Spending more to gain focus

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When times are tough, the tough cut overhead. Bare-bones trucking operations are the norm these days as fleet owners don multiple roles in their trucking operations. But being a “jack of all trades” almost always means being a master of none. Deciding to centralize command and control in one or two people can stretch management too thinly.

Shelly Koch once was one of those do-it-all managers, but she ultimately decided that her talents were best spent working with her drivers and the internal operations. Koch, president of K & J Trucking in Sioux Falls, S.D., invested in a marketing manager to continue expanding sales and developing new business for her 100-truck company.

“Our customers benefit from his full-time attention to their concerns,” Koch says. “He’s constantly helping them problem-solve their transportation issues as well as working on developing leads for new business.”

Koch is happy to find her time freed up to focus on what she does best. “I like working with the owner-operators and drivers to increase their overall trucking business knowledge.” For example, she helps owner-operators write business plans or buy new trucks.

Koch attributes her company’s low turnover rates to the family atmosphere of K & J Trucking. “I can devote the time I need to their individual concerns. This makes for a more satisfied employee and keeps costly turnover low.” K&J Trucking’s turnover rates of 15 to 30 percent are remarkable by any standards. The performance is especially impressive when you consider that much of that turnover results from driver retirements, not job changes.

“You can’t do it all,” Koch says. “You can’t be available to your drivers and be out canvassing the country for new business at the same time. Investing in a marketing manager, even in these tough times, has already paid off for us.”

Koch also has freed up the time she needs to attend professional conferences and serve on the boards of state associations. “You have to find out where your strengths are and then capitalize on them,” she says. The payoff, low turnover rates and professional drivers, increase her company’s value to her customers. “My drivers have a reputation for good service and excellent safety records. I believe it’s a result of concentrating my attention and time toward their concerns. Without my marketing manager, I would not be able to do as much as I do.”

Additional overhead can be a good investment when it results in a more efficient distribution of time and talent. The key is figuring out where you can put your best talents to the most efficient use.