It’s hard to believe the year is nearly over, yet, when I look back, it’s amazing to think about everything that has happened this year. There have been tremendous challenges and strains put on individuals, companies, and communities. We’ve each faced unique struggles as we’ve tried to deal with a “new normal.” And yet, through it all, I’ve seen growth, improvement, and sacrifice on a level I wouldn’t have imagined was possible.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a few things I’ve observed and learned in 2020.
The Impact of a Global Pandemic
When I look at the impact of COVID-19, three things immediately jump to mind.
The first big challenge we faced as a company was making sure we could meet customer expectations while taking care of our partners’ needs and ensuring their safety.
The second challenge was adapting to the needs of our customers while they struggled through the pandemic.
The third was at a more macro level: looking at the strain the pandemic was placing on the transportation and logistics industry as a whole.
Managing the Challenges
Addressing these issues required a significant amount of thought, time, and effort, and I am incredibly grateful to the countless individuals who stepped up.
As a management team, the first thing we had to do in addressing the pandemic was balance the needs of our customers and keep our partners safe. It became apparent very early on that one of the best ways to address both needs was by moving to an entirely remote workforce. Within three days of making the decision, the majority of the company had been successfully moved to work remote. This incredible effort was a true testament to the dedication of our team. I would dare say that if you asked our customers, most didn’t even notice the change. The transition to remote work has actually been so successful and seamless that we made the decision in the fall to offer permanent remote work on a volunteer basis.
Addressing the second and third challenges was more difficult, knowing the impact of the pandemic was different for each customer. We found new ways to work with customers going through financial challenges. We partnered with other companies and industry groups to offer free and deeply discounted services to help drivers find more freight or find the best rate given the quickly changing environment.
It was also hard not being able to meet with our customers at events and trade shows. In a normal year, we meet up multiple times throughout the year, but travel and group size restrictions made meeting in-person nearly impossible. And while I will always prefer meeting in person, doing business and talking with our customers remotely has gone better than expected. I attribute that not only to what we’ve done, but to how our customers adapted and their willingness to meet online. We’ve had some very good discussions and have interacted in very positive ways.
Despite the challenges, I’ve been surprised by the many lessons learned and positive takeaways from 2020.
One of the biggest highlights in my mind is the way it brought people together, despite being apart. Knowing that we were each struggling with different challenges helped unite us toward a common cause as a company and an industry. I know many of our customers made incredible sacrifices during this pandemic to make sure that shelves were stocked and that people had the goods they needed to take care of themselves and others.
In a similar vein, it highlighted to the entire country how important transportation and logistics is to everyone’s lives. If shelves and supermarkets aren’t stocked, a ripple effect happens throughout the entire country. I think the country as a whole has a much greater appreciation for the professionals in our industry.
From a business standpoint, this year has certainly expanded my thinking as to what is possible, not only in terms of what could happen from a risk perspective, but also what our teams are capable of. In one sense it has given me a lot more confidence in what we can do together as company. All of this change has helped me as a leader to be even more empathetic when talking to partners and customers. The move to a remote workforce has given us an opportunity to hire talent outside our primary geographies. We’re now able to better serve our customers because we’re pulling talent from across the entire country instead of just a handful of states.
While I would never wish for a repeat of this year, I’m grateful for the opportunity it has given us to re-examine our priorities as individuals and as a company. We have been working diligently throughout the year to improve the technology that supports all Truckstop.com products and services, and we are excited to start rolling things out in the new year. I am positive that each customer will see a notable difference in terms of what we are able to do for them.