Dollars & Sense

Kevin Rutherford

Build a winning team

Kevin Rutherford | April 02, 2011

Business, like life, is all about relationships.

How would you rate your business relationships?

Have you worked at creating important relationships in your sphere of trucking?

Do you have a plan to nourish the relationships that will help you run your business more successfully?

The quality of your life and every relationship you have can be improved by the quality of the questions you ask yourself. For example, at some point you’ve wondered: Why is my [dispatcher, manager, broker, mechanic, etc.] such an idiot?

Such questions serve only to make the relationship worse. Instead, think of better questions when you’re having difficulties with someone: How can I communicate this matter better? How can I work to understand his side of this issue? Subtle shifts in your attitude can have a huge impact on your relationships, your business and your life.

Let’s focus on the important owner-operator business relationships:

Showing appreciation to shop personnel you deal with can pay big dividends over time.

CUSTOMERS. The customer is who pays you. If you’re leased to a carrier, the carrier is your customer. If you are independent and work with brokers, the broker is your customer; if you deal directly with shippers, they are your customers. What have you done to create a great relationship with your customers? The number one rule for success is to create a maximum value for your customers, to turn them into fans.

If you’re leased, how many people at the carrier have an impact on your business? Get started on all those relationships. Schedule a time to share your business model and your goals with them. Before you do that, though, ask each one: What can I do better to bring more value to you? There is no question more powerful than that to start a great relationship.

MECHANIC OR SHOP. This usually includes several parties – repair or maintenance shops you use, from your primary preventive maintenance source to shops specializing in tires, alignment, air-conditioning/heating, electrical systems, and truck and engine dealers.

Remember the last question? It works in every relationship. How about asking your shops what days or times might be better to bring in scheduled maintenance? How about stopping in for no reason with a couple of pizzas and drinks for lunch? How about a gift around the holidays that the group can share? How about just telling them what a great job they did and how you’ve been recommending them to your associates?

ACCOUNTANT/TAX PREPARER. I worked in this role for more than a decade, so I can tell you how most people relate to their accountant: Ignore him all year long, throw your receipts in a box, rush into his office April 14 and ask if your tax return can be done by tomorrow. Instead, try scheduling an appointment when things are quiet. Ask for advice about how to keep really good records, how often you should check in and what he can do to help you run your business. Take that advice, create a great bookkeeping system, check in with him throughout the year and get your tax information in by mid-February.

FINANCIAL PLANNER. I recommend using a Certified Financial Planner who can help achieve all of your financial goals – house, college, vacation home, retirement, etc. Think you don’t have enough money to need a financial planner? That would be a clue you need one.

If you work hard on these relationships and use good business practices, you will have enough money and will benefit from getting help in planning for the big stuff.

Kevin Rutherford is an accountant, small-fleet owner and the host of “Trucking Business & Beyond,” which airs on Sirius XM Radio’s Road Dog Trucking Radio. Contact Rutherford through his website, www.LetsTruck.com.