Why This Freight Agent Only Hires Family
Episode Transcript
DD Spotify DD Apple Podcast

In this episode of Everything is Logistics, we talk with Steve Burroughs, agency owner at SPI Logistics, who exclusively hires family members to work at his freight agency. Hear how this approach has shaped the dynamics of his business, from maintaining work-life balance to building a resilient and loyal team. Steve shares personal anecdotes and lessons learned from integrating family into his professional world and navigating the intricacies of the freight market.



“We only hire family because this used to be a very scalable business. The last time we spoke, I told the story about the lady that had never been on vacation. She was a kitchen table broker, sat at her kitchen table with a phone and a laptop. She had built up a nice little six figure income, brought her nephew in to work with her and taught him the business, went on vacation for two weeks in Europe, came back, business gone, computer gone, phone’s gone, customer gone, everything was gone.” – Steve Burroughs

“You wake up every morning unemployed in our business because you’ve booked no loads for the day. You have no money coming in. If you don’t hunt, you don’t eat.” – Steve Burroughs

“You have to remember that when you choose a carrier, they’re representing you, they’re your face for the day. Do you want to put the best face out there? Or do you want to just put the cheapest face out there?” – Steve Burroughs



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.

Tai TMS is designed to streamline your brokerage operations and propel growth for both FTL and LTL shipment cycles. Book a demo with the Tai team today and tell them Everything is Logistics sent you.

Maximize your website’s performance as a sales tool with Digital Dispatch’s website management.

Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Steve Burroughs: 0:05

It's becoming a technology-driven world. It's still not there and I think what we're seeing actually in, from my perspective, is a pull back somewhat from technology. And you know, I think the analogy I used last year was the Smokey and the Bandit trucker world. That's where I came from and you know new kids are coming in and they're all about email and texting and you know AI and all this stuff Well, but a lot of these big tech companies are going out of business because my generation is still in the room.

Blythe Brumleve: 0:42

Let's go ahead and kick the show off. Welcome into another episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight. We are proudly presented by SPI Logistics, and I'm your host, Blythe Brumleve. We've got an amazing guest for y'all today. It is Steve Burroughs. He is an agent owner over at SPI. You might have heard him on another episode of Everything is Logistics about a year ago, but we've got him back to talk about the evolving freight agent market and how he and his agency and his family are dealing with the evolution of the freight agent model and how he's handling these market conditions. So, Steve, we've been talking for quite a while before we hit record on this, so you can tell we got a lot to talk about. So welcome back.

Steve Burroughs: 1:24

Well, thank you so much, Blythe. I'm so happy to be back and I do appreciate it. Thank you.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:28

Yes, absolutely. You are one of my favorite people to talk to and I don't just say that because you are, you know, right here with, I guess, virtually right here I'm blushing, I'm blushing, but it really is. You have such a, I say a deep appreciation for not just the industry but the people that you work with, your family that you work with, and also SPI is the first supporter of this podcast, so they will always hold a special place in my heart, and the fact that we both are able to work with the same people, we are able to speak about working with them from such a genuine place that I'm excited for folks to listen to this conversation. But for folks who may not have listened to that conversation, which I will link in the comments if you're interested in hearing it but for those folks who didn't talk to us about your background, how you got into logistics because you've worked on all different sides of the logistics spectrum- I have.

Steve Burroughs: 2:25

I was born and raised in North Alabama, a little coal mining town, and when I was 14, I learned to drive a stick shift in a 76 cab over Flatnose Peterbilt that I used. I mean I would shag coal truck trailers and clean them out. You know where I grew up at. If you didn't know how to move trucks and trailers and whatnot, you didn't work or you worked in the coal mines. And then I started shagging trailers for a department store chain.

Steve Burroughs: 2:52

I went to college, I got a degree in industrial management and, with an emphasis in logistics, I went to work for the railroad. For a little while I was a locomotive engineer and I got hurt there. And I went to work for my uncle working for a charter bus company that he owned and from there I went to a steel company in charge of transportation and we were having a very difficult time finding load or finding trucks to haul our loads. So my wife and I, mary, we decided to buy a truck and we bought another truck and then another truck and then we leased on about 17 other trucks and we were I mean, life was good. Life was, we were fat and happy and we were running hard and everything was good. And then 2008 came along and the economy fell off the shelf of the world and we got rid of all the trucks. By then I had left the steel company, but we got rid of all the trucks. By then I had left the steel company, but we got rid of all the trucks. And I said to myself you know, I will never get back in the trucking business again. But, blythe, as you well know, if you spend more than six months in the trucking business, you are not fit for anything else.

Steve Burroughs: 3:57

So we were living in Lincoln, nebraska, and I got a job working for a steel company in Northeast Nebraska and I was there just a few weeks and the owner of the company came to me and he said hey, um, we're having a hard time moving trucks, and I was in charge of this. I said, yeah, I know. And he said what if Mary came and she started brokering freight for us? And I said well, you know, that's a conflict of interest. And he said that's fine, we got to move these loads. I said, okay.

Steve Burroughs: 4:23

So we started a freight brokerage business out of our home and it was a rental home, you know, nonetheless and our goal initially was for her to make $250 a week. I mean, you know $250 a week. Why? That was life-changing money for us in 2009. And so we did that and we became really successful and about three years later, I left the steel company and came home and joined the family business and we, you know, we worked hard and we worked long hours and we just built our business.

Steve Burroughs: 4:57

And so I had been. You know, I have a CDL, so I was a driver. I have been in the corporate world where people were calling on me. I was a driver. I have been in the corporate world where people were calling on me. I have called brokers looking for loads. I have received calls from brokers and, you know, then I became a broker and now I'm calling on the people that I used to actually sell steel to and whatnot. But business was really good.

Steve Burroughs: 5:20

We worked really hard and, you know, pretty soon our one child joined us and then another child joined us and then another, and then I have nine children. By the way, we've talked about this last year, but I have nine children and right now I have um six of the nine either them or their spouse working for us and, uh, you know, we we're hoping that we have another daughter-in-law, soon to be, that's going to be joining us. And so we just, you know, we were working and living in Norfolk, nebraska, and it just, it was really cold. And one day we flew down here into South Florida for our nephew got married and we left a blizzard and flew into paradise and we looked at each other and says why are we there? And we flew back and one morning I went out to my truck and cranked it and it was negative 37 degrees actual temperature and, um, I have, I had a diesel pickup truck, almost didn't get started and I had to leave it running for nine days and three weeks later we had a for sale sign in our front yard.

Steve Burroughs: 6:31

I had a house bought in South Florida and we moved and here we are and you know, our, our, our business has, has grown and it's floated. Uh right, we're almost about, we're just getting close to celebrating our four year anniversary with SPI. Uh, you know, and it's, it's been an amazing journey and I won't say it's always been an easy journey, because if it was easy, everybody would do it and everybody doesn't do it, but it's been an amazing journey and we've had some great triumphs along the way and we've had some great tragedy along the way and we've laughed and we've cried and we joined SPI and our business literally exploded after we joined SPI and we haven't looked back and it's just been, so far, an absolutely fantastic ride. So I am truly one of those anomalies. You're right in that I have literally sat on every side of the fence. There's not a lot of freight brokers out there that could literally go and get in a truck and run it down the road if they needed to. We are those people.

Blythe Brumleve: 7:24

And so, if I'm doing the math, uh, four years ago. So you made the switch during, you know, the, I guess, the peak of COVID during 2020. Is that? Is that?

