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The 12 Traits of Highly Profitable Trucking Companies: Giving Before Receiving

November 29, 2023

KSM Transport Advisors (KSMTA) has worked with over 200 trucking companies since our inception. Our primary service focuses on guiding trucking company leaders in understanding their freight network and determining strategies to improve the density, velocity, and ultimately the profitability in their geographic footprint. In delivering this service, the KSMTA team has observed and documented 12 key traits of highly profitable trucking companies.

This article is part of a series highlighting the key traits and focuses on trait number 11 of 12.

The KSMTA team has more than 250 years of collective experience in the trucking industry. In the course of business, we’ve seen a spectrum of organizational behaviors from great to poisonous. Our proprietary FreightMath network profitability model categorizes our client’s freight load choices. We call the best of the best “Franchise,” while the worst of the worst is classified as “Toxic.”

This year, we’ve been exploring traits common to highly profitable trucking companies. The Franchise trucking companies are those that consistently outperform in profitability, irrespective of market conditions. However, it goes well beyond the profit and loss statement. These companies have built cultures that support their people, give back to their communities, and thrive in an extremely competitive industry. Their successes are not merely financial feats, but the fruits of cumulative organizational behaviors. A crucial element in this dynamic is the culture of giving before receiving.

Nurturing Generosity

Our journey in profiling trucking companies led to an intriguing realization: the most profitable companies cultivate cultures that “give” rather than “take.” This aligns with insights from Adam Grant’s article “In The Company of Givers and Takers.” In this article, Grant focused on the dynamics between givers and takers in companies, revealing how a culture of generosity enhances collaboration, innovation, and overall business health. Our observations in the trucking industry echoed these findings.

The Power of Giving in the Trucking Industry

In analyzing more than 100 trucking company profiles, four exemplary organizations stood out, each embodying traits of operational and financial transparency and a strong giving culture. This culture is evident both internally, in how employees collaborate and support each other, and externally, in active participation in industry associations and community initiatives. These companies understand that giving is not just a noble act but a strategic advantage. As Grant points out, givers facilitate efficient problem-solving and build supportive cultures that attract customers and talent.

Challenges of a Giving Culture

However, fostering a giving culture is not without its challenges. As highlighted in Grant’s article, there’s a delicate balance. Givers can face issues like being overly timid, too readily available, or excessively empathetic, leading to exploitation. This is particularly pertinent in the competitive trucking industry where the pressure to deliver financial results can sometimes overshadow aspirations to focus on generosity.

Strategies for Fostering Productive Generosity

To counter these challenges, it’s crucial to manage generosity effectively. This means distinguishing it from timidity, ensuring accessibility doesn’t lead to burnout and balancing empathy through perspective and making decisions that are good for the business. This could manifest as structured collaboration times, setting clear boundaries for assisting others, and employee training in assertive communication. Encouraging boundaries on perspective helps in understanding the needs of colleagues and clients, leading to more productive and less exploitative interactions.

Key Takeaways

Our analysis of trucking company profiles aligns with Adam Grant’s research: a culture of giving before receiving is a cornerstone of long-term success. This isn’t just about being kind; it’s about building a sustainable, collaborative, and innovative business environment. Leaders in the trucking industry have the responsibility to cultivate these types of cultures, ensuring that generosity strengthens rather than weakens our organizational fabric.

Here are some key takeaways to consider relating to a healthy organization. These apply whether you’re sitting in the driver’s seat or the C-suite:

  • Cultivating a giving culture is a strategic advantage, not just a moral choice. Ever wonder why you keep seeing the same names highlighted in industry articles about advocacy, innovation, and safety? Do you wonder why they keep giving away their “secret sauce?” The answer is simple – the more you give, the more you receive.
  • Managing generosity effectively involves distinguishing it from timidity, accessibility, and excessive empathy. Strong managers should rely on the following tools:
    • Assertive Communication Training: Provide training for employees on assertive communication. This helps staff articulate their needs and offer help without falling into the trap of timidity. It’s crucial that employees feel confident in expressing when they can and cannot offer assistance.
    • Feedback Channels: Implement regular feedback channels where employees can voice concerns or suggestions related to workplace interactions. This open dialogue ensures that generosity doesn’t morph into a burden.
  • Structured collaboration, clear boundaries, and assertive communication are crucial to fostering a healthy giving culture.
    • Scheduled collaboration times might involve specific periods when planners and driver managers or dispatchers discuss loads that may have been degraded due to operational issues and discuss ways these problems could have been fixed. This includes a review of any negative customer interactions or maintenance issues.
    • Clear boundaries must be set. Employees need momentum to efficiently complete their work. This momentum requires that leadership set boundaries for how collaboration will occur – there’s a fine line between micro-managing and collaboration.
  • Taking perspective is essential to avoid exploitation and ensure that giving leads to productive outcomes.
    • Introspection is an important quality that’s rarely used. It’s easy for people to offer their opinions on one another, but looking inward is both difficult and mired in cognitive bias. Getting outside our own heads is crucial. Your different business groups should make an effort to do this regularly, using methods like conducting Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis, or engaging external parties – such as peer groups (benchmarking), business coaches, etc. – to help.

Steering Toward Prosperity

As we continue to profile and learn from the best in the trucking industry, it becomes increasingly clear that the path to achieving success is paved with generosity, collaboration, and a deep commitment to the collective good. Be a giver.

Our next article in The 12 Traits of Highly Profitable Trucking Companies series will highlight the key trait of “Humble Leadership.”

To learn more or discuss any of the ideas shared above, please contact a KSMTA advisor or complete this form.

Chris Henry Chief Operating Officer, KSM Transport Advisors & KSMTA Canada

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