Tom Curee | STRATEGY & INNOVATION AT KINGSGATE LOGISTICS
BETTER! FASTER! CHEAPER!
It seems to be the echoing cry of every organization in the transportation industry right now. While many are shouting this, there’s a real challenge to understand how to truly get there. We see article after article about the latest innovation to automate this and digitize that, but how do you apply it within your organization?
It’s no secret to many of us that, at times, this industry has been plodding in its adaptation of new technology. In today’s age, it seems that technology comes at us faster than we can handle. So, companies go down a path of procuring new vendors and partners or building solutions based on what they see in the industry today. I liken it to trying to “Keep up with the Joneses.” We saw competitor “X” is having some success in this space, so now we need to be better than them at “Company Y.”
But what happens when “Company Y” doesn’t fit your culture, your abilities, or your mission? Customers suffer. As a third-party in this space, shouldn’t our customers be at the core of our efforts? Meanwhile, we see the latest news release that has been articulately designed to position your competitor to look like the most skilled, knowledgeable competitor on the planet, and we start chasing after that. Perhaps we should invest in better marketing?
IF YOU GENUINELY WANT TO GET TEAM MEMBERS THINKING DIFFERENTLY, I ALWAYS ENCOURAGE THE ART OF ENGAGING YOUR MOST VOCAL TEAM MEMBERS.
We can all relate, but it’s essential to be honest with ourselves and our team members. The adage “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” might fit perfectly in this discussion. And while that may be so, there’s still a need to answer the question, How can we be innovative? Because while jumping off a bridge may not be the best analogy, there is a push to drive innovation, and for too many people, it involves looking more like a competitor, and not looking more like yourself.
I’m a strengths-finder guy at heart. I think we all spend too much time focusing on weaknesses and do very little to build up our strengths, and that’s where your innovation journey should begin. You have loyal customers, who have likely referred you to additional business, and there’s a reason for it. We went down that path ourselves at Kingsgate Logistics, and it helped us define who we are today. So, I want to give you three steps to help kickstart your innovation journey.
Step 1: Talk to Your Customers
While this statement may seem a bit elementary or simplistic, I can’t express how important this first step is. Your customers, especially loyal customers with years of experience with you, have their view of your organization. How you’ve helped them, what you mean to them, and what you do for their company could be wildly different than the value you believe you bring. I’ll never forget when we sat down with a client to do a face-toface interview with them. We wanted to understand better the value that we brought them, and their response opened our eyes to value that we didn’t realize. So, if you’re going to find your place in this industry, start by finding out what your customers already love about your organization.
Step 2: Engage Your Entire Team
There’s a lot to be said here, but if you want to drive innovation, you need to engage your entire team—and to be clear, not just your leadership team. The common mistake in this step is to engage the team members who want change or those who have to say they want to change because they’re on the leadership team. If you genuinely want to get team members thinking differently, I always encourage the art of engaging your most vocal team members. It’s those individuals who have the most influence in your organization. They may not have a title, but they have a voice, and if they’re using it today, they’ll continue to use it tomorrow. By engaging those team members and making them a valuable part of these efforts, you will engage the entire team.
Step 3: Bring Your Tech Lead into the Conversation
CIO, CTO, Director of Tech, IT Manager, fill in the blank with the title of your choosing, but it’s time to connect your technical lead to the most critical user at your company—your customer. Historically, we’ve only seen that role get involved with an EDI or system setup, but never in real honest conversations with a client. These team members should be your key to driving innovation. Who knows better about your system and technology team capabilities? Who knows how far you can push your systems to solve a complex problem for your customers? It SHOULD be the person in that role (and if that person can’t do that for you, perhaps an article about building the right team would be more in line).
This group has been disengaged with the sales process for far too long and has had very little direct engagement with your customer. They should be in your quarterly business reviews; they should fully understand the client and their needs and then be tasked with helping solve some of those challenges. It’s within those conversations that creativity can be stirred, and innovation can be ignited.
In conclusion, stop chasing what the next person is doing, which is an exciting thing for me to say considering I’m giving you my perspective, but it remains true. While we need to understand what competitors may be doing in the space, it may not value your unique group of clients. Understand your value from their seat and then amplify that through your organization. That’s being innovative.
Tom Curee is Senior Vice President of Strategy & Innovation at Kingsgate Logistics, a family owned, third-party logistics provider founded in October 1986 and still owned by the founding family. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Kingsgate Logistics is able to anticipate and navigate transportation roadblocks of all types and sizes. Learn more at kingsgatelogistics.com.
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