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Brent Orsuga on solving people issues at freight brokerages

 A freight brokerage floor in Chattanooga. ( Photo: Lexi Alvidrez / FreightWaves )
A freight brokerage floor in Chattanooga. ( Photo: Lexi Alvidrez / FreightWaves )

FreightWaves staff members talk with brokers almost every day to get a real-time sense of freight markets and to learn about how technology is impacting their business and where the industry is headed. One of the biggest themes in third-party logistics has been the explosive growth of young, tech-savvy freight brokerages. It’s not uncommon to hear about boot-strapped brokerages doubling gross revenue every year for years on-end.

High-quality brokerages bring in trainee cohorts, add enterprise account salespeople and launch new branch offices at a faster pace than their competitors. FreightWaves wanted to understand the unique pressures on brokerage executives to rapidly grow headcount with quality people in a low-unemployment economy. At the same time, we wanted to learn more about how young brokers grow professionally and pursue new career opportunities. After all, at the end of the day, the value of a third-party logistics provider (3PL) is largely in its people.

FreightWaves spoke to Brent Orsuga, founder and president of Pinnacle Growth Advisors, a leading 3PL and freight brokerage recruiting firm, about the people issues faced by freight brokerages and how he helps solve them. Orsuga’s viral videos and posts explaining hiring, promotion, growth and culture fit at freight brokerages are all over LinkedIn and are widely shared by industry professionals.

Orsuga focuses on 3PLs between $20 million and $500 million in revenue; the smallest shops are able to grow without much assistance and the largest companies have internal recruiting teams.

“Gone are the days of simply posting a job and waiting for applicants to come to you,” Orsuga said. “The people these companies want already work for someone else, and they’re trying to figure out, ‘how do I get this person in front of me?’” Companies need to have a social media presence and producing videos to illustrate a ‘day in the life’ of their employees, Orsuga said, and show millennials that they are a fun, cool place to work.

Ten years of experience in transportation and logistics recruiting and a truly exhaustive network of contacts in every major brokerage in the country allows Orsuga to “play matchmaker,” as he put it, and fit the right person to the right role.

“A lot of people are great system-players, like a Baylor quarterback,” Orsuga said. “If you remove them from the million-dollar name, the system, and all the tools, they can get exposed really quickly.”

“I go into every call blind,” Orsuga said. “I don’t care about a resume, I care about the people,  not the paper, what their journey is, what they do, and their strengths and weaknesses.”

Often, young brokers with four or five years of experience get tired of relentlessly working the telephones and want to transition into a management role at a new shop. It’s understandable, but Orsuga said that it is completely unrealistic to expect a new company to hire a new person and promote them to a job they’ve never done before at the same time. Restless brokers like that should stay another six months at their current company, add a skill set to make themselves more competitive, and then return to the job market.

The people needs of the freight brokerage industry are cyclical, just like freight markets, Orsuga explained. In 2018, when capacity was hard to come by and spot prices soared, every brokerage wanted to add operations people and carrier representatives. Now that markets have loosened considerably, brokerages need shipper account executives to help them lock down large volumes of contracted freight.

“The key word right now is ‘enterprise,’” Orsuga said. “Enterprise sales – big boy accounts; those are the hottest jobs right now.”

Orsuga has also developed a specialty in helping brokerages cold-start new branches, and said that there are two philosophies – one is geographic and market-driven, the other is people-driven, when brokerages build an office around a top performer.

“The top markets right now are Denver, Austin, Nashville and Chattanooga,” Orsuga said. “Atlanta is bustling again, and Chicago is Chicago.”

In the contemporary economy of high-growth, technology-based companies, millennials have become accustomed to changing jobs regularly. Orsuga said that brokerages can expect to keep a talented executive for three years.

“I tell people ‘you’re leasing a car,’ and you have to maximize the time you have,” Orsuga said. “Companies want plug-and-play; they’re looking for experienced people who can immediately solve a problem they have.”

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John Paul Hampstead, Associate Editor

John Paul writes about current events and economics, especially politics, finance, and commodities, and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. In previous lives John Paul studied Shakespeare in London and Buddhism in India, but now he focuses on transportation and logistics in the heart of Freight Alley--Chattanooga. He spends his free time with his wife and daughter herding cats, collecting books, and walking alongside the Tennessee River.

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