The Avocado Principle of Lane Management

If you wait until you really want an avocado, the market won’t have any ripe ones. You need to buy them in advance.

If you live your life based on instant gratification and little planning, you’ll either never have a good avocado or you’ll pay more than you should to someone else who planned ahead. The same goes for freight planning.

If you get ahead of the cycle, knowing your freight needs ahead of time, taking your seasonality into account based on historical data, you can run your entire business with significant savings. On the other hand, if impatience and poor planning gets you behind the cycle, you’ll be just as likely to waste time and money playing catch up.

The trick is, you have to know what’s going on now in order to plan ahead. The only way to do that is to have a transportation management system that keeps track of everything that is happening, as it’s happening.

Freightflow’s flexible region-based lane management tools enable you to track volume, costs, and carrier performance in real time by lane. Using Freightflow allows your transportation team to quickly plan their next moves.

If you want to be able to plan ahead, understand the dynamics of your lane rates as they are changing, and start managing lanes instead of trucks, we can help.

Freightflow delivers strategic lane management, transportation department productivity, and route optimization services to the Produce Industry. Hundreds of professionals at organization such as Indianapolis Fruit & Produce, Piazza Produce, Valley Fruit & Produce, and Potandon use Freightflow every day to save time and money.

This post was inspired by the fantastic writing of Seth Godin, you can read his take here.

How to Prepare for Fluctuations in a Freight Brokerage Business

Steady income you can rely on. What freight brokerage business doesn’t want that? Heck, every business, no matter how big, wants predictable revenue. But as you know all too well, there are fluctuations that can hit a freight brokerage business if your portfolio of clients is not well balanced. Here are some things to think about to add stability to your 3PL operation.

 

Sniff out the type of fluctuation your clients may experience during the sales process.

Ever had a costume store customer? I bet your July – September were busy. But what about February? As a freight brokerage business, it’s on you to know that the client you’re taking on has seasonality to their business. If you’re just getting your freight brokerage business started, you certainly should turn down freight you can cover profitably, but if you take it on, don’t start spending money like you’re Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. Be conservative with your cash; you’re probably going to need some down the road.

Seasonal fluctuations can be easy to spot, but what about economic, cyclical or irregular fluctuations to the customers of your freight brokerage business? Those can be less predictable and much less predictable. If you’re not following general economic trends, you should start. Because as the economy goes, so goes freight. For example, when there’s income growth, this usually signals higher consumer spending. This generally leads to an increase in business spending. Is unemployment on the rise? This could foreshadow a dip in consumer spending, which means lower business revenues and profits.

Cyclical fluctuations are alternating periods of contraction and expansion that can last 18 months or longer. During contraction, consumer and business demand falls. During expansion, demand goes back up. In periods of contraction, businesses will look to cut costs by reducing staff, cutting back on operating expenses and delaying investment decisions. During expansion, consumer spending increases, which leads to higher demand for cars and other big-ticket items. In a time of expansion, your customers will be increasing production, which increases their need for trucks.

Have carrier sales inform their carriers that you’ll have freight in lanes they cover at a particular time.

This can be particularly important if you’re vying against other carriers for the seasonal customer’s freight. But, get at least a verbal from your carrier sales team and you can approach your customer with more confidence and let them know that you’ll have capacity to cover the influx of trucks they’ll need during their busy season. Now, we know trucks are generally reserved no more than 72 hours in advance, but by communicating this information ahead of time, you can stay top of mind with carriers and have a leg up on other brokers who wait to the 11th hour to call and expect their carriers to pull of miracles for them.

Think about how you can make life easier for your customer(s).

Your customer may be dealing with a seasonal downturn, but what if it’s bigger than that? What if the downturn is specific to their business? Are there any ways you can make life easier for them outside of the freight that you’re already moving? Your freight brokerage business is going to succeed or fail on relationships. You have to have good relationships with your carriers, but you have to have even better relationships with your customers who supply the freight. Talk to them and figure out what they’re struggling with. Even if it’s not related to supplying trucks and making pickups. The more ways you can add value in creative ways can take you really far in the freight brokerage business. It’s more than just providing GPS tracking for the exact location of the freight. Think people skills.

 

Be conservative with your cash.

