We often talk about the best ways to improve and invest in your freight brokerage business – how to invest in technology, build a home office, hire a small staff, develop your sales efforts, etc. But sometimes it helps to look at our mistakes and learn from them. This week, we thought we’d take some time to reflect on common mistakes of independent freight broker agents, and what you can do to avoid them.
Misrepresentation – As an independent freight broker agent, it is very important that you be transparent about your services and that you not misrepresent yourself. RFX is an asset-based company. We represent ourselves as both an asset-based refrigerated motor carrier: Refrigerated Food Express and as a Transportation Broker in both RFX and Pioneer Transfer. We understand that we have a responsibility as a business that provides multiple services to be very open and honest with our customers about which service our customers are receiving. As independent freight agents, it is also your responsibility to be transparent and honest with your customers. Do not claim to be a motor carrier if you are not one. Simple misrepresentation can get you in trouble in the event of a cargo claim or any other service failure. The transportation industry is a business of relationships. Honesty and transparency are at the very core of those relationships.
Complacency – Allowing yourself to become complacent in your freight broker business is another common mistake we see in our industry. Do not get complacent with your customers. Do not get complacent with your sales efforts. It is important to stay motivated and to constantly remind yourself of why you went into business for yourself in the first place. As a business owner and as a salesperson, you should be taking every opportunity to have facetime with your customers. Be innovative. Come up with new ways to service your accounts. Be a problem solver for your customer. Come up with new and creative ways to develop your business. Otherwise, the next logistics provider will come along and lure your clients away from you with better pricing and customer service.
High Expenses – It’s not always just about how much revenue you earn. If your costs are high, you have to work extra hard to make a profit. This is true with any business. However, as an independent freight agent, your costs should not be that high at all. We have talked about how easy it is to set up your own home office. Don’t pay rent for office space if you don’t have to. As you grow and develop a staff of employees to support that growth, then you can think about opening an office. Until then, your biggest expenses should be a computer, a phone and the cost of travel to visit customers. As you grow a profit, it is important that you reinvest funds back into your business and build reserves for downturns or lulls in your business.
Load Board Dependency – We have always said that the key to a successful freight brokerage is the relationships you keep with your motor carriers. The most successful freight agents are the ones who take the time to grow and maintain these relationships as if they were a shipping customer. Quite often, the freight agents who struggle are the ones who are constantly trying to find trucks off of load boards. Not to say that load boards aren’t an important tool, because they absolutely are. However, load boards should always be a secondary option to a core group of carriers who run steadily for you. Think of these relationships as your assets. These relationships are what differentiate you from your competition. Take the time to grow your broker-carrier relationships whenever you can and decrease your dependency on load boards.
Bonus: If an opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is not a specific mistake as much as it is a rule to live by. Sometimes an opportunity will land on your plate. It could be a high-revenue load or a low-cost motor carrier. It is important to keep a level-head in any ‘too-good-to-be-true’ situation. Understand the pitfalls of those high revenue loads. What is the commodity? What is the length of haul? Is there enough insurance to cover the value of the cargo? Is the cargo legal? On the truck side, is the motor carrier even a real motor carrier? Or is it a fraudulent motor carrier out to scam you for a wire advance? Whatever the case may be, it is important to take a step back and ask yourself – what am I risking? Sometimes it may help to take yourself out of the decision-making role. Get a second opinion. Perform some due diligence, assess your level of risk and act accordingly.