2: Look at the reason for your motivation, decisions or actions and question them. Don’t move ahead for the wrong reasons and don’t rationalize your decisions based on illogical thinking.
  • Lesson # 3: Let others you trust become part of your thought process and goal setting –make it a team effort.

Do you consider yourself a great leader of people and a good CEO of your business, your department, your job? Take the Self-Scoring Seven Habits Profile Quiz and find out.

For more information and a free sample of the Profile Quiz, contact me atnorris@rredinc.com or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in.norrisberen

Politics Trumps Leadership?

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In corporate America leadership is about having a vision, inspiring others to support that vision and maintaining the clarity and decision-making power to know the right things to do to make something good happen. It is about trusting and being trusted. Great business leaders do not concern themselves with public opinion or politics, but with making the customers, employees, vendors and shareholders realize an appropriate level of gain for their efforts and investment.

In Baltimore it seems quite obvious that elected officials exhibited a different view of what leadership is amounting to little more than making reactive decisions and taking (or not taking) actions apparently motivated by politics. Inevitably, it is fair to conclude that the sum total of their actions could result in another round of major civil disturbance on some near-term future date.

It is true that facts aren’t facts until they are known, but more often than not, police investigations take weeks or even months to complete. In Baltimore, however, within a few days of the incident, it appears that the information available was indisputable mostly based on a citizen provided video that gave rise to a press conference where pages of ‘facts’ were presented in narrative form by the state attorney against six police officers.

Guilty until proven innocent was real clear in the tone and voice of the press messaging. Politics or leadership? Justice or political correctness?

The mayor then announces the handling of sweeping reforms of the police department that has been somewhat out of control in certain parts of the community for years. So where has she been?

Is it possible the lack of leadership is the casualty of being focused on a greater goal – the satisfaction of political correctness with an eye always to the next election instead of doing what these people were elected/appointed to do? Run a city, take care of the citizens and properly administer justice for defendants, not the family, not the victim and not the political process.

Right or wrong on any of the issues is not what is important here – what is important are the issues with leadership and the failure to act and the consequences the community suffers as a result. In business, CEOs lose companies, customers and their jobs for committing improperly motivated acts.

The apparent lack of leadership in anticipating possible events led to the fallout of a very unhappy community over an alleged mishandling of a suspected lawbreaker, the failure of the police to step in and quell disorder rather than stand around and look at lawbreakers, the failure to call for help when needed.

One can argue that behind the scenes the decision-making was based on facts as yet known but not released to the media or the public and therefore the “right” moves were made despite the consequences.

So now the politicians argue that the lessons learned were useful, but at great cost. We will do better next time. Really?

The notion that lessons learned have any real value is false. Lessons used in business, in life, and politics are what really counts and what the community should be able to count on.

So, in the final analysis, was leadership exhibited by telling police to stand down; let the community have space to exercise their constitutional amendment rights despite the high price the community ultimately paid in injury and damage?

Leaders who delay actions and make political decisions don’t protect their employees and will ultimately fail long term.

Dithering is not part of good leadership. As leader of the city, did the mayor exhibit the sort of leadership needed or the sort of leadership necessary to get reelected?

The 3 Threats that Should Be Keeping Your CEO Awake at Night

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While coaching and mentoring CEOs, many of whom are immensely successful, I observed that so many of them were kept up at night by important but outdated issues. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors conducted a survey that showed that the greatest 3 concerns as expressed by CEOs queried were talent, operating in a global environment and regulation and legislation.

While these areas indeed are important, are there not new and emerging issues that can affect a business and its reputation faster than the speed of light? Are there more important and potentially very damaging issues to consider?

The recent Starbucks’s campaign #RaceTogether is a great example of a CEO concerned about a social issue, bringing it out, apparently without a great execution strategy, and seeing it fail miserably almost instantly. Starbucks’ PR executive was essentially forced off his Twitter account by the avalanche of negative comments about the campaign.

What this really means is the millennials (18-24) are now the largest influential population segment. They are totally embracing social media. They are the customer and at the same time the de factor employee of thousands of companies providing all the labor to produce the information, product or service, mostly online.

They are the airline ticket agent, the online self-service purchasing agent for thousands of companies they buy from. They do all the work except for the delivery of the product. They control the vast majority of information and opinion development; they provide reviews and recommendations and critiques of every product and service imaginable.

So, what does all this translate into for CEOs? As a CEO you need to worry about this very visible army of customers that will punish you and your brand reputation in nanoseconds.Then in minutes, millions of people know how your company failed them.

Consider then the 3 most important concerns that threaten a company’s reputation that should keep a CEO awake at night:

First, a product or service failure, or stated simply, the failure of the company to match expectations and perceptions of their customers. When something goes wrong, real or perceived, the CEO and his team need to understand how quickly the word can spread and damage sales, employee morale and reputation.

Secondly, failure to take ownership for a disaster or a crisis. The real disaster is for a CEO to avoid taking a leadership position and to blame others for causation and tragic results. The CEO of Lufthansa initially was upfront, and impressed most people with his forthright and honest comments about the airline crash in the French Alps. He did it right. But that changed when some very damaging information about his company’s handling of information about the co-pilot’s was revealed. BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward did it wrong with the Gulf oil spill.

Finally, avoiding the use of social media and taking too long to respond to an event can be worse than the event itself. CEOs who face an issue head on via social media can almost instantly guide reaction and opinion rather than having it preordained by the initial round of comments from the public.

