How can you sustain long-term relationships and build trust with partners and customers, even in times of turmoil?
Trailer Bridge CEO Mitch Luciano chatted with Andrew Cox, Research Analyst at FreightWaves, about the importance of communication and engagement during this pandemic.
You could say Mitch has a bit of experience in the company culture and morale department. An Ultimate CEO Award winner himself, he’s led the Trailer Bridge team not only to recognition as the #1 Ocean Carrier in its class but also as a #1 Place to Work in Jacksonville and an Inc Magazine Top Workplace for 2020.
Learn how to pull your work family together, keep morale high, and deal with additional stressors in operations in ways that protect your relationships—and your business. Check out the video here and the full transcript below:
Full Transcript: Company Culture Update — Continue to maintain internal and external communication
Andrew Cox: [00:00:12] The importance of clear and open communication across the industry during times like these is paramount to success. I’m Andrew Cox, Research Analyst here at Freight Waves. And here to give us a culture update and discuss communication both internally and externally is Mitch Luciano, CEO and President of Trailer Bridge. Mitch, thank you for joining me and how are we today?
Mitch Luciano: [00:00:29] You’re doing great, Andrew. Thank you for having me.
Alex: [00:00:31] Of course. Again, thank you for joining us. We are seeing a lot of tight capacity across the freight markets with transportation utilization and prices now hitting 19-month highs. As networks become strained, how do you recommend managing some of these issues with customers as compliance and service levels tend to fall?
Mitch: [00:00:50] I think the number one thing is commitment. You know, at Trailer Bridge, we have an asset side and non-asset side and so the asset side, we’re seeing that capacity crunch with our own equipment. But we’ve made a commitment to our customers through contracts we have with them that we’re going to live and we’re going to live up to those. We’re not going to change the pricing structure. We’re not going to alter how we do business.
On the non-asset side, it’s a little bit different for us. We kind of fluctuate when the market fluctuates. And so, we’ve made a commitment to our clients what that has meant is that we are losing a significant amount of money on that side of the equation. But that’s okay. You know in the long term, if we look at this month by month, we’re not going to be able to make that commitment. We have to look at the long-term partnerships we have and it has provided a lot of growth for that side. I think companies out there need to say to themselves you know we can look at the short-term, make a lot of money in three months so we can look at the long-term and sustain through commitments they’ve had with their customers.
Alex: [00:01:40] Seems that’s going to be a common theme across the industry here is having to make sacrifices to prove your commitment and ensure that you’re committed that gains loyalty and builds long-term relationship certainly. How are you working to improve communications around market activity both internally and externally with your customers?
Mitch: [00:01:55] Well, internally it’s pretty easy for us because we had a lot of this going into the pandemic. So we communicate a lot internally already with our team. You know with the Internet, monthly town halls, daily, weekly and Zoom calls with people throughout the entire company. We have a lot of staff that’s in the office too so they are able to communicate with each other.
And externally, it’s just about making sure our team talks to our customers, our carriers, our vendors on a regular basis. And then we provide them more information with email campaigns and other forms of communication that we just keep pushing information out. Let them know how we’re doing, what we’re doing and it’s really played a big role and provide a lot of value for our clients and ultimately for us in the long run.
Alex: [00:02:33] So you’ve said it’s been easy to keep up communications internally because you have so many different mediums to do so, but you know, in these times of uncertainty, there’s often issues with morale and productivity that often arise. How has your organization faced those issues head-on during this time?
Mitch: [00:02:48] Yes without a doubt, right so they say that the studies over and over tell us that employees become disengaged when they work from home. So how do we ensure that they remain engaged? A lot of that is talking to them, listen to what their needs are, and trying to help them with those needs. And also with communication with the entire team, we make sure that you know, I talked about we had it ahead of time but how do we keep that morale up? I’ll be honest, it’s tough, right? It’s very difficult but you have to remain positive and know that there is an end.
There will absolutely be an end and I think people appreciate that. They appreciate the open communication, telling how the company’s doing, being truthful about everything. And when you have that relationship with your team, I think you can keep the morale up. I’m almost positive we can because we’re doing it. And then I also believe you can- you know they won’t lose it, right? I mean I want to lose it a little bit, sitting at home but making sure they say remain positive is going to be really important, and we’re able to do that right now by just communicate, communicate, and communicate.
Alex: [00:03:45] Positivity and truth, that seems like two things that we all need to take more into our life. But what have been some of the biggest challenges of operating in this environment? How are you working to overcome them as an organization?
Mitch: [00:03:55] Well, the biggest challenge that we face is when your team does get hit with the virus, and it’s usually not just one person on a singular group. It’s a group of people that have a dedicated job to get done. And so we as a group, we as a company, as a family have pulled together to help support when someone has an acquaintance in an office that was positive for Covid, we take the steps to say “Okay, everyone has to step out now. Everyone has to go get a test. Get two negative tests before we come back.” If companies are following the CDC guidelines and their taking those steps, it can put a lot of stress on the operational team.
And so we all take turns and step in and follow through with what they need. I will have a group step in and do the job of another group just because that team is so far down and they’ve been cross-trained so they know how to help and that really has been provided a lot of value for Trailer Bridge. Ultimately, is having them cross-train from the get-go.
Alex: [00:04:51] Yes, I mean that’s you were set up for a situation like this in which you had to have people step into different roles. You know, there’s been a lot of unique situations that have evolved and arisen from this Covid-19 pandemic. Can you give me an example of a situation that you’ve encountered during this time that has really proven to be unique solely to this time and how have you guys worked to address it?
Mitch: [00:05:10] I think probably the most unique thing is when you actually see it happen. When you see your professional family or God forbid, your personal family get hit by the virus, what can we do to make sure that we make their lives easier? You know, seeing that emotion, that raw emotion people don’t know what’s about to happen. We’ve had horrible cases and we’ve had some people that just got through it with no problem.
I think that’s probably the most unique thing when people, if you don’t experience, you don’t know what it’s like. We unfortunately experienced it and we stay positive. We give them the support they need. We make sure they actually step away from the job for a bit just to take care of their family. And that’s what’s really helped get us through this.
Alex: [00:05:55] Thank you again for joining me today, Mitch. Stay tuned for more culture updates in the beginning and stay tuned for Freight Waves for all the latest.