Episode 2: What Every Owner-Operator Needs to Know with Adam Wingfield, Founder of Innovative Logistics Group

Brent – 00:00:01:

Welcome to Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast where we explore the fascinating world of trucking and freight management. We dive deep into the freight industry and uncover why the trucking industry is more crucial to our country now than ever before. Stay tuned to uncover the driving forces behind successful trucking businesses and hear from the hard-working truckers and leaders who keep the world moving. Let’s hit the road. Hey, welcome to Freight Nation, the Truckstop podcast. Joining me today is the friend of mine, Adam Wingfield from Innovative Logistics Group. I’ve gotten to see Adam on several occasions. He is fantastic to see live. And I’m so fortunate to have him here today being with us on the podcast. This is the launch of our podcast, so welcome to it. We’re going to be muddling through it and trying to get it done, but we always hope to bring you great information to help you run your business better, which is always Truckstop’s goal as a company. And I know it’s Adam’s goal with Innovative Logistics Group. Welcome in Adam. Glad you’re here today.

Adam – 00:01:00:

Well, thanks for inviting me, Brent. I’m just honored and privileged to be the first on the show.

Brent – 00:01:05:

Well, that’s good, man. We always want to start with a bag, man. So you’ve been doing great things, but I like to get to know people. And I think people on the podcast like to get to know people. So I got to see you for the first time at the Mid-America Truck Show. That was a few years ago. And then my team got to see you last year live and on stage and they were like, wow, you got to see this guy. And I said, you mean Adam? I said, yeah, well, I already know him. So tell me a little bit about how you got into trucking and then just a little bit about you and so the audience can get to know you a little bit. For those that don’t know you already.

Adam – 00:01:34:

Yeah, for sure. So my whole journey in a truck had started off as a kid. You know, I was one of the ones that was inspired by the hot wheels and matchbox. That was my upbringing, remote control. But when I turned 11 years old, you know, long story short, my uncle got me behind the wheel of a tractor trailer. And at that point, man, turning the key for that first time, man, it’s just one of those things that gets into your system is in your system. And I was hooked on since that’s something that I’ve always had a passion of doing. And then as I got older, that passion only became more burning until I had the, I was of age, I was able to go get my CDL.

Brent – 00:02:12:

Yeah, so no, wait a minute. I remember you saying that you got behind the wheel really, really young. You know, how old were you when you first drove the truck?

Adam – 00:02:17:

11 years old.

Brent – 00:02:19:

11 years old. Did they offer a CDLs for 11-year-olds?

Adam – 00:02:23:

They did not, but I wouldn’t be surprised. This whole sport push show driver issues. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got that age down at some point.

Brent – 00:02:29:

Oh my goodness. Well, that’s fun. So, so you got behind the wheel, you’re kind of bit by the bug on this thing. And it’s basically been your whole life, which is by the way, not uncommon for so many people that are in transportation. I got introduced to it as a kid with my dad working on the loading dock when I was running a forklift, me and my brothers. And I’m surprised that, by the way, I was running a forklift with zero training, by the way. So it was just get behind there and don’t kill anybody. So I’m surprised my brothers are, I have all of our arms and legs, but, but it was always fun. I was just always amazed by the truck drivers that used to come in and pick up the freight and take it places. And as a 14 year old got to ride with a guy named Robert Warren from Pontotoc, Mississippi, taking a load across town. And boy, I was hooked too. Cause I was like, I get it. I know why they’re the kings of the road. So you started running your operation at really young. So tell us a little bit about that.

Adam – 00:03:19:

I started with a mega carry at 21 years old. And back then, when I got my CDL, mega carry, we’re offering the driving training. I got my CDL, you know, 21 days, but it was a little different because I had to go through CDL training for 21 days. And then I immediately had to be shipped off to do securement training because I was doing flatbeds at the time. It kind of reminds you of kind of how the military, you do the basic training and then they send you to, you know, your specialist. So I had to be secure training, securement training was three weeks. So a total of, you know, a little over six weeks is what it took. But yeah, I got behind the wheel and 21 years old, man, I was running double drops at the time, which was specialized. We were focused on outbound. We were doing a lot of glass inbound. We were doing, you know, heavy haul equipment, wide equipment, things like that. I was doing it all with a smile, making 24 and a half cents a mile and bringing home checks of like $500 a week. And you couldn’t tell me nothing back there.

