Friday, November 30, 2007


My father told me all the time growing up not to oversell. Hopefully the story he told me about it explains what he it means to oversell.

My father's boss was selling a man an edger, a piece of equipment used to neaten up grass near the edge of a driveway or garden plot. My father's boss had showed the man at least three times how easy it was to operate and make a nice, neat line in the grass next to the man's flower garden, and the man definitely wanted to buy it. Just to make sure he had closed the sale, my father's boss ran the edger one more time and accidentally ran over the man's prized tulips. Needless to say, no sale was made that day.

In my business, a dispatcher needs to close a deal as quickly as he can. If a driver agrees to haul a load for a given price, it is time to book it. It is important to be honest about what a load involves - does the driver have to unload the truck himself, how many drops will he make, how much will he be paid for the load - but not every detail needs to be discussed before asking, "So, do you want the load?"

As soon as someone agrees to buy a product or use a service, it is often a good time to quit "selling" and start moving toward closing the deal. In the case of loading a truck, it would be time to send the driver to the first pickup, or at least to give him directions. In the case of selling a product, it is time to head to the register or to get the credit card information. I cannot count the times I was ready to buy something in a store when the salesperson said, "Oh, and you will especially appreciate..." and they told me something that turned me off to the purchase. It is fine to help a customer or client realize why he would want a product or service, but once he expresses a clear desire to purchase, stop selling, lest you run over his flowers.

-- Robert

I Regret to Inform You...

The first job I ever had, my boss told me how not to answer a phone with this story:

"Don't explain why someone is unavailable. One time someone asked when the boss would be back and the secretary told them he had gone to the bathroom with the newspaper under his arm, so it might be a while. Some things, just don't need to be shared."

I learned a lot about phone etiquette on that job. If I ever let my boss's phone ring more than three times before answering it, I knew he was coming out the door of his office to have a talk with me. If I ever let a call drop by putting someone on hold too quickly, I would get a talk. There are certain things you do not do when you answer a phone. Now, fast forward to a year later at my trucking business, while I was still in college. We had a dispatcher working in another area who had passed away suddenly in the night. Out of courtesy to the family, the home office explained to his wife how she could forward his calls so she did not have to answer them. The dispatcher in the home office greeted the first several callers who asked for him by telling them:

"Cook's DEAD!" with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. After the first several such calls were overheard, the owner of the business asked him if he might be a little more delicate in breaking the news. After all, the people calling for him were mostly just making a standard check call as they would any morning to let their dispatcher know they were loaded and rolling. To suddenly be told the man was dead certainly must have come as a shock. So, the man changed his explanation.

"I regret to inform you, MR. COOK HAS MET HIS DEMISE!" his voice rose as he explained it each time. Most of the time the drivers had to ask what on Earth that meant. That elicited his initial explanation, "Cook's DEAD!"

What did I learn from this exchange? Well, I learned that sometimes it might make more sense to break things to another person slowly, especially when the information is completely unexpected, such as with a death or accident. Taking a serious or grave tone can prepare the other person to receive difficult news, and tact is a must. Mostly, I learned that some people are just not meant to answer phones for a living.

-- Robert

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tony Drove Off the Side of a Mountain

I had only been working a few months in the trucking business when I was awakened late one Friday night by those words, "Tony drove off the side of a mountain!" Though I was groggy a moment before, I felt suddenly alert. My dispatcher had called me regarding a young driver named Tony.

"Well, is he dead?" came my reply.

"I don't know," he told me.

"Well, how do you know he drove off the mountain?"

"Another driver called," he explained.

"Well, the man didn't stop to see if he was okay?"

"No, he was driving by too fast."

"Well, he just watched him drive off the mountain?"

"No, he said he passed Tony at the top and Tony was driving slow, but then Tony drove by him and he was lookin' for a place to put 'er down," he told me. "You know what I mean."

"I have no idea what you mean," I told him, feeling somewhat confused.

"Well, he drove onto one of those runaway ramps."

"That's a lot different from driving off the side," I said, more relieved. "Well, let me head up to the office to make some calls."

"Do you want me to come up there, too?"

"No, I'm up now. I'll take care of it."

That is how quickly a day, or a weekend in my case, can change. One minute I was asleep, or at least half asleep, and then I'm up and headed back to the office to deal with a harrowing situation. More often these problems occur during working hours, but being ready to deal with a problem is part of life. How they are handled can establish a reputation. After I handled several crashes as part of my job, I started referring to myself as a fireman. I put out the fires so other people can go on about their day. The ability to handle problems calmly can help someone move up the ranks of management. Managers constantly play the role of peacemaker - between employees, between customer and salesperson, and many other situations - and problem solver. Letting the emotions - especially the emotions of others who are embroiled in a bad situation - affect your judgment can be dangerous and often prevent you from improving matters. Objectivity and a cool head go a long way to helping others calm down and think rationally, which is the best way to find a resolution.

So what happened to Tony? Fortunately for him, he only had a few bruised ribs, but his truck was destroyed, along with part of his trailer and his load. He had failed to adjust his brakes at the top of the mountain where a turnoff is provided for just that need. The saddest part of the story? He had drive several hundred miles out of his way because he did not know to use a shorter route involving a U.S. highway and had instead chosen the interstate (we call such drivers "Interstate Runners") that put him on top of that mountain. We had to let Tony go after that load, but hopefully he learned to pay better attention to signs and learned to read a map.

-- Robert

What's the Idea

Todd and I have been friends for over fifteen years. In that time we have played sports together, competed together on academic teams, and lived together at the University of Georgia. When we lived together, we often talked about our goals after college, and in those we came up with an expression, "Making That Money". For example, we might say, "When you get a job, you gonna be making that money!" It became a catch phrase for success, and we still use it to this day when we see others getting paid well or doing well in some way financially.

On this blog, we hope to share some of the stories of our professional lives (where we "make that money"), along with some advice about things we've learned along the way. We both are young and well educated, but we do not claim to be experts on any particular subject. We simply want to share our thoughts with other up and coming professionals. I am part owner of a small truck brokerage and Todd works in state government, just to give some context to our stories.

I make no promises as to the frequency of our posts, but I hope to write several a week for now. I hope you enjoy our blog, and we look forward to your comments and stories.

-- Robert