Our Most Popular Freight Broker Podcasts of 2023
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It’s that time of the year when the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year feels like one giant blur. But it’s also a time to think about the things you want to get done in 2024. So what better way to get a handle on what to be thinking about than a mega episode of this year’s best shows?

In this episode, we’re covering the top brokerage episodes with guests that serve a variety of roles from freight agents and founders up to the C-suite with episodes covering technology, social media, challenging freight, and leaving a big brokerage.

These episodes will play in order of how I think they will be the most valuable to you, the listener, but if you want to jump to a specific part, I’ve got each episode time-stamped as well as the link back to the original episode–which has some handy show links and ways to get in touch with the guest or topic from that episode.

Lastly thank you so much for the support you’ve given this show during our first year of going fully independent. While these best-of’s are airing, I’ll be finalizing the first part of 2024’s content plan with tons of new content on the way.

Until then, enjoy and I hope you find this episode helpful….




Are you experienced in freight sales or already an independent freight agent? Listen to our Freight Agent Trenches interview series powered by SPI Logistics to hear directly from the company’s agents on how they took the leap and found a home with SPI freight agent program.

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Everything is Logistics is a podcast for the thinkers in freight. Follow the podcast to never miss an episode.

Follow EIL host Blythe Brumleve on social: LinkedIn | TikTok | YouTube

Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Blythe Brumleve: 0:05

It's that time of the year again when the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year feels like one giant blur, but it's also time to think about the things you want to get done in 2024, so what better way to get a handle on what to be thinking about than a mega episode of this year's best shows? In this episode, we're covering the top brokerage episodes, with guests that serve a variety of roles, from freight agent and founders all the way to the C-suite, with episodes covering technology, social media, challenging freight and leaving a big brokerage. These episodes are going to play in order of how I think they will be the most valuable to you, the listener, but if you want to jump to a specific part, I've got each episode time stamped as well as the link back to the original episode, which has some handy show links and ways to get in touch with the guest or the topic from that particular show. Lastly, thank you so much for the support you've given our show. Everything is logistics during the first year of going fully independent, because while these best ofs are airing, I'm going to be finalizing the first part of 2024's content plan for the pod, along with a ton of new content on the way for the podcast and over on YouTube. But until then, happy holidays, enjoy, and I hope you find this episode helpful. So we are actually joined with Steve Burroughs. He is your business owner for SPI Logistics, that's correct. Do you have an official business name or are you a freight agent for SBI?

Steve Burroughs: 1:36

We're freight agents. They call us Team Burroughs.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:38


Steve Burroughs: 1:39

And we're from Southwest Florida.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:41

We were talking before we hit record. You have nine children.

Steve Burroughs: 1:46

We have nine children and five grandchildren.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:48

And several of them work for your company.

Steve Burroughs: 1:50

Four of our children and one of our daughter-in-law works for us.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:54

yes, and so it's a complete family affair.

Steve Burroughs: 1:56

We only have family work for us.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:57

That's incredible. So how do you navigate, I guess, the challenges of working with family, because most people I mean even the interview that we had before this said never work with family. So how do you come back then? It's difficult.

Steve Burroughs: 2:08

It's difficult. You learn a lot of humbling lessons along the way. My wife and I first started working together and we survived those first two years without killing each other or divorcing each other. And then we brought our oldest daughter on and six months after that we brought our oldest son on and then it just sort of progressed from there. Then our daughter-in-law joined us a couple of years later and then finally our fifth child, who is a daughter, and then our sixth child has joined us. So you know, I guess everybody kind of looks at it. All our children look at it and they're kind of excited about the opportunity to join the family business. And we love that. We love that, we love sharing this business with our family. And it does bring its own unique challenges, because I'm a little headstrong and I've had to learn to calmly, you know, traverse the waters and don't always do a good job of that, but we try and we always have to remember and we've actually had meetings where I would stop everything and shut the phones off and say, guys, we love each other. I mean, we're family and the business will not come ahead of the family, because the minute that it does, I'll shut the business down, and so it has just it's worked for us. I know it won't work for a lot of people, but we kind of each have our own unique roles in the company and we've been very successful.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:34

So give folks, I guess, a little bit of an understanding. How long have you been in business? How did you get into freight? What's your freight backstory?

Steve Burroughs: 3:41

Well, my backstory is that I learned to drive a stick shift when I was 14 years old in a 86 cab over Peterbilt. I grew up in North Alabama and if you didn't know how to move a truck you couldn't work unless you worked in the coal mines, and I was too young to do that. So I was shagging trailers when I was 14, 15 years old and I have a degree in industrial management and with an emphasis in logistics. I'm one of those, those kind of odd birds I've got, you know, I've worked on every side of the fence. I have a CDL. We own trucks. We've dispatched trucks, we've I've been a corporate manager, a corporate director of transportation for a steel company. I've, you know, had 200 drivers working for me. I've owned, you know, three trucks and had 17 leased onto me. So I've kind of sat on every side of the fence. I've had broker agents calling on me, and now I call on them, and so it just. I think it gives us a unique perspective at my position. When I was with the steel company I had the opportunity to, I had an unlimited budget in the transportation department, so I sent myself to every single school I could find and, you know, became an expert in the CSA scores and inspections and I actually am a level two accident investigator and everything I could get a certificate for and learn I did. So it really it makes it unique for us to be in this industry because, you know, I just came from a session where people were asking questions about sales. Well, I could answer a lot of those questions because I was on that side of I, was the guy they were trying to find. And so we we you know I've always kind of been in the business and we bought our own truck. I was working for another steel company and in 2000, I believe it was, and we couldn't find trucks, so we decided to buy one and we bought a truck and then we bought another truck and then I left that business and we started just running trucks and built our business up and we're doing very well. And then 2008 came along and the bottom dropped out of the trucking industry and overnight our business was gone. So I went to work for the steel company and I was with the steel company for about a year and same situation came along about 2010 or so. My boss came to 2009,. Maybe our boss, my boss came to me and said you know, could your wife Mary maybe broker some freight for us, because we can't? And I said, well, you know that's, that's a conflict of interest, you know. And he said I know that, but we need freight moved. I said okay, and we started our business. And she started the business. And you know, honestly, we were in a position where, you know, we had just come through a really tough economic time and money was not flowing and the steel company paid me just enough to stay hungry and she started the business and the goal was $200 a week. $200 a week was life altering for us. And here we are. You know, some 14 years later, you know in the top three of the company that you know SPI, and we've only been with SPI for going on three years. It's our third year and it has been a magnificent career, a magnificent business, and even more so now that we're with SPI.

Blythe Brumleve: 6:58

And so you started the freight brokerage business. When did you get to the point when you knew that you could probably be doing more, and so you started searching for, maybe, freight agent partnerships, or did you know about being a freight agent before you started your brokerage?

Steve Burroughs: 7:13

We did. But we thought, you know, we needed to own trucks. We didn't trust brokers, and you know I mean broker. The brokerage business was like the Wild West and you couldn't trust them. And you know we had the same. We thought the same stereotypical things that some truckers do now. You know freight brokers are just going to snap to screw you and take the majority of the money and we knew that when we started the business in 2009 and you know, three, four years later I left the steel company and came home to join the freight brokerage because it had grown to a significant enough place where it was time, where we had to build someone else's dream by keeping the job or build our own dream by quitting and coming to the freight brokerage. But when we started our business, we knew that we were going to do so with integrity and we were never going to lie, never, ever, ever going to lie to our customer or to a carrier, and I always tell the customer. I will tell you the truth, even if it hurts me. I will tell you the truth, but I never go to my customers with a problem that I don't have, at least what I think might be an answer, and I never screw a driver, never, ever, ever. I never lie to a driver. If the pickup time is at one o'clock and four o'clock is the only appointment I can get, I'll tell them you're going to wait, you know. And there's not, and there may or may not be detention. I've got some customers that won't pay detention at all, and I'm very honest and upfront. But I also pay my drivers very well. You know, there are companies out there that they take big time advantage of the driver and they get caught keeping a huge amount of margin. And I just don't believe in that, because those are the guys that are out there spending the night in the truck and buying fuel and buying tires and doing all those things. And we run a lot of loads and our margins might not be as big as other agents, but we have guys that will. I can just give them a pickup number. They don't even need a rate con because they know that once I get back to the office I'll send a rate con and the load may already be delivered before they even get their rate con.

Josh Lyles: 9:19

Oh, wow.

Steve Burroughs: 9:20

Yeah, so we've just made that our practice. We do everything with integrity. I talk to my family a lot about character and honor, and that's just how we have chosen to run our business.

Blythe Brumleve: 9:30

And it sounds like, with your experience on all different levels of within the freight industry or moving freight, that it almost is a selling advantage to the drivers, to the carriers, to the customers that keep coming back because you know and you empathize with what they're going through.

Steve Burroughs: 9:46

Well, I do. And then I'll have drivers that are maybe newish to us and they'll try to lie, and I'll be. You know that's not true. I got, I've been out there, you know it, and I know it. So let's just skip this little lie here and let's go on to the real truth, and so that's, that's what we do.

Blythe Brumleve: 10:04

How do they react when you say something like that to them? Do they immediately start telling you?

Steve Burroughs: 10:08

Well, they'll start trying to backpedal it first and, especially when it comes to repairs, be like, oh, you know, I blew an airbag and and it's going to be, you know, a two day repair. And I'm like, oh no, it's not going to be a two day repair, it's a two hour repair. I used to run four repair shops that were open 24 hours a day. I know what the repair takes. And if I don't know what the repair takes, my son loves a diesel mechanic and I'll call him and say, hey, what does this repair take? And he'll tell me and he'll say, well, do you want what it actually takes or do you want what the book says it takes?

Blythe Brumleve: 10:36

Why do what? Why do you think that you know in a situation like that? For example, why would a driver lie about something like that?

Steve Burroughs: 10:42

They wanted to go home, or they wanted to stop and see a girlfriend, they wanted to stop at the casino, and so they'll, you know, they'll tell you these stories and, and maybe they overslept- Gotcha, okay, okay.

Blythe Brumleve: 10:54

So it's almost like they're trying to cover their tracks, or maybe you know they're trying to cover something that they've done and that doesn't.

Steve Burroughs: 10:59

And sometimes you know things happen and I know that. But when you're trying to lie your way out of it, I would much rather you say, hey, man, I overslept. Or hey, drove by a casino and just had to stop.

Blythe Brumleve: 11:12

So it's like a, so it almost like you're. You're having this internal culture of just trust and authenticity. I mean, we throw a lot of those words around, I think, in every day in business, but it sounds like you guys are really. That's your pride and joy.

Steve Burroughs: 11:25

And that's what you operate from. It is, it is our pride and joy. And then we're honest. We're always honest and upfront with each other, so that, and I think I think having the fact that we're all family, we're all related, that that, you know, helps with that too.

Blythe Brumleve: 11:40

So when you were exploring you know different freight agent possibilities did you go out and explore these opportunities? Did you try to test the waters with a? You know a few other freight agent programs or I didn't.

Steve Burroughs: 11:52

I was with the company and I had chosen this company because I had actually leased towards the end of the trucking. You know when, when 08 and 09 came along and things were just bad, there was a company that that I knew and I'm not going to say their name, but it was a good company at the time and I had leased my truck someone with them. Just what's that last ditch effort trying to save some dollars and keep my guys driving and and, and I remembered them. So I had called. I called them and got my wife set up, mary, with them to be a broker for them. And you know, there was a real good guy that taught us a lot of, taught her a lot about brokerage and kind of helped her through that. And we were with them for a long time. But we we kind of became big agents with them. We had invested a lot of our own money in our own technology and that made our jobs a lot easier and a lot faster. And they, they got sold by another to another company and at first they they were all about it and they turned out to be kind of bad actors and everything we would ask they would say no, and it was kind of interesting how I ran into Mike McCulloch at a conference for one of my big shippers and just kind of run into him and I'm with the vice president of the company I was with and ran into Mike and you know we met and I had left because I had some work to do and the vice president looked at Mike and says I know why you're here, you won't get him. And so Mike said, oh well, I'm just, you know, I'm here to meet people, okay, and but but I just really liked Mike and I stayed in touch with Mike. Mike stayed in touch with me and then come to find out the president of SPI was the president at the company that I was with, or had been the president that the company I was with. And I remembered, you know, that the business was was ran a lot better than and it was run. It was run with integrity and honor and dignity. And then Mike told Joe that he had met me and then they both kind of started calling, you know, no pressure. And Mike even said hey, there's no pressure If I'm in, if I'm in Florida, you want to go play golf? I said, yeah, let's go play golf. And we never did get to play golf. But I finally came to a point with my company where saying no got too easy for them. And you know we already had some of our children working for us at the time and we were stagnant. We couldn't grow because they wouldn't. They wouldn't allow us to grow, they wouldn't, they wouldn't work with our technology, they would sell us. Oh, this won't work. I'm like, well, I've had it for seven years, it works. And finally I called Mike up and I said you know what, I'm ready to talk. And they start, we started the switch process, the onboarding, and, and my other company, they were very angry with us and you know Joe never wavered and they threatened. They threatened to sue us and they threatened to do all these things. And SPI's attorneys said they have no leg to stand on. And so Joe actually flew to Florida, he and his wife, and they spent three and a half weeks in Florida helping us onboard and I mean walked us through and helped us. And it's just, you know, you, you, you and I never looked at another company. So the answer, the long answer to your short question, is no, I never looked at another company. You know we're we're a very successful agency and we do get a lot of phone calls and a lot of people reach out to us on LinkedIn and they, hey, would you be interested in talking? And and you know, and I always say, hey, thank you for you know, for calling, thanks for thinking about us, but we're very happy we're at. You know, I'm not nasty to them because they're just doing their job and so, but no, we never, we never explored other opportunities. We came to SPI and and looked at and saw, you know, liked what we saw and and we we actually onboarded in a very odd time because it was COVID.

Blythe Brumleve: 15:44

And and oh wow, yeah, it was three years ago.

Steve Burroughs: 15:46

You said and so and so the you know, the first time I had saw Joe he. He came to see us and he had his mask on and you know we're South Florida, you know trucking.

Blythe Brumleve: 15:55

Florida's a different breed.

Steve Burroughs: 15:56

We're a different breed South Florida trucking cowboys you know, and I said yeah, you know, you wear that mask for you, you don't wear it for me, we don't do the masks here and and you know he has stuck with us through it all and and you know, we, we went to the first rendezvous, our first rendezvous last year, which you know, which was in Orlando, which you know. Usually you want to travel and see stuff when you live in South Florida. No offense against Orlando, but been there and probably a million times. But you know, it's just. It's been a great move for us and I think that we found everything that we were looking for and a lot of things we didn't know we were looking for in SPI.

Blythe Brumleve: 16:35

What were some of those things? Because you mentioned you, you have you had your own tech stack, and so you begin the onboarding process. Did you get to keep your tech or did you find that it was beneficial to?

Steve Burroughs: 16:43

switch. We have kept our technology and and, but Joe and Mitch and Eze, they kind of got together and they dovetailed our technology into SPI's technology and then they helped us tweak it and make ours better and faster, and and so it is dovetailed in real nice and with the new things that are coming out. You know, we, we, our business, has been at a place where we can't grow anymore, and because of our, because there are some, some areas of lack, and we have just learned this weekend that, you know, there are some things available to us that are that that are going to allow us to grow again, and so we're very excited about what they're doing. And they just they gave us these technologies. They didn't say no, they said let's, let's figure it out.

Blythe Brumleve: 17:32

I was about to say that it sounds like they're they. They want to work with you, so much so that they're willing to make some custom software. They. They are within your processes that you already have.

Steve Burroughs: 17:42

And you know, when we we brought a big book of business that we have exploded since we came, came to SPI. But our business model is different than I know that in one of your previous podcasts you talked with Warren from Kansas city, good friend of mine. His business model is different than mine and I don't know how his business model works. But you know, spi has tailored our needs into the program. So and we'll ask for something and I'll say, hey, this will make our lives better, this will make our business faster. Okay, we'll, we'll, we'll make it happen and they do, and so that has made all the difference in our business.

Blythe Brumleve: 18:20

So we've talked a little bit about the technology side of things. You know just from the, the, the integrity part of the business. What about the sales part of the business you mentioned? You're, you're, you're growing like crazy and you want to grow even more. How are you? Are you cold calling, cold emailing, or is it just based on referrals?

Steve Burroughs: 18:40

We do most of our our growth on referrals. We've we have found that to work better for us. And you know, mike, we're going to a conference here in a couple of weeks and I'm bringing everyone because the my, my big shipper, has multiple locations and each location handles their own business. And so myself and Mary and Mike and Joe and Mark font from the company they're procurement our carrier, procurement director. They're all going to meet us at this conference and we are going to, you know, talk to all the players and you know a lot of these people I've known for a long, long time and they will. They will refer us, they'll give us leads, they'll tell us, hey, go talk to that guy because his, his business, will meet, we'll fit your model, and so we don't waste a lot of time. And as far as cold calling, we we don't really cold call line and I just mentioned, I just came out of the sales meeting here at the breakout session and one of the things that I shared with the groom is the best way in my mind to to procure new businesses. I will call the receiver and I'll just say you know, I'll talk to the person maybe the shipping manager on the floor and I'll say, hey, I got a guy coming in and I'm desperately needing a reload. Can you help me? Can you reload this guy" and he'll say, well, I'm not really in charge of that, but hey, you can call Bob and tell Bob that I sent you. And I'll say, well, what's Bob's extension, can you transfer me? And then he'll transfer me and this Bob's speaking. You know, hey, bob, mark on the floor, told me to give you a call. I got a guy coming in and he needs to reload. Well, I don't really have anything, but I might have something tomorrow. Well, hey, I got a guy coming in tomorrow. Even if I don't, I've got my leg in now with Bob, and so that way I kind of get around the gatekeeper and you know, that's where we've been and we're very fortunate because we've been very successful in our business and I haven't had to. We haven't. You know, we've been so busy that we, honestly, I could have business that I don't go after because I would not fairly represent that business, because we are so busy and we're such we've had, we're so much at our capacity. So I don't take business just because I can get it. If I can't service it correctly and properly, then I'm not going to take it.

Blythe Brumleve: 20:54

It's a good motto to have Now, with you, mentioned a little bit about the technology that's coming down the pipeline. How do you think that technology is going to help you? Almost, I guess, give extra hands to the people you already have.

Steve Burroughs: 21:06

Well, I think what it's going to do is it's going to weed out the bad actors and the double brokers and the triple brokers, and I'm not going to have to work as hard to do that, and so so that's going to be a time saver. You know, we've got situations where I've got some carriers that that haul load after load after load after load for me, to the point that we become friends and now they can just go to the board. You know I can have an internal board and send it to them and they can just book themselves on it and get the information, and then I can finish it up. You know, tomorrow, later in an hour, and you know our son message say hey, Solly took this load, I'll get to you. And so it just it's taken some of the some of the the tedious work off of our process and it will allow us to go get more customers or pick up, just get more loads for the customers that I've got, Because we do leave loads on the table. We just as a group, we'd like hey, we can't take any more for a minute, let's just wait.

Blythe Brumleve: 22:05

Are you in freight sales with a book of business looking for a new home? Or perhaps you're a freight agent in need of a better partnership? These are the kinds of conversations we're exploring in our podcast interview series called the freight agent trenches, sponsored by SPI logistics. Now I can tell you all day that SPI is one of the most successful logistics firms in North America, who helps their agents with back office operations such as admin, finance, it and sales. But I would much rather you hear it directly from SPI's freight agents themselves. And what better way to do that than by listening to the experienced freight agents tell their stories behind the how and the why they joined SPI? Hit the freight agent link in our show notes to listen to these conversations or, if you're ready to make the jump, visit SPI 3PLcom. What does, I guess, the evolution of your business look like outside of technology? It sounds like you have everything pretty much worked out Like. What does growth look like to you, except for more loads, maybe?

Steve Burroughs: 23:04

Well, I have more kids.

Blythe Brumleve: 23:06

I don't know if we mentioned this during the recorded conversation, but you said you had nine children and five grandchildren we are.

Steve Burroughs: 23:18

what does growth look like for us? I mean, we realize there's a point where we're not going to grow anymore. We're not there.

Blythe Brumleve: 23:24

No, more family. No, you probably have more grandkids.