Brent – 00:04:12:

All right, I got to ask you this. What was your first truck? Tell me about your first truck.

Adam – 00:04:14:

It was an Eagle, an international Eagle, a 9400. You know, at that time, those were the way those were what they had us driving was the Eagle. So they were pretty interesting trucks to drive at the time. Those things you can’t shoot for, man. I had a Detroit Series 60 and I loved it.

Brent – 00:04:28:

So what was your favorite thing? What color was it? What was your favorite thing about it?

Adam – 00:04:30:

It was orange. It had about 790,000 miles on it. And the favorite thing about it, that the air condition only worked half the time.

Brent – 00:04:36:

So you were-Were you hauling out of South Carolina?

Adam – 00:04:39:

Actually it was a little town here, a little town in South Carolina called Richburg and out of North Carolina we had another facility that was in a town called Maxton, North Carolina, and then we would haul out of Maxton as well.

Brent – 00:04:51:

So 50% of the time with no air conditioning in North and South Carolina, that sounds a little hot.

Adam – 00:04:57:

It was a little warm. And then also I didn’t play it. So the fuel gauge had a little floater on it. So you had to count the miles on order for you to make sure that you don’t run out of diesel fuel. So it was one of those break in experiences, man. When I look at the progression of the industry now and automatic transmissions, that truck was a 13-speaker. Had to get automatic transmissions and APUs and GPSs and three-letter words for everything else. But we didn’t have those things back then. And of course, technology has to bring the world along, but it makes us, the old school guys, really going to appreciate what we had. And back then, and you talked about the Knights of the Road and it truly was that. You know, it truly was.

p>Brent – 00:05:43:

Absolutely. Well, I’m real partial to North Carolina and a certain trucker that got me out of a lot of trouble back when I was a young man and, and taught me a lot of wisdom. I got him Sam Arrington who helped me tremendously. I’m still friends with him. This was back when I was about 22 years old and I’m 56 now. So we’ve been friends for a long time and truck drivers are exactly that, man. The knights of the road- that’s an old title, right? Yeah. That they used to be called the Knights of the road and still holds true today. You know, and I think everyone really realized that tremendously through the pandemic on, you know, how truckers sacrifice to bring what’s important. Every single citizen in the United States, what they need. So super important as far as things. So you obviously had worked for quite a while. So how long did you drive before you came on the truck and started a different part of your business?

Adam – 00:06:28:

A little over a million miles. So a little over 10 plus years, you know, it’s some team, you know, team experiences, you know, I got to do with my best friend. So it wasn’t really like one of those things where it was a dreaded experience, but put a lot of miles in man. And thank God that it was all accident free. Even scratch didn’t do anything. I got to witness a lot out there, but you know, my whole aspiration quite frankly was to, and it’s not was, it is to change the face of the industry. You know, when I start the industry and I, some of the things that I’ve seen that went on are still here today. When I look at the lack of technology, I look at the lack of education. I look at the lack of business acumen. I look at the lack of resources. That’s maybe-Because when I started and I first became a owner operator, man, right. I had no idea what I was doing and nobody else did even.

Adam – 00:06:53:

He’s almost like, Hey, here’s a truck here. You spent a thousand dollars a week for it and you create your own hours. But I want it more from that. And I want it more for my industry because it’s such a good industry for those that really want to be good businessmen and good business women out there. Is a lot of opportunity for you to not only just have a good living, but you can really truly create a legacy if you really want to.

Brent – 00:07:46:

No doubt. So from the beginning of this, when you were 21 and you started experiencing driving a truck and being in the industry, and you’re seeing some of the problems that are happening, and by the way, a lot of those problems still exist today, where there’s a tremendous amount of the driving public that needs to know their better, their operational costs and things like that’s how they make money, right? They’re operating the vehicle and everything. So you saw this really early and you wanted to make some changes that beneficially helped everybody. So I think that’s super aspirational. So what was it? Where were you in your journey that you said, all right, I’m making the change now? Where were you? I know you said you drove for about 10 years, but there was probably a day in there or a couple of days that you went, all right, now’s the time.

