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Showing leadership through times of disruption

Innovation shouldn’t come at the expense of reliability and consistency

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A lot of times, the way a company handles adversity shines brighter than its performance when things run according to plan.

Michelle Halkerston, owner and CEO of Hassett Logistics, returned to the FreightWavesTV studio to discuss what it takes to show leadership in times of disruption with FreightWaves lead economist Anthony Smith.

The only way to get through hardships is for everyone to be able to trust one another implicitly. But trust takes time to build; it can’t be established overnight. In addition, trust has to be demonstrated in both good times and bad to gain credibility. It was during the height of the pandemic that the midsize ground and air transportation provider put this to the test.

COVID-19 virtually halted the entertainment and event vertical that Hassett spent years building. Instead of counting their losses, Halkerston said that her team went into action to first make sure that Hassett’s workforce was taken care of. She proudly stated that the company has been able to avoid layoffs or wage cuts.

Hassett then shifted its teams around and retrained its staff to boost productivity in other segments. But trust is a two-way street. Hassett’s employees wanted to know if their health was being protected. That reassurance came in the form of rigorous COVID-19 protocols and frequent sanitizing of facilities. 

“Everybody has a responsibility to keep one another safe and keep their families safe, so I think that permeates throughout and extends to partners and customers too,” Halkerston said.

“Disruption” has been a staple of industry vernacular for quite some time, mainly to describe the adoption of ground-breaking technology and processes. But the push for evermore change isn’t without risk. Halkerston sees innovation as a virtue, but she warns against straying from doing what’s best for your customers.

“If you’re a high-performing company that’s committed to customers who expect you to be  reliable and consistent in your service offerings, they may not want someone whose priority is disrupting things,” Halkerston said. She noted that disruption’s status as a buzzword has diminished since the pandemic began, as unforeseen upheaval has negatively impacted global supply chains. That suggests the industry is focusing more on performance improvements.

Halkerston’s embrace of innovation comes with two value propositions: reliability and flexibility. “Those are paramount to our customers,” she said. “We have to be reliable and provide consistent service, as well as be flexible in the solutions we deliver. We’ve always had to do that because we focus more on time-sensitive and time-definite solutions.”

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Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves and lives in Chattanooga, TN with his golden retriever, Beau. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.