Steve Burroughs: 23:28

Our intention and our hope is that we continue to grow this business and we have something to hand to our children and to our grandchildren and to let them continue to grow their, to grow the business, and that it will provide a wonderful lifestyle opportunity for generations to come.

Blythe Brumleve: 23:48

As long as they want it.

Steve Burroughs: 23:50

We got some that may not want it, but right now we do have. I mean, I have people a lot of times call me and ask me for jobs and I'm really honest I'm like, well, you're married already. If you're not willing to marry my daughter or not wearing mine, I'm sorry, can't help you out there, and so that's just kind of. We just don't go outside of the family, and it's an interesting model. It doesn't work for a lot of people, but it just it works for us.

Blythe Brumleve: 24:21

I imagine there's an almost an extra like. You already have a crazy amount of trust established, it sounds like, but now there's an extra layer of trust that maybe is your competitive advantage.

Steve Burroughs: 24:32

It is our competitive advantage. And I'll tell you why we do it like this, because there is a backstory to that. About 10 years ago we were talking with a lady and she was what I call a kitchen table broker and she literally built her business sitting at the kitchen table and she was by herself for 20 years and she built up a nice little income, you know, right at six figure income and but, but she had never been on a vacation in 20 years. This woman had never been on a vacation. So she hired her nephew, brought her nephew into the kitchen table, sat him down, taught him the business from top to bottom. You know, he was her extension, he was everything and she taught him everything. And then she went on vacation two weeks later, two weeks in Europe. Fabulous time came home. Nephew was gone, business was gone, customers gone, computers were gone and she started over. And I mean she was probably in her late fifties, early sixties and it's just a. I know that there are people, even in this conference they're very good friends of mine at this conference that have very successful businesses and they have outsiders that work for them. We just don't, we just don't.

Blythe Brumleve: 25:48

So how do you? I don't even know, like, how would you start over yourself, like after see? That's the question how do you start over and how?

Steve Burroughs: 25:55

do you protect yourself and how do you avoid?

Blythe Brumleve: 25:58

that, yeah, and I don't know how you avoid that.

Steve Burroughs: 26:00

I mean, you know, could we could we grow if we hired someone outside, maybe I don't know, but it's just something that it just doesn't interest us. So we just we enjoy doing this together too much, it's. I mean, honestly, it sounds like out of all of the.

Blythe Brumleve: 26:15

I've done a lot of these interviews, but it sounds like you really have it all figured out, like you've worked all aspects of the industry. Now you have a really great internal business structure. It's growing like crazy. You have a great partner with SBI Fabulous and what else do you want out?

Steve Burroughs: 26:32


Blythe Brumleve: 26:32

life Like um Harley Davidson.

Steve Burroughs: 26:34

No custom boots, I don't know if you all can see this on the video right now.

Blythe Brumleve: 26:38

But he has some very great looking boots and they are. Cayman and they were custom made. Custom made, yes, very nice. Thank you. Thank you From Florida.

Steve Burroughs: 26:47

So that's right Bonus.

Blythe Brumleve: 26:51

That's your bonus.

Steve Burroughs: 26:52

We, you know, we just, we just want to make sure that our family has a good lifestyle and and that they enjoy when we want them to want to come to the company and and that they enjoy when we want them to want to come to work. We don't all work in the same office, um, but one of the things that I've been very adamant about is that I want our customers and our carriers to feel like they're talking to a big corporation and, uh, I never want to be thought of as a kitchen table broker Again, nothing wrong with being a kitchen table broker but I think that when you talk to a carrier and you hear the screen door slamming and you hear the dogs yipping in the background and the kids crying and the television going to me, that's not somebody. That is a major player, and they don't want to be a major player and that's fine, but it doesn't work for us. Um, we, we do have a designated office in our home. Our carrier, our carriers, don't know it, customers don't know it. I mean, and when we leave our office, we can close it. It's a big office. We can, we can close the door, but you know, I have my son that works for us. He lives in Fort Lauderdale. We live in Venice, florida. My son lives in Fort Lauderdale. One of my daughters lives in Lincoln, nebraska, and she works for us. My daughter in law lives in Fayetteville, north Carolina. She works for us, and so we are on. And then my, my other two work, my daughter and son. They work in our office for now, um, but uh, we are on Zoom all day long. So we in the main office, um, mark Funk came and spent about a week with us learning our business when he first came to the company and one amazing addition to our, our company. But the biggest problem that we had at that time was how do we communicate with each other? So he came up with the idea, because of his background, and we have a big speaker, microphone speaker, that literally sits in the middle of our office and hooks up to one of the computers. So all of our computers are muted except for one, and we can see each other and we can talk to each other and hear each other all day long. And so we all work on every load together. Everybody has got their own little. You know one, one person's working on pricing loads and one person's working on tracking loads, and you know delivering loads and and and not picked up loads, and so we all kind of have our own little area of knowledge and expertise that we but we all work on the same loads together, and it's just worked out wonderfully.

Blythe Brumleve: 29:13

I have not heard of that yet. It's almost like putting the speaker in the middle. So everybody, it's still. You're mimicking the in office of like a brokerage floor, but at home at home, that's right. I mean honestly, it sounds like you have everything figured. Is there? Is there something that you want to learn more about this industry that you haven't already?

Steve Burroughs: 29:31

Yeah, how I can take more time off, you know, I mean, I mean I'm 53 years old and and you know we're, we're at a place where we are hoping to grow enough to where we are wanting to to, you know, back away from the business just a little bit and let let our children and our and our in-laws and I say in-laws, but I mean she's our kid too and and let them sort of step up and sort of, you know, assume, assume a little more, you know, responsibility and things like that, and and you know, kind of see where they can take it, because they're the, they're the young generation. I mean I'm the, I'm the Bert Reynolds smoking the band at Generation, you know, and and so I'm really looking forward and I and you, you spoke today at our conference about, about branding and things, and that's something we have not really done a good job of. And I and I saw, you know we were sitting in in your meeting and I I picked up my phone and I'm texting and I'm sorry that was texting, I hope you didn't see me, but I was texting everybody. I'm like do we need to hire someone to take care of our LinkedIn page? And so you know that's just something that we, we have really not gone down that road yet. But I do know that you know, and I'm not the older generation, I'm not the younger generation, I'm sort of that middle generation where you know, for me, the LinkedIn and the social media, and I still think you pick up a phone call and you go talk to people, but the people they're now becoming the button pushers and the gatekeepers. They're all younger and they're all, they're part of this social media generation and and I recognize that and and I recognize that that our role is changing, you know, and and so I think that we're we're upping our technology with SPI and I think we're going to look into our, our branding and our social media presence to move forward to the future. And that's the beautiful thing about SPI is they're they're always kind of trying to stay on the front end of technology and the trend, and we have done that as well with our, with our technology. Now, like I say, the social media presence who would have thought that it was going to be what it is now? I never would have. I figured Facebook will never last. You know, here it is and it's part of our daily lives, and so of course now I'll probably pick up my phone later and say why you question Facebook on Google. You know I'm like whoa, that's okay, that's scary. But yeah, I think that we're just trying to prepare into the future because we want to make sure that our kids, they, have something to call their own in years to come. And we talk about this quite often. You know, things are changing and the strength of our business has always been that we have we have sat on every side of the fence and we have the knowledge. We don't get excited about little ripples in the economy and little ripples in the business. We just we are very equipped to pivot with the business and we do that quite well and it's something that we have always done quite well. And and I know that SPI has got, you know, right now, you know the market's a little depressed and a little. You know they throw that recession word around a lot and and yet SPI is outperforming a lot of much, much, much bigger carriers. And I also know that we're preparing for the future and so that forethought that the company has has in mind is similar to what we have in mind. But yeah, that's that's how we are, that's how we are looking into the future of our business.

Blythe Brumleve: 32:58

Now. Now for folks who may not be familiar with your career background. Give us a rundown of what your career experience has been and what brought you into the logistics space.

Walter Mitchell: 33:10

Yeah, so my background is technology. I went to school with computer science as my focus, so I got a degree in computer science and then started writing software out of college and then in that time I came across an opportunity to build. At the time was a rating tool for LTL, and that was in the a while ago back, when we didn't have as many great options for rating APIs weren't a thing and so I started on this project. I thought it was going to be a six month project and it was. It was a short term project but then after that is when I got introduced to a TMS and I started building a TMS in, I guess, around 2002, built up a TMS, had a partner that I was working with at the time and we were promoting and selling our TMS to freight brokers, and then ended up splitting up from there in around 2012, and then moved into staying in TMS. I've been true to the broker facing TMS my whole career. I just can't get away from it at this point and it's a great segment. I really enjoy working with this segment, so it's a good path for my career. So then worked on another version of a TMS and a separate business, and at that time, we were also partnered with a freight company. We split off from them during COVID and in 2020, at the beginning of COVID Ty was was separated and formed and we've been using the TMS platform that we built before that. So our platform's been around for a little over 10 years and so it's matured and it's grown up. But we've learned a lot of lessons along the way and now we're a pure broker facing TMS product and continue to try to help and provide great tools for the broker to face.

Blythe Brumleve: 35:03

And so you mentioned that you're one of those crazy people that decides to build a TMS. How does that process get started? How do you decide? How do you wake up one day and say I think I'll be able to TMS today?

Walter Mitchell: 35:14

Yeah, I like to say youth and enthusiasm is probably what got me started on it. But, being with the technology background, I think it makes sense for there to be great technology solutions that should be focused with people who have a little more of a technology background but still know our industry. You got to balance the two and make sure that you have both a really strong technical skill set as well as really specific industry knowledge. And if you're going to tackle TMS, those two components have to go together and they have to work together in a way that's well balanced. Otherwise the TMS you produce it'll be too skewed one way or the other. And so that's what got me into. It is, I had that technology background, I understood the business and there was a pretty big gap in TMSs and I think there still is some gap. And that's what Ty's trying to do is we're trying to build a TMS and we're trying to continue to build a TMS, provided for a freight broker, that really focuses on the operational guys, that really focuses on making sure that, operationally, the team that's using it gains value. And I know that kind of seems like a little bit obvious, but it's sometimes not. Sometimes we lose sight of what the technology is supposed to be doing and who it's supposed to be helping, and that's really one of the key things we focus on at Ty, and I think we have more room to go and I think a lot of our competitors and a lot of other TMSs have a significant amount of space that they need to work on, to continue and focus on that area.

Blythe Brumleve: 36:48

And so when you talk about your strong focus on the operational side of things, is it maybe fair to say that a lot of the TMS solutions before Ty didn't focus in that area? I guess an eagle-eye look of what the TMS ecosystem looked like and then where you thought Ty was going to be a good fit.

Walter Mitchell: 37:11

I think what ends up happening and this is a really common situation for technology products is a product will get created and it'll solve a specific need and a need that exists in that time frame. But there's a bit of a challenge that comes with that in that they get aged and as they get older they stop solving that problem as well as they did before. And it's kind of that misconception you get about technology, which I think is changing a lot now, but you can't just build it and then use it forever. You have to continually invest in technology, just like if we look at something like our iPhone. Right, if we break out our old 2007 iPhones, we're going to be pretty sad using those today, so you have to have the. I hope somebody actually goes and pulls out their old iPhone and tries it out. That would really warm my heart and because we'd see that they change and the apps were using were more sophisticated. The requirements that we have change, our businesses change, all of that changes and it's a good idea for us to think about technology the same way and to think of technology as an evolving process and an evolving product, and that's where you gain a lot of value from working with companies like tie. We are a cloud based solution, so we're constantly making sure our software is updated and you don't have to worry about updating server infrastructure or reinstalling a new operating system for your TMS. We take care of all that for you. We take it, we make it easy for the broker to evolve. We make it easy for them, especially like on the truckload side. For example, we've seen so many changes in the last few years with the digital freight management tools. Well, if your product that you're using stopped iterating a few years ago, today you're behind and you're going to really struggle, and so that's what we see primarily as one of the important things that we're trying to promote across the TMS spaces Make sure you're continually evolving, make sure you're continually working to provide good value to your ops team, your accounting team, everybody who uses the technology.

Blythe Brumleve: 39:26

Is it maybe another safe assumption to say that for TMS systems, especially some of the legacy ones, they've been kind of just doing their own thing for a while, maybe not resistant to change, but maybe just a little bit slower to it than some of the newer solutions that are coming onto the market, which maybe are a little bit more hyper focused? Like I noticed in a lot of the Thai demos you're strongly focused on, like truckload and LTL, whereas maybe another TMS solution might be focused only on reefer. Can you give us kind of I guess, sort of a competitive landscape? Look at, what does the eco, what does the overall system look like? Is it more evolving into these specialized markets or is there some good all-in-one solutions that still exist?

Walter Mitchell: 40:19

That's a really tough question and an important one. I think part of it's a business decision. We feel like we focus on LTL and full truckload primarily. We do support a bunch of other modes and types of transportation, but those are the two areas where we know we do a really, really good job. I think the same thing kind of applies to other components of life like, for example, in the construction space. Typically, a general contractor is going to do a great job of managing your project and helping get things through, but you don't always want your general contractor being your plumber. There are different kinds of things. I think, the same thing applies in the freight space is that LTL and full truckload they're already have different conversations and different workflows, but when you throw Expedited in there or International, it's a very different type of a situation. So what we focus on, and what I think is an important way to focus, is to be really, really good at the areas that you're supporting and allow other products to be really good at their areas. I think you add a lot of value that way, and especially with APIs and connectivity that's available today, you can operate with multiple TMSs or multiple products to run your business that can all communicate really well together. That was 10 years ago. That was a lot harder, so having a single product that did everything was maybe a little bit better a decade ago, but today we have a little more flexibility.

Blythe Brumleve: 41:54

I think that that's very comparable to marketing. Now, I'm pretty good at content marketing, but if you asked me to create an ad campaign, I'd kind of be lost. So I would rather hire somebody who specializes in that versus trying to do it myself or trying to learn it myself, because the cost reward is just so much more beneficial just to hire this person, or hire the tool, or buy the tool that actually works for that specific problem that you're trying to solve.

Walter Mitchell: 42:27

I think that's a great parallel. Having the right skill set can be a tremendous value and reduce your time to market, reduce your time to get things done. So, yeah, it's a great analogy.

Blythe Brumleve: 42:42

And speaking of which you said or not you specifically, but in one of the freight waves demos that I was watching is that a tie is a TMS built for freight brokers. What do freight brokers need from a TMS that may be like a carrier or, I don't know, somebody working in rail what they would need, compared to a specifically a freight broker?

Walter Mitchell: 43:06

So we'd love to embrace brokers. It's a thing for us. I know sometimes broker the term can be sometimes looked upon poorly, but we don't think so. I think a broker is a huge value add in our business and super important to the logistics space. And we see brokers being super important in other areas too, like, for example, insurance. I don't think it's possible to buy insurance without a broker, and so in our space we really embrace the broker, and what that means is they have different needs than a carrier. A carrier, one of the important components is assets, making sure those assets are making them money all the time. That's a very important part of being a freight broker or, sorry, being a carrier. Well, freight brokers don't have that worry. Instead, they're worried more about making sure their customers are being well-serviced and they make sure that their carriers are being well-serviced. Their job is to make sure that both sides are getting what they need, whereas the carrier has to kind of focus a little more on their assets than anything else. And on the other side of shipper, their concern isn't really with their carrier, with the carriers. Their concern is how can they move their product as effectively as possible? How do I worry about things like what I've kept stored in my warehouses or what's coming out of my manufacturing centers. These are the things that shippers should be worried about, not necessarily the logistics side, and so that's where the broker fills a really important component of the logistics cycle, whereas they can really focus on both sides.

Blythe Brumleve: 44:48

And so, when it comes to choosing a TMS, I would probably argue that that is one of the most important decisions that a freight brokerage can make. What feature sets should a freight broker be on the lookout for when it comes to their TMS?

Walter Mitchell: 45:05

I think, tying back into what we were talking about before making sure that your TMS helps your team and helps the people on your staff operate effectively. Because, especially when we look at a freight broker and we look at their P&L, there's going to have two expenses that are their primaries. Number one expense is going to be freight costs, and that's a pretty important piece of it and will change based on how many shipments are moving and so forth. But their second, most important one, or largest, is going to be the cost of their staff, and staff is also the hardest part to grow and to modify and to train, and so we feel like staff being so important. We want to make sure that we're providing a product that helps your staff do their job really well, and that's what I think anybody should be looking for is to focus first on not necessarily can this product handle my three international shipments that I run every month or these special cases, but what's it going to do in 90% of my business? How will this help my operations team? How will it help my operations team communicate to my accounting team? How will it benefit my carriers that I work with? And when you're evaluating a TMS, if you're looking at those types of components and you're focused on what kind of value you're going to get and what value your business is going to gain from the TMS. You're going to end up selecting a product that's much better for the business.

Blythe Brumleve: 46:39

And so when you talk about some of those operational improvements I hear the words a lot of automation. That's built into Thai, but I guess automations are important for those repetitive tasks that freight brokers or even in accounting those folks, whatever they're using, what kind of? I guess maybe clear task should be automated with your TMS.

Walter Mitchell: 47:05

Yeah. So I could go on for days on this. This is one of my favorite subjects, so I'll hit on a couple of my favorites, but one of them is digital freight management and the tools that are available there, such as Green Screen and Parade and C4. There's a bunch of different products out there right now that are doing a really great job in adding a tremendous value. So your TMS needs to work with those tools in a compelling way, and automating the connection between those is more than just saying putting a checkbox in like, oh yeah, we support Parade. It's again back about that operational efficiency and making sure that we don't just support Parade, we don't just support Green Screen or any of the other or DATs products, but doing it in a way that really provides value to your team when they need it and to use it in a way that's there when they need it. So, for example, making sure that shipments get posted across at the right time, making sure they get removed from the load boards when they're covered that's one example of automation. That is an easy checkbox to say, yes, it's there, but how well it's done matters more than the fact that it can be done.

Blythe Brumleve: 48:22

And what? I guess what is a good example of like a bad way of how it gets done or maybe a slower way of how it gets done, versus like a really just tone, like honed in automation process, because I'm sort of a process nerd. I try to use Zapier anywhere I can in order to streamline some of these mundane tasks. So what maybe could you list off? Maybe like a few of the mundane tasks that brokers are responsible for. Maybe folks in accounting are responsible for, but they're just it's tedious that they have to do with any other platform.

Walter Mitchell: 48:56

Yeah. So I'll jump over to the accounting side a little bit and we'll talk about a process for accounting and one of them is POD recovery. Or actually let's talk about carrier bills and the recovery of a carrier bill Super important. We're going to be on every shipment and we need to verify that it's right. So with tie, one of the tools that we can do or one of the workflows that we cannot do in tie is to make sure that when those carrier bills come in, we can help you process them. And what we'll do with that is we'll we'll read the care, the email with the carrier bill attached to it, extract the carrier bill, extract content from the carrier bill, match it to the shipment that it belongs to make sure the pricing is all correct and then auto approve that carrier bill if everything's correct. And if it's not, then we'll send it to an exception workflow and allow your team to do a little more. And so this process of receiving that email for you, extracting it, attaching the bill to the to the shipment, and all of those steps, those should save the user a significant amount of time, and that time saving on every single bill really compiles into a significant time saving for your accounting team, and it also has an additional benefit of reducing typos and reducing errors.

Blythe Brumleve: 50:13

That was going to be my next question, as I would imagine that it would reduce the amount, those amount of errors, because it's just natural to be able to if you're tired in the day, it's a long day and you get these bills and you want to send it over to accounting, but maybe you just enter in the decimal in the wrong place or something like. That's a big difference.

Walter Mitchell: 50:30

And it's really easy to do, right, I mean we're humans and we get tired and we do make small mistakes like that, and so that's exactly what we're trying to accomplish is let's reduce that type of work from your staff and let them focus on the important things Like, for example, that that shipment comes back and it's $120 more than what originally was, and then we'll see on there that something like detention, and then we can call the customer and tell them like, hey, this bills off because of detention, and was there really a detention? And maybe there was, maybe there wasn't right, and then we can work on it from there. But you can have your staff working on things that are more engaging, right, that are going to excite them a little bit more, because it's a lot more interesting to have that conversation than it is to be entering. You know $2,650 and 25 cents that you're reading off of a PDF.