The phrase “don’t spend it all in one place.” could probably be written above the door in your freight brokerage business. That way everyone could be reminded of this valuable piece of advice. If you’re going to have seasonal clients as a smaller(ish) freight brokerage business, you’re going to need to get better at squirreling away money so you have it if you hit a lull in customer activity. If you are trying to forecast revenue for all your clients for a year, a simple trick to stay in a conservative mindset is to simply divide the revenue by 12. This way, you start to look at revenue by what it means per month over a 12 month period.

 

Manage your freight remotely. Complete visibility to your transportation supply chain is as close as your phone, tablet or computer. Freightflow freight broker software is the most easy-to-use freight broker software available today. The best part? It’s completely free to try. Don’t wait. Get started today with your no obligation, 100% free trial.

Freight Brokerage Business 101: How to Build Rock Solid Carrier Relationships

Carrier relationships can feel forced and unnatural at times, when just starting out. But if you take the right steps to cultivate a meaningful relationship, your carrier relationships can literally carry your freight brokerage business to new places. Remember, you can have the best customer sales team in the world, but if you cant cover the load, none of that matters!

As you build your freight brokerage business, it can be easy to get lost in the art of logistics sales and trying to find more freight to move. But slow down there, freight cowboy. Before you start moving 80 loads a day from that dream customer, you’re going to have to know you can get those trucks. Getting trucks requires you have rock solid relationships with your carrier.

Treat carriers as partners, not vendors.

Your carrier database grows and grows. There seems to be an unlimited number of options of carriers who can cover your load. Except, you just missed pickup for an easy-to-cover lane. The pickup was in an industrial park just outside of Indianapolis, of all places! How frustrated are you right now? Maybe not as frustrated as your carrier, who isn’t feeling the love.

Do you talk down to your carriers? Don’t do that. Yes, you may be paying them, but to build truly beneficial carrier relationships that will grow your freight brokerage business long term, you need to treat carriers as partners. Talk to your carriers as equals! You are in it together. They need you to get paid before you can pay them, so, of course they want to come through for you!

As a new carrier starts to demonstrate success for you, make sure you sell them on a long term vision for your relationship. Be sure to let them know that you appreciate them coming through for you on these first few loads, and that you see potential to get more from this customer. Tell them that you would love it if you could continue to bring them more freight! Single transactions don’t build freight brokerage businesses, relationships do.

Providing value is a two-way street.

Your carriers are working to make your job easy for you and you can do the same in return. The best way from the start? Great, detailed load information. In this day in age, you need to be utilizing a freight broker software that gives you access to all load detail with a single tap of the screen. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised. Be sure to emphasize the importance of this with your whole team. It’s the little things that seem obvious that, if not done correctly can really trip up the growth of your freight brokerage business.

Success for both sides in the relationship between the people, not just the freight brokerage business.

You may be working to build a freight brokerage business, but don’t forget, you’re doing it with people. When you call to talk to your carriers, don’t get right down to business. Ask them how things are going. Find some common interests. Is it football season? Find out who their favorite team is. If you play fantasy sports or are even a little interested in football yourself, it shouldn’t be too hard to know what’s going on with their favorite team or player. Does your contact at your carrier have kids? Do you both have kids? Get to know the details of their life.

Here’s a great relationship-building tip to try. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking, “What can I do for you?

Prompt payment can make freight brokers and carriers best friends.

Did we just become best friends?

Margins in the freight brokerage business can be tight; there’s no doubt about that. But everyone appreciates on-time payment. It’s why we do what we do, after all. To make money so we can provide for our families. But as you grow, you may want to make this a priority over other positions in your hiring plan. Nothing will keep a carrier loyal to you more than a good track record of making on time payments. This doesn’t mean you have to pay carriers the moment the last pallet comes off the truck. But, do be clear about payment terms in the documentation you keep for each load, and abide by the expectations you set forth. It’s not so much about the speed that you pay, but more about how reliable your payment delivery is. So, if carriers will take loads with 60 day payment terms, this could be something that works to your advantage with the right accounting team.

 

 

Manage your freight remotely. Complete visibility to your transportation supply chain is as close as your phone, tablet or computer. Freightflow freight broker software is the most easy-to-use freight broker software available today. The best part? It’s completely free to try. Don’t wait. Get started today with your no obligation, 100% free trial.