Steve Burroughs: 7:34

That is accurate when, uh, you know, I, I had and I told the story the last time and it's one of my very favorite stories and and and indulge me if you would Please I was at a conference for our biggest customer and I was with the vice president of the previous company I was with Went to a bar which you're going to see might become kind of a redundant theme Went to a bar with the vice president and ran into a gentleman named Mike Mikulik from SPI. Didn't know Mike, didn't know SPI at all, you know, met Mike and he bought a couple of rounds of drinks. And the vice president of my company bought a couple of rounds of drinks and I had to go do some work and I got up and left and the vice president looked at Mike and he said I know why you're here, you won't get them. And Mike said what are you talking about? I'm just, I didn't even know his name until five minutes ago. You know what are you talking about. I'm just, I didn't even know his name until five minutes ago. You know what are you talking about.

Steve Burroughs: 8:30

But Mike was one of those guys that he's just got this magnetic personality and I just really enjoyed Mike and we, uh, we just we stayed in touch and he kept saying I'm going to come play golf with you one day, is that okay? No pressure, I'm not trying to ask you to join our company, I just want to come play golf with you. And and I had told him, you know, we're loyal to the company we were with and we're we're, we're happy, and we were happy for a long time. And then a capital venture group took over the company that we were with and, all of a sudden, everything we asked turned in, turned from a yes to a no, no, we can't do this. No, we can't do this. No, you know. No, your technology won't work. Well, we've had it for seven years, it works. And I just finally had enough no's and I called Mike and Mike said yes and I said I want to talk.

Steve Burroughs: 9:07

And so, as fate would have it, Joe Chandler was the president of SPI. He had been the president of our previous company and I just remember that when Joe ran our company, it was run with pride and integrity and quality, and Joe just bent over backwards to make the agent happy and make his agent, you know, make his business successful. And Joe and his wife Trish came down here in the middle of COVID and I'll never forget it, because he shows up to our house and he's wearing his mask and, Blythe, you're from Florida too, you know he's wearing his mask and I looked at him kind of like yeah, you don't have to wear that here, this is Florida, no-transcript the entire time and just proved beyond measure that he is a man of integrity and a man of character and quality and and I mean we would walk through a wall of fire for Joe Chandler- yeah, Joe is.

Blythe Brumleve: 10:29

he comes up a lot during our SPI interview series. Um, uh, you know, between Anita, who also works for for SPI, uh, obviously, Mike Mikulik, uh, who's? Both of them have been on recent episodes. Both of them have just sung to the high heavens of how much they love and appreciate Joe, and you're now echoing that statement as well. He's somebody we got to get on the show and I've already made a note to it. I'm going to reach out to the SPI team so we can get some of those reasons and some of the feelings that you have so strongly about him.

Blythe Brumleve: 11:03

I would love for the audience to be able to hear that. 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 spi3plcom Now. As you mentioned, he was there for three and a half weeks helping you get onboarded. What were some of those things that you had to tackle during that onboarding process?

Steve Burroughs: 12:06

Well, we had to tackle some legal issues. We also had to tackle, you know, our biggest customer was being handled by another agent that was with SPI, or should I say mishandled, and he was on his way out the door when we just happened to come in. And I mean they were not happy with SPI at the moment and they were about to shut SPI out of every plant in the country. And because of Joe's relationships with the plant, the company as a whole and the fact that we did have a relationship with these people, I mean there was a lot of phone calls and a lot of meetings and a lot of this and a lot of that. And then just purely helping us dovetail our technology and our customer base and we picked up some new customers with the same company. Joe helped us to facilitate that.

Steve Burroughs: 12:58

And change is a hard thing, blythe, change is a scary thing and we had been with the same company for almost 15 years and had no intention of leaving until the venture group took over.

Steve Burroughs: 13:10

And then Joe, just you know, he just treated us like and I don't want to age Joe, but he treated us like his children, he just did and he just kind of put his arms around us and he loved on us and let us know that, hey, everything's going to be okay and everything was, and he stayed until we were comfortable. I mean he actually changed air and Airbnbs a couple of times because he wanted to make sure that we were comfortable with the process before he left. And since then he has sent you know, he sent Miklik down here several times. He has sent James Lemon, the vice president of finance, down here. He sent Christine Seals, the, the corporate care manager, the agent care manager. You know Mark Funk lives down in Cape Coral, florida, and so Mark is up here quite often not often enough. I like Mark's a friend, I like hanging out with Mark, but he makes sure that if we need something we have it.

Blythe Brumleve: 14:08

That is such a, I would imagine, a comforting experience because from the other agents that we have spoken to, when they talk about making that move from one company to another, because for a lot of I think it's important for the audience to understand that through our interviews with SPI it's important to note that SPI really only unless it's a very special circumstance, they only take experienced agents because that's the market that they want to play in. But all of those agents have echoed sort of the same thing that onboarding or moving from a former company to SPI is going to be naturally challenging but because of the relationship that they have with SPI the technology, the carriers, the relationships that they've built with the team there that it makes for a much easier transition where their customers are trusting them, the agents, to put them in the best possible position and then it pays off in the end for them.

Steve Burroughs: 15:04

Well, that's true, and I wouldn't say that SPI is unique in that factor, because that's kind of almost the rule of thumb for trucking companies, brokerage companies really across the country. Anybody that goes to another company kind of has to have a book of business of some kind. Rarely will they take someone that doesn't have a book unless has to have a book of business of some kind. Rarely will they take someone that doesn't have a book unless they've got a lot of experience. I mean, and I have people call me a lot saying you know, it doesn't look like you work that hard. I think I could do this. Well, they don't know what, they never. They don't come to work with me every day. But they'll say what do you think if I became a freight broker? And I'll say, well, do you have any experience? No, do you have a book of business? No, do you have another broker that you could go work for? No, I just thought I would sign up with somebody and get started and I'll say please don't.

Steve Burroughs: 15:53

And I actually had a guy tell me one time. He said you're afraid of competition and I said you know, I did $25 million in revenue last year. I don't really think you're going to compete with me next year? I really, really don't. I'm trying to help you and I'm trying to save you a lot of sleepless nights. And you know, unfortunately he picked one of the toughest segments in the business, which was LTL, lasted two years and then filed bankruptcy. And I felt for the guy but I begged him not to do it. I begged him not to do it. It I felt for the guy but I begged him not to do it. I begged him not to do it.

Steve Burroughs: 16:25

It's just it's not as easy as everybody thinks it is. I mean, it's a tough road to hoe and so it's not a business for the faint of heart, it's not a business for everybody. It's like I said earlier if it was easy, everybody would do it. But it takes a lot of experience. Especially in this, in this day and time, what with the scammers and the double brokers and the cargo theft, I mean you've got to be on your game. You have to have seen a lot of stuff. You know we're just fortunate in our agency. We've seen a lot of stuff and you know we have had a load stolen. That's been a lot of years but it happens. It doesn't happen anymore because we've, you know SPI has put safeguards in place that as long as we follow the rules and follow the procedures, you know it greatly reduces our, our theft opportunities.

Blythe Brumleve: 17:09

So Well, there's another aspect of of running a business that I wanted to touch on, because you have such a unique approach to it, where some businesses and some people say I will never work with family, I'll never take that route, but you actually have the complete opposite opinion, where you only hire family.

Steve Burroughs: 17:27

We only hire family. And it's funny because I was with Warren Dibiak the other night and Warren gave the interview last year at Rendezvous, just before I did, and he said never hire family. Well, his son was with him this year who works for him, and I'm like, uh, remember what you said. And I've had several agents come up to me that have just had their children start working for them in the last year saying it's the greatest thing I've ever done and it is a unique approach and it won't work for everybody. I mean it's, it's tough and you learn a lot of lessons along the way and you have got to learn when you're at work and when you're not at work. And, um, you, you know we only, we only hire family because this is a it's not as as much anymore, but it used to be at one time a very stealable business.