Blythe Brumleve: 51:25

And I think, too, with that and one of the other interviews that I was listening to, is that you said it gives the brokers more time back to look at the analytics side of things, especially with the customers that they're working with and quoting and, you know, integrations into all of these different tool sets that can help them do their job not only faster but more profitable, which is probably what every broker wants right now. So, from a data perspective, what is important when you get that time back and you're able to look at analytics? What type of analytics are the most important for a broker to be paying attention to?

Walter Mitchell: 52:05

Well, that's a tough one. There's so many great things that we can be focused on, but one of the things that we like to look at is just overall profitability is probably the easiest one, because we can see things like if there's a trend, a declining trend, or if there's trends based on customers. One thing, one analytic or piece of information that we really like to work with, are customer trends Right, so you can see, for example, how profitable is this customer over a span of time, or even how much volume is a customer working with us over a span of time, so you can produce almost a net promoter score for your customers and that's a value to the broker, because now they can be looking and saying, oh, this customer is a really good customer and it can be based off of metrics instead of feeling, and that's that type of data and being able to spend the time to look at that data can really help the business and help you understand what your customer base looks like. So you can, in a perfect world, spend more time on your good customers and more time on the customers that are helping benefit the business and the team the most, and then hopefully do something different with the others.

Blythe Brumleve: 53:23

Well, yeah, and I would imagine that that would also clear up the perspective for them to know what customers to target in the future. And these are extremely profitable relationships on both sides of the coin. I would imagine that that would tie in nicely with the email feature that you guys also have as well, which, if you could just break down that email feature, because from what I understand, it's very good with quoting and also possibly scouting new customers to partner with.

Walter Mitchell: 53:53

Yeah, so our emailing tool. It's really kind of matured a lot over the last couple years, and what we're trying to accomplish with that is we used to use faxes right Back when we had our 2007 iPhones Some still do. Yeah, we had our fax machines. There are still some, but fortunately I can tell you that we see our volume of faxing drops.

Blythe Brumleve: 54:14

Thank God A very small number.

Walter Mitchell: 54:16

Yes, yeah, we're very happy about that. But that evolution means that we've moved on to something else and that's email, and we see that brokers are spending so much time managing email. In fact, I was just dealing with a customer recently, or a prospect, that was not only dealing with emails individually, but they had a distribution group. So they have a group of six or seven people that were receiving and replying to all these emails and I was asking I'm like, how much time do you think it takes out of your day, or out of your staff's day, to read 12 emails about an issue when only one person needed to solve the problem? And as they're reading through those 12, and there's five other people doing the exact same thing, they don't know until they're finished if the problem need to be resolved or if it required their assistance, or even if it's going to provide any value to them to read through that. So our emailing tool is there to help simplify that, and there's still some great tools out there that should be used like front and help scout and other tools that manage email and manage those distribution boxes. But what Ty can do is you can give us the ability to look at those emails and we'll read them and if they apply to a shipment, we'll automatically extract the information from that email and then we'll add it to the shipment that it belongs to and then alert the proper user. So maybe you have like the gold team, and gold team is responsible for all shipments coming from, coming out of California. Any shipment that has an email that's received that's associated to a shipment out of California can automatically notify the gold team. Like hey, here's an activity, and as soon as somebody on that team goes and looks at it in the TMS, without ever going to their email, they can go and take a look at that shipment, they can see the email associated to it, reply to the customer. It'll go back into the email thread and close out the email form and they've done all that from inside their TMS. And so we're not trying to replace email, but what we're trying to do is simplify that whole process so it's less friction for the operational guy, less friction for the people that are dealing with thousands of emails a day.

Blythe Brumleve: 56:34

Speaking of. I mean I feel like if you just cut down on a fraction of those emails, that that frees up more time to be able to focus on, like what we mentioned earlier with analytics and developing those deeper relationships with your customers what other integrations within tie really make you excited for freight brokers today.

Walter Mitchell: 56:53

Yeah, there's a lot of them. This is another one where I can go on for days. We have some great partners that we work with across the board. I mentioned a couple of them. Companies like Parade and Greenscreen and Highway, just to list a few, have done so many really cool things to innovate in our space and to help improve the way that we run and manage freight. So working with those kinds of partners I consider to be a pleasure and a real push in the right direction to help further simplify the life for freight brokers and offer more functionality and make their life a little easier and better. So those things definitely get me pretty excited. From our product itself. I already talked about the emailing thing a little bit, but it's super exciting to me. I think that that's an area where tie is really innovating and really driving the market forward, and I think we provide a tremendous value to the operations process and the execution of freight, and then document processing too and our ability to extract those, as I talked about, with carrier bills. So those are all things that really get me geeky.

Blythe Brumleve: 58:11

So with one thing about I always like to pay attention to how software is being marketed in this space, and with tie in particular. You talk about how it's an all in one or not all in one, but an out of the box solution that broker just can get up and running within a month, and I think that that for me personally. I was part of a 3PL that went through a TMS switch and it took anywhere from eight to 12 months in order to complete this process. It was extremely painful for all parties, all departments involved. How do you make that process so much painless and much quicker?

Walter Mitchell: 58:55

So it's a super important part of the process because it's also the biggest hurdle in switching a TMS is sometimes just the fear of what is this implementation going to look like, what is it going to do to my team? And so at tie we focus really heavily on making sure that our onboarding team is top of the line. They are well trained, they understand the broker, they understand the business and because we're focused and we work with mostly LTL and full truckload and only brokers, we don't have to worry about some of the peripheral information because we know who we're trying to help and how we're trying to help them. So it makes our onboarding team all of these things combined make it so our onboarding team can execute at a really high level. And our average onboarding time right now is 36 days, and which is I don't know of all my competitors, but I'm very sure that it's the fastest in the industry. And the reason we focus on that is because we don't want the process to hurt for the broker. The point is to provide value and if I got to stretch that value over nine months of pain now, I got to recover nine months of pain before we get to feel the benefit right. So we don't want that and we focus to make sure that we know exactly what the process looks like. We have a really well structured plan for how we get you from A to B, and that plan makes it really easy for us to follow along and execute at a high level. But then also and another point of it is in a different area is that software's kind of evolved a little ways as well, and when you think about even things like our email, when a lot of companies are using email packages like Google Workspace and Office 365, these are out of the box solutions. There are professional services that can be added onto it, but you don't have to have them and as much as there's a lot of value to professional services and having that expertise, an out of the box package allows you to execute quick and execute at best practices without that long roadmap. So a combination of these things all together helps tie execute at a really high level and bring value to the brokerages really fast, and that's the important part.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:01:21

Can you give us a few examples of what maybe those aha moments look like for the brokers after the onboarding experience is completed? They're up and running and they're on the new TMS. What are some of those moments where it's like oh yes, this was a great decision that we made.

Walter Mitchell: 1:01:37

Yeah, I think one of the biggest ones that I like to talk about is quality of execution, and it ties into the integration to our partners, because of similar to what we were talking about before. You have this idea where just a connection to the DAT load board is good and, yeah, that is good, but that doesn't get you where you need to go. You need to make sure that that connection is working in a way that matters to your team. So, for example, one of the differentiators that we see is it's great to be able to post from your TMS to the load board, but what happens tomorrow? What if that freight isn't ready for for today and it needs to be posted tomorrow? So, having time based posting and having the ability to repost, remove and repost when you need to are all things that we focus on to make sure that the integration that we have to the load boards executes the way that your operations team wants it to work, not just making the connection for the sake of making it. And so that's one of the moments where the freight brokers are like oh yeah, this is helping me is because we focus so much on making sure that the quality of execution around these integrations and around everything we do is really high.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:03:02

Now you, you said a phrase there for a minute and you said tie these integrations together. Is that where the company name tie comes from?

Walter Mitchell: 1:03:09

It's not, but it is hard to not to not tie it together that way, right, so we do have a little fun with that in our office I was going to say where did the I guess the name for the company come from? Transportation. Applied intelligence is where came.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:03:25

Oh cool. I like it. Akron based and and synergy with the phrase as well.

Walter Mitchell: 1:03:32

And for us it's easy to spell, so that that definitely matters. One of our previous companies our name was really hard to spell, so we were definitely very focused on making sure we had a name that everybody could read and and spell. In fact, we even changed it. We used to have capital AI, but people would call it T AI and that was too confusing with T I a. So right. Yeah, so there's. You know, we're not perfect.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:03:58

So now it comes off, you know, in a much better direction.

Walter Mitchell: 1:04:01

Yeah so. So now tie just works a little easier.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:04:06

Yes, it's simple, it's to the point and you can play off it with marketing phrases and all that. Now, now looking towards the future for a little bit for the TMS landscape. If you could have one dream, sort of wish or integration for the overall, just TMS landscape, what, what would it be and why?

Walter Mitchell: 1:04:27

So I'm really pushing big. On email, if there was the area that I would really love to see a lot more progress is is in the emailing workflows and in the way that we connect to our customers and our carriers. So there's a pretty big gap there and we have a lot of the functionality and tie today that can help help reduce that and help make that more streamlined, but adoption of it is still a work in progress. So that would be the area that I think we can make such a tremendous difference and that that the industry will really change when, when you start bringing in these tools together, so that you don't have such a discrepancy between the work that you're doing outside your TMS to the work you're doing inside. And you know we. It's so cliche, but communication is important, right, we all know it's important, but it's also really hard and and that's the part where we disvalue the communication a little bit is that it is really hard and and tedious. It can be tedious as well. So let's make those better and and I think what you'll see when we do that is we see it in CRMs today, right Like HubSpot and Salesforce have tremendous products and those products are focused on communicating with sales prospects. Well, our, our customers from a freight broker. They are sales prospects and so treating them where the same way and communicating with them and setting up automated workflows and integrating in our communication mechanisms together, that's the area where I think we're going to see a tremendous amount of change in the next few years in the TMS space.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:06:12

That's interesting. You say that because that was always one of my biggest gripes when I was handling marketing at a 3PL is that the TMS was essentially worthless to me and I knew that there was so much potential there because it had all the customer insights and the data points, but they're outside of exporting. You know a contact list. That was the extent of what I could use it for. So I'm curious if you're aware of you know you just mentioned, like HubSpot and maybe Salesforce integrations into tie. But are there any other maybe marketing feature sets that you know maybe are on the horizon or you think that you know should be included? I don't even know what would be included outside of you know email communications, but I'm just curious to hear your thoughts.

Walter Mitchell: 1:06:52

So we're not necessarily trying to be a marketing platform alone, but what we do want to do is we provide a lot of templates so that your emails go out using templates. And it seems like a pretty straightforward thing, but those templates can have some tremendous impact. Like, for example, the number one question that I think we should ask our as a freight broker, that we should ask our customers on every time we communicate with them, is do you have any more freight? Is there anything else I can quote for you? But these are simple questions that that every time we touch a customer, we should be asking and, with the templates, and if we bring our emailing into the TMS and we use templates to reply to customers, we can keep that on our template and we can keep it there all the time. So every single email that goes out as a business owner or as the leader of a brokerage, I can make sure and and put that across the whole system. So then, in 95% of my emails that are going to customers, I'm asking that question and that's going to provide a tremendous impact, because if you, even if you bring that number from up from 60% to 90%, that's tremendous Right.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:08:07


Walter Mitchell: 1:08:08


Shay Dixon: 1:08:10

My name is Shailen Dixon. I am the CEO of Allegiant Logistics, so I am operating a third party logistics company and we specialize in the aerospace and manufacturing sectors. So for me, I have always been a creative. I learned from several other influencers. I kind of watch people and I enjoy making video content. I've done it for clients in a consulting role and now that I am in the logistics space, I'm like why can't I make this fun? Why can't I connect with shippers, other brokers, other people in the industry and enjoy the process? So I've been really enjoying being on LinkedIn and using this space to share my journey as a new broker. Our experiences are so unique and I hope that I'm encouraging somebody.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:09:00

You absolutely are. I mean, you're encouraging me, so I hope that everybody else that that's watching will feel the same way. But I was listening to your interview on the Trucking for Millennials podcast, which is a great episode If you are going. If you enjoyed this episode, I imagine that you would enjoy that episode as well. She goes super in depth on her business and just different strategies. But you said that you were doing consulting work for women and minority owned companies because they needed more guidance on the fundamentals. Can you elaborate a little bit on what's missing between those communities that you hope to shed a light on?

Shay Dixon: 1:09:33

Well, I also think that content marketing or any type of content is it really requires a specific strategy, and no one ever taught me a strategy. So I sometimes feel in these spaces we don't always invest in those things because we're trying to do the day to day, run the business, you know, learn how to handle the back office, learn how to handle the accounting portion, learn how to make sure all our legal documents are in order. So sometimes content becomes something on the back burner. And so, for me, when we opened our business and we started our business, I knew that this was going to be the most important thing to get us visible. When you're in logistics, you have to stand out. Shippers, customers, everyone that I've met or come in contact with it's because I've met them in a different way. It was never me calling them and saying, hey, shipper, I'm Shay Lynn Dixon. You know I want to move right for you. It was always them connecting with the personal story that I told them, connecting with something that I shared, a challenge or an obstacle that we found our opportunity in or in a way that I've served. So I really wanted to serve other women, especially because I feel like we're underrepresented and sometimes we struggle on how to fit into this space, whether it's how we show up or, you know, if we're funny or if we're formal. I know I struggled at the beginning of my journey so I made sure that I could encourage other women and kind of teach them how to show up fully, share their knowledge. Even if you're new, you have something to share. You've overcome something, you've had a challenge and I really just, you know, wanted to grow from there and help other people grow.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:11:17

And you make a great point because I think it's sort of similar for me. When I first got into logistics, I was like, well, it's sort of stuffy. It's one of those platforms where you got to keep your business side on one and then your you know your entertainment side on another, and it's a hard line between the two. So how did you, how did you balance that that initial struggle of what kind of content and how you were going to get the name of your company out there, Because you started your company in a pandemic. So everybody's home, everybody's looking for some kind of, you know, entertainment option, and you were able to provide that in a social media space.

Shay Dixon: 1:11:52

Right. So it was a struggle at first, because I really didn't understand what my goal was. Right, that was the biggest thing in the beginning. I was just putting out content, but I didn't have a strategy and it wasn't specific about who exactly am I talking to. So the first thing I did is just figure out a strategy. Honestly, I told my entire team okay, what do we want to accomplish this month in our customer base, in our social media space? Whether it's positioning our business, whether it's building trust, whether it's just allowing people to get to know who I am, shaylynn Dixon as the CEO of the company, because I believe that if people can trust me, then they'll trust my brand. So I made sure that every day I posted, I had a specific audience. So when I spoke to a shipper, I spoke directly to them, you saying I, you know, being direct, as if I'm speaking to one person. So I was able to connect more with people in that realm and then with people in my peers. I wanted to come from an encouraging standpoint because there were several people, like you know. I won't name anybody specifically because I don't want to forget anybody, but you know there's specific people in our industry that are so inspiring and so encouraging. Like I'll just say, chris Jolly I follow him all the time. I love his content. Dan Deegan you know I really enjoy following those people and you were one of them as well and Sarah Barnes Humphrey, and just making sure that I engage with those people, but what I noticed is that there's not much representation.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:13:28

Yeah, you're definitely right, because it's almost a situation where if you can take a blueprint of what somebody else is doing, well then you can kind of notice what are the questions that the content creators that you like what are they covering and why and sort of try to reverse engineer of what they're doing. And then you're also checking out who's commenting on those posts, what kind of questions are they in, what kind of questions are they asking? Figuring that stuff out and then adjusting your plan on the fly because we can strategize I think a lot of us learned that lesson the hard way a year ago that we can strategize for a full year and then something out of our control is going to hit and it's going to. That plan is going to go right out the window. And one of the things that I really loved about hearing your interview is that you mentioned that you have eight employees now and you invested in your processes first before you invested in technology, and you figured out how technology fits into those processes, which I love, because I know a lot of people out there, including myself, have probably wasted a lot of money on getting some new software. So how did you figure out what kind of software you needed, because I feel like that is such an intimidating thing for a new business owner, especially in logistics, where you're trying to learn everything on the logistics side, the operation side, and then how technology fits into it. So what were the first few, I guess, tech investments that you made, that you said these are the ones that we got to have.

Shay Dixon: 1:14:54

Well for me. I don't ever want to recreate the wheel, so I go by what other successful people have done. So, even looking at like the CEO of Nike, I know that every single aspect of the business. He learned that and then made better process. So when I started off, my mind frame was I need to do every single part of the process, make the process as efficient as possible, and what I realized is that when it came to our accounting process and when it came to our TMS system, those were the two most important parts of our technology investments. So for me, I recognize that instead of hiring like two more dispatchers or an accountant, I made sure that I partnered with the factoring company Axel that handles most of my accounts receivable accounts, payable collections so I'm uploading everything into their portal. And what people don't understand is that, as a millennial, I want my job to be as easy as possible. If I can replace a person with technology, I would any day, because technology, 99% of the time, is going to perform at 100%. People don't always right. That's just where you're starting up. I need 100% performance. So it made it a lot easier for me with that and then with my TMS system, because I didn't need to have someone sending out reports, someone you know. I can track and trace everything from one screen, and that saved me hours in the day so I could spend more time doing other things and seeking out new business.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:16:30

And you also mentioned that the training and mentorship that you yourself took part in before you ever even opened up the doors. How did you know what training and mentorship to even go after before starting a business?

Shay Dixon: 1:16:44

So I didn't know. Honestly. It was trial and error, and I listened to a lot of other podcasts. I listened to a lot of people who are in the industry and the mistakes that they've made and the successes they've had. So one thing I learned is to focus on specifically what people can quantify right and show you that they've actually done, instead of what they say they do. So when I looked for someone specifically to mentor me, I had two women that mentored me. I specifically looked for people that were not just saying they could do something, but showing me and doing it in their business, and I felt like that was solid enough for me to start with learning from them. And then I made sure that I took it upon myself to continuously grow and I continuously grow from a lot of mentors in all. I listened to podcasts all day long. I literally was in great waves all the time, like put my coffee down. I wanted to know what's going on in the industry, because no one can take that knowledge away from you.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:17:46

Exactly, and so you have benefited from that mentorship role, and now you've actually signed on to become a mentor, to sort of give back to the community as well, and tell us a little bit about the ladies of logistics and your new mentorship role that you have within them.

Shay Dixon: 1:18:01

Yes. So leading ladies of logistics started in 2017, tristan and then she added some partners Samantha, tawana and Vanessa so they basically realized that there wasn't a large space for women in the industry, whether you're a fleet owner or whether you have a freight brokerage or whether you're offering warehousing services. So they thought of creating a safe space for women to engage, for women to share resources, to give that free game that everyone is looking for, that you can't find on Google and you can't find on YouTube. When you have a claim and now you don't know what to do, your driver's not answering. You have no idea where your driver is being able to put that in our private group and be like guys. I've never experienced this before. What do I do? So that's really where it started with the mentoring, and they have a broker portal and they do events here in Atlanta, and so it's a great way for other women to connect that are new in the industry.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:19:00

Absolutely. I started following them on all their social media accounts and just to see the interaction between the group. It just seems like such a great place to have that networking and that safe space that you mentioned. Now, earlier in the show you said that you handle the content creation for the business. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration? Where do you find inspiration and how does that factor into your overall strategy? Are you posting to social media daily? Are you email marketing? Are you focusing on your website? Break that down a little bit for us.

Shay Dixon: 1:19:32

So we do everything. So, honestly, when I was younger, my dad is amazing and if you're listening to Dad, I love you. So, and he's a Latin teacher and he always used to say every time I was like Dad, I'm going to do this, dad, I'm going to do that. He would be like Carpe diem. So my email signature even says Carpe diem and it means seize the day. And so when I started the business, we could not afford to pay somebody $2,000, $3,000 a month to create content for us. So I felt like I had to do what I could as the youngest person on my team, as the millennial and as someone that understands the role of social media and content strategy and marketing. So I really came from a space of. I will post every day, or at least try. I utilize accounts as such, as later or planally, depending on which platform it is. I will outsource my graphic design occasionally, but most of the time I make all of our content for the business page and my page in Canva. I've taken courses, I read up on it. I feel like there's nothing in the content space that you can't learn. It's just having a willingness and a desire to show up, and I wanted my brand to be trustworthy and people trust your brand when your branding and your content strategy align, so that people know my story, People know what our company specializes in, they know where I'm going, they know my strategy for the business, what our growth plan is, and it's because I've communicated that through our content strategy. So that was almost as important as our business foundation, because this is how we are positioning and publicizing our brand. Before doing podcast interviews or any of that, that's all I had to do.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:21:26

So that's super insightful, because you mentioned a few tools in there that I've used on the regular. So I think it's knowing and spreading awareness of how much time commitment goes into it and how sometimes we don't really know if a post is going to perform well. We just kind of hit post and just hope for the best. So, with that in mind, do you have a favorite platform that you'd like to participate in?

