What does it take to maintain success in today’s competitive transportation industry? The short answer is to always be kinetic.
Michelle Halkerston, owner and CEO of Hassett Logistics, knows a thing or two about keeping a business at the forefront. She stopped by the FreightWavesTV studio to discuss Hassett’s transformative efforts with FreightWaves lead economist Anthony Smith.
“As a midsized player, Hassett is different,” Halkerston said. “One of the things we did after buying the company was to consider how we would transform and grow while staying true to our core values.” She said that it required a certain mindset.
Hassett traces its roots back to 1939 in Chicago, where it spent nearly 30 years as a local and interstate moving company. A subsidiary was formed in 1980, Hassett Air Express, to include airfreight-forwarding services.
Then-President Halkerston purchased the company in 2013, combining its air and ground services to form Hassett Express LLC, moving its corporate headquarters in 2016 from Elmhurst, Illinois, to nearby Oakbrook Terrace in the Chicago area.
Over the years, Halkerston and her team worked to expand Hassett to offer logistics services, embracing a third-party logistics business model. She encourages other midsized logistics providers not to limit themselves to just one mode or service but instead to discover the full extent of their skills and strengths.
“As for our transformation, we focused on expanding into different service areas but staying within our core strengths and core competencies to do that,” Halkerston said.
Hassett has focused on making infrastructure improvements since 2013. Halkerston’s decision to invest in a new headquarters was based on her belief that a work environment should evoke feelings of pride and boost productivity in the workforce.
Technology and organizational infrastructure have also been part of the transformation. Hassett revamped its customer service standards to be a type of social infrastructure, emphasizing how important it is to maintain relationships with customers and vendor partners as the company grows.
“If we were looking at ourselves as a new company, how would we structure it to support our customer base as it is now and where we see it going?” she asked herself.
In 2019, Hassett introduced three core areas of focus for customer service: network/e-commerce, specialized and expedited services. Last year the company unveiled Hassett Logistics as its go-to-market brand.
That mindset has even changed the way Hassett goes about hiring employees. Halkerston said that she looks for problem-solvers — more specifically, problem-solvers who know what problems need solving to avoid spending a lot of time trying to solve the wrong problems.
“Our customers depend on us to be reliable, consistent and provide excellent customer service,” Halkerston said. “So we need those people that have a really good sense of curiosity, those that want to dig and find the answers, those that want to basically be an extension of the customer’s team.
“I think companies of our size can react more quickly, be very nimble and change directions when [unfortunate] things happen, whether it be the economy or the pandemic or daily obstacles,” she added. “We’ve proven that over the last couple of years.”