Steve Burroughs: 18:14

And, uh, the last time we spoke Blythe, I told the story about the lady that about 10 years ago that that had never been on vacation and she was a kitchen table broker. You know she sat at her kitchen table with a phone and a laptop. And again, like I said last time, no, nothing against that, it just not our cup of tea, but nothing against that. But she had built up a nice little six figure income, you know, brought her nephew in to work with her and taught him the business, went on vacation for two weeks in Europe, came back, business gone, computer gone, phones gone, customer gone, everything was gone.

Steve Burroughs: 18:46

Some people have got a different business model and it works for them to bring in, you know, outsiders. It just it's not our cup of tea, it just doesn't work for us and that's fine. Some of my closest friends in this business is Team Palm Springs. You know Johnny Bradley and Carl O'Neill. They have got, I think, a sister that works for them now, but it's all non-family members. Their model is a whole lot different than ours. So yeah.

Blythe Brumleve: 19:14

So how do you set those boundaries with your family? Because right now my fiance and I we have a business together and there's some opportunity or there's some, I guess, occasions where business does creep up. And you know, I think just last night we were talking about some you know business initiatives that we wanted to take, and you know it's 11 pm at night. Are you setting up those kind of sort of time boundaries or is it, you know, kind of okay that you talk about those things at any hour of the day but you still respect sort of the personal time too? How do you?

Steve Burroughs: 19:45

balance it all. I think that for us, you know, we will set some time aside to talk about business. But for instance, I just took Mary over for a birthday trip, or actually I guess it was her Christmas gift trip. We went over to Miami and spent a weekend at the Fountain Blue and, you know, just kind of pampered her a little bit. But the rule was, once we left the house, no business, we don't do business, we don't talk business, we don't nothing to do with business. And we spent that entire weekend. And at first you're kind of like well, what are we going to talk about?

Steve Burroughs: 20:18

You know, and you find things to talk about and, um, and so you, you've got to set a boundary. You know there was a, there was a gentleman, um, I would like to mention his name cause he's, he's. We haven't talked in many, many, many years. His name is Stan Kime from Kime TS Trucking in Sabetha, kansas.

Steve Burroughs: 20:36

When I first went into business and we bought our first truck, I called Stan and I said what do you think? He said the hardest, easiest thing to do is own your own business. And I said you got to expand on that. And he said well, first off, the trucking business is tough, he said, but you have got to decide when to leave the office. And I said okay, he said you can get there as early as you want. He said but when you leave the office, you leave the office, he said, because when you own your own business, you can work literally 24 hours a day. And you know, and because of that, because of those words that Stan told me and I mean this has been 25 years ago and I haven't seen Stan in a long time, but I've run into a few of his salesmen here and there but he has a huge company in Kansas and I've always remembered that.

Steve Burroughs: 21:23

I've always made sure that you know, and when we're together as family, we may set aside a few minutes, just those of us that work in the business, to talk about the business, have a quick little meeting At Christmas time. You know we'll have we'll. At Christmas time, the company, our company, will buy all the kids that work for us a little gift. We'll pull them all aside, take them to a separate room, bring them outside or whatever. We'll say, this is from the company, this is for all of them. Thank you for everything that you do. And that's the only time we talk business at Christmastime. And then we're done and then we go back in and we you know so we do. We do limit that because it's family first, business second. And it's like I always tell them are you living to work or are you working to live? Because we're not here, our life is not this job. This job supports our life.

Blythe Brumleve: 22:24

So we just make sure we make very careful distinctions as far as that goes. And how do you, I guess, address holidays, birthdays, things that come up where you still the freight still needs to be covered and you know questions I'm sure customers still have questions and answers and things like that how do you balance? Who takes what Is it? Just, you know a certain amount of responsibilities and this is what you're expected to do.

Steve Burroughs: 22:50

You know we will divide things up sometimes and we'll say, well, you know we're going to do this and then we'll be off and and uh, you know we rarely work much between Christmas and new years. Uh, but I mean a birthday. I mean I'll be 50, gosh hold, I'll be 56. My next birthday had to think about it for a second. It's a, it's a day. You know. It's not like when we were 16, I'm getting my license. Woo, you know it's a day.

Steve Burroughs: 23:09

If you want to take the day off, take the day off. But in our business model if you don't hunt, you don't eat. So everything is commissioned. The only thing in our business model that gets paid is is lunch break. If you're on lunch break, you're not going to miss any commission. But if you decide to take a vacation, that's on you. We will work holidays. Let's say, good Friday, we worked until about 11 o'clock Friday morning and then we shut it off for the day. And I mean we shut it off. We put our voicemail notification, we put our email notification. We've always got a cell phone and it's typically mine. If you have an emergency, call this number, but an emergency only. We're not booking loads during this amount of time, and I'm pretty firm about that. I mean, if you call me on my cell phone Easter Sunday, you better have a legitimate emergency, because if not, you know our conversation is going to be very short.

Blythe Brumleve: 24:04

And that's. I was listening to your conversation with Chris Jolly, the freight coach, which is a great interview, by the way, and great conversation, and I heard you say something to the effect of as an entrepreneur, you wake up every morning jobless and you have to go out and you have to earn that new business every day.

Steve Burroughs: 24:23

That. Well, I mean, yeah, you wake up every morning unemployed in our business because you've booked no loads for the day. You have no money coming in. You know, it's like my favorite adage. I say it all the time If you don't hunt, you don't eat. So you know, if you want to go play golf that day instead of work, okay, yeah, but you know you're not going to get paid, um, so yeah. And by the way, shout out to Chris Jolly, you know, uh, chris, chris, my buddy, I like him. I I've actually got to meet him face to face this past weekend for the first time. So yeah, but yeah, you wake up every morning unemployed.

Steve Burroughs: 24:56

And you know, in this business you got to hustle to make it. You can't just sit back. And you know, I used to know a guy that would that would. He had so many loads per day that he wanted to book, and if he booked them by 10 AM he was done for the day. And I'm like, well, what happens if your customer has an emergency? Well, he's just, he's out of luck. How long do you think that'll last? And it didn't last long. I mean, he went out. He himself went out of business. It didn't last long. So I mean he went out. He himself went out of business.

Blythe Brumleve: 25:24

It didn't last long. Brokering success demands a battle-ready strategy. Tai TMS equips freight brokers with the ultimate battle station for conquering a tough market. With Tai, brokers gain access to a comprehensive platform where rate intelligence and quote history converge on a single screen. It's not just a page, it's a strategic command center designed to help brokers win. Tye equips your team with all of the data they need to negotiate with confidence and allows them to communicate directly with carriers and customers from a simple control base. Revolutionize the way your brokers perform by giving them a competitive advantage with Tye TMS. For more info, go to tai-softwarecom backslash battle stations, and we also have a link for you in the show notes to sign up for a demo.

Blythe Brumleve: 26:11

Well, that's another aspect of running a business that I wanted to get to, because we've talked about, you know, sort of setting those boundaries with work and with, you know, family, and making sure that those boundaries are clearly set so you can enjoy all of the fruits of your labor. So what about from the customer side of things? We're in a it's no secret, we're in a down market. You know it's a shipper's market. They, you know, hold a lot of the power right now. So how are you navigating those relationships with customers so that you don't have, you know, a bad experience with a customer, that you don't have a bad experience with a customer? Do they know that, before ever even working with you, that these are our boundaries and you can work within them and we're going to provide you great service if you work within those boundaries?