Shay Dixon: 1:21:51

So I love Instagram because I am like myself. I love TikTok too, but I love Reels because, of course, the visibility. So I love that because my friends are there, so people in the industry, so it's enjoyable. However, for my business, linkedin is the best place. I tell everyone I literally, when you talk about like spending time creating content and not knowing how it's going to perform, I've spent hours on some content and then it just got two legs and then I recorded a nine second video in a warehouse and it was all I said is happy Friday, have an awesome day. And it's still. People still view it now and it's like months later I got customers from that one video and I didn't. There was no planning in it. I was like, ok, so now I'm learning to plan content but also do some of my content off of the cuff to see how that'll perform as well. So it's trial and error.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:22:52

It really is because you brought up a great point. There are so many times when I have sat through and I have strategically planned out a week's worth of content and what I'm going to record and I'm going to hit post and I'm going to post it at this time of the day because that's when my audience is most active. That's what the tools tell me, and then it falls flat. Or you do something like post a meme to LinkedIn Falls flat. But a short form video that goes up to TikTok that is an office tool that I like to use ends up getting a half a million views on it and I'm like, how does this even make sense? So one of those things with content is like not to think about your strategy but don't put all your eggs in one basket with that one strategy. Do you know of, like a marketing or digital media strategy that you want to learn more about that you don't know yet?

Shay Dixon: 1:23:43

So I do not do a lot of video content. Definitely nothing that's long form. Everything I do is short form because people's attention span is short, so anything over 15 per second. Normally I'm scrolling past. So I try to do like short content and you have to catch me on, like the first 15 seconds, like I need it to be like. So I haven't done anything longer, but I would like to learn how to, because I've learned a lot over the last few months and I want to be able to share it. But I want it to captivate people, right. I don't want it to fall flat or for people to be bored, and I think that that's the hardest part going from doing that short content to doing longer content or like, even, like you're doing, hosting a show, right, that's you have to practice. And those, yes, and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to get more practice in that area, in that space, so I can show up more.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:24:40

Yeah, definitely. I mean obviously. You have the knowledge and the experience being a CEO of a fast growing company. So tell us a little bit more about your company and what you specialize in.

Shay Dixon: 1:24:52

So we specialize in the transportation of high cargo value products, whether it's in the aerospace industry or whether it's in the manufacturing sector. So we just basically have expanded over time. We do provide three third party solutions. So, whether it's helping ship or source carriers or whether it's helping them with their process internally, I am a problem solver and so is my team, so that's where we've kind of found our niche. You know Georgia's. We have Robbins Air Force Base, which is one of the three US Air Force Air Logistic Centers in the US, and there's over 500 companies here in Georgia that specialize in all facets and the aerospace industry. So when we first started I was like we love airplanes and I will tell everybody that I'm going to own a private jet, so I'm highly interested in them, Like people are with cars. I love airplanes and I love flying and traveling on airplanes. So researching about it and learning about the industry has made it. You know it's not work for us because we enjoy it. So you know, when I'm talking to my customers about thrust reversers, other people are like what are you talking about? I'm like it's OK, we'll get the fan cow moved and it all be good. And it's because I enjoy it and I like it, and there's not a lot of people like me in this industry, so I try to bring a little bit of a different skill set or creativity or innovation, and it's exciting to me.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:26:22

So you launch a business in a pandemic. You're going after an industry that maybe not a lot of folks know about. How did you land your your first customer, your first client to do business with you?

Shay Dixon: 1:26:34

A Facebook post. So I am bold in selling, talking about my business, talking about what I'm passionate about, talking about my goals. And I think that over the years myself, my business partner, tisse, and then our CFO, larry, and our director of operations, demetrius I think that the four of us, we've built so many relationships. So when we first started, we were telling everyone listen, I've supported all of you and everything you've ever done. We have a logistics company. I need you to tap into your sphere of influence. I would like an opportunity. You know we're a minority woman owned company, so sometimes there's some barriers for us to get in with shippers. So I always say, hey, can you introduce me to someone? Do you know anyone? And someone on my Facebook reached out and connected us with an aerospace company and we had our grand opening on October 2nd and on Monday, october 5th, the customer asked us to be start doing work with them in Spotlane. So the relationship started and we've been able to keep that ever since. So it was really, literally, as I tell my team, I always shoot my shot, Like every time I get, I'm like hey, any aerospace companies listening, I would love to serve you. I do it every, every place I'm at anywhere. I'm in the grocery store and I hear someone talking about manufacturing. I'm like, hey, I have a logistics company, I would love to serve you, and they're always looking at me like OK, but it's work for us and that's how we got our first customer.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:28:07

That's awesome. So a few days later you have your first customer right after opening the doors. I imagine that was such an exciting and sort of like a sigh of relief almost too, because months and months of planning went into this before you opened up the doors, Is that?

Shay Dixon: 1:28:21

correct. It's so many months Like since March we've been planning. We filed for the business in June and then we waited to have our grand opening after we got our authority. But what we did that was a little bit different is that I told our story every step of the way, from the very beginning, when we were like we have an idea, you know, we have an idea, this crazy idea. And then we talked about more and we talked about finding our office space, and I shared a lot on my Instagram and on my Facebook so that people could see, behind the scenes, the challenges of finding the right office space where we could host clients but it would be fiscally responsible and, you know, making sure that we had all of our ducks in the rows and you know, different challenges that we overcame along the way. I shared that publicly on social media. And so, when people were already invested into our journey before we even had our grand opening, they had been watching us and seeing how we were going to. So I made sure that a part of my strategy was positioning our business so that people in our community and people around us felt like they were a part of the start of it, and so they were. They bought into the success of our business and made sure they did whatever they could to push us forward.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:29:35

I love that and it's such a good case of of how sometimes the ROI doesn't doesn't show up in an analytics report, but for a lot of people, the ROI and analytics reports are important. Do you, do you follow any kind of you know, maybe Google analytics or or any other kind of measurement tool in order to see I guess the quote unquote true success of your, your social?

Shay Dixon: 1:29:59

media posts. So Google is number one. I even share posts on Google and a lot of people don't understand. They're like why would I post on Google? I'm like because it's free marketing. People search everything on Google. So if I'm putting out content, the same content that I'm sharing on other platforms, I repurpose that on Google and those analytics are through the roof. That also helps with my website, my website I'll. I'll see when I do shows like this or different things, different platforms, podcasts, I'll see a spike and an increase in the insights on my website. And that's why I love Wix, because on the backend, I can see how many people are coming to the site. Or, from an email marketing standpoint, when I send out a campaign, I can see who opened the campaign, how many people you know click through to schedule a call, how many people were interested, and then I know to pitch them a little bit differently and kind of court them a little bit differently, whether on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:30:53

Yeah, I love that you bring that up, because I had also heard you say that you're you're the millennial of the executive team and everybody else kind of had a different version of how we're going to launch this business. I think you mentioned that they were going to send out flyers and you said, no, we're not going to do that.

Shay Dixon: 1:31:09

Yeah, oh, and I think that there's an age difference. So I tell people all the time being, I love being a millennial. There's a challenge and a power struggle sometimes when it comes to our content strategies, but they support me, right, and then I listen to them when they're talking about you know, maybe we shouldn't, do, you know, spend this amount on branding photos. Maybe we should put the budget at you know this amount. So it's a give and take, but we really have found balance with that. Even with professional photos, they were like we don't need that. So I'm like, yes, we do, we need professional photos. I created our website, but I wanted it a specific way. So there were certain things that I felt were important um, investing in in in beginning for our branding, you know, whether it's our logo or whatever and and they were like, okay, well, we're trusting you. You know, I feel like there's some skepticism in the logistic space about the return on investment, because sometimes it's not a dollar amount, right, it's positioning, and if I'm positioned in a place where a customer can see me or a shipper can find me, then now we've created more opportunity, and sometimes people don't necessarily agree with that, but it is true.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:32:20

How am I? And I think you know, obviously you started making the media round, so you're starting to get that attention, that that leg work is starting to pay off. And so how do you? I guess you you mentioned that your communication strategies have changed from a millennial to a non millennial how does your communication strategy change in an online environment? Uh, you know, from a LinkedIn to an Instagram, I imagine you know LinkedIn probably is a little bit more polished, whereas like Instagram, you can be a little bit more casual, is that?

Shay Dixon: 1:32:50

is that a fair statement? Definitely, linkedin is super polished. I'm always going to represent my brand. I still stay true to myself. Um, but I make sure that I'm. You know, I don't. I don't use slang, it's not relatable because my friends are not on LinkedIn. I'm here to connect in a professional environment and I want people to understand who I am as a professional. Now, if you want to get to know who I am more as a person, instagram is a great place, because I am going to. I tell everyone I should have been like a comedian slash singer, except for I don't have a singing voice and LinkedIn is my. Instagram is my place to showcase that. You know my more creative side.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:33:29

And so Instagram has always been a little tricky for me. So maybe you can you can educate me on on what I should be doing, cause I feel like I'm I'm doing all the wrong things on Instagram. I'm I'm losing followers, I'm not getting that good engagement. Am I overthinking it? Or maybe I should switch it up and try something new?

Shay Dixon: 1:33:48

So it's actually great when you lose followers, because when you lose followers, that lets you know that your target audience is still there. So when I lose followers, I look at it as a great thing, because I'm losing people who are not interested in my entrepreneurial journey, I'm losing people that are not interested in me empowering women and I'm losing people that are not interested in a logistics base. So those aren't the people that I want. Anyways, and from a brand partnership standpoint, what I've found now that I'm starting to negotiate brand, I'm like I'm negotiating brand partnerships. This is awesome. So now that I'm doing that, I'm realizing that those, those analytics like you know your amount of, your percentage of engagement and how many people are engaging with your content. They're basing it off of how many followers you have. So I, for me, I have 2400 solid followers, which is better than 10,000 followers where maybe only less than 1% engage. You know, having 5% of my audience engage at at 2500 followers is more viable and more of a opportunity for a brand. So I look at it as a positive. So don't overthink it. Also, I've learned to connect with people as if every time I put out content, I act as if I'm talking to my best friend, someone that I've known my entire life, and I speak directly to her and so every time I make a post, even if it's a professional post, it's inspiring. I give that personal, one-on-one conversation feel to all of the content that I put out and I find that that has a lot better engagement than just kind of like an open. An open you know format, such as LinkedIn, you know how we do on LinkedIn, so that's a lot of strategy?

Blythe Brumleve: 1:35:36

Did you change at all from like a personal profile to your business profile?

Shay Dixon: 1:35:41

Most certainly so. On the business profile, we sometimes share ourselves, or I'll share if I'm like on a podcast, but we do try to keep it specific to our business, our journey as a whole and our employees. From the personal side, I'm always trying to encourage people. I'm talking about my own personal journey. You know I'm adopted and I have, like this entire journey that I've been through as someone who's been adopted and so I connect with people in a personal emotional level, where I don't necessarily do that on LinkedIn. So I find that Instagram is a better place to connect with someone from your personal side and personal brand and then get them to follow a legion logistics Right.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:36:29

It's a double-edged sword, I guess, trying to balance or trying to walk that line of having the personal account and how much do you share personally on the business account. So I love that advice and I'm definitely going to take that to heart, because I feel like Instagram is just there's so many users there and so I almost worry that I'm overextending myself by being on too many platforms at once. Do you feel ever like you're spread too thin or you focus solely on, you know, Instagram and LinkedIn?

Shay Dixon: 1:36:58

I focus solely on Instagram and LinkedIn. I occasionally share to Facebook, but Facebook is where my family and my cousins and you know, most of the time I'm just reposting content as I feel like that's necessary on Facebook. Facebook, besides that first customer, we don't see much engagement from, so we really focus on LinkedIn and Instagram because the ROI has been tremendous. Instagram, for me, is where I source 90% of my carriers, because I can send them a funny video. I can comment. I'm like, oh, my goodness, you're always on time. And then I'm inboxed and I'm like listen, I wish I had drivers like you on my team. Here's my carry bag, get, fill it out, let's get moving, and that's how I'm able to connect with them. On the DAT sometimes can be like scammy. When it comes to relationships, I feel it's very hard to connect with someone that you just need off the DAT. I will say I've met amazing carriers off of there, but for the most part we source through Instagram because the drivers are on there, they're sharing their experiences and I tell everyone take 30 minutes a day and search the truck drivers of Instagram, flatbed drivers of Instagram. There's so many hashtags. Search them, see the people who are creating content in that space and then connect with them. Hey, where are your trucks at? Oh, you have a fleet 20 trucks Awesome. I definitely need to connect with you and it's more organic. So that's amazing. And so, as someone who, loads cold calling.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:38:27

I heard you mentioned that you don't want to make cold calls. Would you say that that, like an Instagram DM, has replaced the cold calling for?

Shay Dixon: 1:38:37

you. Definitely I send messages on LinkedIn and Instagram, so I don't only just. I make sure I'm sending a voice message because I want them to hear my voice. I want them to hear the sincerity in my voice. Listen, I'm a newer broker. We've opened this new division. We've been in business for a long time, but this is a new division. I'd like an opportunity. Give me a shot, I can get it done. And when they hear my voice, they're like wow. First of all, I didn't know you could send voice messages on here.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:39:07

And I'm like yeah, you can see me or something, no, and then I'm like, I'm like.

Shay Dixon: 1:39:10

I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, and then I'll follow up with the video so they can see me and I'll be like yes, you learned something new. My name is Shailen Dixon. Then I'll you know, plug my business and what we can do and send my capability statement. But I'm able to at least like, slide into their DMs or slide into their Instagram box without being spammy, because that happens to me all day. People inbox me. I probably get a hundred messages hey, I have new free technology. Hey, I'm not going to keep inboxing you. You know I'm like whoa, mad aggressive. You don't have to be like that. You literally can just like come at somebody like they're your friend or they're somebody that you just want to get to know. Right, court me. You know, get to know me first before you just shove a surface down. You know I'm. You know I'm Shailen Dixon and you know, thank you. On LinkedIn, I am not as much with the hey, you know, awesome job, love your content. I'm sharing articles that are related to their company. So when I identify any type of aerospace company, I will connect with their employees and then, as their employees are mentioned, as their companies are doing specific things, I then share them in their inbox and say this is awesome. I want customers who are doing this for their employees I would love the opportunity to join you and partner with you as your transportation provider. And that tends to one give them free content to share about their business. So they they're like thanks, I'm about to, I'm going to repost this. I'm like awesome. And then, two, I'm providing value. So I'm not just asking for something in return, I'm I'm giving them, you know, a congratulations or a thanks and then giving them something in return, so that helps.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:40:54

So I somewhat I mean obviously you're, you're, you're super experienced, especially when it comes to social selling, because it sounds like how you've gotten the majority of your initial customers, and so, knowing all of the training and the mentorship and everything that went into opening a business if, if somebody is thinking out there that they want to start maybe up their, their their own agency or their own trucking business, what's the number one piece of advice that you would give to them?

Shay Dixon: 1:41:21

The number one piece of advice I would say is research and don't just research following your LLC and getting a DMV number. Research the industry research, whatever niche you're going to be in. Research, whatever services you're going to provide, pick a lane and stay in it Literally, figuratively and literally. Stay in your lane, and when you do that it's so much easier to learn more and be able to provide value to customers. So many times I see new brokers or new logistics providers. They're like I offer everything I do reverse drive-ins, flatbeds, everything oversize, hazmat. You know they're. They're not really sticking specific, so it's hard for them to connect with their ideal customer. And so I say research and get really clear about what your business is going to do and who your business is essentially at the core.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:42:15

So so with with launching the new business and and you've been operating in in operation since October. So what is next for you guys, especially in 2021 and beyond?

Shay Dixon: 1:42:27

So for us, we are just expanding. Our goal is to add more people to our team, make more of an impact within our community and we are hoping to get a lot more assets of our own, so we're working towards that. We are very systems oriented, so we are just making sure that we're serving the customers that we have and being prepared to scale right I'm planning to be that billion dollar company and making sure that we're in position to be able to handle the free and the responsibility that comes along with it.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:43:03

Yeah, so there were a couple of things that you mentioned there that were super interesting. So you actually started on the shipper, the customer side of things. So you had a really good inclination of what that manufacturer side of things is looking for when it comes to a logistics provider. Can you kind of highlight a little bit of the gaps or maybe the challenges that you experienced on the manufacturing side and what those problems that you wanted to solve on the shipping side of things?

Luke Hilko: 1:43:29

Yeah. So I can tell you that there's nothing more frustrating than getting an order, doing all the planning, getting it all the way through the shop. Sometimes the lead time on the stuff that we would manufacture would be four, six, eight weeks. It get to the dock, your partner is waiting for that to come in and the truck doesn't show up to pick it up on that day. Like there's so much work that goes into that. And then that one thing you know, in that one day or two hour span doesn't happen and the frustration just becomes overwhelming. You know also, on the incoming side, right, you're planning a job, you need certain material to come in to keep the line running, to keep your manufacturing process going smooth. If that material is not coming in when it said it was gonna come in, you know your planning really gets disrupted. So you know the frustration that goes along with all of that and the clear communication that sometimes is not so clear and does not occur. That was what we really wanted to solve. We wanted to be able to just be that partner that could clearly communicate, that could understand what was important within your operations and then key in on those things to help. You know, drive, help you drive that business forward. We really wanna give people time back. We want them to be able to focus on the important things in their business and we wanna be that solution that they can rely on to take care of the logistics side.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:45:00

Yeah, that's super interesting because, as I talked to other shippers, they mentioned that it's not necessarily the main components, it's the component of the component, that when that component of the component is missing, it just derails the entire progress of what you're planning and what you're trying to get out the door as soon as possible. So I love that you highlighted that. And one of the things that stood out to me, too, is that, with Silo, you guys opened UpShop, I believe in May of 2020, like at the height of like the COVID craziness. Can you kind of give us a little bit of an inkling of why you decided to start a business in the middle of like well, everything is just unknown.

Luke Hilko: 1:45:42

Yeah, the timing was suspect and there were some there are a lot of kind of worrisome nights but we had been planning and we knew that we wanted to move forward. We knew that we trusted in our business plan. We trusted in the people that were willing to take the leap with us. So we took a flyer and here we are and I think we're really grateful for the experience that we had with each other to take that risk together, as we continue to take risks that you do when you're trying to run a business and grow a business but that sort of trust that we gained taking that risk helps us continue to move the business forward.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:46:34

And so when you it wasn't sort of just a fly obviously it wasn't a fly by night decision to start in May where you guys, how long were you guys building up before you decided to open up the company? Was it a several month long process or has this always kind of been in the works for you to eventually join a logistics company or a logistics provider?

Luke Hilko: 1:46:55

Yeah, it had been a couple months in the process. The decision in our last place of business to shut down kind of had opened up those doors, and so when we knew that decision was gonna be made, we looked at our options there and we started to take a serious look at the prospect or at the prospect of opening up SILO.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:47:19

Yeah, cause I think that sometimes when we make those decisions, especially to start a company, you're almost sometimes forced into it by situations that you can't control and so, almost like, starting a business is putting something back into your control. Is that a fair assessment?

Luke Hilko: 1:47:36

Yeah, absolutely right. I mean you start to get you know what you believe is a lot of control we talk about in here control what you can control right In logistics. There's so many things in the brokerage space. There's so many things that you can't control. So if you can just focus on what you can control, there is a lot of reassurance in that.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:47:58

And so when you guys are speaking of controlling what you can control, you know I was listening to one of your interviews or not necessarily your interview, but another SILO interview on put that coffee down and it also mentioned that you guys were back in the office full time in June of 2020, which is what said in the interview that it was a very strategic decision that you guys made and you felt like it helped you guys grow much more quickly. Can you explain the thought process that went into the fact of, while everybody else is thinking of remote solutions, why you guys decided to go back into the office so quickly?

