Stop the World, I Want to Get off!
Many times when I am talking to one of our prospective customers, I will hear all sorts the activity in the background. There is someone shouting a question, or perhaps some loud voices in the background – maybe a driver came into the office to get some a detail on some load or the other. I euphemistically call it the ‘combat zone’ of the trucking business. I love the energy of the situation because that is where the action is taking place…not in boardrooms, not at workstations working alone, but the dynamic, energy infused conversations that one has with their fellow workers and partners.
Often, our telephone conversations get interrupted. Sometimes, I don’t even know whether I am still talking to the person on the phone or whether they are talking to someone else. The conversations can get a bit weird when I try to respond to what appears to be a totally irrelevant question in the course of your conversation.
The customer might get a call from a Shipper, or maybe from a Broker, who is calling back with a load. Of course, they have to take it. It means business.
They may be gone for a few minutes and then come back. Other times they just hang up – having made a decision to focus on their short term business need of getting a load, which is understandable. It is a choice they are making, choosing the short term gain versus looking at software which, while important, delivers benefits in the longer term.
There is a grid that management consultants use to help them assess what activities they should be involved in and what they should stay away from or eliminate altogether.
(i.e.: getting a load)Important
(i.e.; Software, Performance Reviews)
( what should we stop doing)
(how do we minimize this? Automate this?)
This is a good analysis framework for a trucking business.
The bottom left quadrant – ‘Not Important – Not Urgent’ is the starting point. It’s where the consultant shows up in your offices and starts with, “What should we stop doing?”
For one national donut company in Canada, it meant cutting out the private jets that were putting holes in their budget but not in their donuts!
For most small businesses you will find almost everything shoved into the ‘Important – Urgent’ quadrant. They find themselves so busy that they can’t even distinguish between what is important. So much is coming at them that everything is urgent; they just move from one urgent situation to another hoping to just get through another day.
When most prospective customers call me, they are just trying to catch their breath long enough to move to the upper right quadrant – ‘Important – Not Urgent’ where, with a clear head, you can make solid decisions about your business. This is where you make those decisions that will benefit your business in the longer term, ameliorating the vast number of your short term urgencies.
‘Not Important – Urgent’ is usually something, or someone, pressing on you and you just need to stand up and address the situation in a better way. Could be something you need to automate so it gets done quickly.
I very much understand the day to day demands of running a business. I know that in selling trucking and freight brokerage software that when I phone out to customers, often right in the middle of dispatching a load, that I am an interruption, often when they are facing an urgent situation.
But I am fully committed and convinced that in order to move forward, a company needs to be in the upper right quadrant – ‘Important – Not Urgent’. It gives me the courage to forge ahead – knowing that I am not there to bother them, but to help them with something that brings tremendous value over the longer term, something that allows them to scale the business and alleviates the chokepoints to growth and more revenues. Yes, I have to be responsive to their need to address an immediate business issue. Sometimes, after a while, with several attempts to connect I find that many companies are just too busy to make a change, trapped as they are in that perpetual loop of ‘Urgency,’ they simply can’t shake it.
There is a certain lament that I have when that happens.
I think someday, caught up in this never-ending cycle of chasing drivers, chasing equipment, chasing loads and chasing spreadsheets, the business owner will likely jump up from his desk in the middle of the dispatch room and shout out at the top of his or her lungs:
“Stop the World – I Want to Get Off!”
I sell trucking software, it can help you appreciate the fact that we are lucky in this world of ours to have ‘gravity’ – even if you can’t comprehend the ‘gravity of your situation.’
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