Adam – 00:08:29:

I think the first honestly Brent was the first load that I ever delivered. And it was when I picked up a load. Yeah. It was when I picked up a load from Max and I was going to Louisville, Kentucky. And it’s funny because when I stood on stage in Louisville, it was just kind of, just kind of surreal that, you know, looking back 23 years ago, I was moving into the city, but anyway, I was, I got out of the truck, man. And you know, I’m just happy go lucky at that time, man. You’re brand new, you’re green eyed, white, you know, bright eyed and bushy tail. I get out of the truck and I go into the truck stop and you ready to take a shower. And I just started looking around and I’m an introvert and one thing that you’ll know about introverts is that we don’t say much, but we see everything. One of the things that I saw really, really eye-opening to me was people’s pain in their face. You can see it. You work in a corporate structure in any corporate environment. You can tell the engagement of the teams. You can tell the engagement of the workforce. And I just saw the industry as I walked around and you saw people struggling. You saw people. Aggravated. You saw people just not knowing. You have these little driver lounges where you hear what people are talking about. Everything was negative. Everything was about how bad the industry is and how this person is screwing that person and this person screwing over that person. And it was no really, really just, I just got the impression, which I still get now. I just get the impression that folks get started and don’t have an idea on what to expect. And a lot of people don’t treat it like a business. They don’t treat it like a brand, most importantly. You know, when I started my, it ran was everything. And at that point I said, you know what, I’m writing a note down and I’m going to start something that is going to allow people to be able to get started in the business. But we’re going to teach them how to run a business. We’re going to teach them how to run a company versus running a truck. Cause I’ll tell them this, that anybody and it’s training, anybody can get behind a wheel and run a truck. But it takes a special person to run a business

Adam – 00:09:38:

To run a business. And that’s the thing that a lot of people have to realize that the business part with the owner operator, the owner operator be split owner operator where it looks 50-50. Cause it need to be more 99% owner and 1% operator. And that’s what we got to get them not set on mentality tools

Brent – 00:10:38:

I love the way you put that Adam. 99% owner, 1% operator. Now that’s a mentality I’m going to guess. That’s how you think he has, how you think it through. And so it is so good to hear you. It’s so good to hear you say that because when I got in the industry in ‘98, I worked for overdrive magazine, which is obviously a historic communication piece as far as like for the owner operator and helping them with their business. That was their whole goal. So I got to really experience something super cool with working for a company. That was the whole goal of what we did was to help the owner operator succeed in business. And then I was able to help be part of the team that product called partners in business to the owner operator, help them understand how to operate. And so you’re taking it even higher than that with what you’re doing with innovative and bringing them education and understanding that helps them really know how, just like you said, to own that business. So what are some of the top things you see and then what do you coach? Because I’m fascinated by this. What do you coach that you see that some of the first things that need to change for an owner operator?

Adam – 00:11:44:

