I think it does.
Last year, when the largest company in our community was split into two, I gained the chance to get a new shipping customer.
The only problem was that the company is so new that I couldn’t find out who the logistics department lead is on the Internet. This is crazy, I thought. I live in the same county, maybe even in the same city, and I can’t find out?
Then I realized that I already have a way to find out. I’m a member of my local Chamber of Commerce.
Commitment to Our Community
It’s a rare trucking business that isn’t based in a community with industry that requires shipping. We live here in northeastern Ohio, not so fondly called the Rust Belt because of all the closed factories, but there are still a lot of manufacturers around. They need transportation services.
In a time when it’s easy to just go online, it’s still more comfortable for anyone to deal with someone they know, like, and trust. That kind of relationship might start with a lucky pick off an Internet load board. It’s just as likely that a manufacturer won’t remember a trucking company’s name again next week when the next load is ready to go. Is it only a business relationship, right?
Or is it a personal relationship that’s going to get that second or third load? Or that lane for the next year? It’s got to be personal to be ongoing.
You won’t be remembered unless you build a relationship – or you do something so incredibly bad that they shudder when your name comes up again and immediately say, “No way are we calling that trucker again!”
(You don’t want to be that trucker.)
I want to build relationships with the companies in my city because these are my neighbors. They’re the people whose kids go to school with mine. These people are the ones voting on the same issues and who pay the same taxes. We have an investment in each other. I want them to stay strong and keep jobs in town. They want the same for me.
Chamber of Commerce
There are a couple of big manufacturers still in our area. Trying to find the head of the shipping departments isn’t always easy. I can go through LinkedIn and maybe the Thomas Register. Maybe I’ve got enough good luck with my Google searches to find names and that the Internet listings are up to date. But the best search engine isn’t online. It’s between my ears.
By participating in Chamber of Commerce events, I can meet not only the heads of the local big companies (and find out the names of the logistics department leads) but I also can meet the smaller company presidents all together in one place. I could go from office to office and leave business cards with the hope of a callback. Instead, I can go to the Chamber events and meet them all at one time. I start conversations and create relationships and skip the receptionist until it’s time to stop by to go to lunch with my new friends.
The cost of joining the local chamber of commerce is the best money I can invest in my business if I’m willing to work with the chamber on its events, like the local parade. I have to donate my time. Sometimes I donate door prizes or gifts for events – swag from my business that gets my company’s name out into the community. I have to get up and introduce myself and my business. But it pays off, time after time. In the end, I’m finding the loads that I’d probably never get from a board and getting multiple trips for my drivers who live here in town. They like that a lot. Not to mention that being local sometimes get me paid just a bit more timely.
Managing the Fleet Business
As a fleet manager, you’ve got a lot to manage. Maybe you’ve got a sales crew to find customers and a staff assigning loads and you don’t think it’s worth the time to join the local chamber of commerce. If you want to build your business – working locally is a great way to do it. Keep your foot in the door and build the relationships with your neighbors. They’ll return the favor.