Steve Burroughs: 26:52

Well, I'm fortunate that most of my customers they have got regular business hours too. And, that being said, things do come up. I mean they do have emergency loads. But you have to realize, remember that most of my customers we have had for probably 15 years and so a lot of them are not only customers, they're actually personal friends. So if I've got a customer that's got a problem, they will call, they'll text my cell phone, and if I get a text or a cell phone from my customers, it's necessary, it's pretty serious. So I know we've got a problem and I'll run down to the office and help fix that problem.

Steve Burroughs: 27:30

And you know what? We have customers. We have the kind of relationship with our customers that they trust us and they know that if I call Steve or if I call Mary on a Saturday afternoon, they know it's serious, steve, or if I call Mary on a Saturday afternoon, they know it's serious and they'll they will. If I got two emergency loads that have to be there Monday morning, steve and Mary they'll come down and they'll take care of it, and we will.

Steve Burroughs: 27:52

So but they don't take advantage of that and we have customers that we've had customers in the past that have taken advantage of that and you know I mean I had one customer one time that called us late on a Friday afternoon, almost five o'clock, and said I got to have seven trucks in here in two hours. That's a pretty tall order in Houston, texas, on a Friday afternoon at four o'clock central time. But you know what we did it? We got seven trucks headed that way and then about a half an hour before they were supposed to pick up, this customer called and canceled every single truck and we fired that customer. So you know which is pretty rare.

Blythe Brumleve: 28:32

I mean, they do say like, as a business owner, you have to know when to fire a customer, and I would imagine it's pretty challenging, right?

Steve Burroughs: 28:40

It was a challenge because that was a $2 million a year customer. So I mean, it was big not huge, but it was a big customer. But you know what? Why that customer had caused us so much stress and so much anxiety and it was almost like they were playing this game. And the problem with the game was with people that were making the calls and ordering the trucks. They hadn't been in the business, they were just learning the business and they didn't realize that hey, this is not cool, and so we fired them and they struggled for a while. I think they're probably okay now, but not okay enough that I'm interested in their business anymore.

Blythe Brumleve: 29:12

So how do you decide who's going to be a good customer for you or not?

Steve Burroughs: 29:17

Well, you know, I it's interesting enough, I had this conversation with a customer earlier. You know, a lot of times there's this odd relationship between, you know, the customer and the carrier or the broker. You know, it's almost like trying to one-up you conversation or relationship. You know, in the steel business, if they don't ship, the steel salesperson doesn't get paid. They don't get paid, I don't get paid. So we consider ourselves part of this big team. You know I'm not trying to screw you, you, this big team. You know I'm not trying to screw you, you're not trying to screw me, I'm not trying to screw the driver, because at the end of the day, if that load doesn't get picked up and delivered, nobody gets paid.

Steve Burroughs: 29:54

And so we approach our customers like that and we like to use the word customer. I mean we call them teammates. When we email them, we say hey, team, you team. If there's more than one of them, we'll say hey, team. This is what's going on, this is what I'm doing, this is what I think, and if you have any other questions or any other solutions, let me know. But we consider it a great collaboration instead of a customer-vendor relationship, and that's just the way we like to look at it.

Blythe Brumleve: 30:22

How do you think that your previous experience on both the shipper and the carrier side of things, how do you think that that helps shape your service offerings today, during a down market? I would imagine that it allows you to be able to see things more clearly from their side of view too.

Steve Burroughs: 30:41

Well, I think a lot of carriers don't have the type of of vision that I do. And you're right, you know I, I, even our team. Sometimes they'll be like getting all panicked. I'm like, listen, guys, this is just part of the business. It's just it's up and it's down and you save for the bad times and enjoy the good times. But you know, anytime, if, if the trucking world stopped today, you know and I get to ask this question a lot, actually, by the way what happens if trucks go away? I'm like we're in the 1700s, it won't matter anyway, you know, if trucking stops today, we are in the 1700s. So that is that's. That's just kind of the way I approach this thing.

Steve Burroughs: 31:23

I think the fact that I have sat on the other side of the fence, I can relate to what the truckers are going through. I can also relate to what the shippers are going through, because you know they're worried. Some of my customers have told me that you know all overtime has been cut out for now and you know some of these plants are in shutdown. They're in maintenance shutdown and you know it's a. It's a scary little time for everybody right now because, um, there's not a lot of shipping going on. Everything is is kind of depressed as far as the numbers of of of loads shipped go, but it's a little confusing too, because consumer you know, consumer consumption is really pretty high. Um, and I know that some of the places that we deliver to and we're reporting back to our customer, we got there with this load and there's nothing on the ground and they're like well, why aren't they buying? Well, I don't know, we're just telling you there's nothing on the ground. So I think that we're going to see a little bit of a depression here for a little bit longer.

Steve Burroughs: 32:21

But I also think that what you're going to see in the next six months, you're going to see rates start to go up and I'm going to tell you why. I heard a figure this past weekend, which we had our rendezvous, our annual agents meeting in Nashville 187,000 more companies are on the road today Not trucks companies are on the road today than there were at the beginning of COVID. And so right now there's an influx of capacity and the shippers, they don't have to pay as much and they're not going to pay as much. I get it. I don't like it, but I get it. A lot of my customers they tell me this is what's going to happen. We're going to drop our rates for three months, but we're going to keep an eye on it. It's not going to be locked in, it's going to be a little fluid and I tell them okay, but I'm telling you what's going to happen. In six months, I think, you're going to start seeing rates going up and I know in the spot market, at least where we work, we are starting to see rates go. Our demand for rates go up, higher. Some of the places haven't met that demand yet, but they're going to. They're going to have to and you're going to see. You're going to see prices, I think, in the next six months, go up. Now I'm not an economist, so don't start emailing me and saying, well, what about this and what about that? I'm a trucker, you know. I'm just telling you what I've seen and I'm telling you what I'm hearing. But you're going to see.

Steve Burroughs: 33:45

You read these indexes, you read these news articles and all these companies are going out of business and everybody panics oh well, this company went out of business and that company went out of business, yeah, but they shouldn't have been there to begin with.

Steve Burroughs: 33:55

What they did was they took advantage of the rebound of rates after COVID and they went out and they bought these $250,000 Peterbilts and they thought, well, I'm going to cut a big slice of pie and I'm going to get out there.

Steve Burroughs: 34:08

And that's what happened. And guys that have been out there 20 and 30 years and they're sitting here driving these 10-year-old trucks that are paid for and they're going to be able to survive. But these guys that have these great big lease payments, these great big insurance payments, they're struggling and they're not going to make it. A lot of them are not going to make it and people are nervous about that. But all it's doing is bringing the market back into balance and we're not there yet. You're right, it is a shipper's market right now. It's not going to be a shipper's market forever. I'm going to say in the next four to six months you're going to start seeing a dramatic shift to where it might actually get a little bit back out of balance and become a trucker's market for a while. But I think that you are going to start to see that leveling out and rates will get back to where they should be.

Blythe Brumleve: 34:53

And that's a really good market breakdown. Because I've heard that similarly from other folks within the space that they kind of hoped it would be a little bit sooner. They thought it would be kind of springtime of this year. But as we all know, it's not spring anymore and rates still are what they are. And I'm curious if you are getting new customers in a market like this and, if so, how are you getting those customers? Is it pretty much all word of mouth or referral based, which is kind of the same thing? But I am curious, if you're actively out there, you know getting new customers when, say, you know, another company does close down. It's an unfortunate reality, but somebody's got to get in and move the freight that they were moving.

