‘Problem load’? No problem

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Updated Jul 17, 2016

The subject of our July cover story, Brita Nowak, knows about taking risks. She left her native Germany to work as an actress in Hollywood. Unlike most of the countless pretty faces who try the same thing, she succeeded for years.

“If everybody said no, guess what? Then I’m going to say yes,” says independent Brita Nowak.“If everybody said no, guess what? Then I’m going to say yes,” says independent Brita Nowak.

Then she got her CDL, learned the ropes as a company driver, and soon took the leap of running under her own authority. Living in Jupiter, Florida, she was having trouble finding good loads out of the Sunshine State in the summer. She saw one going to New York, learned it was headed to Manhattan’s Chinatown, declined it, then reconsidered.

“So I called back again, and she said, ‘Well, if you’re uncomfortable, it’s alright,’ ” Nowak told my colleague, Deanne Winslett. “ ‘Many, many people already called on this load, and they all said the same thing that you did.’ … Maybe that’s what it was, what made me take it. If everybody said no, guess what? Then I’m going to say yes.”

Navigating Manhattan was not easy, but Nowak fell in love with the challenge. Later, she was asked to take on the run as a dedicated route. She agreed.

“It’s still scary, and that’s good,” Nowak said. “It should always be scary to me. That’s how you survive and how you don’t let your guard down. I love that run.”

Nowak’s example is a great one, especially for independents trying to find new business. Trucking radio host and former small-fleet owner Kevin Rutherford, a long-time presenter at Overdrive’s Partners in Business seminars, has made the same point. It also came up at Rutherford’s recent Certified Master Contractor training, when podcaster and small-fleet owner Kenny Long recounted what he’s learned from operating with his own authority.

The common approach to choosing loads is to spot the high rates and be the first to call, he said. But every independent knows the frustration of being quick to dial, only to get a busy signal.

Instead, Long recommended, look for the load that’s been sitting too long – and try to figure out why.

“I want that problem load,” he said. It’s one way to stand out, earn respect and, as Nowak learned, get a call back from someone who appreciates your willingness to embrace a challenge.

There are many skills to master in any entrepreneurial effort, but don’t overlook the skills of building your reputation and developing relationships. Ultimately it’s people who give you opportunities and hand over checks.

“We deal with people,” Long said. “Transportation is second.”

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