Are People Disposable?

At Legion, we’re often asked what makes us different, what makes us “disruptive” in the industry. (I hate the term “disruptive,” by the way, but that’s a topic for another blog.) Folks want to understand why they should work with us instead of one of the other 10,000 logistics brokerages in the United States, why Legion is a better choice than a larger, smaller, fancier, down-homier, older or newer company.

My response has always been the same. Since the beginning, we’ve made it a point to never treat anyone as disposable. One of my driving reasons behind starting Legion in the first place was the disgust I felt at the way many companies, especially those in our industry, treated their customers, carriers and employees. It was disturbing to me that companies could find success when they clearly didn’t value – as humans or as business partners – the most critical elements to a logistics brokerage. We don’t manufacture or own anything at a 3PL. All we do is provide a service. (A valuable service, of course, but not a tangible product, which has inherent value.)

The attitude I saw, again and again, was a flippancy toward the importance of a customer, carrier or employee. A belief that any of them could be replaced at a moment’s notice and that a company had the right to treat their partners any way they wanted, because if they didn’t like it, they could go pound sand. To my mind, that’s a great way to establish a reputation as a jerk company, and as a jerk in general. And I’m not comfortable being a jerk.

From the beginning, I encouraged all my Problem Solvers to treat customers like gold. It is ALWAYS cheaper to keep the customers you have than to try to win new ones. Now, that doesn’t mean you should hold on to a customer who treats you badly or tries to rip you off, but when you have a good customer, you go out of your way to keep them happy and in the Legion fold. I expect my Problem Solvers to go above and beyond, answering calls at any time of the day or night, providing creative and cost-effective solutions to our customers, serving as a consultant for customers, rather than just someone who can cover some loads. Deep, personal, caring relationships with customers are always the goal. When I was selling, I wanted to know everything I could about my customers – where they liked to vacation, what their kids did, etc. This allowed me to take all that in to consideration in my conversations with them. I’ve always said that the best skill to have as a salesperson is a genuine interest in and love for people. Without that, you are just a mercenary, treating your customers like an ATM where you make weekly withdrawals. And no one likes that feeling.

With carriers, I was even more adamant. My dad was a truck driver, so whenever I heard someone in the industry talking about how stupid and useless truck drivers were, it hurt. My dad is an incredibly hard-working man, doing a job not many people are willing to do. And frankly, without a good carrier base, 3PLs are sunk. We are only worth the quality and quantity of carriers we can provide to our customers. And as physically disconnected as drivers are from each other, they are VERY well connected in this day and age. Technology allows them to talk to each other like never before and once you screw one of them, all of them will know. There are logistics brokerages who are now called out by name on the load boards, with drivers saying, “If you are calling from X, don’t bother. I won’t haul for you.” Definitely not good for business. If you have ripped off hundreds or thousands of drivers, treated them poorly or otherwise taken advantage of them, you are going to run out of drivers very quickly. Not to mention the horrible karma you are lining up for yourself. I believe in karma. Every “shady broker” I’ve ever known who is guilty of abusing his drivers ends up paying for it in the end.

Finally, and most importantly, is my whole-hearted commitment to treating employees as the valuable partners they are. So many companies, in our industry and others, treat employees as interchangeable parts in a machine. If you are dissatisfied and quit, they’ll just slot another little part in and keep on moving. And in our industry in particular, the “churn and burn” mentality is rampant. No one wants to get hired in a class of 25 people and then immediately be told that only two of you will make it. Talk about de-motivation. I’m a firm believer that happy, satisfied, fulfilled and appreciative employees are the most productive and that you can’t build an amazing company without them. At best, you’ll be successful for a few years until you run out of people to hire. At worst, the people you do hire will be so unhappy, they’ll drive the company into the ground. Also, karma. The better you treat your employees, the better they will treat the customers. And in our case, the carriers. Someone having a good day is always better to deal with than someone who is angry they had to come in to the sweatshop again to work for Scrooge McDuck.

Put all that philosophy together and condense it, and you arrive at my driving ethos – no one is disposable. You don’t chew people up – whether they are customers, carriers or employees – and spit them out to feed your own profit machine. You grow, nurture, care about and develop your relationships and everyone gets to be successful together.

by Lacy Starling, President and Fearless Leader