Although the first four months of the Covid-19 pandemic have had highs and lows, many lessons have been learned. We have experienced and seen how our clients in the trucking industry have learned many financial and business lessons from this turbulent time. Here are 8 of the financial and business lessons we have learned.
- Due diligence and knowing the financial standings of your shippers and brokers are critical all the time and especially during turbulent times. You need to ensure you will be paid and that your brokers and shippers will not go out of business, leaving you unpaid. Knowing their financial standings by doing due diligence is an excellent way to be armed with crucial information that could impact your ability to receive payment.
- Flexibility and diversity can be the key to keeping your business afloat. – During this pandemic, many in the trucking industry have had to be flexible in what types of loads they haul since some freight segments have slowed significantly, while others have seen an increase. Additionally, rates for various types of freight can fluctuate dramatically. It is always good to have options and be flexible.
- Having money saved for a rainy day and having an experienced and dependable finance partner who can help with funds is vital in tough times. We have seen many trucking businesses learn that it is very tough to sustain a downturn or pandemic if you have not planned and built relationships to help you with cash flow.
- Look for the silver linings. These past few months have been incredibly challenging, but there have also been many positives that have come from this new challenge. The one that stands out most to us is how evident the importance of the trucking industry is to everyone in the US. We have always known the sacrifices and value of the trucking industry, but these past few months have really shown the country how essential trucking is. Other benefits such as shorter wait times, more parking, less traffic, and things going digital and contactless make the jobs of many easier.
- Necessity breeds opportunity. One of our largest carriers focuses on flatbed and large heavy haul freight with a few of their trucks running household goods. During this pandemic, their oversized freight customers slowed significantly. They were able to lease a few new trailers and increase the amount of household goods they hauled. This change brought new opportunities with reliable customers that will benefit them in the future. In fact, they are looking to expand their fleet and operate more trucks in this new area.
- Our industry can and will adapt when things change. Even though our staff has been working from home for months, our clients have seen none or minimal disruption to how we help their businesses. New systems, processes, and technology have allowed us to adapt. Also, many of our clients have changed some of the things they have been doing, which will ultimately make them more successful. For instance, budgeting or planning trips has become more critical when the freight market is not as strong. I believe this has made everyone more aware of where their money is going. This will help everyone long term. Many of our clients know their “break-even” or “costs” much better now than they did before this crisis.
- Relationships matter. It is critical to your business success to build relationships with everyone you encounter, from your shippers to your receivers, brokers, fuel stops, mechanics, etc. During this pandemic, many of these businesses have had limited staff on hand to provide services and goods. For example, even though a mechanic could be considered an essential service, I know a couple of shops that limited their employees and lowered their amount of mechanics and personnel. Some of this was due to sickness, concerns, and other reasons. They were taking care of their regular customers and sending away other business. If you had a relationship, you were in a good spot. Also, when freight slows down, those controlling the freight are going to take care of those they have built relationships with before others.
- These past few months have highlighted for us how grateful we are for good partners and customers. Without them working hard, there is not a need for us. Conversely, we have also built stronger relationships with our clients because many view us as more than a funding source as we have all pulled from our experience in the trucking industry to get through these challenging times.
We hope that many of these financial and business lessons we have been learned over the past few months continue to help trucking businesses long after the pandemic is over.