The Business of Independent Service Provider Contracting

Put First Things First - CSP Best Practices Series

Posted by Ben Weil on 10/24/21 10:15 AM

Put First Things First

Image by Gustavofrazao

In a recent blog post, we adapted Stephen Covey’s habit of Begin With the End In MindⓇ for effectively running a FedEx Ground contracting business. The key point being that success is defined by starting each task, each day, and each project with a clear vision of your destination. Success is not only focusing on what looks good, it’s focusing on what really matters.

In this blog post, we’re adapting another of Covey’s habits called Put First Things FirstⓇ. Our intention is ensuring that you and everyone on your team knows which priorities come first. When drivers and managers understand what comes first - profitability - they will be better equipped to work with you in achieving your vision!

Smart Contractors Put Recruiting First

Recruiting comes first. Contractors (CSP’s) who are honest with themselves recognize that the lack of continuously recruiting drivers is the root cause of many avoidable crises. Granted, recruiting is a huge time-suck; however, it is the solution to many of problems. How can that be? Think about issues you’re dealing with today. Would they be problems if you’d spent time building up a pool of qualified driver candidates?

Sure, there are many other factors besides recruiting to blame for a lack of profitability. Revenues are too low, wages are too high, people aren’t looking for work, and unanticipated truck repairs are typical challenges.

Every CSP has those same issues. The secret that profitable CSP’s know is that they recruit the most candidates whom they can reach out to when the time is right.  Think of truly successful CSP’s you know, how often are they really at a staffing disadvantage?  

Let’s pause here to clarify the definition of recruiting. It’s NOT hiring. Recruiting means to engage in finding and attracting employees. It’s making those who would be a good fit for your operation aware that you exist. It’s finding and attracting. It’s not onboarding nor is it increasing your payroll.

As a CSP, your “first thing first” is generating a long list of qualified candidates who are currently employed elsewhere, but would jump at the opportunity to work for your transportation company when you have an opening. It’s that simple, but that’s not your only responsibility.

Does Everyone Know What’s Expected of Them?

Does everyone on your team know what comes first in their role? Your Business Contacts (BC’s) and drivers comprehend the packages on the dock must be delivered that day, but that’s not the only factor in putting first things first.Beautiful young lady thinking with question marks overhead

For instance, full-time drivers need to understand that their stops and package volume should keep them on the road for a full day (about eight hours). If you’re a Contractor, you know it’s not unusual for drivers to return to the terminal as early as possible. That's bad news. The good news is that the solution is not complicated. The fix is as simple as assigning a full day’s worth of work to each full-time driver.

Of course, you may have developed different plans for light days, medium days, and busy days based on historical data. Maybe you need some part-time drivers. Maybe you need a few “gig worker” drivers. And if you don’t have time to figure it out all by yourself, our business coaches work with tons of Contractors to ensure that their teams understand the overall company goals.

New CSP’s Know Profitability Is The First Priority

If you’re brand new to Contracting, you bought the business because you expected decent returns on your investment. Of course, profitability is your number one priority when you’re buying a FedEx Ground business. The challenge happens over the course of weeks and months when you’re tasked with solving the most urgent needs of the day.

Recruiting drivers “gets pushed to the back burner.” Profitability is overshadowed by more immediate, temporary crises that pop up - daily.

Think of profitability as your 26 mile marathon. It's not a series of 1mile sprints. The continuous training required to endure running 26 miles without stopping is not unbearable, but it takes mental dedication. You don’t want to lace up your running shoes without first preparing.

The same is true for recruiting. If you’re not routinely “training,” you’ll not be prepared when it’s time to hire new drivers.

If you make recruiting one of your “first things first,” you’ll be prepared when your BC informs you that a driver is leaving.

Smart BC’s Keep Communications As Their Priority

The primary difficulty with managing people is that human beings are often unpredictable. If a manager knew exactly what each person would do in every situation, their job would be exponentially easier. But that’s not real life. Successful managers make communicating with employees, owners, customers, and stakeholders their “first things first.” The keys are communicating and following up on those communications.

In fact, that’s why a tracking system for communications is critical when BC’s are “putting first things first.” People say if it’s not recorded, it didn’t happen.  Too often we have selective memories which means we tend to recall what we choose to recall. Therefore, it’s a good idea to document business discussions and essential communications as soon they occur.

Business man pointing to transparent board with text Conversations MatterManagers need a system where they can store important business discussions such as performance feedback and reviews. Especially those that may require follow-up actions. “Putting first things first” in this case means that the business person with the most accurate documentation will be better prepared down the road. The best way for that to happen is for a robust documentation system featuring easily retrievable data.

Leaders Put People First

We'll wrap up this post by touching on a favorite subject of ours - leadership. We’d be remiss if we didn't mention people as one of the things that come first. Forming an active engagement plan in which you can hold yourself accountable for connecting effectively is super important to success.

Leaders recognize that being prepared (recruiting), documenting and communicating effectively will ultimately lead to business success. And business success is why you read our blog posts.

As always, we welcome your replies and thoughts you’d like to share.

Topics: Business Results, Management, FedEx Ground, Business, Investment, Metrics, contractor, Profit, leadership, consulting

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