Change is Constant. Now what?

By Andrea Obston, Public Relations Director, Customized Logistics and Delivery Association (CLDA)

CLDA board member Tom Jowers knows all about the impact of change.  As the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of ADL Delivery in Florida, he rides the waves of change daily.  The inspiration for this column came from his favorite Steven Covey quote: “There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.”

Here he offers advice on not only riding the waves of change, but making the most of this inevitable part of our industry.

Question: You say that change is a constant in our industry.  Talk about how those have impacted clients.

  • Jowers: We’ve seen the biggest change in the last-mile segment.  Here, carriers provide a higher level of service at a lower cost.  The days of ‘next day’ delivery are steadily becoming reminiscent of the past.  Customers of our clients are demanding instant gratification when an item is purchased either through an internet e-tailer, your local department store, or even the tire distributor down the street.  And did we mention?  They want it all for free.

Question: How have these changes affect last- mile service providers?

  • Jowers: We have to find our place in this new era of change.  Density helps to create a successful model as long as it can be cultivated into profitability.  The question then becomes, how do we create that density?  From a personal standpoint that has been about focusing on our core competencies.  We have to ask ourselves: What are we really good at and what customers in this industry/vertical can we maximize to create the necessary density to ensure growth and profitability?

Question: How have those changes affected carriers using the IC model?

  • Jowers: It’s also about adapting to the changes in the market/industry.  The delivery workforce is not what is used to be.  There are not a plethora of millennials graduating from high school or college whose dream it is to be ICs with multiple trucks on the road providing a last mile delivery service.  As an industry we should be working on a plan to attract and retain drivers/contractors.

Question: Why are all these changes important?

  • Jowers: Customers must change with the needs of their clients and what the market demands.  Not being willing to adjust to those needs and stay competitive and they risk becoming obsolete. Service providers have the same issue, simply at a different level.  Delivery will always be delivery.  However, the ability to provide the level of service necessary to stay relevant in the industry can be tough.  The larger companies that have the ability to create the necessary density will have a leg up on the smaller regionalized carriers. As for independent contractors, the situation with them is going to continue to be a challenge and only get worse as the industry continues to change.  Knowing what is needed to find and retain drivers will be the answer to a long term driver plan.

Question: What can carriers do to minimize the disruption that this inevitable change has on their businesses?

  • Jowers: As rapid change continues to be part of our everyday business, our willingness to tweak our way of thinking will have a direct effect on what is required for sustainable performance.

Question: Give an example of “out-of-the box” thinking that came about due to a specific change?

  • Jowers: As we all know UBER is a prime example of what can happen when someone thinks outside the box.  They didn’t just think outside the box, they crushed the box and rebuilt it altogether.  All because they saw a need and used crowdsourcing and software to make it happen.  We should ALL be thinking outside the box EVERY DAY.  There is an old quote that has been accredited to multiple people over the years, but it still rings true regardless of where it originated.  “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  I think it should be updated to say: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you may get left behind and become obsolete.”

Question: What advice do you have for carriers on how to make change work for their businesses?

  • Jowers: Change is inevitable.  Whether you want it to happen or not it is part of our daily lives both on a personal level AND a professional level.  If you ask a room full of people how many of them like change I would be shocked to see a single hand go up.  You need to accept that it is going to be a factor and that you will have to adapt or get left behind.  Don’t be dismissive of those new ideas that may take your company to the next level in its history.  Encourage out-of-the-box thinking and ideas from your management and personnel.  Capitalize on those ideas and be a leader not a follower.


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