Steve Burroughs: 35:37

Well, somebody does. And you know we're not really picking up any new customers today, but I have been reaching out this week talking to people and they're saying you know, call it. Can you call me before the beginning of July? Can you call me? You know I've got. I have a customer that I haven't shipped for for a couple of years because their market really took a nosedive farm equipment and I and I emailed him and I said, hey, was it something I said? And you know he said, oh, no, no, no, you know, we just haven't really shipped much.

Steve Burroughs: 36:06

I got a couple of local guys and that's what these brokers have to remember is, anytime you've got a shipper or a plant of any kind, you're going to have people right around that plant. They're locals, they drive trucks, they have uncles and nephews and brothers in that plant, and so the plant, the shipper, is going to want to take care of the locals first. And I'm always you know, because I have sat on that side of the fence I always just say listen, I'm not trying to cut anybody out. You have some table scraps, give them to me, give me a call, give me a chance, and and I just keep them on a rotation and you know the, the squeaky wheel, you know, gets the grease, and so if I find a friendly voice then I'll continue, I'll continue, I'll continue. And a lot of times it's not people that were at the level that I was at in the steel company, it's the people that are directly responsible for talking to the shipper. You know we'll be like hey, I talked with, I talked with Bob, and he either gave me no, didn't give me the time of day, or he hung up on me and they're like well, tell me, tell me what you're, you know what you're looking for, let me see what I can do. And you develop relationship with the underlings.

Steve Burroughs: 37:14

You know people that are actually directly responsible and those are the guys, a lot of times and gals that if they call Bob and say, listen, I really like this SPI group, I'd like to give them a load, then do it. And we still, as I said last time, we're still big time on calling the people that we're shipping to and asking for outbound freight. And you know a lot of people think that. Well, you know I'm going to mention the green factor. You know those are buzzwords for big megla corporations. For us it just makes sense hey, I got a truck here. You don't have to deadhead in, you don't have to do this, you don't have to do that. All that extra fuel costs money. I'm there. Can you help me out? That's what happens a lot of times.

Blythe Brumleve: 38:03

Such a great tip, I think, for a lot of folks who are stressing about, you know, using new technologies or even outdated almost technology, where you're just downloading email lists off of Zoom Info and just mass emailing everybody. Where you might take a more methodical approach, more of a sensible approach, where, hey, give me a chance, we can both work with each other and you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. That's the nature of business as it is, and so you're able to offer those easy to adopt solutions where it's almost just like you're just getting your little foot in the door and then all of a sudden the door can be broken wide open.

Steve Burroughs: 38:41

where you're handling multiple loads. It's like you and I talked last year. You know it's becoming a technology-driven world. It's still not there and I think what we're seeing, actually from my perspective, is a pull back somewhat from technology. And you know, I think the analogy I used last year was the Smokey and the Bandit trucker world. That's where I came from and you know the new kids are coming in and they're all about email and texting and you know AI and all this stuff Well, but a lot of these big tech companies are going out of business because my generation is still in the room.

Steve Burroughs: 39:21

We don't understand that. We remember the chalkboard hanging from the ceiling in the truck stops or going to the hotel across the street, to the conference room and talking to two or three dispatchers to pick your loads. We remember those days and we're still in at least that phone conversation world and we're still. What we have found is that, especially with the proliferation of redneck I knew I'd find the word especially with the scammers and the double brokers and everybody that's coming out. You want to hear that voice, you want to know who you're talking to, and I know people that have do nothing but business, online, business over email and they have more loads stolen in a month than I've had in my entire career. And so I think that you're starting. You are going to see a bit of a pullback from the technology and a bit of the more personal touch, and people want that personal touch. They want to do business with people that at least might not be friends but at least they know them.

Blythe Brumleve: 40:22

Yeah, I would definitely agree with that because even with as much as I've tried to adopt with AI and sort of machine learning of my own data, it's very time consuming and I don't think enough people talk about that that you have to almost rethink. All of your entire process is just to figure out where AI, automation, things like that can play a role, and then even then, if you implement it, it's not always going to be exact and you have to walk that fine line of figuring out what you're okay with technology completely handling and where you need to step in and be that final sort of human touch element where it is the conversations, it is the direct human connection that keeps that business not only coming to you but staying with you instead of leaving to go to somewhere else.

Steve Burroughs: 41:10

That's right and all this technology talk is fine, but you also have got to look at this with a little bit of common sense. I had a good friend in another company and he was going to buy 30 remote control trucks. That's great. Who's going to buy 30 remote control trucks? And that's great. Who's going to throw the chains? You know, when that truck has to pull over in 50 miles to readjust. Who's going to do that? If that load shifts, who's going to do that? You know, it's just not going to happen, especially not in the flatbedding world. You know, because we don't go from point A to point B every day. We go from point A to point F and then stop at point H and then finally make a delivery at point M. You're not going to find the remote control trucks and all that kind of good stuff. Do that Honestly. All it's going to take is one of those remote control trucks, honestly, to kill somebody on the highway, and that's going to be done. That'll be over.

Blythe Brumleve: 42:06

That's exactly what happened with, uh, with, with Cruz. I mean, the lady didn't die, but she was run over by one of the Cruz vehicles on the West coast and they completely locked it down. That's all it's going to take. Is is one.

Steve Burroughs: 42:17

That's all it's going to take. Yep, that's right.

Blythe Brumleve: 42:20

And so we've talked a couple of times about the rendezvous. This just recently happened for SPI. For folks who may not be aware, spi is a freight agent company, so they only have freight agents. They don't have a brokerage division, which is what some other agency programs do have. But SPI really focuses on the agent experience and once a year they get everybody together and they call it the rendezvous. And once a year they get everybody together and they call it a rendezvous. This year it was in Nashville. I went to the one last year in Vancouver. It was fantastic, beautiful city, it was an amazing time. But I heard and I'm a little jealous, I heard that y'all had an even better time this year in Nashville. So give us a little bit of the high level. What did you learn?

Steve Burroughs: 43:02

and then, what did you have fun with? Well, I mean, how can you not have fun in Nashville? First off, Right.

Steve Burroughs: 43:06

And you know, as I stated, we, us and team Palm Springs, johnny and Carl, they were number one, we were number two for the past year in the company and but it doesn't matter whether you're number two or number 30. I mean, spi just knows how to treat their agents. And we went in, we flew in on a Wednesday, whether you're number two or number 30, I mean SPI just knows how to treat their agents. And, uh, we, we went in, we flew in on a Wednesday and, um, they treated us to, uh, you know, top golf on Thursday morning and and then we had an amazing uh, they call it the CEO club dinner on Thursday night and that that was at the house of cards in Nashville, which is really kind of a cool thing because it's kind of modeled off the speakeasy and you had to wear dress, pants and jackets and they had a dress code and no cameras. No cameras allowed at all.

Blythe Brumleve: 43:52

And I like that.

Steve Burroughs: 43:53

And you walk into this hallway in this nondescript building and on Broadway and you're looking around like where are we at? And they open a door and it's like a stone grotto that you go down into this basement and you're in this five star dining experience in a basement and of course, I mean, I'm 55 years old and I'm I'm kind of looking at the menu like this, and they come along and they give you a flashlight to read the menu and and then they ended that out with a magic show. And then on um, on uh, friday they took the top level CEOs to this place called planet cowboy and, um, we all got to design custom cowboy hats, which I was going to wear, but 10 minutes before this it said no AirPods and I'm like, well, ok, I guess I'll wear the headphones.