The most important thing is first thing that we see is that they don’t have an insight as to where the operational expenses are, how to run financially, run your business. We don’t see them with a true understanding and grasp of their variable expense costs and not really knowing how to evaluate your variable expense costs, when to evaluate it, how frequently you should evaluate and how to implement changes and put plans together to improve that. I’m a true believer that if you can measure it, you can improve it. And if my break is at $2.21 a mile, then my focus is on how can I drive that break even point down because you can absolutely control what you can control, but what you can’t control, you can’t. So then when I look at things like fuel costs and what I see spot rates, maybe you can’t control, but you can control what influence your business has on that. So for example, fuel costs, there’s two things that goes into fuel costs that we really, really look at. Number one, is station selection is one. And then number two is overall concern. You got two things, consumption station selection. Braking control looks two things. Braking can’t control what TA puts on the sign and says, Hey, this is what the price is today. So we’re focusing on controllables and we’re focused on teaching how to control what you can control. And when you spend more time, if you take the energy that you have and you focus on the things that you can control, then you’ll find more time that you have back in your business to focus on improving it. So that’s one of the things that we see. And then we see a lot of decision-making, whether it’s from an equipment perspective. I get it. A nice long hood W900 looks great. Long hood Peterbilt looks great, looks cool, but they suck five miles a gallon. So when we compare that to get something like a Mac Vision or something like that, they can get 10 miles per gallon. That’s putting money back in your pocket versus taking money out. And you got to treat this like a business. And that’s one of the things that we see the financial acumen. We see the overall and the business decisions that are being made. And the one thing that I tell people, most importantly, Brent, is just because there’s a big difference between being a business owner and being in business for yourself. There’s a true difference. Because a business owner is going to treat that, is going to have a certain level of discipline. As a business owner, you got to wear a lot of different hats. Like half of the day I got a C-Hat on, I got a CFO hat on, I got a COO hat, I got a C2O hat, I got a… You got a lot of different hats you have to wear. But when you’re in your business for yourself, you just want to haul a shot sometimes. And that’s the thing that we put into the next place is that we got to coach mentality because in order for you to be successful in this business, you have to be obsessed with efficiency and you have to be obsessed with business acumen. And those are the two things that we look at under the coaching experience. And it’s not for everybody. I’ll be honest with you, Brent, that this is, if you look at schools and you look at it, you have community colleges. And then you have your prestigious schools that are different, right? They have different levels of accreditation. They have different levels of support. They have different levels of acumen and they have different levels of academia. We look at ourselves as these are the Harvards and the Yales. You’re going to have the, you know, the community colleges and no knock on, that’s the get restarting, right? That’s to get in and door. Brent, I wanting to teach you how to be successful. I want to teach you how to understand, hey, once I understand the financial influences impact on my one truck, and once I got that on control, now I got to master and multiply because you’re not going to get rich off of one truck. And if you really want to make a business, the thing about businesses is that a business must be prepared to scale and you’re prepared to fail. So those are some of the things that we teach.

Brent – 00:15:24:

So master, mimic and multiply. I like the way you put that. That’s as easy thing to remember. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, been around owner operators for 25 years. And I have a heart for them just like you do Adam, which is to see them be successful. I’m very fortunate to have worked for two of the best brands in the industry. I’ve got to work for Overdrive magazine and I’m going to work for Truckstop. And so it’s really neat to be part of a process or part of an opportunity for people to learn, people to get better at what they’re doing. So when you launched Innovative, there were things in which you saw. So tell me, so you’ve not only have been a truck business owner, you’re now an enterprise owner as far as like different aspects. So when you started out, what was the biggest mistake you made starting out, starting your own business?

Adam – 00:16:10:

I think the biggest mistake I did was I didn’t go out and scale my team. I tried to do a lot of things myself. And biggest mistake that I made, Brent, was thinking that by taking on additional tasks by my own, not even outsourcing it to maybe an outside independent agency. I felt that I saved them money, but at the same time, I was just taking my abilities and just piecing it out. I saw the biggest growths in my business from an enterprise perspective. When I hired more people, the more people that I hired, the return investment tripled itself. And when I learned at that point, and what it taught me is that I had to think bigger and even when I think about it from a trucking company perspective, at some point you got to back up and you want to be able to have the business to be able to think for itself and a business that’s predicated upon personality is a business that cannot succeed. So what I knew at that point is I had to predicate my business based on processes and people. So once I shifted that mentality, man, it just went vertical. Because I mean, I’ll be honest, I was trying to do it all, man, trying to dispatch, trying to do everything, trying to broker, trying to do all the admin stuff, TMS. I was trying to wear all the hats, you know, doing payroll and doing everything. But ultimately what that does, it burns you out. And as a leader, you have to be able to show up 100% to your team every single day. And that doesn’t mean that you got a team of one driver or you got a team of 150, you got to show up the same way. And that was my biggest thinking business, man, was really not going in with the mindset of people and scaling people first.

Brent – 00:17:46:

So you’ve talked to a lot of owner-operators in the marketplace. Do you see them making the same mistake, stepping in that same pothole you did? Do you see them thinking about it that way? Now, most owner-operators, there’s a reason why most of them are one truck operators. They like the independence of not having the responsibility of other people. And so, but they also like to grow their business. So when you encounter businesses like that, where do you start in the coaching?