CEOs need to acknowledge that when they wake up in the morning a firestorm may already be brewing – and at a fever pitch by the time they reach the office. There will be little hope of regaining momentum unless they already have a plan in place to respond instantly to negative publicity.

To all CEOs: Don’t be consumed by trending issues – be sure to also think outside of the box and address what is right in front of you in everyday life. It’s not the talent search or government overreach that should be top of mind, but the ease in which the magnifying glass that the public has on your business can create a backlash before you awaken on a new day.

If you have had to combat a threat to your reputation on social media, please share the outcome. If you don’t have a damage control plan and want to learn how to develop this, send me a message and we will chat.

Norris Beren, Chief Executive Advisor | norris@rredinc.com

Need to Revive Your Network? Flip the Script.

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One of the most difficult jobs in growing your business is meeting people who either can hire you as a vendor or lead you to people who can.

Most sales people, business owners and entrepreneurs will agree that the vast majority of new business opportunities stem from relationships, referrals and connections to others, a process commonly called networking, over any other activity such as responding to advertising, e-mail campaigns, etc.

Networking is productive for getting your message out and cultivating opportunities. Most networking is done in groups, formal or informal, designed around the single purpose of meeting other similarly situated people looking for business. Other networking is done throughout daily activity—church, sports activities, supermarket, conferences, etc.

Experts in sales training and business development skills tell you to target prospective customers, connect with people who work where you want to get their business and focus on people who are well connected that can get you more connections.

These are all significant strategies but isn’t it all one way? We want our network to do the work for us, we want our contacts to become or introduce us to the next big customer. Aren’t there people in your network waiting to receive the same benefit from their network?

Flip the script and try Reverse Networking. You can get more value out of your contacts and, more importantly, give real value to others as the inducement to help you and keep you and your business situation top-of-mind.

The reverse networking approach is based on how you can work together with others and/or share some connections and resources.

Meet people and develop connections at networking activities around the notion of how we might interact to see if any of the executives, presidents and owners of companies I know may make good introductions to you and your business growth. Ask questions about their business and what issues they might need help with. Ask whether they are looking to solve any problems for which you may know some quality business owners whom they should meet.

In other words, be a connector, not a ‘connectee’, and lend your ability to provide valuable connections to others instead of only focusing on who can be a customer or who can connect you to one.

This is about giving, not taking – fostering meaningful introductions for others makes you an asset to their network not just your own. Reverse networking is a very powerful approach to developing relationships and creates sustaining value for both parties.

If you have tried this approach, please share how it has been successful for you.

>>If you want to learn how to develop this strategy to maximize your networking activities or re-connect with people and awaken some relationships, send me a message or email me at norris@rredinc.com.

Future Technology – Real Threat or Real Advantage?

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“Real Threat”… is how Warren Buffett summarized his thoughts at the six-hour 2014 annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, his flagship enterprise. These two profound words are in reference to one of the most memorable comments at the event: continued advancements in cutting edge technology – and it keeps Mr. Buffett awake at night.

Clearly the world trend today is towards hyper connectivity – connecting everything to everything with new technology or the ‘internet of all things’. The best estimates are that by 2020 fifty BILLION “gadgets” will be connected to each other everywhere. Connected devices followed by enormous data harvesting will result in an explosion of further technological engineering; continuous attempts at developing new ways to help companies earn more revenue, cut costs and hopefully increase profits.

On the surface, this would seem advantageous as technology is known for creating efficiencies and reducing costs in many ways for many businesses. But, as Buffett highlights, it doesn’t always guarantee increased profits.

To illustrate his concerns, he gave as an example the advent of self-driving cars that combines many technologies into a single product. This advanced collaboration of technologies potentially poses a threat to one of his business units – GEICO.

As an insurer of vehicles, Buffett predicts there will be fewer accidents with the adoption of self-driving cars which will result in lower insurance premiums and therefore lower profits would follow. The ‘Real Threat’ according to Buffett? Lower profits!

While his scenario suggests how external improvement for customers can in fact become a consequence for a business, technology can pose a real threat in numerous ways. Most CEOs are quite satisfied with assuming that the usual advances in technology will give them a competitive advantage over time. The associated risk is amplified when the focus instead remains on selling price considerations, best service levels or other tired concepts that are not distinguishable between vendors, product or service.

To complicate the issue further, a great amount of advanced technology is accomplished in an uncontrolled manner – a company may become significantly impacted without warning. Will your business model be prepared for the next big thing, or will it crack under pressure?

An advantage is only realized if you know how to use technology to become truly unique and competitive in your space. One must remain abreast of new technology that will be available to their industry in the future, spend time considering how everything can and should connect within the business, and how it connects to other businesses. If you think this applies to the big guys with lots of money, vision, and IT capability – think again. It’s the nimble, little companies that will capitalize on the opportunity.

This concept of hyper connectivity is the way life and commerce will grow. These changes can potentially shrink the lead you currently have on your competitors overnight.

Will you be ready?

Action Item: Become more aware of the technological advances in your industry and learn how to take advantage of the advancements to help you and your customers develop greater competitive advantage as well as helping your customers become more competitive with their customers. This is the most effective way to provide value in your role in the supply chain.

How: Read, establish Google alerts on technology topics in your industry, attend conferences, talk to vendors, share information with your LinkedIn connections and participate in discussions in your online groups.

» For more information on how you can become ready for the Internet of Things (IoT) and develop a true competitive advantage send me an email at norris@rredinc.com and I will send you my 7 point outline on How to Become an Industry Leader in the Next Industrial Revolution.