Blythe Brumleve: 44:38

I apologize to the audience that we could not see this.

Steve Burroughs: 44:42

It's a great cowboy hat and I wear them every day. But then Friday night we had the welcome reception there in the Opryland Hotel, which was fabulous, and I will say that every night we went out either to Broadway or went to you know little honky-tonk bars in and around Opryland Hotel there. And Saturday morning we had some amazing meetings. We had some great training sessions. We actually had a gentleman that came in and I won't mention him by name because I don't know if he really wants to be known by name in a very public forum, but he is an expert at cargo theft and it was probably.

Steve Burroughs: 45:20

It was a one hour presentation and I could have sat for days and listened to this gentleman. It kind of reaffirmed what our agency does. But we did talk about, you know, as far as how we, you know we guard ourselves against double brokering and cargo theft and whatnot, and I had no idea it was so prolific. It's just, it's unbelievable how much cargo theft there is. But you know, we talked about the state of the business in itself. We talked about SPI uh, spi, which, by the way, saturday we celebrated our 45th anniversary and um, and you know yes thank you.

Steve Burroughs: 46:00

Thank you, and it's kind of interesting because you know you're talking about talking about Joe earlier and, uh, and what an amazing man he is. When we were at Planet Cowboy on Friday, they pulled some of us out to give testimonials, out on the sidewalk and had a professional camera crew there and they talked about, you know, mitch Helton, who owns the company, and he started it when he was a teenager, and how amazing it is and I but I also said, you know, it's one thing to own the ship, but it's another thing to captain the ship. And Joe, joe Chandler, is our captain. He's just, he is an amazing leader and I think we would all, including Mitch, follow Joe just anywhere and he just did a great job on Saturday, you know, talking to the agents and letting us know the state of the, not only our business, our company, but the business in general, the trucking industry in general. And it's going to be a little bit tough here for a little bit longer, but our company is poised. We are the number 86 company out of 33,000 brokerages across the country and we're not a very big company, we're a smaller company, but I was very encouraged by that.

Steve Burroughs: 47:11

And then, of course, saturday night we had our awards gala and that was amazing, the way they treat you know all the agents, much less you know the bigger agents, and it was a great time had by all and they just they welcomed my family and you know all my children and some of my grandchildren were there with us and I think that every agent there felt special. And the thing I think that's really unique about SPI is that while we are all in competition with each other, we're really not in competition because we're not fighting for the same customers. We're all. You know. We all have our own customers and they're ours. We're protected. But you know Carl O'Neill and Johnny Bradley, the number one agents, they're more family to us than they are friends really. I mean, we vacation together.

Steve Burroughs: 48:06

But we were talking about, you know, a lot of people will come up to you and they're like, well, they get jealous of where you're at. But you know what, if Carl came up to me today and said, dude, I just bought a Ferrari, I would be like, hell, yeah, give me a ride. You know, and we do have people that come up to us a lot and they say, well, how do I get there? And I remember doing that when I was a small agent, when we you know, we we had, we were doing $3 million. I just want to know how to do $5 million and then $7 million and $10 million. But I also remember there were some agents that would push you aside because they thought that you were trying to compete with them. I just don't do that. Other agents would say, well, you do this, you do this, you do this, and I've got some really good friends. That that I made. Uh, you know that I have made over the years.

Steve Burroughs: 48:51

You know, warren, one of my good buddies, drew Bertner. I text Drew every day. I've texted him three times a day, I think. And you know I met a new guy named John Cooper. He and his wife, sheila great people and then too many to count really, team South Texas amigos.

Steve Burroughs: 49:10

But you know, we have a great time with each other and and it's just one big family and I think that's what really sets SPI apart is that we're all for each other. We're not, we're not in competition with each other. We are all. You know, you'll never get a bigger cheerleader than us and Team Palm Springs for anybody that gets up on stage, because we want everybody to make it and we want everybody to make it big. You know us and and team Palm Springs we were what they called. We belong to the double platinum CEO club. We were the only ones there. That that was that this year. I hope there's 20 of us next year. I mean, I just I hope we're all double platinum CEOs. I just that's just how we feel about that just makes the business stronger and it makes everybody else stronger and happier.

Steve Burroughs: 49:56

And you know you walk through the hotel and even if you don't know the person, they reach out and give you a high five. And you know some people you see. You know you hug and you know you won't see them again until next year. And some people you know that you'll see two or three times in the year. You'll talk every day or once a month and that's great too, but you still consider them just great, great friends.

Steve Burroughs: 50:18

And the management team at SPI and you mentioned Anita earlier and James Lemon and Mark Funk and Mike Miklik and you've got Christine Seals and Joe Chandler and Mitch and too many to count really. Shivrani, who is amazing. Chandler and Mitch, and you know too many to count really Shivrani, who is amazing. They just always make us feel like we are the most important people in their world, and and we're not. But they make us feel that way and that, just that's just what sets SPI apart.

Steve Burroughs: 50:45

And they, they, always they, they they almost never say no. I haven't had them tell me no yet. They always say, oh, and Eze Peralta? I mean, I forgot Eze. I'm sorry, eze, but you know they always try to say, okay, well, let's see if we can figure this thing out. And they do, and I think that's what makes us all so loyal to SPI we will never leave, we'll never leave. I just don't. I don't foresee some reason for us to ever leave. I just don't. I don't. I don't foresee some some reason for us to ever leave.

Steve Burroughs: 51:12

You know, eventually, mary and I will, we'll step back a little bit from the business. You know we would like to enjoy the fruits of what we've done, but you know we've got a couple more kids coming on. I've got a high school senior that now does night and weekend dispatch and you know, I've got grandkids that are growing up and eventually they will, you know, maybe want to join the business, maybe not, that's all it's there if they want to, you know. But, like I said, we also have a set of rules aside. We never just say, well, sure, you can join. I mean, you got to go out and get your nose bloodied a little bit when somebody else is dying before you come and spend mine. So that's just kind of the rule that we have. But yeah, the rendezvous was amazing and everyone just felt part of the team, part of the family, and that's what SPI is best at.

Blythe Brumleve: 52:03

That's very well said. Now, after you said all that, there are a couple of questions that I wanted to ask a quick follow-up on With some of the younger agents that are there maybe newer agents or maybe just not as successful or reached the level that you have reached so far. What advice are you giving them to help them sort of sustain the market conditions that we're in right now?

Steve Burroughs: 52:25

Never settle, never settle. There's always another customer, there's always somebody else needing your shipping. And in the beginning, when you you know there are times when you can't physically grow any more If you're not there yet, never settle, just keep digging, but keep being persistent. And you know I meet a lot of husband and wife teams and, uh, you know, one of them came up to me and he's been brand new in the business and and he reached out to me three or four months ago and he had just brand new in the business and had some, had some trucking experience and had a customer and and I didn't remember him. But a lot of people reach out to me so, uh, but then I did, then I did remember him and you know his wife has a job, he is, he is still working and growing and grinding it out every day.

Steve Burroughs: 53:15

Don't don't rely on your trucking business or your your, your brokerage business too soon. Don't put that kind of pressure on you. It will pay dividends, but you got to put the time, you got to put the effort in, but just you got to always keep grinding and always be asking questions. You know I had somebody that presented me with a monster opportunity a while back and he sold it to me like man, this is a monster opportunity. And I went and I talked with a guy and it's a monster opportunity, but he wasn't the guy. But it kind of sent me off to thinking. So I started looking and I started digging and I started finding cause. I it was an industry I didn't really know that much about and didn't know what existed and I'm not going to say what it is right now because I'm still working on it, but I mean, it's through that one interaction I got led down this little path and then from that path I kind of took a little jog off and now we're we're looking at a monster opportunity that's that could be life altering for our whole family. And you know, we're kind of right now working on that. Hopefully we'll be there pretty soon. But you just never know where the big hit's going to come from. And I'll tell you the way we got our first big customer, if we have time. We had our biggest customer that we still have. We've had him for 15 years now.