Luke Hilko: 1:48:35

When you're starting up a business, when you're looking to build a culture, when you're looking to implement process right and really get everybody that's a part of that on board with the processes that need to be done to give your partners the best experience. And in the transactional nature that is a freight brokerage, it's just really important to be next to each other and have that quick communication and we just felt like we could semi-replicate that remotely over Slack and phone calls. But it naturally has just slowed down and so we strategically said, hey, let's get into the office. Before we did that, we put sound processes in place about spacing, about how we were gonna handle when we got news that somebody who knew somebody was positive. We had great direction from a great HR leader that we have and we put the process in place and it was nice that we got a really good deal on office space too.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:49:44

Heck. Yeah, that's probably the perfect time to buy some office spaces in the middle of what everybody else is scrambling and working remote. And yeah, I love that answer because that's probably set you guys up pretty nicely, because I agree that freight brokerage role is one of those roles that just it's very difficult, unless you're a freight agent. I think it's very difficult to have that collaborative environment through electronics, through email, through Slack. It's just very challenging. You need those quick responses, that quick collaboration, and not everybody can handle that when it comes to a remote environment.

Luke Hilko: 1:50:20

Now you would, oh, go ahead. I always think about like that. It's just like a giant game of telephone, right and so logistics is just a giant game of telephone. And so if we could eliminate that game of telephone working in the model that we were in, getting people next to each other, there's less chances for things to go wrong.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:50:41

Right, because you're communicating constantly with people that are outside of your organization, and so if you add on that extra layer of communicating with your entire team outside of the normal operating environment, that that just adds more and more time, and when people are looking to get back their time, that throws a wrench, I think, in the whole plan. Now for you guys, as far as, like, your processes are concerned, you know there was one of the videos on your website that mentioned that you are very much a carrier first and you focus on the dispatcher and the carrier relationship, and listening to the video, it sounds like you put a really strong focus on the training aspect. So, whereas you know, comparative to a lot of the you know some other big time brokerages where they just pulled a kid fresh out of college and they sit him down at the phones and they just give him a book of, you know, a bunch of cold leads, and this is, you know, the way to earn your stripes, you guys take a different approach. Can you break that down for us on why you focus so much on the carrier and the dispatcher relationship?

Luke Hilko: 1:51:47

Yeah, absolutely, and so we always kind of look at it. You know we're a third party, right, and so when we work with our shipper partners, you know we always want to get, for the type of freight that we move, which is open deck projects, out for the most part. You know the devil's in the details. You need to get a lot of details down to the you know 10th of an inch if you're talking on moving something legal versus oversized, right. So you need to get all those details. And when we work with our shipper partners, you know it's really important that we're getting those details from them, right, and we're an extension of that to the dispatcher and the driver and we want to make sure that we're passing along all of those details. And we want to make sure that the dispatcher and driver experience is that they know what they're getting into right Clear communication, they know exactly what they're picking up, they know how it needs to be loaded, they know the equipment that they need whether it's straps, chains, you know all of that stuff tarps, size of tarps and that we can help them understand. You know the situation that they're going to get into if they choose to take that load. So we really want to pass along all those details. We want to be clear in our communication because when we have clear communication everybody has a better experience. The dispatcher and driver have a better experience, we have a better experience and our shipper partners have a better experience. And we want to be able to bring everybody a smooth experience so everybody else can continue to focus on what moves their own individual businesses forward. And if we don't train our people and help them understand and respect, you know, the details that are needed to execute on the type of freight that we work with, you know they may, without their own knowing, just put somebody in a bad situation. So we methodically move them through a training program where they have a mentor. They work under that person. We have a trainer who has, you know, sat in the seat before we moved him into the training role. His slogan is caring is cool. And he's right. You know when you care about the work that you do, you're going to do better work. So you know he instills that early on. They have mentors. We want to make sure that they can carry on the silo brand and do things the silo way.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:54:18

And so when you're putting, say, a new broker that comes into your organization, how long are they sitting in that training role before they're handed maybe a book of business or they're, you know, going out and sourcing their own customers?

Luke Hilko: 1:54:33

Yeah, we really don't like to, you know, give a timeline just to give a timeline right. We have goals, we have checkpoints on the things that they can do. You know kind of the production they can do within the training role and helping operations. You know we say around here people are our product because they are. We don't sell a tangible good right. So it is our people that are interacting with both partners that represent silo that are our product. So we want them to learn the operations inside and out. So when they move on to get in a chair to start calling cold calling, you know ship or customers that they clearly understand the service that they are selling because they've done it themselves. And so we don't like to put a timeline on it because people learn at different paces too. But you know, we just make sure we offer them the education that's out there that we know it takes to be successful, and then we pay attention to their progress through checkpoints of metrics that we've come up with and when they pass certain metrics then we feel comfortable that they're set up to be successful. And that's the thing at the end of the day, when we're investing, you know, in our people, we want to make sure. It's our job as leaders to make sure that they're set up for success, and so you know, we put these together where we feel like, hey, once you've hit this mark, you're set up to be successful. We're gonna give you that opportunity now.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:55:57

This episode is brought to you by SPI Logistics, the premier freight agent and logistics network in North America. Are you currently building your freight brokerage's book of business and feel that your capabilities are being limited due to lack of support and access to adequate technology? At SPI Logistics, we have the technology, the systems and the back office support to help you succeed If you're looking to take control of your financial future and build your own business with the backing of one of the most successful logistics firms in North America. Visit spi3plcom to learn more. I would love to dive into a little bit of the cold calling philosophy, because I am someone who I sat next to the broker floor and I listened to brokers all day make those cold calls and I swear to myself I would never be someone who cold calls. What is, I guess, sort of the art of the broker cold call? Is there anything that you guys really focus on, or is it really just finding good customers that fit your profile?

Luke Hilko: 1:57:03

Yeah, I think it's definitely that, right. I mean, you gotta know what you do well, and then you gotta know the profile of the partner that may need that service. Right, it's a different kind of beast. You have to be a different individual, right? I think we talk around here like water off a duck's back. Right, You're gonna get 99 nos and you might get 20 more before you get your one. Yes, but really it's about us being curious, right, Understanding the questions, to ask, understanding if you're going to be able to get into that partner's operations, to understand where their problems are, so we can be a solution provider. So it's really around curiosity, humbleness and resilience, I think, is what really can bring the best out in a cold caller.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:57:56

What about just, I guess, sort of the modern day challenges of nobody wants to pick up the phone anymore. How do you guys get around that?

Luke Hilko: 1:58:04

I mean we talk all the time the phone is your friend and like I mean you have to, you've got to push people to pick up the phone. I mean, everybody grew up now grows up texting whatever. I mean the phone is dead right. But when people understand how valuable a phone conversation can be over an email or text conversation, how much is left to interpret on those means of communication versus when you have a phone call and you have a chance to hear tone, which is much like understanding body language if you're talking to someone right face to face. Also, the ability to ask follow-up questions when you hear certain things said. So you know, we try to coach through that, we try to help people understand what a good conversation sounds like and we really, just like I said, encourage people to utilize those different tools in their tool belts and we really like to magnify how much success the phone can bring us. But yeah, it's something that's talked about hourly around here.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:59:12

And that's a lot of the Freight Broker subreddits that I go on and I read they talk about their different strategy. There was one Freight Broker in particular that said that his strategy was to cold call and then immediately, like five minutes later, send an email with a breakdown of what he wanted to talk to them about if they didn't answer, and he said that that combination approach was really successful for him. So I'm wondering if like, are you using any other? Are you cold emailing as well, or are you connecting with them on LinkedIn, or is it a kind of a combination approach or just a case by case basis?

Luke Hilko: 1:59:47

Yeah, it's definitely a combination approach. Right, You've got to kind of try to show your value through all different medians, because you don't know which one they're paying attention to initially. Right, If you have that first connection, then you can kind of understand, hey, what type of communication do they want to have and how am I going to continue to show our value? But, yeah, email, phone calls, socials, whatever that may be, handwritten cards, like the whole kind of gamut of hey. We want you to understand that we have the expertise here. We really believe we can provide a solution for you if you'll give us the opportunity to just have a conversation.

Chris Fields: 2:00:31

Now go back to your.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:00:33

Yeah, I mean that was one of the things that when I had a desk phone. I think that when I worked in an office and I had a desk phone, I got cold calls much more frequently, but I also listened to them much more often. If I get a cold call on my cell phone, there's zero chance I'm picking up. So I think that the desk environment definitely helps too for a lot of these folks.

Luke Hilko: 2:00:54

Yeah, it does. And the other thing that's interesting about it in this world is that obviously we're not the only ones reaching out to these people. So you'll talk to a prospect and they'll say, hey, I get 10, 15, 25 calls like this a day, and so you really have to be able to differentiate yourself. And that's another reason why we like people to be in the operations chair because they live those experiences and then they can tell those stories that are believable. If you try to tell somebody else a story, it's never as funny, it's never as believable. So we want people to have those experiences and so when they do get that opportunity, when that person picks up, they can tell those stories that they've lived that resonate and are believable.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:01:42

Going back to the carrier side of things a little bit, we often hear like oh, marketing speak, we prioritize our carriers, we take care of our carriers. But you guys are actually like you prove it as well because you have a perfect five star rating on Google, which is? I've worked for brokerage offices before and it was never five stars and I was constantly having to manage the bad reviews that we would get from carriers. So how are you guys both getting that, I guess, that great, or prioritizing that great relationship with the carriers and then so much so that they're going to go leave you a perfect five star rating online?

Luke Hilko: 2:02:22

Yeah, I mean that's just a testament to our operations team and we really just try to be the ones that we just think about. If the driver's in a situation, what would they want? So if they're calling us, we pick up the phone. If they're having trouble out of pickup or delivery because something's not going as we said it would go, we're there to pick up the phone and talk to them. When we tell them, hey, we're gonna reach out to someone and get back to you, we get back to them. We paid attention like we should. The driver's job is hard. We know they only get paid when their wheels are spinning. If they're sitting because it's not their fault, well, they should be compensated for that. So we do that. We pay quickly. Our accounting department does a great job in their relationships with the drivers. We just try to be a good partner. Partnership is one of our values. Here we talk about internal and external partnerships, and on the external partnerships we talk about the carrier partnership and the shipper partnership. So it's kind of we talk around. Here too is the golden rule right. So if we can just execute on that and be there for the drivers, we're happy that it has brought an experience to our drivers that leads them to leave the reviews that they lead. We have people that come in for interviews and they're looking through your reviews. When we first saw them, we thought that was definitely just like gotta be bots, right. Then I started reading through them and they're like actually people with like actual stories and you can tell that they've actually had experiences and we're super proud of that because we aim to be one that would be there on both sides of the equation and we want to have all of our partners have that experience and, like I said, it's a testament to the people on the floor who are doing it every day.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:04:04

And you guys have been in business for a little over two years now, I believe, and with the business so for I think I've read that you guys are up to 50 million in revenue already, in just a very short time, and you mentioned that you know partnerships are a big one of your core values. Is that a safe assumption that partnerships, and maybe some of your other core values, are a big reason of why you've got to 50 million so quickly?

Luke Hilko: 2:04:30

Yeah, I mean it's living our mission, which is to redefine the perception and capability of the broker's role in the supply chain, and then talking to the team, and all of our actions being through our values. So it's partnerships, it's trust, it's adaptability, it's diligence, you know, all of those things that we're able to execute on accountability, being accountable to each other in the office, being accountable to our partners on both ends. You know that helps us be able to continue to give the partner experience that our partners want to partner with us. Right, because partnership is a two-way street. You know, you can't have a one-sided partnership. That's not a partnership. So I think when we do those things every day and we continue to teach those things across into all aspects of our business, yeah, I believe that's why our partners continue to come back and continue to want to work with us.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:05:37

So that's super interesting. Have you ever had to fire a customer?

Luke Hilko: 2:05:42

So we say no, we know when to say no. Right, which you know. When you have young people in the business, especially like young salespeople. Right, we talk about happy years, like, oh, we heard one thing, it's gonna be all ours. Like, eh, you know it's not gonna have ourselves here. So, yeah, I mean we know. When you know what you're good at right and you know what your limits are, and you can tell your partners no to something instead of hey, we'll do it all, because that's not us, we're not a, you know. Hey, let us come in and look at your total transportation. We offer all modes and we'll take care of everything. Now, that's not us. We're very niche and focused in what we do, so we know what we do really well. So I think our partners only gain more confidence in that when they ask us to do something, yeah, exactly, and trust when they ask us to do something and we know when to say no.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:06:38

Yeah, I think that's super important for a lot of businesses to understand. It's sometimes saying no it leads to so many more paths in the futures for stuff that you can say yes to. But if you're constantly bogged down by the things that you said yes to that you really can't fulfill, then it's just going to be just a circle of you know just endless trying to get to that place where you probably would have been much faster had you said no to that opportunity.

Luke Hilko: 2:07:04

Yeah, and you can just damage the partnership by you know you're saying yes not maliciously. You're saying yes because you just want to try, but you try and you've never done it before and then it doesn't go well. Well, you know you still said yes, you still tried, but it didn't work out and they wanted to work out. So Exactly.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:07:23

I'm curious. So it seems like you guys have made so many great decisions, you know when launching the business and you know it's been close to three years that you guys have been in operation. I'm curious, if you were to start a company today, if you were to start Silo all over again today, is there anything that you would do differently, given the current market conditions?

Luke Hilko: 2:07:46

We've got kind of a list of those things that we would do differently. You know it's reflection is powerful, right, and if you have the ability to honestly reflect, you know you can make changes going forward to really help continue growth. But some of those things you just can't change. You know, I think, look, I think our training program is great and you know I would take full responsibility for this. You know, at the beginning I kind of didn't think we needed a training program and we didn't implement the training program until probably a little bit later than I wish we would have. You know, I think when you talk about, from a hiring perspective, building out that profile of the individual that comes in, that's something that we're always trying to refine and change and at the beginning, you know, we weren't as focused on that and we probably should have been. You know it's the little things and it's the details that you need to just constantly pay attention to them. When you're trying to start and grow a business, there's so much coming at you that I just think you know there's some things that we would have prioritized at the beginning that we didn't believe we needed to, but found out the hard way that we did.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:09:06

Well said and I think that, too, for a lot of businesses, if you try to perfect everything, you've waited too long. There's some things that you just need to just get it going and then you can refine the process along the way, because things are gonna come up that you can never anticipate, that you can never plan for. That's very well said. Now you know, when you mentioned, that things are, you know, coming at you, especially for brokers, like when the technology in the space has exploded over the last handful of years. How are you guys prioritizing what tech that your team should be using and what tech to kind of sit back and wait to see if it comes to fruition? Because it feels like a lot of technology that's out there, but I'm not sure how much of it is really very useful to the day-to-day work of a broker.

Luke Hilko: 2:09:54

Yeah, so great question. And we're fortunate enough that you know we've got a internal tech team that focuses on building. You know, our own proprietary technology that we like to talk around here is people enablement technology, you know, and it's focused to the niche that we play in. So we build a lot of our tech in-house to help our people be more efficient in their day. You know we're basically a 100% spot broker too, so you know we focus a lot on the pricing side of things and we're pricing in open deck where there's multiple equipment types, different requirements. You know our origins are the same, based on our partner base for the most part, but the type of equipment we're moving is going all over, you know, us, Canada, anywhere, and a lot of times into remote locations, so we don't have the luxury of lanes. So when it comes to that pricing, you know we're just trying to build technology that helps our people and collect that data that helps our people make faster, more educated decisions that they can be confident in, to help them continue to build out their partnerships.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:11:21

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Luke Hilko: 2:13:08

Yeah, it's all around the planning, right. So it all starts with just asking the right questions, understanding who the parties are involved, getting a hold of those parties to understand what can be done, what cannot be done, and aligning them and having a good idea of what it is that we need to do and having a clear picture so that we can once again give that clear picture with all the right details to the driver who's going to get themselves into that location. So it's all around the questions, it's all around the planning, it's all around the details, and that's why diligence is one of our core values, because we have to be diligent to all of that. But then, at the same time, adaptability is a core value, because we have to be able to adapt when there are things that come up that inevitably do, in those situations that pose a challenge that no one saw before when we were doing the planning.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:14:10

Do you have a favorite piece of equipment or a crazy thing that you guys have hauled that over the years of working for silo? Do you have anything that sticks out?

Luke Hilko: 2:14:24

I mean the folks around here. I mean they get excited when they move something that's very overweight 80, 90,000 pounds. Then they get excited about the stuff that they move that's 15 feet tall or the stuff that's 14 feet wide. To me, the most fulfilling part of the job is taking the challenging freight that nobody else wants. And to make it simple, we named it Simple Logistics silo, short for Simple Logistics because we like talking around here about the philosopher that said sorry for the 10 page letter. I didn't have time to write you a two page letter because it takes that understanding, that deep knowledge, to be able to simplify something. And so the freight that we target and wanna move is the most challenging freight. But it's our people's experience, it's their deep understanding, it's their knowledge that allows them to make that a less stressful, simplified process for our partners. And that's the stuff that's fulfilling to me every day.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:15:30

And then it gets back to the communication, that if you're properly communicating to all parties involved, then it makes those challenging shipments much, I guess much of a smoother or as smooth as it can be process, as you could say. Now let's switch gears a little bit to the marketing side of things, because it's very clear that you guys prioritize your marketing and your branding from the. But I'm curious if that was a decision from the jump, or is that something that you slowly evolved into?

Luke Hilko: 2:15:57

Yeah, I think we really slowly evolved into that. I think we definitely knew there was value in building a brand. But at the beginning there's just so much to get set up. And then, even when we were coming up with our first marketing kind of program right, I think the last slide I put up on the marketing program was pick up the phone because, like, the phone's still our friend, right, and that's gonna be our marketing tool, our major marketing tool, for quite some time. But we started to see other folks around us start to build their brand through socials and we took notice and we're in Nashville and so there's a lot of creative people in Nashville. So we're like, hey, we should be able to do this too. We should be able to find somebody that can help us build our brand, that understands the power of social media. And building a brand is great for your partners. But also building a brand is really important to our recruiting and we wanted to for people to kind of the candidates, to understand what they could anticipate as the experience being with Silo. So we luckily, fortunately, found Tennessee. Tennessee set us up great for success. Tennessee has now moved on to the music industry and couldn't be proud of her for getting kind of her dream job there, and now Caroline's gonna take that torch and continue it on. But it was the decision to build that brand, but build it the right way and kind of have that impatience for action but patience for results. I think marketing sometimes gets a bad name when people invest a bunch in marketing and then expect a bunch of inbound leads to come in. Right, I'm gonna do all this, I'm gonna pay for all these ads and then everybody's gonna start calling me like no, that's a dream, right. So just slowly building the brand and having that patience so that it becomes more recognizable within the industry. But then also you know, through our partnerships with local universities here, that it's a place that people wanna apply to, wanna come into and wanna learn more about.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:18:14

Give us a sense of how your marketing team is structured. Do you have a team within the building or are you like a lot of companies where it's just one person that's kind of tasked with handling it all? Or is it kind of a combo approach with using, like, an agency or contractors plus somebody in-house?

Luke Hilko: 2:18:31

Yeah. So when we first did our kind of web, when we first did the website you know it was Adam and his wife, health and Out we got it off the ground. We did a website revamp where we utilized an agency and then we made the strategic decision to bring Tennessee in. Who is our first marketing person, if you will? Brand ambassador is the title that we have, and so you know her working with. You know everybody else I mean our PSCs or partner solutions executives, who are the ones that are cold calling. You know they're building the brand every day. They have a really good idea of what our ICP is right. They have a really good idea of what resonates with those folks. So it's a lot of cross collaboration between departments, with that brand ambassador in the middle being the one who is putting together the content and getting it out.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:19:23

Love that ICP is ideal customer profile for folks who are unaware. It's very rare to hear somebody in logistics actually use that acronym. So I applaud you there because you guys are well ahead of the curve there. So, with a lot of your focus, where would you say that? I see you guys have an account on you know, not Twitter, but you're on LinkedIn, you're on TikTok, you're on YouTube, instagram. Is there a particular platform that you see the most value in now and moving forward?

