The question begged in the title here points us down the road to the subject of this Overdrive Radio podcast, a notion voiced quite well in last week's edition by Breon Thomas when he noted that entrepreneurship, broadly, is about creating systems of support for your efforts at success in business. Systems could come in the form of partnerships with other businesses -- great relationships with brokers, longer-term freight contracts with dependable shippers -- to help ensure you negotiate the next load at a level of profit commensurate to keep the business afloat, feed and clothe and shelter the family back home, and leave plenty to invest in the future.
If it’s growth that you’re after, beyond a single truck -- or cargo van, as in Thomas's world -- you won't get a much better example of systems-focused pursuit than the 2021 Small Fleet Champ, Silver Creek Transportation and its leader, Jason Cowan. As his company's grown, he's built an in-house program for drug and alcohol testing, devised creative methods of engaging drivers and others around the fleet with the wide array of safety/other performance data available, and much, much more, as you'll hear in today's podcast.
Cowan's investment in both people and inside/outside support underpins a company culture that’s about well more than operating at a profit. His example speaks to the value of the right team, and a clear vision. As recently as 2019, as regular readers and Overdrive Radio listeners will know, the business sat at just nine trucks after a couple decades in existence. Cowan assembled a brain trust made up of sons Zane and Zebb Cowan, already involved in the family business, and many others, with a goal of figuring out how to reach a growth goal of 30 trucks. COVID set them back a bit, particularly when it comes to new equipment purchases, but by this spring the company was just about there. Maintaining a culture that emphasizes personal growth for all involved, to the ultimate benefit of the entire company, is a challenge that’s always top of mind and that has helped drive growth, too.
None of it has been easy to do or maintain when fuel is $5 or $6 a gallon and demand is sliding, but Silver Creek’s well poised to ride the waves with a diversified mix of freight running on dry bulk and liquid tankers, flatbeds, dry vans and more. Cowan’s systems-focused approach to safety, compliance, maintenance and the rest of it ultimately makes for what is a great example of trucking excellence. Talk a walk down Silver Creek's "safety lane" between the side entrance and the shop with Cowan, Safety Director Amber Jenkins, and shop manager Zane Cowan in today's podcast. Take a listen:
It's not all brass-tacks sincerity for the Cowans and the rest of the team. There's plenty room for good-humored ribbing, too. Note Zane Cowan's approach to maintenance engagement. Behold the shop's Wall of Shame.