Just Say ‘No’...Thank you

Many years ago, Tonight Show host, Jay Leno, opened up his monologue and told a memorable joke – memorable to me anyway.

Boy, is my mother ever angry at Nancy Reagan?”

“She is upset with her JUST SAY NO to Drugs campaign.”

“My mom thinks it should be…JUST SAY NO, THANK YOU.”

I find myself saying NO a lot these days.

In running trucking software and freight brokerage software business there are two questions that always have on my mind.

“What customers do we serve well?” and “Whom should we be serving?”

I think these are essential questions for any businesses. They are the pre-cursor to the development of a strategy and plan for your business. It’s one I would advocate that all trucking companies and all freight brokerage companies ask themselves.

I think we can all agree that trying to be ‘all things to all people’ is an exhausting and untenable strategy. When you first start out you will pretty well grasp at anyone that is willing to give you a buck for your services. Perhaps some initial loads so you can prove yourself. Unfortunately, that scarcity mentality endures in many businesses for years onward. They end up chasing the dollars available today at the expense of building an enduring, sustainable business for the future.

It’s understandable because many companies are started on a shoestring by entrepreneurs; entrepreneurs that have to ‘feed that fire’…a payroll to meet, loans to pay-off and of course those mouths to feed at home. So I don’t want to appear ‘holier-than-thou’ in this concept, because I admire the entrepreneurial courage and spirit. But it’s important to make adjustments at some time. Saying yes to everyone only gets you into trouble.

And if you don’t make choices your business will begin to look like this after a few years.


And unfortunately it’s a never ending cycle as you attempt to feed the fire by accommodating so many requests that you stretch the resources until your staff and systems start to break. And then they go somewhere else, taking the insight and knowledge about your business and customers with them. They just can’t handle all the brain damage.

I remember my cousin, a successful corporate lawyer in his community, telling me about a conversation that he had with his father. His father had built a successful law practice, taught law at University, who went on to become a federal court judge.

When my cousin first started out telling his dad what practice field he wanted to specialize in, his dad provided him with this advice.

‘Try a few practice areas for a couple of years. Your clients will let you know what you are good at’.

The humility and wisdom of his advice has resonated with me 30 years later (I guess that is why he was a judge!).

But somehow businesses often miss on that key pivot point. The point at which they have to choose a group of customers that they best serve.  Yes I know it’s competitive and you need money to survive, but you also need to watch out for the ‘downstream drag’, the toll of trying to serve a customer where there simply is not a fit.

It’s sort of like the guy who keeps trying to get a date with that pretty girl who spent the last 10 minutes talking all about the things she has been doing with her great new boyfriend!

‘Dude…she’s just not that into you!’

So often there is the need to re-evaluate the foundations of a relationship and ask yourself.

’Does it really make sense to have a business relationship? Are we a fit?’

It’s a healthy thing for a trucking business to look at various lanes, customers, commodities, equipment that they are running or have, and decide which customers, suppliers make the most sense for them.

Remember the 80/20 rule?

It says that 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your customers. The corollary also holds on this. It’s important to realize that 80% of your effort/expense is placed against 20% of your customers. And in the group there is perhaps a subgroup that is not only difficult to serve, but are most unhappy and tough to deal with.

For those are the customers – take the advice of Jay Leno’s mother, and.. ‘JUST SAY NO, THANK YOU!’


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