Luke Hilko: 2:19:56

Look, I'm an older man. I don't have official media. Like. I'm not gonna lie here. I don't have a Facebook account. I've never had one, so like. Oh, wow you're one of the rare ones. Yeah, I'm one of the rare ones, so I rely on the team around us, but I think it's really interesting to me how TikTok has progressed. Like, I think it's really interesting to me that a younger generation is now using TikTok as a search engine more than Google. I think that just shows the power of that right. So I also know, when you know go on to the college campuses that we have partnerships with, you know the kids talk about the silo TikTok account Like they watch it and they know it. So I think TikTok is definitely the one that continues to move the needle forward and probably will continue to go that way. But I just think it's really important that we just pay attention to all that, because there's gonna be another one that comes on the scene that we're gonna talk about in five years that we weren't talking about today.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:20:57

And so, as an executive, where you're mainly focused on just managing the team, whereas, you know, maybe the brand ambassador or the marketing agency are responsible for handling the day to day when it comes to social media, what does ROI look like to you? What kind of ROI are you looking for as an executive from your internal team?

Luke Hilko: 2:21:18

Yeah. So it's a really good question and just to be completely honest with you, when we decided to move forward with marketing, we kind of made a decision with each other and our finance guy that we wouldn't tag it down to like a dollars and cents ROI. I kind of think that's a fool's errand. Now, you know, maybe as we continue to grow that will become clearer and we will be able to do that. But for me, it's the recruits that come in right. For me it's the drivers recognizing us, because we hear about the drivers, talk about you know, they saw us on TikTok, right? I think it's you know this experience right now. Right, you met Tennessee at Freight Waves. We're able to set this up and we're able to have conversations like this. So you know, these sort of things, I think, continue to get the brand out there and build that brand awareness. And for right now, with what we are investing in it, we feel very good about the return that we're getting.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:22:25

Are there any parts, I guess, that the marketing and sales, you know, I guess sort of system and flow that you guys are setting up or that you have set up? Is there anything that you want to expand on in 2023?

Luke Hilko: 2:22:39

Yeah, I want to help our team have better material to put in front of you know, perspective clients and our existing partners.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:22:53

Now, before we get into the CRM part of the conversation, I wanted to talk a little bit about your background because it's actually really interesting. You used to work at Tesla before you started working at a freight brokerage and then you became a founder, but what was, I guess, sort of the experience like working at Tesla?

Josh Lyles: 2:23:12

Oh it was. I mean, it was energy packed all the time. The one thing about their culture that's just great is that they're so mission driven and you get really bought into that mission. A lot of people say you're drinking the Kool-Aid and whatnot, but I mean, I think if you're building any company, any culture right, you want to make sure that you're doing things in a positive way that are fulfilling, and you know that you're just going towards, I think, a greater purpose overall, and that's what you felt every single day there. The moment I walked in day one, I felt that I was around a lot of talent. I joined them back in 2016 and there was a stat out there that it was almost harder to get a job at Tesla at that time than to get into like an Ivy League school. It's not the case today, but like back at that time and I felt that when I first walked in, it was just like with everybody that was around me, and that's a good feeling when you come into a place where you know that you're going to be sharpened by every other team member that's on your team. So, elon, overall I mean it's just constant. You know, push for growth, problem solving A lot of people always ask me all the time. You know what was it like? And I was. I only got to be involved in two conversations with him, but ultimately I think what made him such a great leader is he's just a problem solver. He cuts out all the different noise and he'd always just say what's it going to take for us to deliver more cars and sell more cars? All the time that was just the conversation. So it made everybody get into this problem solving mindset and I think that that's really helped me throughout my career.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:24:33

That's awesome. Yeah, I'm a big. I'm not an Elon stand, but I am an Elon fan, so I the stand culture is a little strange to me. On on for any any person, I guess of influence, but I always really respect the work ethic that he has and it sounds like it sort of you know, just bleeds into everything that he does. What was so hard about getting the job there? You mentioned that it was that it was extremely hard to get a job there.

Josh Lyles: 2:24:59

Is it like testing or Well, they were just smaller at that time. So, for example, at that time I think they had two. Look, I was in Atlanta at that time, I'm in Nashville now, but they had two locations all in Georgia. You know, there wasn't that many locations in the Southeast, they were primarily just larger out in California but a lot of people were applying for jobs at Tesla at that time. It was just a really popular up and coming company, just, you know, in the EV space and it was just, I guess, with the volume of applications and luckily and that's the reason why I tell people especially about their LinkedIn I constantly will bring this up anytime I talk about how I got to Tesla. But I got there because they found me on LinkedIn and I was one of the like early ones back in the day that always had my LinkedIn profile built out. Even you know that I didn't have the best resume at that time, but I was currently working at New Balance when they had reached out to me and I just had stuff about sales skills and marketing and all those kinds of things and luckily, recruiter found me and that's what got me to go through the job interviews and did well enough in the job interviews to get a job. So that's the reason why I always stressed to people because that changed my life a lot for the better. But having your LinkedIn profile just built out, tell a simple story, make it a little bit personable. To me it's the modern resume now at this point. I mean back then it was like I mean there wasn't that much adoption, but obviously now it's picked up big time.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:26:19

Yeah, definitely, well said. I mean, even if you don't publish to LinkedIn every day, you can still make your profile something that people will want to check out and just verify your existence, verify your experience. But that's really cool that they sought you out. I was wondering if the process involved like you know what kind of animal are you that you have to answer in like interview meetings or some crazy stuff like that.

Josh Lyles: 2:26:43

No, nothing like. There was one manager there that asked some very strange odd interview questions that I've never asked as a hiring manager and wouldn't really think to ask. But I guess that also kind of is what made the culture unique there as well.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:26:55

What were an example of one of those questions?

Josh Lyles: 2:26:57

I don't know if you want to review it. Honestly, I can't remember, but I just remember them being very outlandish, to the point where I was like taking mental note of what I ever want to ask these kinds of questions in an interview, to really try to figure out about somebody's personality. The answer is no. If they come to mind, I'll definitely be sure to bring them up later on For sure.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:27:16

Now, going from Tesla, you decided to join the world of freight. It had any kind of experience in the world of logistics or you just dived in?

Josh Lyles: 2:27:28

Just like most people, they just fall into it somehow some way. So when I first moved to Nashville when I was working for Tesla, I didn't know anybody when I moved here. I moved here really fast, basically like within two weeks, when I knew that I was going to be Tesla's store manager for their location here in Nashville and my first two friends actually I knew through a friend of mine that I grew up with was a really good friend of mine and they all went to college together and so they were really the only connections that I knew that lived here and we ended up just hanging out, became pretty good friends and I knew what they were doing, but not to a full extent. They would try to explain what freight brokerage is. They just like label it, logistics, like everybody does and you know how it is with family, relatives, spouses. They don't fully know what goes on, they just know like you're on the phone all the time and emails and you know up early, sometimes staying up late and all that stuff. But they just got to a point where I was at Tesla and I wanted to look outside. I didn't really care about staying in Nashville, I didn't really care about staying, I was just really open to any and all opportunities and they were working at a company. It was a really unique opportunity at the time. There was one point logistics who was owned by Keep Truckin, and once I got to understand a little bit more what freight brokerage was but also why that was a unique opportunity, with them being owned by an ELD company, that really stood out to me as a unique differentiator. And then, you know, just going into the office I had to go in like four or five times for onsite interviews. It took a long time for me to actually get approved for that job, but luckily I was able to and it was awesome. I got to build a team of 12 from scratch. I was a sales manager and that's really how I got my start into it.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:29:02

And so what was? I guess that while you were working there or did you, I guess the company also got bought out. So was that the sort of the catalyst that you were going to become a founder? How did you move from working at a freight brokerage into becoming founder led?

Josh Lyles: 2:29:17

Yeah, so no, they were actually. So Keep Truckin had already bought them out before I joined, but my longterm goal had always just been to start my own business. Even when I was at Tesla, people would ask me like, hey, do you want to keep climbing the ladder? Because I I started at the very entry level position as a product specialist for them and then got into a sales advisor role and then assistant manager and then store manager and I just I saw my Boston as a regional. I didn't didn't really want to do that, but I always wanted to just start my own business. I've always been very interested in entrepreneurship, you know, for the things that I like to read and study outside of work. A lot of the times that's what it is. So I just kind of knew that that was always going to be the case. And then when OPL was shut down, that was ultimately when I was just trying to figure out, okay, what would be the thing that I want to start, cause people ask you that all the time. Right, if you do want to go down the route of entrepreneurship is, what do you want to start? And I just didn't know. But I just basically like the story is super simple. I literally just went to a coffee shop and I was like all right, what do I feel that I'm very strong at from a skill standpoint? Or what do I feel that I do better understand more than other people? And, as weird as it is, crm software was the thing.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:30:25

Well, I guess that sort of it makes me want to ask the next question of what was missing. I guess, from like Salesforce or HubSpot, that you felt like that you were missing, that you wanted to create a solution for.

Josh Lyles: 2:30:40

Simplicity is the easiest answer, because everybody wants something that's simple and the tough part about that is is that, you know, when it comes to being simple, a lot of people want the CRM to do so much work for them. But it's sales, right, and it's relationships and there's effort that goes into relationships. So you have to do effort when it comes to your sales outreach and you know, and when it comes to notes and stuff, obviously you have to be really good at that. But I think I just had a really good way of like I don't I would always say I don't think I was naturally like the overall best sales person, but because my sales process was pretty strong at Tesla, I had pretty good results and that's what kind of got me to start getting promoted in a multitude of different ways there. So it was really just from process and that's what got me into management and I had some pretty good success in management there. And then also when I got into freight brokerage, when it came to onboarding new shifters, I just dove into it. Like, even though I was a manager, I first started and made my own cold calls and ran my own pipeline close my own customers, so I could get a good feel of what my account executive is. We're going to go through on a day in and day out basis and it's really just like the flow. It's such a good system. I know people don't like data entry. I get it Like. It's not necessarily my favorite thing either, but when you, when you see, I guess the output come back to you in terms of you know, okay, great, I totally forgot about this one company or this one customer and they popped up on my calendar today, september 27th, and I talked to them four, five, six months ago. Those were always things that always helped me in the sales process and, I think, help anybody, because it's it's really hard when you have that many conversations, especially in freight right, with how many activities that they're driven to do on a day in and day out basis like 50 is a pretty extreme minimum. Most people or companies that typically wanted 75 to 150 of activities. It's hard to remember all those details, and those details are what go a long way in building those relationships, and so I think just finding a good mental process and model in the CRM and making it simple that way you understand it, your team understands it and there's that alignment is really important, but a lot of the times people use it as a compliance tool to say like I'm checking the box and I got these activities done, versus this is how it's helping me in my sales process.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:32:46

And so, from what I understand with with sales dash journey, you started off as kind of like a CRM for everybody before niching down into freight. Why? Why the niche down?

Josh Lyles: 2:32:59

Things weren't working Simple enough, like my go-to market strategy was just bad and I'm not scared to admit that and it was just too wide, it was casting a net too wide. And I always say, like, the sad part is, I've read all the entrepreneurship stories about niching down and starting very small and then eventually scaling out and how Apple and Amazon and all of them have done that in the past and how they got to success doing that. But yeah, it was just too complicated, just reaching out to a multitude of different industries. I was focused more in the SMB space and more so inside sales teams and it just wasn't working. And then I was just really getting to a point where I had to figure stuff out. But what I? I basically just said, okay, I want to focus more in the logistics basis. This is literally back in February of this year and I have my best week on the phones, reaching out to companies and getting some interest, getting them brought in, and then I just basically kept that momentum going. And then this is the real story. But like going into April was the capital ideas conference for TIA, and once I knew that that conference was coming up, I would use that as I was prospecting and reaching out to companies. They'd be like, yeah, I'm going to be there. And then I built up a list of people that I knew were going to be there and then I eventually just bought a ticket. And that was kind of the solidifying moment where I was like, all right, this is full blown the pivot that we're going to do and that's that's where we're headed now. So everything with our product development for that we're doing in the CRM is very is all Freight Brokerage and 3PL focused.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:34:25

Now that's a really cool story that you built out. The. Your contact lists are basically like your hit list before going to the conference, and then that was the motivation to be like, okay, yeah, I'm definitely going to make this conference worth it. Because one thing that I don't think gets talked about enough is that for a lot of like soloists I experienced this myself when you go to a conference it's very expensive. Somebody has to do the work while you're gone All of the pre and the post work that is involved it. But I imagine that maybe your tool is helping you. you know, be a little bit more successful at the, you know, the booking, the meetings and then the following up afterwards, which is where, frankly, I struggle with.

Josh Lyles: 2:35:03

Yes, it did help because I already kind of had that list. I was building that list and I had my notes for what I talked with them about, what I knew about them. The hardest part of those conferences is when you're talking to so many people, like the Capital Ideas Conference at TIA was challenging, because there's 1900 people there and you're just talking to one person after another after another. So really what I did was actually just build a list of notes in my phone and then eventually you know from the people that I spoke with, so that way I can remember who I spoke with, because I think I ended up with 54 business cards and honestly, there was like some digital ones and then just you know, ones that we just exchanged contact info. So you lose track of all of it. But I just kind of kept like a really small list of notes because it's actually stuff that I used to do at Tesla back in the day, because I worked at a mall when I worked for them and we used to just have an iPad. You'd be holding an iPad almost like an Apple employee that's how they kind of built their model and I would just do abbreviated notes and if you read them. It wouldn't really make sense, but it's just like a mental abbreviation of notes and everything that I understand. Then I can expand upon it later. And so when I just got back to my Airbnb every single night, I would just like recall okay, hey, these are all the people and just make sure I set my follow-ups with them.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:36:08

That's cool. Yeah, the notes app at conferences, I think, is undefeated.

Josh Lyles: 2:36:14

It's. If you're not using the notes app, what are you doing?

Blythe Brumleve: 2:36:17

Yeah, exactly. Now, one thing I am curious about is is the, I guess, a fundamental way to manage a CRM different for freight brokers versus anyone else?

Josh Lyles: 2:36:29

It's not that like the fundamentals, I guess, of the frameworks. It's more so just, I guess, like the language and the way that they think about them. So it's really interesting because, I mean, I still work with freight brokers that are small to medium size and sometimes it doesn't really matter the size of the company, but some of them go with like very basic sales processes and strategies and then some of them don't really have anything at all, and it's still not uncommon for me to come across somebody that's still just using spreadsheets. They don't really know you know what's happening and you know when I talk with them about sales process. So, like I just posted about this and this is a small example, but and I'm sure you're very like used to this from from your experience as well but a lot of the times in sales people just say, hey, this lead or this opportunity is cold, warm or hot and realistically, in a sales process it doesn't really make a lot of sense because what is cold to me could be hot to you, or vice versa, like, literally could be the case. I've coached plenty of salespeople where they'd be like hey, josh, I've got a hot one and then it's like no, there's honestly a lot more information that we need. This one's still actually cold or warm, but here's a small example of that. So, like we have a four step simple process and this is all through customization. Like this is where customization goes a long way, but people pay thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars for this. When it comes to HubSpot, salesforce and you can do it in there, but, like you have to be good at doing it. Ours is just already basically templated. That gives you a really good foundation for sales process profiling shippers, qualifying shippers from day one. But going from like the cold, warm, hot an example would be okay. As a free broker, you're reaching out to a shipper. We have four steps Discovery, pains, needs, pricing and then set up paperwork. So you're trying to think okay, instead of like calling them and being like hey wanted to see if you're ready to follow, you know, like got any freight, all this kind of stuff. There's basically always certain steps. You're trying to align and make sure that they're the best fit for you as a as a, as a free broker, with the services that you provide, the carrier network that you have. So discovery would be general information of equipment types, their volume, what kind of modes, you know, between full truckload, ltl, do they do spotter contract, project freight, that kind of stuff right? Align on that? Does it fit within what you provide? And then, from a pains in needs standpoint, what's the reason they're going to bring you on as a carrier? What do you shout to all the time Like, are you actually going to help them out when it comes to, like, mis-pickups or wrong equipment types being sent in, or just pricing, whatever it may be? And then the third step would be pricing. You need to price outlines to make sure that your pricing lines up. And the fourth step is you exchange some paperwork, whether it's your credit app, or they send you a contract, and then that's typically how you get lined up right. So it's not that it always goes in that flow, but that's a common flow from overseeing two different teams and brokerage that I found. So that way, instead of just thinking like, hey, what do we need to do next year? This is our process that we typically do and we want to follow this. And so when we know where each one is in each step and we click like, okay, here's the opportunities that are in pricing, we know that this is what we're striving to do right now with these specific shippers that are in that bucket.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:39:23

Now, with the process that you're talking about, how common is that process being established at freight brokerages? Because when I worked at a freight brokerage, it was essentially like we're going to pluck you out of the nearest college, we're going to sit you down at the phones and you're just going to make a hundred cold calls a day. That was the process.

Steve Burroughs: 2:39:41

What should?

Blythe Brumleve: 2:39:41

I guess, with what? With respect to what you're talking about, what should, I guess, a modern sales process look like at a freight brokerage?

Josh Lyles: 2:39:48

Well, I think if you talk about a college kid coming into it, this is an easier way to streamline your sales process, to say hey, instead of, like me, having to kind of coach you through it. The system is going to help guide you through it in terms of the information that you're seeing in front of you. So, if you have those specific items because a lot of all right. So, if you take a sales force or a HubSpot not to like name them, but like the generic CRMs out of the box and I hear this from freight brokerages monthly but they'll say like it really feels that they're built for SaaS or software companies when you take them out of the box, right, and for them, like they just need really simple stuff. There's certain things that they want to know about each shipper, and so we want to give them the ability to just kind of customize it that way. But what I would say is and this is really the easiest way I always frame it is like take your best sales person in their process right, what would they want to always ask a shipper to understand, and you can cook that into the CRM and it's not that it's a call script, but it's going to be in front of you every single time when you jump into each shipper and each account that's in the system and then that information is always in front of you and then you know that, okay, I need to be asking or learning about this information every time that I'm reaching out to somebody. So I think that that's where, even if you are a college kid, it's this information is in front of you. If you don't understand what it is, then obviously they'll ask their teammates to try to understand that, and at least that's already kind of cooked into the system so that way they could be better guided, versus just like, okay, I'm just picking up the phone and I'm just giving them a shout.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:41:10

Yeah, I mean you raise a lot of really important truths because I think for a lot of folks, especially like when it comes to like marketing versus sales like marketing- is typically in my experience, going to be making the decision on, like what kind of software they use, what kind of CRM that they use. And maybe that is the gap between marketing and sales of. Like this software doesn't really work for sales unless it's highly customized, and it's also to your point that you made earlier, husband is very expensive. You can get like the base level, you know quote unquote free CRM for you know like 30 bucks a month, but that bill will quickly tick up. If you want, you know, some additional features that are kind of standard on a lot of different platforms. So I guess for a lot of brokerages out there what does so you suggest you know learning from your best salesman establishing those different processes and then when using your tool, they're essentially able to enter in like the equipment, the lane, the commodity, things like that directly into the CRM, if I understand you correctly.

Josh Lyles: 2:42:11

Correct For each shipper that they're talking to, and then you know they can build it out. And then, when it comes to qualifying opportunities, with like pipeline management, that you can even take it a step further. When it comes to qualifying the opportunity of kind of going back to some of those similar things, is it a project, contract, spot opportunity, mini bid, rfp, you know, maybe figuring out seasonality, documenting what those months are, so you have that for reporting and then you can, like we even have it to where we build out, especially when we do implementations with companies to really help them. You know, try to understand these opportunities. Like a couple of examples would be how do they measure carrier performance? And asking them that, how many carriers are they working with for that specific opportunity? It could be a location or, you know, it could be just in general, just for their spot free, but just those kinds of different questions to understand the scope of the opportunity, competitiveness around it. Those items you can, you can basically build that into those, let's just say, like deal opportunity forms in the system and we already have a foundation of it with some like starter ones and then they can build on it from there.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:43:14

And so with does your company help with, like a, you know, implementation, integration? It kind of sounds like you do, yes, and if you're helping with that, what are maybe some of those keys to success? Not just implementing it, but using it on an ongoing basis.

Josh Lyles: 2:43:31

Yeah. So I think it really starts in the customizing of it, because you wanted to just show the information that you talk about on a daily basis. You want that to be in the system, right? Because if it's not there and it's not it's that's not going to be something that people leverage to actually enter in. So that's the first thing, like just as simple as us having equipment types and modes and contractor spot freight already in our template inversion. There's already people that say it's just great to be able to see that stuff in there. And you know certain reports on their dashboard that are like my active shipper leads or shippers that haven't been contacted in 14 days, like people already just love the fact that it's talking their language and just in that in itself. But you know, I guess sorry, I go back to the what was the question again.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:44:14

Well, it sounds like you're creating those light bulb moments for them from the jet to help them to keep using it. Because that was always the struggle that I had is like I can show them the technology and they'll say, yeah, that's great, but for them to actually continue to use it on an ongoing basis was where I struggled with the most with working with the sales team. So I would imagine that seeing those light bulb moments like what you're talking about helps them to use it more regularly. Where they're almost like getting those signals, I would imagine there's reporting and things like that. Correct, we can further highlight that kind of data Correct.

