I write this sitting on the Bluebridge ferry heading home after 2 weeks on the road catching up with customers and suppliers around the north island. 3,500 kms and 10 days of meetings do wonders for bringing back a sense of perspective.
My first observation is that driving is tiring. We all know this, we know fatigue is a big issue in our industry, I spend many hours a year researching and discussing it. But there is no substitute for experiencing it first hand and dealing with the very real conflict between what should be done (good quality rest, fresh fruit and veg, daily exercise) and the demands already planned for the day ahead (scheduled meetings, information to be collated and sent in time for someone else to use it). Suffice to say that, despite best intentions, my driving was much better on day 2 than it was on day 13. Fatigue is a real issue and we need to address it for our drivers.
Next, is the amazement that most of NZ has no concept of the far reaching implications of the missing propeller from the interislander. Fortunately I had booked my return sailing before all private booking started being declined. Will we continue to have bread, milk and Christmas pressies on the shelves of the SI retailers leading into Christmas? Most people I spoke with outside of transport operations had no grasp of the consequences of the rail capacity between islands being stuffed and that all freight must go by road, or the limited truck spaces available on the remaining 4 boats. Transport is still an invisible industry to most of the population. The value of those big / intimidating / slow trucks is completely lost on them.
Spending so much time out of the office gave me time to reflect what a small family our transport industry is. Despite the public spats, there is a very high level of co-operation and close relationship between many operators. I have often spoken with people who never intended to get into transport, but who now wouldn’t leave the industry for anything short of a major lotto win. Transport is, for the most part full of genuine people doing what they love, offering a great service and striving to look after their staff and the community in which they work.
On my travels I have heard many tales of ruthless technology sales people hell bent on convincing operators that without this latest and greatest widget / system installed in their business, the world will end very soon. There is too much technology being touted without any obvious link to solving the real problems that you are facing. There are likewise, too many “solutions” being offered to problems that don’t yet exist. There is a sales technique called “hurt and rescue,.” It encourages the sales person to dwell on the pain / potential pain that you need to be feeling in order for them to “rescue” you with the sale of their product / service. If the pain that they are describing to you feels irrelevant to your current challenges, it probably is. You know what your business is struggling with. You may not know all the options, but you know instinctively if something feels right, and if it will work for you. Don’t do something because you think you “should.” Don’t work with a supplier because you think they are the market leader so they must know what they are doing, work with them because you feel they are listening to your priorities and will work for your best interests, not their own.
Two suppliers to the transport industry offering “it sounds very important” services have gone bust this week. With both, at the time they approached me to work together, I thought my business could fail if I didn’t get involved with them. After a week of sleepless nights considering the merits of working alongside each of them I stuck with my gut feel, continued to go it alone, and braced myself for the inevitable peer pressure (real or perceived) for going against the flow.
That’s two “wonder solutions” that CCS Logistics has outlasted – and that is just this year. CCS Logistics is almost 9 years old. Yesterday I was talking with a business that has been going for 77 years. The ones that went bust lasted less than 2 years each. If you have what it takes to start a business, back yourself to keep it going based on your instincts, not what others tell you “you should” be doing.
Make sure you get some rest and relaxation in this holiday season – next year will be just as demanding as last year and we need you with a clear head to keep the country moving.