In our first two blogs, we have learned that the top haulers in the country have certain and distinct characteristics. The first characteristic is their unbending commitment to serving their customers with excellence and comprehensive services. The second characteristic is their ability to proactively create and communicate a culture (in the office, online and in the trucks) that they would be proud of. That brings us to our third “must do” for a company that wants to break out of the ranks of mediocrity and succeed; they must compete to win.
According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the World’s Most Fearless Creature is the Honey Badger. They have thick, loose skin that makes them impervious to stings, bites, arrows and machetes. They have sharp teeth and incredibly powerful jaws that allow them to catch, kill and eat every part of its prey, including the bones. They are even powerful enough to eat a turtle, including the shell, without difficulty! To top off all these physical attributes, they are extremely intelligent. They have been known to use tools to catch their prey and are actually smart enough to follow Honeyguide birds to find beehives where they’ll eat the larvae and honey.
However, these defensive and offensive capabilities are not what impress me most about this animal. Any onlooker that views their activity is immediately cognizant of how tenacious they are. No matter what comes after them, they keep going. It could be a hive of bees, a King Cobra, Puff Adders, leopards or lions. It doesn’t matter; their resolve and aggressiveness are insatiable.
Though I am a firm believer in the theory of abundance (that there is enough business out there to provide win-win scenarios for competing companies), I am also a firm believer in the concept of natural selection (those companies that compete to win and survive will typically stay around). Business owners need to be more like the Honey Badger: aggressive, flexible, tenacious and smart. I do not see these as negative attributes, but ones that can be cast in a positive light. So, what would that look like?
Find a niche
Part of being a successful hauler is to find a way to stick out from the crowd. Too often when I ask leaders what makes their company different I get the typical responses like “great customer service reps, good pricing, consistency of service.” However, when that company is tracked against others in the area, they do not stand out in those areas.
The fact is most leaders do not truly know how they are different. You have to know how you are different, validate it, and make sure everyone else knows it. If you do not have a distinction, then it behooves you to find a niche that you can own. That niche may attract a new generation of customers that will help you capture all their business.
Almost every small to mid-sized hauler I have spoken with believes that they would rather compete against the regional/national haulers than the local ones. Why? Because the local haulers can be more flexible, responsive and capitalize on local relationships. If this is the case then why is it that the more I investigate the more I find that the big 5 seem to have an edge, even against seemingly stronger smaller, local haulers?
Like the Honey Badger, be smart. If you have the opportunity to respond to a local need, do so. If you can bring value to a community by offering a service, do so. Be responsive. In the wake of the many catastrophes that have plagued our country I have seen local trash haulers, firemen, and local ministries heralded as heroes. Leverage your ability to respond to the local market and make loyal customers for life.
Recently, I was speaking with an owner who was frustrated with the saturation of their market with a host of haulers. He complained that the market was such that the customers would consistently jump from one hauler to another making it difficult to service and track start-ups. Over the period of a year over 50% of their customers would “jump ship” to one of the other companies. When I expressed alarm at the unusual attrition rate, he simply responded, “Eventually, some of them will come back”. Is this acceptable to you and your company? I would hope not! If you are disciplined to be better, your customers WILL NOT leave you…period.
Complacency and mediocrity are the enemies of success. Develop a culture of excellence and customer loyalty and you will not fail. Your CSR’s and Drivers are two fundamental components to the success of your business. If you are interested in hearing what people are saying about them, go into the chat rooms online and see about them, you may be surprised. Though many of the complaints are spurious at best, you may begin to see patterns emerge if you read long enough.
Successful haulers are committed to win and compete to win! They realize there are a host of mediocre businesses out there that are more than willing to take your business if you let them. It is never too late to look at your business differently and take strides toward dominating your market. Attrition is not an option.
This next and final blog will give you a final characteristic of successful haulers: better a late adopter than not at all.
Alpine Technology Corporation has been serving the waste industry for over 35 years with waste management software for both the office and the trucks. Their office software,Visual RAMS-Pro, provides billing, work orders, container inventory, route management, customer and account management and much, much more. Their industry-leading truck solution, Visual On-Route, is more than a mere routing software and allows the driver to be connected real-time to the office. Visual On-Route keeps the drivers accountable while allowing haulers the ability to generate additional revenue streams and cut expenses through efficiencies.