Keeping the Wheels Turning and On Track
By Tim Helenthal
Authors note: Special thanks to Angela Beusse, National Forwarding, and OpenAI Chat GPT for valuable feedback on this article.
One of my favorite lyrics comes from the song “Man on the Silver Mountain” by the rock band Rainbow. (That’s right – Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore for you old-timers out there!) It says, “I’m a wheel, I’m a wheel, I can roll, I can feel and you can’t stop me turning. ‘Cause I’m the sun, I’m the sun, I can move I can run, but you’ll never stop my turning”. I love the imagery of the wheel and the idea that we’re constantly moving forward, even if we encounter obstacles. However, I have no idea what the rest of the lyrics of the song mean…LOL.
This metaphor is particularly relevant to the moving business, where we experience a cyclical pattern of peak and slow season. Round and round, year after year. It also calls to mind our drivers who “can move” and who “can run” and they “never stop burning.”
During peak season, things can get hectic. You can picture this in your own operation when it’s June or July and everyone has been working an insane number of hours pulling off customer service miracles after the inevitable equipment break-downs, customer cancelations, crew no-shows, and last- minute date changes have tanked your plan for the day, the week, and the entire month.
Right now, we find ourselves at the point of the turning wheel where things are smooth, but the peak season with its bumpy, uneven tread, will soon be upon us. How do we prepare our teams to understand that the bumpy stretch is perfectly normally and that it will pass?
I asked a few of our DAB members what they do during peak season to keep the wheels turning and on-track. I was super impressed with the response! Here are some of the answers:
Chris Lantz, Bekin’s Moving Systems, says they like to do food trucks for their people to show their appreciation for all of the hard work.
Michael Gonzalez, Maverick Forwarding, says they also like to have food trucks, but they encourage managers to make food and serve their employees because it can have an even bigger impact. He also likes to go out on jobs at each of their locations throughout the summer – the crews love it, and it helps remind him how hard they work.
Jeanette Homan, Lambert Enterprises, likes to get her people out for events such as arts and crafts for the women and a fishing trip for the men. She also likes to bring in food trucks and tries to help her drivers when they come in by providing them with a hotel room and a steak dinner!
Emily Kozubowski, Apple Moving, says they provide each of their branches with a budget for employee morale-related activities to have things like BBQs, team breakfasts, or ice cream trucks. The HR department organizes at least one fun activity per month too. They also have two employee recognition programs that are awarded monthly and based on performance metrics.
Brittany Brooks, Conser Moving, shared a lot of wonderful things they do to provide connection with their team. This includes lunches, crew bonuses for good reviews, team meetings that include ownership, and bonus linked to company performance. She adds, “if you want to prevent burnout, whether during peak season or any other time of year, you best have an ‘emotional connection with your associates’ throughout the year” citing that “two of the main reasons employees leave are a lack of appreciation and poor communication.”
Oded Carmi, DN Van Lines, believes that, “burn out is prevented by two main strategies, defining an end point and incentivizing the challenge. We define the end of peak as 8/31, and then vocalize and celebrate milestones. Whether it’s going out for a drink or making an announcement about being 50% of the way there, its seems to help channel positive energy and serves as reminder that the pain is finite.” As for incentives, he provides performance bonuses so that all stakeholders can share in the idea the summer is the time to make money.
Personally, I’m fond of doing some of the same things listed above – we bring in food trucks, have ice cream and things like that. Also, all employees have an opportunity for a performance bonus. And I’m also a tremendous fan of breaking up the summer into manageable bites based on the calendar. The wheel keeps turning and the end of peak will be here before you know it.
Regardless of which tactics you use the most important thing is to remember we need to support our teams emotionally as well as physically, without their support, our wheels might come off and we’ll be left with a team that’s unable to perform at their best.