Logistics/Supply ChainsNews

Viewpoint: Why culture wins in logistics companies

Staff retention among key benefits

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

Anyone who has worked in logistics or freight brokerage knows it is not as simple as the job title makes it sound. At times, it’s a high-stress career filled with many moving pieces, dealing with the unexpected, and working extremely hard just to stay competitive every day.

Teams composed of various roles have the potential to make it a positive, constructive place to be, even when the work is challenging, but they also have the ability to make it unbearable when individuals feel they lack support and unity. There are pressures and stresses of the job that can be magnified under the wrong team culture. People work closely together for long hours, in virtual spaces or in person. Team members may feel they’re carrying a weight on their own, and performance eventually declines.

(Photo: Emerge)

Conversely, a well-developed team that executes consistently and works well together creates leverage in a business like nothing else can. In a recent podcast interview, freight broker legend Kevin Nolan of Nolan Transportation Group said about his team, “I don’t worry much about NTG. I know they’re going to do what they need to do. That’s a cool feeling as a founder, waking up every day and knowing all is good.” Kevin also said when it comes to building your team, “It’s not like painting a house or mowing a lawn. You’re never done.’” Organizational harmony is a culture and leads to a fulfilling work environment for all.

Companies must first establish the right foundation and culture for the long-term success of their employees. It’s already common in these tough roles for people to wear down, burn out and finally quit. Many people discover the industry is not for them, and while there is no harm in that, it’s also true that with better company culture, many would choose to stay longer.

(Photo: Pinnacle Growth Advisors)

Great culture is important for two reasons: It helps retain great talent in a tough job, and it drives an industry that can’t be run by people who are not invested. Essentially, it benefits the people as well as the industry. People go on to advance in positions and become leaders and innovators in the space.

“The days of selling free beer and pingpong tables are over; people want to align with a place that has purpose and is making a difference in the industry. Culture has shifted in the Zoom era. The one way to connect people is through a goal and purpose that everyone can buy into. This is what is bonding people,” said Brent Orsuga, CEO and founder of Pinnacle Growth Advisors, a talent recruitment firm specializing in high-growth logistics and transportation companies.

High responsibility and the potential for long hours are simply a part of this industry, not soon to go away. A positive and genuine culture increases employee engagement, which means lower attrition rates and higher productivity, lower operating costs, and higher profitability. Employees who are more engaged in their workplace are also more satisfied with their job.

Logistics companies that have strived to create the right culture are standing out for it. GlobalTranz, Emerge, MoLo Solutions, project44 and Worldwide Express come to mind as having done this well, and there are no doubt others. Often, it’s a matter of taking the ideals the company began with as a small startup and focusing on continuing and growing these aspects, as a part of the company’s identity.

GlobalTranz began in 2003 as a team of two brothers with an idea, grew to a close-knit team of high-energy and highly innovative individuals, and exploded into the giant it is today. Many of those early leaders of GlobalTranz continue to lead the industry now with their own companies, created out of the same culture. It shows the potential of great culture to have a huge impact, both deep and wide.

“It doesn’t matter what technology you build in the logistics space, this industry is still very relationship-driven. That’s why we put so much emphasis on culture. When you can make every employee feel just as important as the next, and do the little things to keep them happy, they will go to bat for the company and build amazing relationships,” said Michael Leto, CEO, and co-founder of Emerge as well as co-founder of GlobalTranz.

Fostering the right culture comes from the company’s values, shown by actions in terms of what time and energy are invested in. It starts with leadership, by their approach and by creating opportunities for others to be invested in the company, and it leads down into every role, building a positive work experience for even those newest to the industry.

Click here for more FreightWaves commentaries by Charley Dehoney.

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Charley Dehoney

Charley Dehoney is a growth-focused executive, consultant, advisor and investor, with more than 15 years of experience at the intersection of transportation technology. He's helped create revenue systems that have supported hundreds of millions of dollars in growth for the businesses he's helped build. Dehoney is currently serving as CEO of Manning's Truck Brokerage, a 50-year-old, private equity-backed logistics company. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska with his beautiful wife and three strapping young sons.