Josh Lyles: 2:44:46

So, for example, like with HubSpot, they're custom reporting and everything is on their largest package, which gets really expensive. We already have custom reporting that's built into it. But what yes, going back to your initial question with this is a lot of it, actually, I would say, and a lot of success does is driven from sales managers and the people that are overseeing it. And again, it's not, it's not always about just like hey, we're just trying to hit a specific number. We're trying to do these things. You're trying to help your team work towards better behaviors that drive more shipper, new shipper relationships and expand the existing relationships that you have and the opportunities that you have with them. And so the things that they see, for example, just on their dashboard like I get really technical when it comes to this and even just the design and how we've templated this out but even from the first things that you see, from like the first part of the screen and working left to right, top to bottom, to me is really important, because if there's a certain metric and I always just say, like what gets measured, gets managed, but if that's not on your dashboard as a sales manager or even as a salesperson, then you're going to forget about it because you're not, you're not, you're not measuring it, it's not something that's consistently on your radar. But that's what I often found with those the other CRMs out of the box was. I would build out all those dashboards to make sure like every one of those specific things was on it. But if it's not on your radar, then it's easy for that stuff to fall by the wayside. But it's honestly, if it's just on your dashboard, it's such an easier way to basically build a lot more momentum and better behaviors. And then I just know it for a fact. But, like, once you start to see that and you start to get more success and you're starting to close more customers, you're staying in front of them, those behaviors are driving better results than at that point it honestly just becomes part of your process. You're like these are the things that I know that lead me to success.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:46:26

So a lot of it is approached by leadership. And I would imagine so I would imagine that you're the data and the insights that you're getting. From that you can actually see which kinds of customers, what kinds of equipment, lanes, that kind of thing, are closing more at a higher rate, which I would imagine would also help the marketing department be able to make some content or make some different campaigns that could complement those high success rates. Is that fair to say?

Josh Lyles: 2:46:51

I think, of course, because, like so, I only worked with the marketing department and it was smaller at my first brokerage and then I helped with some of that at the last one that I was at over at Silo. But marketing can take a lot of things that they're seeing from notes because, for example, I'm talking about marketing and like, I'll even just talk about how I use marketing when it comes to sales dash. But I look at all the notes, like, for example, I run a quick report. So anytime that somebody shows up to one of my meetings and my demos, I mark that as a meeting show in my CRM and so what I know is that I can pull a report of all those activities and these are all the demos that I've had with people. And I am a crazy note taker because for me, like, attention to detail is important and I want to make sure that if they're really interested in the CRM, I can actively progress the sale and even just the small pieces of that. I will use what they tell me to fuel a lot of my marketing for sales dash, for example. Right, and then same thing as a free broker if a shipper is telling you specific things like either challenges or things that they care about. Those are really good questions, then, to ask other shippers, because if they care about it, chances are the other shippers care about it, or if they don't know, it's a really good thing to put on their radar. So, yes, when it comes to marketing and messaging and what you specialize in, I think that's important. But also, even just like the smallest thing, for example, of your close customers, like what are the characteristics, what industry, what's their employee size, what's their approximated annual revenue, you can pull those things from having the list of them, seeing that reporting, and then you can find out to help you further refine your ICP for the kinds of shippers that you're going after. Because you may think that, hey, we specialize with these kinds of companies, but then sometimes when you look at it, you're like, oh wait, these are the ones that are actually bringing in the most revenue for us right now, the most profit.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:48:33

Yeah, absolutely. Data tells a lot more stories than just going off of affirmations or feelings or gut feelings or things like that. Exactly, it's important to have that data to back it up as well. Now, I'm surprised that we made it almost 30 minutes in this conversation and the topic of AI has not been brought up yet, so I'm going to use this as an opportunity to bring it up now. How do you think about AI? Is it plans to incorporate these kinds of, I guess, technology, large language models, things like that, into the CRM? I mean not to bring up HubSpot again, but I know that they have their chat platform, that they're fine tuning, still very much in its infancy phase. Based on the tests that I've run, any thoughts on how you can incorporate AI into your sales process?

Josh Lyles: 2:49:18

Yeah. So I think it's inevitable that AI is going to be incorporated no matter what, and I think there'll be a multitude of different ways. We're going to start to explore it more next year because we're finishing out some new product development right now that we just really want to become one of the strongest CRM platforms really the strongest CRM platform for free brokerages and 3PLs to manage or ship or carry your relationships. But I think a multitude of different ways. I think the way that a lot of people are using it is for email copy. I think that's huge right now and it makes a lot of sense and people can always write better emails, but it's really good for that. I think it can be really good when it does come to some just creative ideas, when it does come to marketing or even just like your emails and your sales outreach or, let's just say, if you're building a one pager for those things, I think it's going to become really important for reporting personally in CRM in terms of, hey, I want to see all my shippers that are out of this specific city, this specific state in this industry and just like a really quick text chat so that way they don't have to do typical filters in the CRM. I think that that's going to be a big opportunity. Notes, obviously, will be really important in terms of scraping, in terms of what's already in the system, and then I think there can be some further things on the analytical side, when it comes to observing your deals that are in the system what's been won, what's been lost, to try to pull some specific insights out of those. So there's more on top of it, but I think, specifically, if you talk about the use cases for CRM, those will be a good amount of them. And then I'm just seeing other things like cold calling. I'm seeing AI cold callers right now, which is really interesting. I don't know about that. I'm so much bigger on the personalization side than automation. I don't know how you feel about it, blithe, but like it's, and it's freight too Freight is a relationship driven business and I just don't think, like you, can automate relationships fully. There's always got to be that human element, but at the same time, there's still things that AI can help to knock out some of the tedious, you know, manual tasks.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:51:19

If a company used an AI voice calling whatever function to cold call me, I would instantly block them. Like what do you think about it? I would never even look at their company name. It was just instant block, move on. That's how I feel about that. But I'm right there with you. I think that AI can be used in like increasing, like some administrative things, administrative processes and helping to kind of shine a light on areas that you might miss yourself. Hopefully it, you know, will evolve into something and it looks like it's getting there to be able to, you know, look at like your website analytics or look at like CRM analytics and be able to decipher and create some takeaways for you. So I think that that's the logical sort of next step that I've been using chat GPT for. So I haven't used any other tool because, that's, I want to use my own data in order to to extrapolate that, that feedback. But I'm right there with you, it has to, I think, fuel your processes in order to have better conversations that are, you know, built on the back of those in person relationships, but also those personal touches too, which is, I think, where the CRM just really plays a vital role in being able to just, you know, keep track of all of those nodes. Now, you mentioned, you know, a product roadmap, just whatever you can share with us. What does sort of the product roadmap or releases look like for sales dash for the rest of the year?

Josh Lyles: 2:52:42

Yeah, so most CRMs really just focus on shippers and just shipper management and shipper relationship management. And so really, right now, what we're working on and we plan on demoing at a Technovations when we, when we present the shark tank event, yep, the, what we plan on presenting is really our carrier side, so you're going to be able to capture, import your carriers. We have found brokerages will, can you know, store them in spreadsheets as well. Spread good old spreadsheets will never, ever go away in our lifetime probably, but we're going to be showing basically that functionality, how it's going to be complimenting what the you know the shipper information that's already in our system. And then lane capturing as well. So some Google integration that comes into that with the lane capturing, but capturing lanes for shippers, cap, capturing lanes for carriers, to really try to make it a really strong sales engine for freight brokerages outside of just the shippers that are. You know typically that they're, they'll see in their CRM. We want to give them fuel essentially to be reengaging with their shippers in a way that's a little bit more unique, but also to deepen carrier relationships, not make them so transactional. We hear this commonly, it's what a lot of people promote, but honestly, most people do just or I would say most brokerages a lot of those times do just have transactional relationships with their carriers and we want to have the CRM to where not only like it depends on the model that you are between, you know, cradle to grave, split model, that kind of stuff. So there's some considerations that go into it when it does come to that, but we want to make it a really easy place that you can access, run really quick reports, but our reporting is also feeding really good insights to the shippers sales team, also back to the carrier sales team to help deepen the relationships that live in the system.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:54:21

Yeah, that makes a ton of sense because if you're spending all this time and energy trying to get shippers and then you have a crappy carrier on that first load, then you probably all that hard work was for nothing. So that's really interesting. About the the shark tank for for at TIA, what was sort of the process that that it made you want to apply for something like that?

Josh Lyles: 2:54:41

I mean obviously exposure, but Right, yeah, I mean definitely exposure, because we're just trying to get our name out there. You know, I mean a lot of what I do when it comes to marketing and all that stuff is that if CRM gets brought up in conversation and meetings and the people are evaluating CRMs for their brokerage, like we just want to be considered, we want to have a conversation, we're not going to win them all. I do feel that we have really good conversations with people, but we're actively building in the space. Everything that we build from here on out is going to be specifically in the space and I think when it came to that, I was actually not going to do it. And then, when I knew that we were going to be in a decent spot for building this next, the product development that we're working on right now in the carrier and lane side. That's ultimately when I made the decision I was like let's just get up there and go do it. And honestly, I mean to me, I look at it as an opportunity that there's a bunch of decision makers that are in the room. Why not get in front of them? And you know, obviously not going to close all of them and it's okay, but just even establish that relationship, and it's the same thing. If CRM gets brought up like that's really, the biggest thing is just we just want to be in consideration. That's what it comes down to.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:55:44

Yeah, Heck. Yeah, I'm an avid shark tank watcher. I just watched the mayor that comes on every Tuesday. I watched it yesterday. So I'm wondering who's going to be the Mr Wonderful of the group. That's going to be kind of the not the mean one, maybe more the more realistic one. So that'll be interesting to watch, and so we'll have to definitely keep the audience updated on the performance there and how it all turned out. But as we sort of round out the conversation, I like to come to one of my favorite segments now, and it's these recurring questions I call it the relatable eight that I ask, or I'm starting to ask. You know each interview guest on the show, so I think you are about the fifth or sixth person that we've asked these questions to. So let's get started. We kind of already talked. You know a little bit about this, but how do you think about marketing when it comes to you versus your brand? Is it, you know, kind of collaborative or, you know, is it kind of you keep them independent?

Josh Lyles: 2:56:38

No, I think it's fully collaborative because, at the end of the day, people make up your company and your brand. So I think that's really important. I think there's a lot of opportunity to for more people in logistics. I think you're seeing more activity, for example, on LinkedIn, on Twitter X, even on TikTok and whatnot, but you're seeing a lot more activity where they're starting to speak up and that does go a long way, because I mean, so much of it is just people knowing who you are. Like. That's a lot of the objective of marketing is getting attention and people knowing who you are. And if they don't, then when it comes to just like recruiting or you know other kinds of partnerships, potentially even customers, that you know where people can refer you in the right direction, that's not going to be. That's not going to be had. So I would. It's honestly kind of just like a simple thing of instead of consuming content, I'd rather be a creator and people also, you know, taking it. I guess, just like watching and consuming my content. It's free distribution. I mean the fact that you can just build a post for free and thousands of people can see it like why would you not do that? That's just sure, some of it may come off as cringe, at times some of it may flop, but at the end of the day, like just another touch point where your face and your name is out, there can go a long way if you can stay consistent with it. So it's not the easiest thing to do, but I just think staying out in front is really important. And then for me, when it comes to the marketing mentioned it earlier but like really utilizing what customers tell me, whether it's feedback or things that they like or don't like, you know, even if it comes to our product roadmap and they can help build that out but really using customers to help fuel that is really the stage that we're in when it comes to our messaging and our positioning and what I know. That again, just like we were talking about, but if they care about it, there's a very good chance that other brokerages are going to care about it as well.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:58:18

Yeah, preach. And so from the, I am always just baffled by the companies that don't pursue some kind of founder driven marketing that they should have you having their founder on camera, whether it's long form video or short form video, talking about the solutions that they have for their target audience. And speaking of short form video, this isn't actually related to the relatable eight set of questions, but you do a lot of short form video marketing over on YouTube shorts. Was that a conscious effort or did you just see the opportunity there to get brand awareness?

Josh Lyles: 2:58:51

Yeah, so, funny enough, I actually do more of it on Tik Tok. The YouTube shorts is probably like a fraction of what I have, but I just saw a big opportunity in it. You know, I wanted to leverage. A lot of people think it's just, you know, young kids dancing on Tik Tok and whatnot. But Tik Tok is realistic, you know. I mean it's a really great area to, I think, to be in there's. There's actually more people in trucking that are on Tik Tok than you would, than you probably would be aware of. But the thing I love about short form in general is that it's short. Like the fact that it's short form, it's really hard to get your message, your messaging right in a, let's just say, 15 to 30 second clip. It's hard for anybody that's tried it. It's really tough because you can just go on for minutes and minutes. So honestly, I do it as almost like practice for myself to try to figure out, like how can I try to capture somebody's attention or provide a really good message in the shortest period of time, just because all of our attention spans are going down year by year.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:59:46

Yeah, it's definitely. I hated it when Twitter slash X removed the. They bumped it up from 140 characters like 240, which was okay, but now you can.

Josh Lyles: 2:59:56

You can write essays.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:59:57

Yes, Like 1000 word blog articles on Twitter. I'm like this is not what this was for. I liked the conciseness and the impact that you could have with saying something with less words. But I'm right there with you, it's very challenging, which is why I use interviews like this to be able to cut it down into digestible clips. That's much more easier to go back in the editing process or to just use AI like Opus and be able to plug a video like this right into Opus and have the software pick a good clip for you and do a lot of like 80% of the legwork. So great tips on that. But I guess I kind of know the answer to this next question what's your favorite social media platform and why the tick tock?

Josh Lyles: 3:00:40

It is going to be. It is going to be. I know it's so weird. It's going to be tick tock. And the main reason it's going to be tick tock is because I can just learn things the fastest there. It's really as simple as that. If for you to be able to build a video that's actually effective, you have to be able to teach something super fast, super simple, and that's the reason why I love it. It's going to be tick tock or YouTube, because if I need to get really deep, then I'm obviously going to YouTube, but if I need something super quick, I'm not even going to tick tock, but I use it all the time to learn things as fast as I can.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:01:08

Yeah, for sure, it's definitely on that platform. I either laugh or I learn it with every other platform. It feels like there's I mean tick tock has a lot of drama too, but it feels like every other platform just has too much drama of, like the people I don't want to or the people that I regularly see with tick tock. I don't know any of these people that show up on my feed, which is great. So it's a totally different experience. Okay, next question what is your favorite SaaS tool that you use every day and can't live without, but it's not your own?

Josh Lyles: 3:01:37

Google workspace. Super basic, fundamental answer, but I can't live without it. It's super boring. I know, if I was to say a backup or like, let's just say, all right, that's going to be 1A, but if I had to say 1B, 1c, canva is super important when it comes to marketing. It can make anybody a marketer. That's what's so awesome about it. Such a simple tool and just getting the practice with it helps. And then this one's probably unique, but Clean Shot X. So Clean Shot X is like helps with screenshots and with recording, like screen grabs and all that kind of stuff. So a lot of times, if you see, you know any specific screen grabs of like our software or even just like little things that I do most of the time, that's actually what I use. It is the easiest thing I use it. It's for I think it's I don't know if it's just for Mac, but you know, I know there's like snipping tool, but it's.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:02:25

I use it Lume or something, is it kind of like that?

Josh Lyles: 3:02:27

Exactly I can. Instead of using Lume, I can just use that and record a specific spot of the screen and it can take all the audio video, everything from it. Or I can like be in my CRM and, you know, have myself just like Lume, have myself as a little circle in it.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:02:40

So, oh, that's cool, yeah, it probably makes for great like product demos, quick, product demos, correct, okay, next question is a favorite freight business that is in your own?

Josh Lyles: 3:02:50

Oh, any freight brokers that use the sales dash is easily my favorite. I love talking to them and sometimes I get a lot of questions, but honestly I love it. But that is my answer.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:03:03

That's kind of cheating but we'll let it go, it is cheating I'll come back to that one.

Josh Lyles: 3:03:06

I'll come back to that one.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:03:07

Okay, next one, what's?

Josh Lyles: 3:03:12

one task in your current job that you can't stand doing Editing content. Yeah, yeah, I need, I need AI. I heard you saying AI tool. I'm taking a note. Opus, I need, I need a. Yeah, opus, I'm going to look into that.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:03:22

Opus Clips is a God said, because they just released a button. They don't pay me for any of this, but they just released a major update in the month of August where it like auto frames and you can select, you know, highlight key words. So if you're only looking for like, maybe like AI and one conversation, it will just isolate that part of the conversation that you talked about AI it's. I mean, I cannot speak enough. You know better things about that platform. Okay, Next one. If you didn't have to worry about money, what would you want to do for the rest of your life?

Josh Lyles: 3:03:48

I would want to be a GM for an MBA team.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:03:53

That sounds like a lot of work.

Josh Lyles: 3:03:54

I would love it. I would love it. I love basketball, I love sports, but basketball and MBA has always been my favorite. Leadership is one of the biggest things I've always just kind of studied and you know, assembling a team and all that kind of stuff, I just think it would be a lot of fun. Yeah, so that that's probably I would. I would enjoy that. I know it would be stressful, for sure, I know the, I know the stress as I come into it, but that's that's what I would sign up for, for sure, but what's the organization that you're? going to pick? I guess I'll pick the Atlanta Hawks, just because I'm from Atlanta.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:04:23

They probably do. They still have a lot of work to do, or they have a lot of work to do, and honestly, I would want to take a project.

Josh Lyles: 3:04:28

I would, I would. I would not want to go to one of the established like I wouldn't want to play. You know, be at the Lakers or for the Celtics, or you know, one of the historic teams like the Bulls. I, I want to take a full blown project.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:04:40

Heck, yeah. Yeah, the small market teams deserve love too.

Josh Lyles: 3:04:44

Yeah, you know, like I know a lot of people be like, oh, I just kicked my feet up at the beach and like that would be fun if I didn't have to. But like that I have to be doing something. Like I enjoy work. And even that other question you asked about like what tasks I honestly enjoy them, like even editing content. I don't necessarily like love it, but I'm still going to do it because I know how much, how important it is. Like I I'm thankfully at a spot where I really enjoy what I do and you know, like work is, you can make work fun.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:05:08

Yeah, it's definitely. It's like the 80, 20 rule If you enjoy 80% of your job, then the other 20% is worth dealing with in order to enjoy that. The rest of that 80%, Okay. Next one what is something you believe in that most people don't?

Josh Lyles: 3:05:24

Sales can be fun. I believe that I literally think it's as simple as this and this is like. This is my easy flip of it, because growing up I was a big introvert, didn't talk that much, I was just like a big listener, observer, all that stuff. But to me it's like flipping your mindset that you're not selling that and you're just helping. You're helping others.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:05:44

So I'm excited to have this conversation because you you know the sort of the elephant in the room is. You spent 15 years at TQL. Now you are working for Zell for a few months now, and so it's an interesting dynamic of of what's going on in the freight brokerage world. So I'm excited to sort of talk through what you think the evolutions that need to be happening, based on your experience of working in a big time freight brokerage, and where you think this segment of the industry is headed. So, chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Fields: 3:06:16

Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to it and I hope people don't stop listening when they first heard that I was there for 15 years. You know I I said this to you earlier, but I it's. There's good, bad, ugly opinions about the company and I feel like I was one of the good ones and it was due in large part to the carrier relationships. I had really transparent with my carriers and I think it was a mutually beneficial partnership.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:06:43

So well, hopefully no one. Either you turn the volume up when you hear TQL or you just immediately like shut it off. So hopefully people are turning the volume up anytime you hear that name, because obviously you become the top dog, for you know good and bad reasons and hopefully the good outweighs the bad. But there's a lot of debate around that topic. You know regular everything's logistics. Listeners will probably have heard the conversation with Matthew Leffler who broke down a lot of the, the interesting, I guess, the the interesting ruling that came out recently with TQL versus the classification of salary versus non-salary positions, especially within the freight brokerage world. I was an executive as it. I was never a freight broker, but I sat next to the freight brokers on the brokerage floor at a logistics company about, you know, 10 years ago and it was very much, especially working in marketing. It very much was okay. We're going to go to the different schools that are in the area. We're going to recruit those fresh face college graduates and we're going to sit them down and we're going to make them pound the phones on all the cold leads that the other experienced brokers never had access to. And that sounds like a lot of what or not a lot, but it sounds like it's a typical freight brokerage model, not just for the company I worked at, but also for TQL. Is that a safe assumption across most freight brokerages?