Steve Burroughs: 54:31

Mary was chasing him hard chasing, chasing, chasing. Every week she would call this lady, do you have anything? Do you have anything? Do you have anything? No, but call again. No, but call again. No, but call again.

Steve Burroughs: 54:41

We had a flood in our county and it washed out the bridge where they were bringing train car loads of steel coils across, where they were bringing train car loads of steel coils across. Well, that bridge washed out and it was going to be months and months, and months but they still had to feed this plant with these steel coils. And I was still with the other steel company and I actually am the one that went and picked the location for our company where to send our trucks to to pick up the coils for ourselves off these rail cars. And Mary finally called the big customer who we were buying our trucks to to pick up the coils for ourselves off these rail cars. And Mary finally called this big customer who we were buying our coils from and the lady says I need your help, we're going to be offloading coils right down here.

Steve Burroughs: 55:22

And Mary knew exactly what we're talking about and it's just one of those things that that plant led to another plant because we were picking up steel there, taking them here and then picking up there and going here. Okay, how about this plant? So we called this plant and they're like, yeah, you can ship here. We started shipping there and we just it just snowballed. But I mean it took. It took a couple of years of work to get that one customer, and that one customer can lead to double platinum CEO status.

Blythe Brumleve: 55:48

And so, as you are sort of, I guess, navigating all of your different customers and all of their different requirements, how are you, I guess, sort of protecting yourself almost Because as a let me back up as a business owner, you know, with this very small team, I'm very conscious of not getting the majority of my revenue from one customer, Because I'm worried that if that one customer ever leaves, then I'm up Schitt's Creek and I try to protect myself in that regard. Do you think about it in the same way?

Steve Burroughs: 56:22

Every day, every day, you're always trying to replace your best customer. Not that you're going to replace your best customer they may always be your best customer but you're always trying to find someone else to put into your quiver so that you can always pull a different arrow out. But you're always trying to replace your best customer and fire your worst. And you can't be afraid to walk away from your worst customer. And you have to evaluate, and sometimes your worst customer might not be your lowest revenue customer, it may be your most stressful customer, and so you know. I mean, we fired a customer one time that was a $2 million a year account, but they had us so stressed that we were able to actually reach out and pick up some other customers because we thought we were working so hard on that one customer. We then replaced that two million dollar customer with a seven million dollar customer.

Steve Burroughs: 57:17

So you just, you just keep, you keep digging and you're always looking for opportunities and you're always talking and you know everybody and their brother knows somebody that needs something shipped and I'll ship it. I mean I've got a good. I got a a good buddy, um, whose daughter was moving down here from Kentucky and he said can you move this car for me? Sure, I can move that car for you. And I picked her car up in Louisville, kentucky, and brought it to Florida.

Steve Burroughs: 57:44

But, then I talked, but then. But then I talked with the driver as he dropped it off and he gave me a couple of customers to call on. So I called on those customers, shipped a couple of loads for them, and that's just kind of the way it works. You just never be afraid to talk to people about what you do.

Blythe Brumleve: 58:00

So that's so well said because I remember I was in a similar position a few years ago where I had my biggest customer, but they. They were so stressful and I was so afraid for four or five months that I just felt like I was going to lose this customer and they, you know I was trying to do everything I could to keep them, but when we did finally part ways, I picked up so much more business. My business has never grown better than losing the stress and just the daily taxing, mental taxing that it takes to handle a difficult customer I don't even want to say a big customer, because sometimes your biggest customers are your easiest to work with. But it could be a situation where that one customer is just so mentally draining that it prevents you from having other opportunities or even seeing other opportunities.

Steve Burroughs: 58:49

Well, it prevents you from seeing the big picture is what they do. They keep you so wired up and so stressed out because they make you think that they're the only customer. If you don't, you know, do business with them why You're out of business, well, you're wrong. You know you're wrong. I'm not out of business and I don't need that kind of stress in my life because I work to live. I don't live to work, and so that's what you just always have to remember. And is that? Is that customer worth it? And, and you know, sometimes they're just not.

Blythe Brumleve: 59:18

No, they're, they're not Now. Now that other question that I did want to ask about the rendezvous. You mentioned a lot of tips that you learned from you know fraud prevention and preventing double brokers and things like that Anything that stood out to you that you didn't already know until that talk.

Steve Burroughs: 59:33

Well, I think, if you ask Mark Funk, who I hope you have on the show because he's amazing, I already wrote him down.

Steve Burroughs: 59:38

Mark is the procurement director for our company and he's been an amazing addition and has become a true friend of mine. If you ask Mark Funk, he would tell you that our office is probably the best at vetting out carriers. We're tough. And I will say that If you just get a weird squidgy feeling about a carrier, hang up, because if you're getting that feeling on the phone, then you know. I mean, obviously there's a lot of tools. We use Highway, we use Carrier 411. We make a lot of reports to SPI and they put notes in our system to tell us things about this carrier.

Steve Burroughs: 1:00:17

But if, if you got to, if, if it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true, and a lot of people get caught up being low balled. And let's say they're posting a load for $1,500 and somebody will call and they'll say, well, you say, well, it's covered, well, I'll do it for a thousand. Okay, it's too good to be true. Because if you're, if they're, if they're going to not 500 off the price, what they're going to do is get that load and then try to probably double broker it and make that big money back, you know. So, yeah, it's if it's too good to be true, it is, and you just go with your gut feeling because you can just tell.

Steve Burroughs: 1:00:54

I mean, sometimes these people, they don't know what they're talking about and you just ask questions. And if they don't know the answer, a lot of times it's because they're like the gentleman said the other day they're thieves in training and they just don't have the shtick down yet. And so there's a million other companies out there to put your load on. If one gives you a bad feeling, just move on to the next, and that's you know. If your customer says, well, why didn't you get this load moved, you just say, hey, you know, I only had one phone call in this load and just this guy. I just didn't get a good feeling about it. Especially if you have a high value load, they will appreciate that.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:01:31

Yes, absolutely. And I think, to sort of piggyback off that statement, you had mentioned on Chris's podcast, the Freight Coach, that the driver that you hire is the ambassador of your company. Sure, is. Your receiver is going to see them, the first person they're going to see, the last person they're going to see and last person they're going to see, and that carrier has to be a representation of your company.

Steve Burroughs: 1:01:56

That's right. I mean, they are the ambassador of your company. If they do their job right, they're the only representative for your company that they see, and if they do it wrong, you've got to fix it 100%. So you always want to make sure that, and you have to remember that when you choose someone, they're representing you, they're your face for the day, and do you want to put the best face out there, or do you want to just put the cheapest face out there?

Blythe Brumleve: 1:02:23

Yes, that's a very good question that a broker that is currently working at maybe one of the bigger companies or thinking about finally taking the leap and going out on their own.

Steve Burroughs: 1:02:54

What advice would you give them? As an in-houseete? And they can't take their customer with them because they don't own their customer. And you know, if you step out there without a customer then you're going to crash and burn awfully hard and it's not. It's not an easy road and it's not an easy road. And a lot of these guys they get out and they make some big money fast and then they'll start spending, spending, spending, buying big cars and big fancy boats and whatnot. And you got to save, because this trucking business is just like this it's always up and it's always down. You save for the rough times.