Chris Fields: 3:08:06

For the big box 3PLs. Yes, I think it's become a volume play and when I first started there in 2008, I don't think that was the case, and I'll tell you this I applied and got turned down on my initial interview. They said we're not interested.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:08:22

Oh, wow. You know why.

Chris Fields: 3:08:25

The recruiter just said probably not a good fit and that really fired me up. So the next day I applied again. I said no, we're going to talk. So I lasted 15 years and it was a great career. But that just shows that back in 2008, 2009,. They were a little more selective. I think all of the big box, the CH, they were all a little more selective. Now it's just we need bodies in the door.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:08:53

And so what are those bodies taking care of right now? Because you hear a lot or I hear a lot about, you know, sort of tech revolution and tracking invisibility, and you know it sounded like buzzwords for years, but for that to pick up, another story that's been going on and freight is the digital freight brokerage and they're going to eliminate the role of the freight broker and you know you create this instant visibility for all of your shipments. What do you think that the bodies in the seats are taking care of now at major freight brokerage? Is it, you know, tracking and tracing? Is it, you know, still a combination of, you know, the digital freight brokerage model versus the traditional freight brokerage model?

Chris Fields: 3:09:33

Yes, I think if you lean too far in one direction it's a problem. I think that hybrid of get the really smart tech people in there to automate what can be automated, but then you still need that human element. And you still need because drivers still like talking to people. They don't want a text messages and text back and say, hey, I'm loaded or I'm unloaded. They still like to pick up the phone and talk to people. And I think those that find that balance of tech and human interaction are the ones that will excel the most.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:10:06

And so, as you you know, you spent 15 years at DQA. How did your role evolve? Did you start off with being, you know, the butts in the seats and pounding? You know the cold calls. Did you start out tracking? Trace it? Tell me a little bit about your time and how your role evolved.

Chris Fields: 3:10:24

Yeah. So I started out as an assistant on a large account and I got to train on that account for 20 weeks or so and then they said, okay, here's a desk and good luck. And I didn't plan to stay very long. I said, but if I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna make more calls than anyone else, I'm gonna stay on the phone more and I'm gonna figure it out or I'm gonna fail. And so I did that. I made thousands and thousands of phone calls and then I said you know what? I'm pretty dang good at this. And so I built a book of business myself. I, you know, had assistance on my team. I built a large team and then, from that point, I think this was probably a mistake I made is I went into management from there, and your best salespeople aren't always your best managers and vice versa. But that was just, you know, 28 year old Chris going all right, well, that's the next step, let's go into management. And so I went into management and started building a team. In 2010, I actually started their Tampa office with six people and then grew that to 250 people, so, and it's still one of their most successful offices.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:11:32

So did you go back to sales or did you stay in them? Obviously, you stayed in the management side of things.

Chris Fields: 3:11:37

So I was in management for a bit and then we found a role. They said well, let's get Chris in front of some of our large accounts, let's get him back into selling a little bit. So I traveled, I don't know, 35 weeks out of the year visiting some top accounts and saying here's what we're doing right, here's what we're doing wrong, let's tweak it here. And oftentimes I would meet up with a sales rep. It was his account, but they were a little more green and they said get Chris in there with them and let's make sure we're doing a good job. And some of those stories of seeing a green rep visit a customer and they've never been on a customer visit. There were some funny little stories there.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:12:15

What is a green rep?

Chris Fields: 3:12:17

Well, one that just started that landed a big account who had never. They were great on the phone, but when they put them in a conference room with 15 or 20 executives at a large Fortune 500 company, they didn't know what to say.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:12:28

They're going to eat them alive.

Chris Fields: 3:12:30

Yes, yeah, they really did.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:12:33

So what were some of those key differences that made you say, oh, I don't know if management is right for me.

Chris Fields: 3:12:42

It can be a bit of babysitting, depending on what your team is like. You hear about the girlfriend and boyfriend breakups and all the noise outside of it and I just want my salespeople when I want to sell and I want to drive revenue, but there's a lot of noise that goes along with it and I think they're good managers and good salespeople and you've got to find your swim lane.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:13:06

For sure Now, with your experience with TQ, obviously they're one of the top dogs in freight. There are obviously some stones that people are throwing, trying to punch up things like that, but what are some of the good things that you saw? Because you don't get to one of the top brokerages in the world without doing some right thing or doing some correct things.

Chris Fields: 3:13:32

Absolutely yeah. Their training is top notch and they are very upfront from day one and they say this is what the training will entail we're going to give you the tools to succeed. And what you do with those tools are up to you and I took those and, like I said, there was a lot of hard work but I was one of the top brokers for years at their company and if you needed help or you needed more tools or support, they were there for you. And, like you said, you don't get to $8 billion by accident.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:14:07

Right and I think for a lot of just the role of the freight broker in general has just been. It feels like it's done a lot of evolution in the last year or so relative to the previous 15 years. Is that a safe assumption?

Chris Fields: 3:14:24

I think the landscape is changing now. I think there are a couple of things that rolling is going to affect how people hire moving forward, because a lot we're saying, well, they got here by doing this, I can replicate it, and now that's going to change. I think the advance in tech is going to take a lot of busy work off broker's plates. So I see us moving towards more of an agency model and especially the remote staffing that has gotten so popular In Latin America, philippines, us in Eastern Europe. I think it's going to be more of an agency Give them everything they need to run and kind of remove your liabilities a little bit. I know Uber just started an agency program and there are several other large ones that are doing really well in a tough market.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:15:15

Yeah, I mean it definitely makes a lot of sense and I've had this conversation on the show before. I mean, obviously, spoiler alert SPI Logistics is a freight agent network, proud supporter of the show, which has allowed me to be able to explore these stories more in depth and try to find where the bright spots are, especially in a tough market, and the freight agency model just feels like it's one I think it's one of I hate to call it like a hidden gem, but it still feels like a hidden gem in the world of brokerage industries, where you can have these top dogs who, like SPI, who has the tech and the solutions and the IT teams and the HR, the back office, all of that important thing, and then you can have the people who have the relationships with the customers, with the carriers, and I think that you're right. I think that that's a very hidden entrepreneurial opportunity and freight that not a lot of folks are paying attention to.

Chris Fields: 3:16:14

You're right, I don't think everyone knows about it and just the model itself of take the accounting off their plate, take the tracking and tracing, dispatching and just let your salespeople sell and then let our folks who are good I was terrible at accounting, I should not be doing accounting so let's take that off Chris's plate and your plate and let them do what they're good at. So I think it's only going to get more popular and, like I said, uber announcing their program and then several other large ones and the ones that have been doing it, like SPI and your global trans, and those that have been doing it for years, I think are poised to kind of surge ahead.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:16:53

And I think too, because that's one of the lessons that the industry has kind of had to learn the hard way. I'll invite people if you want to get into sort of the lawsuit details, things like that, the ruling that just came down with TQL, in addition to the convoy closure, the yellow closure, the slinkio, like all of the drama with them, there's a lot of just sort of like a come to Jesus moment for the freight industry and it feels like this meeting of technology and where technology plays a role, along with the relationships, and I think that the relationships is something that has gotten lost with the rush to tech adoption for a lot of these companies. And so I'm curious for you like you have been at Zell for four or five months now, I believe you just recently joined the team and as we're kind of evolving into these sort of outsourcing models, especially when it comes to freight, it feels like I've learned about a new outsourcing company, a few of them already this year. Is that sort of what you see is almost the future of a lot of traditional freight brokerage roles?

Chris Fields: 3:18:10

I do. The concept itself. It's nothing new. Several have been around for a few years and they're doing a great job. They are primarily in Latin America and the Philippines and that's what drew me. Well, a couple of things drew me to this team is we're primarily in Eastern Europe and I was so used to 60% 70% turnover, and when I started meeting the staff that we have and the work ethic and the education and experience level, I said if we had had this, we could have done even more. So I think there's something there, and when you get single digit turnover from a company in roles like this and they look at it as a career, instead of a 23 year old who had one foot out the door the day he started, it makes a big difference and I think you can really compound the revenue using this model.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:19:04

And so when you talk about sort of the education, the lack of turnover, what does the employee base that works in freight brokerage are they working in brokerages all across the world or are they dedicated employees for freight brokerages in the US? What does sort of the I guess, the high level outlook look like? And then let's drill down to the employee itself.

Chris Fields: 3:19:27

I think you can do a couple of things. I think you can do exclusive staff for a company, where they only work for that company, doing some back office tracking and tracing, whatever it may be. I think on the agency side you could do more of a flex model where you may have four or five agents who don't have enough book of business to support an individual or a team by themselves, but together maybe one has West Coast freight, the other East Coast freight or after hours, and then you have a team that just flexes across accounts. And I love that model. I don't think a lot are doing it right now and it's something that we've started to do and I think it's a great option.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:20:10

And then from the employee side of things you mentioned, the education, the lack of turnover. What is it about the educating Eastern European employees different from US-based employees?

Chris Fields: 3:20:24

OK, let's think of the Midwest carrier market, chicago in general Large, I think it's 23%, 24% Eastern European carriers in Metro Chicago. So think about if you're negotiating rates or you're building a carrier network, but instead of Chris or life calling these carriers, it's someone who speaks Polish, who has been in the industry for three or four years. I think they're going to have a better relationship than you or I could get and maybe better rates. Maybe they pull more loads for you. Those kind of things.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:21:00

And that's interesting. You say that because there are a lot of companies that, especially that there was one woman that I worked with and she had a whole network of Russian drivers and Russian carriers that would work with our company because she spoke Russian and she was able to have a conversation with them and develop that relationship with them, just simply based on the language, where I would almost think like perception-wise for some carriers, some customers, if they call somebody and they hear an accent, they're going to get frustrated, whereas I think it's the opposite with what you're referring to, where it's almost a bonding moment. Is that a safe assumption?

Chris Fields: 3:21:43

It is. I'm from Kentucky and when I would call Kentucky Cares, it was great, but when I would call the Bronx, it wasn't. It worked out so well. But absolutely you're spot on and others have noticed the same with the Spanish-speaking side. When you're covering loads in the Southwest, there's a little bit of trust already built in there and we've noticed better margins, better relationships and just more carrier satisfaction and with driver turnover being such an issue right now, I think it can affect that as well. I like working with them because I have relationships with their after hours team.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:22:22

And so with a lot of the outsourcing I've personally dealt with, it's more on the marketing and web side of things web development, that kind of technology side of things but for outsourcing in logistics, specifically for a brokerage. We've talked about some of the benefits, but what are some of the dangers that people should be looking out for if they're thinking about taking that leap?

Chris Fields: 3:22:45

I would make sure that it's not a situation where they're just placing bodies for you. I would want to be involved in the interview process, the selection process, speak to those people and you make the decision. I'm looking for a dispatcher OK, here's one but rather give you four or five options and have you make that decision. I would be skeptical of work from home. I'm not a big fan of it, especially for remote. I'd prefer them to be in office on webcam when necessary and then setting the shifts myself.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:23:21

Oh, interesting. Yeah, because especially with the movement that we've heard over the last couple of years of hybrid versus, back in the office there's a big debate going on, but you're in the camp of everybody should be in the office.

Chris Fields: 3:23:36

I think so, and it's tough. I'm saying that and you're going to be well, they're 8,000 miles away. Well, usually we'll teams and they're all in the office together and there's still that camaraderie there. So I just think it's a plus compared to someone being at home and not on webcam.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:23:55

What do you think are some of the other benefits of working in an office environment versus just working solo?

Chris Fields: 3:24:03

The lessons you learn and the energy we all worked through COVID from home. I'm sure a lot of us and I mean it got pretty dang boring sitting there and then I was like I want human interaction again.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:24:17

My brother actually got a job. He specifically picked a job to go work because he lost his job during COVID, unfortunately, but he specifically picked a job that was in office because he was sick of staying home.

Chris Fields: 3:24:30

Oh yeah, yeah, I believe it. And then just the things you hear. Maybe somebody two desks over tried something that you would have never tried and it worked. Or they said something really bad and you don't ever do that. Just the lessons you can learn being around people, I think is a big deal.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:24:45

For sure, and I mean for me. I love working from home, but I have a different role. I'm not a freight broker, but some of the best times that, or some of the most interesting things that I ever learned, was being an executive assistant at a 3PL and working at a magazine where you could just number one. Working at a 3PL was definitely the experience of hearing all of the drama, hearing all of the things that are going on Brokers yell at drivers and vice versa, management arguing with each other. There's all those different dynamics, people very passionate about what they think and what they feel, and I probably wouldn't hear that at all if you're all working from home.

Chris Fields: 3:25:25

Yeah, and I mean if it's accounting and where you need a quiet environment and you need to be very correct on your numbers, and that's OK, I get it. But if it's more of that sales side of things and support, I like being together in an office.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:25:42

Now for you. Backing up just a second because I'm curious about this. So, with spending 15 years at TQL, what was the catalyst for moving on to Zell?

Chris Fields: 3:25:54

I'd been talking to the team. So the founding team here at Zell all have been in the industry for a decade plus and that appealed to me. I said so. They know what they're talking about, whether it was with Transplace or Uber. Just a solid founding team that, and combined with the model itself of wait a minute, why isn't everyone doing this? When I first told me about it, I said let me look into it a bit. I got to speak to a few of the staff. I got to see the resumes and I said this is genius, this is what we need to be doing and the landscape changing is. I think it. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it's shifting right now and I think this is a big piece of it. I was happy there. I could have stayed another 15 years, but I think it's just a new era we're entering.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:26:43

Why do you think more freight brokerages haven't started outsourcing yet?

Chris Fields: 3:26:49

There's a lot of skepticism. I don't think there's enough education. I also question the talent level, and that's not a knock on anyone who's been doing it for years. They've been doing it a lot longer than I have. But if you're looking for data entry, clerical work, I think it's fine to look at other options. But if you're looking for customer facing customer interaction, I would want to be very selective about who you work with, and that's what appealed to me with. We don't have to tell these people what a drive-in load is or a flatbed load. They know and they're ready to go, and I think that plug-and-play aspect is really, really beneficial.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:27:33

You mentioned earlier about the education and the training for a lot of the Eastern European employees. I'm curious as to, maybe, what they grew up learning about transportation versus the intricacies of the US brokerage market. Are there any?

Chris Fields: 3:27:51

You would have to. I mean it varies depending on, but a lot have worked for US brokerages in the past, but then others worked for European trucking companies. So just the terminology's similar. The laws and regulations are a bit different. But would you rather have a and it pains me to say this sometimes, but the work ethic of some of the recent college graduates for these entry-level roles here in the States is not the best. So would you rather have someone with experience that could learn your operation in a week or two and ready to go, or someone that you really have to train all the nuances of the industry?

Blythe Brumleve: 3:28:28

So what are some of the I guess, let's just say, in three years, most of the freight brokerage industry the market's back. You've had these sort of market fluctuations sort of balanced out. What do you think a modern freight brokerage looks like in the US in three years? What are those main departments that are in office in the US versus the roles that they're outsourcing?

Chris Fields: 3:28:58

It was euphoria there for a couple of years, with rates through the roof, everyone buying trucks, and I think people have forgotten how good of a couple of years it was, and now we're just coming back to reality, I think, and brokerage is moving forward. I think are going to be more efficient, a little bit more lean and focus on quality people in all departments. I want the best salespeople that I can get, I want the best back office, I want the best accounting and I think the days of just here's an open role. Just hire as many as you can. The amount of money spent on recruiting teams is absurd and that, combined with the time wasted on interviews and sourcing candidates, only to have them leave after six months, that's not doable for a long term and I hate seeing companies going out of business now because of decisions like that being made. I think they could have been prevented.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:29:56

It's definitely demoralizing too. You spend that time and energy and money to get a new hire through the door and if they're gone with that turnover rate that you mentioned, it's very demoralizing. And you just have a bunch of employees that are being overworked and they probably won't last as long either because they're tired of doing all the grunt work.

Chris Fields: 3:30:18

And on the other side you have a couple in that group that are really good and it brings them down. This is not a great environment to be in. You want to motivate those eight players and I don't think a lot of that's happening.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:30:31

So, with all of your experience at TQL, especially with on the sales side of things, I'm curious with your role now VP of Sales over at Zell, are a lot of those sales practices the same for you? Is it just? Or does it just change your business card? Or are you doing the same sort of I guess sales structure, the same sales philosophy, just the name has changed.

Chris Fields: 3:30:58

No, not at all. So I'm not. All of our employees are in Eastern Europe and all that I do now is add to this founding team that, like I said, came from Uber Transplace and that brings a lot of credibility. So when we talk to a company and we say, hey, we built teams, we've been in your shoes, we know what to do and what not to do and we offer up this solution and we'd love to talk through your current operation and how it works. And maybe, if you tweak here or try something here, add a person here. I think it brings a lot about you to the team. It's refreshing. I'm excited.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:31:32

What are some of those mistakes that brokerages are making when they're trying to scale?

Chris Fields: 3:31:38

I think the recruiting team that I mentioned I think is a lot of wasted resources there, a volume play. I think you need to be more selective in who you hire for your salespeople and consider other options and don't get stuck in that well, we've always done it this way. Let's keep doing it this way. So there are different models across the country, from your cradle to grave to ones that just focus on customer relationships and hand things off. So find out your identity, who you are, and hire the right people.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:32:13

And then, outside of that, how do you, I guess, think about sales and marketing when it comes to Zell? Is marketing a focus right now or maybe a focus in the future? How do you guys think about the sales and marketing relationship?

Chris Fields: 3:32:29

It's like I said, the concept isn't new. I think it's bringing awareness to a lot that don't know about it, but then also letting them know who we are. That's been in my first four or five months here, because they talk to the other companies that do outsourcing, but the single compliment that we get the most is the team. It's wait a minute, you've built teams. Not everyone else can say that, so I think that brings a lot of value to a company, Whether they work with us or not. We talk through things and make suggestions and go from there.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:33:05

So what would your? I guess maybe two or three things that you think that freight brokerages need to be thinking about. New years coming up 2024. People are probably already budgeting and planning for it and putting those things in place. What should they be thinking about? With all of your experience in the freight brokerage world now, with your outsourcing experience, what should be some of those top things that freight brokerages should be thinking about if they want to survive through this tough market?

Chris Fields: 3:33:34

I want to be ahead of things. I think the typical cycle in our industry is 26 to 28 months and I read that we're in month 22 right now. So it is coming. Whether it's the beginning of 24 or middle of next year, it will change and I think those who make changes now will kind of surge ahead of everyone when it does flip. I saw it flip many times over the years and there are good tech options out there. It's finding the right ones that fit your model. Don't just buy everything that's being sold out there. Find the right ones that fit your company's model and get the right people and then, when you do have the right people, do everything you can to keep them. They're few and far between.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:34:20

Don't let them go, because they're the relationship builders. We mentioned it earlier in the conversation Walk that fine, balanced line of adopting technology but also investing in your top people. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight, telling the stories behind how your favorite stuff and people get from point A to B. Subscribe to the show, sign up for our newsletter and follow our socials over at EverythingIsLogisticscom. And in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let y'all know about another company I operate, and that's Digital Dispatch, where we help you build a better website. Now, a lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a co-worker's child, a neighbor down the street or a stranger around the world, where you probably spend more time explaining the freight industry than it takes to actually build the dang website. Well, that doesn't happen. At Digital Dispatch. We've been building online since 2009, but we're also early adopters of AI, automation and other website tactics that help your company to be a central place to pull in all of your social media posts, recruit new employees and give potential customers a glimpse into how you operate your business. Our new website builds start as low as $1,500, along with ongoing website management, maintenance and updates starting at $90 a month, plus some bonus freight, marketing and sales content similar to what you hear on the podcast. You can watch a quick explainer video over on digitaldispatchio. Just check out the pricing page once you arrive and you can see how we can build your digital ecosystem on a strong foundation. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll see you all real soon in Go Jags.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.