Steve Burroughs: 1:03:28

But if you're going to do it, you want to, you know, talk with the executives for the company. But ask the executives to talk with some, some brokers, some agents, because you want to know what is the culture like. You know the, the, the officers of the company. They're very learned as to, okay, this is what the culture is like, but they're not the ones out there in the trenches, they're not the ones calling in for help. They're not the ones calling for overrides and insurance questions. Call an agent, ask an agent. How is it working with SPI? How is it working with another company? How is you know, can I come and shadow you for a day? And some people, some agents, would let them do that. Others wouldn't. I've never been asked that by an agent in training or somebody that was wanting to become an agent. I mean, I might do that, but I have had other people call me saying how is it working with SPI? And my answer is if you don't want to be treated like family, this is probably not the place for you.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:04:36

Which I would imagine is a tough thing to sort of turn down.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:04:37

I think for a lot of people they're probably looking for that connection, that culture. So I think that that sort of speaks to you know your experience. And asking about the executive team also directly speaks to your experience, because you saw firsthand how differently the company is operated when that executive leadership is has a changeover and and I think it just speaks to sort of SPI's credit that obviously they're they're an advertiser here, they're a sponsor of the podcast, but they were my day one supporter of the podcast, Mike Mikulik, you know, sought me out and said we believe in you, we want to support you and they are still a sponsor of the podcast. Here we are a year and a half later and when you find good people, you stay with them and you stay working with them because no matter what side of the logistics world that you're working on, it's the relationships that you build, and software can't solve it all. It can solve some of those things, but it really is about the interactions that you have over the years, that's true.

Steve Burroughs: 1:05:31

Well, miklik is a rock star. I mean, he and I spent two years messaging and talking back and forth before I ever came over to SPI, and it was a move that I will never regret and I'll never look back on. And we will be SPI for always. So as long as they'll have us, we will be SPI for always. So as long as they'll have us.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:05:51

Yes, same, I feel the exact same way about them as well. Now I had so many questions that were listed out on my little show prep document, but I think we kind of hit on all of them. Is there anything else that you feel is important to mention that we haven't already talked about?

Steve Burroughs: 1:06:09

I just appreciate this opportunity. I think it's important for agents to get to see you, know other agents and see you never like to say successful agents because you know that's just not we are, but that's just not who we are and we're we are. We feel like we're a big family with not only our the people that we work with but the company and the other agents as well, and I appreciate the opportunities that SPI has given me and you know you're right. I've been on a couple of other podcasts and I'm happy to make the round again with you here. Sorry you couldn't make it to Rendezvous, but you know, because it was an amazing time.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:06:49

I'm so jealous.

Steve Burroughs: 1:06:51

Well, you should be. I'm sorry you should be. We were actually looking at going to the Derby next year with Team Palm Springs. I got to look at the prices and I'm like, hmm, for a two minute race, yeah, let's go on a cruise.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:07:09

Don't say that because we're actually planning on going to the Derby next year, but I have not looked at prices yet. The Derby is the reason why I was unable to attend the rendezvous in Nashville this year, so I was sad to miss it, but my family would murder me if I missed their annual Derby party.

Steve Burroughs: 1:07:26

I understand, I understand. Well, you know, this has just been an amazing experience and something that I get to share every day with my wife and my children and hopefully one day, my grandchildren and and my friends I mean my, my friends are, you know, I've got a few friends outside of the company, but I mean I, mostly, I mean I socialize a lot with the other agents, like I, like I said you know Palm Springs, I mean they're we, we are a family with those guys. Like I, like I said you know Palm Springs, I mean they're we, we are a family with those guys. And, um, you know we just uh, we, we love being here and we love doing what we do.

Steve Burroughs: 1:07:58

It's not always easy, it's not for everybody and, uh, I think that if you can get in, find your niche and find, um, find a way to make it through that first, that first two years, you know you got a really good shot of making it. And, um, but, like I said, you know, those first two, three years, they're the toughest there in, you know, especially if you came in at a time, like right now, where the economy is kind of down but it's only up from here. So, and that's truly how I feel. And, uh, you, just you gotta find the right. You gotta find the right company and the right program that fits you. And you know what? It might not be SPI, but I just can't imagine a world where it wouldn't be.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:08:35

Yeah, same for me. On my end of things. Obviously, we're a little bit biased in that regard, but more biased for a reason. So, and I think that's more important in today's world is not necessarily the companies that you're not so sure about, but the companies that you feel very passionately about. You know, shout out from the mountaintops because it's not easy running a business, it's not easy working in freight, but when you find the good ones, you should applaud them and want to work with them more. So absolutely.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:09:01

I am, I'm deeply appreciative of your time, of your perspective, of sharing all of your insight. Another great conversation with you and I'm glad we got to talk a little bit longer, for for this one I think we are only limited to about 20, 25 minutes at the last one, but this, this one, we got to kind of flesh out some of these thoughts and I think I think Warren and Dino took all my time last time, so you know heck with those guys If you're listening.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:09:25

Guys, you took my time, but not this time, not this time, it's mine, and that's what I love about you know, I'll get off my SPI sort of flag waving here for a minute. But it is one of those situations where you mentioned it earlier, even though you're technically competition, it's very friendly, it's almost cooperative together, where you're wishing for each other's successes but you still want to kind of, you know, beat them in the numbers.

Steve Burroughs: 1:10:00

You know it is, but but and I know we're running out of time, but I will tell, I will say one more thing Go ahead. Last year, last year, at Rendezvous, I came in third, dino came in second. No, dino came in first, palm Springs came in second. This year it was Palm Springs, me and Dino came in first. Palm Springs came in second. This year it was Palm Springs, me and Dino.

Steve Burroughs: 1:10:12

But we kind of made a bet that whoever came in third this year had to bring a bottle of scotch. And you know, I'm never going to say anything to anybody, I'm just not. I'm not going to say hey, you're bringing my scotch. And Dino came up to me I think it was Saturday, Friday or Saturday and handed me my bottle of scotch. You know, gave him a big hug, but that's what it's all about. That's awesome, you know, and that's just the kind of people that we all are. And so you know, me and Mary and Johnny and Carl number one and number two we toasted a little shot of scotch. I think Dino had gone off somewhere. We're like, well, where'd he go? So we, we drank the scotch and and I'd like to say we brought the bottle home.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:10:56

but um, well then, you did Nashville right.

Steve Burroughs: 1:11:01

We did it. Oh, we did it right.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:11:04

Well, shout out to Dino for for being a good man and then holding up his end of the bargain without even having somebody to pester him about it, which is great.

Steve Burroughs: 1:11:10

That's right. That's right, it was great so.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:11:12

Awesome, steve. Well, where can folks you know connect with you? I know you're starting to be more active on LinkedIn. I believe and I am.

Steve Burroughs: 1:11:20

I'm active on LinkedIn. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn. Um and uh, I'll. I'll message me. I'm. My phone number may be on there. I'm not sure, but I'll get right back to you if it's not Well awesome.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:11:32

Steve. This is a great conversation. Again, we're going to have to do it again. I would love to Awesome Perfect. We can't wait a year, though. We got to do it earlier, exactly so you're now our go-to agent as far as market conditions are concerned. You're going to be our agent in the trenches and letting us know how the agent world is moving and shaking and how folks can better prepare for the future because of all of your experience on all sides of the logistics industry. So, steve, thank you again.

Steve Burroughs: 1:11:59

Thank you, blythe, I appreciate it.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:12:06

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 coworker'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.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:12:47

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 and 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.