Adam – 00:18:17:

The first place to start is with the mentality and the goal setting process. What does Brent see yourself 10 years from now? So if you tell me, hey, so now I want to have a hundred trucks. Well, we got to get started on today, you know, because those are the things that we have to put in place and have plans for it. I’m a plan right now. I’m already in Q1 of 2024. I’m always, you got to position yourself in quarters ahead because if something happens, you want to be able to recalibrate, you want to readjust, you want to remodel. But from a ground floor level, the very first thing that I see that has to be tackled is I need to get into your mind and then I need to level set your mindset. And it is up for everybody. Like you said, you know, a lot of owner-operators, they love the independency, but they still want to run their trucking. That’s there’s nothing wrong with that. If you do want to scale this thing, and if you do want to see yourself, you know, at some point out of the truck and the business producing results. So that way that you can do, go on, do something else. You can go on and start another business. That’s the true entrepreneur mindset is when you’re able to see that scale and you’re able to see Brent’s trucking going up and down the highway and Brent’s not the one having to put that effort into it and then it isn’t for everybody. Right. So business growth is not for everybody, but truly the difference between, you know, a known operator and a fleet owner, it’s really just the mindset and what they’re looking to accomplish long-term. So that’s the first thing that we go into is going to evaluate your mindset. I want to know where your goals are. I want to know where your aspirations are. And then what the other wrinkle that we do is that we do what we call it as a leader disc survey. So anybody that comes to our program has to go through a DISC survey. So we evaluate different behavioral tendencies in terms of leadership tendencies, and I take a look at that. And by looking at that, I can evaluate what direction of coaching that may or may not work for you. And I can put Brent through a leader DISC survey and I’ll know, okay, this is how I got to coach with him. This is the direction I got to go. This is what he’ll respond well to. This is where he’ll team respond well to. And there’s something that pops up on that DISC that says, Hey, he’s not going to be good for managing people, then we’re going to put an action plan in a place. And we’re going to help fix that before that comes the time for you to be able to scale. So it’s a lot of little things that we do to make the process much more intuitive towards growth and making sure that we have the right steps in there. And like I said, It’s our program is more along the lines of taking you to the next level, right? We’re a next level type of guy.

Brent – 00:20:57:

Well…Self-realization is probably one of the best tools any human being can figure out about themselves because when you know your strengths and weaknesses and you know your tendencies, boy, you can avoid a lot of trouble when it comes to that. I know that we used to do a lot of research back in the day when I worked for overdrive and I remember looking at profit margins of one truck operations and they were a certain amount. And then it talked about, it showed the growth. And usually when an owner operator went from one truck to two trucks, they made less money the next year. Having two trucks, when they went to three, they started making a lot more money because they figured out how to manage the people process. They figured out how to manage the efficiency process. That’s fantastic. But I love the idea that you’re actually helping people to understand themselves because my dad used to say this all the time. He’d say, don’t major on your minors. Don’t try to be great at what you’re not good at. Just be good enough at that. But be great at what you’re great at. You know, so when you get into the coaching of owner operators in the market, what unveiling these things to them, Adam, what gives you the delts of mind on their end?

Adam – 00:22:13:

Typically what it is, the very first thing is that when we go through those surveys, the very first thing is like, man, well, yep, that’s kind of true. That’s about me. And um, A lot of it really what it boils down to, man, is that it’s just simply that they don’t know. What you don’t know, you don’t know. And no manual out here. Like you can go if you wanted to right now, you go to KW Freightliner, Peterbilt, pull up with your CDL and a little bit of credit and they’re going to give you a truck. They’re not going to make you have all of the things that you need in order to keep that truck. The bank doesn’t care. The bank wants to know just as long as you’ve got a CDL and as long as you can get behind the wheel and make money, that’s all they care about. But like we do the same thing in mortgage, they’re going to detail and they’re going to go through in a lot more depth. They’re going to make sure that you have everything that you need. They know that you can sustainably pay to that. I think this industry is so easy to get into. And that adds to give us when you get, when deregulation took place back in the eighties. It’s a gift and a curse because when you frag it this much and it creates such a low barrier of entry, you create a high resistance to failure. So now we’ve got people that are coming in that can get in easily, but they also can get out very easily as well. So. My goal and my aspiration is to reverse the failure rates. And right now we’re looking at 80% right now to get started driving their out of business. And a lot of that is because of resources, lack of resources, is because of compliance, lack of compliance, and profitability, lack of profitability. All those three things can get fixed though and all those three things are fixed from the beginning, if he goes through one of our programs to get started, that stuff will get vetted out in the very beginning and we’ll be building sure that from a mindset perspective, you’re going to be like, okay, you know what? The likelihood of me failing in this business is going to be very slim because I had this in place, I have that in place, I understand this. From a perspective, even before you buy a truck, we’re going to go through an evaluation. We’re able to do a soft pull, know what your credit’s going to look like. We’re going to know what that loan is going to look like. And we’re going to look at a breakeven point. We’re going to look at the national transportation and spot rate index. And we’re going to say, hey, you know what, Brent? Your breakeven point is going to be $2.65. The national spot rate is about $2.35. This ain’t going to work for you right now. So those are the kinds of things that we get on the front side to help improve those things on the backside.

Brent – 00:24:35:

I gotta ask you this question. So when you talk to most of our operator operations, how many of them know that what you just talked about, their cost per mile?

Adam – 00:24:43:

So you want me to be honest?

Adam – 00:23:13:

Less than 5%?

Brent – 00:24:46:

Well, I’m asking that question for a reason. That should be a wake up call to owner operators to understand the gravity and the risk that you run for not knowing your cost per mile, because there’s some freight that may look good. And this podcast is called Freight Nation for a reason. Truck stop is all about the movement of freight, but it’s all also about the selection of freight. You know, what is your operation best at moving? And then what is your operation best at making a profit at? So when you tell me that maybe 5, 10% of them know their cost per mile, and that’s how they’re paid, that’s a pretty important thing for them to work with and professional like yourself or somebody to understand your cost per mile. So ,once you sort of reveal that or you bring that to light and they see it. What’s their next step?

Adam – 00:25:37:

The next step is to reduce the variable. So you got two components that go in your cost per mile. The easiest component to fix is your variables, right? The next component, you got to focus on your fix. You’re only going to have a few fixed costs, but you’re going to have a ton of variable expenses. So then we got to plan out those variables and make sure that you understand what that impact has. I had an owner operator, let me give you an example. I had an owner operator that would chase the Northeast, right? Love going from the Southeast to the Northeast, started making a kill at. Until I asked to pull the easy pass reports over the last 90 days. I want to know how much you’re spending in tolls over the last 90 days. So when we pull those easy pass reports, he had no idea on how it’s been on his easy pass reports. And when you look at that, and then you look at the cost of diesel fuel is much higher in the North East markets. It’s not worth it. Now we’re looking at fool’s gold. And I’m not saying it in a bad way, but we’re talking real here. So think about that. And I think about the controllables. We got to start thinking about what you’re doing right now as your strategy and what is it leading to you from a financial perspective to when we shift that and do something a little bit differently. We focus on pulling out what we call KPIs, which is your key performing indicators. And every driver, every owner operator needs to understand what those KPIs are. You got

Adam – 00:25:27:

For bearable expenses, your fixed expenses, your average pump, your miles per gallon, which you’re actually…

Those four KPIs, if you track those, those can help lower your overall expenses. And our goal is to reduce the breakeven point. One thing that we get a lot, Brent, and not that we get, we see. Why? You said, I know my breakeven point. I’m going to go, I’m getting $3 a mile. I’m getting $4 a mile. Well, let’s talk about that a little bit. So your breakeven point matters every bit of it, because that is the point at number one, that’s what you’re spending. The way I widen my profit gap is by reducing my expenses. Because if I’m getting $3 a mile, but I’m paying $2.80 a mile on my cost per mile, then I need to focus on a $2.80 and not the $3. I don’t need to get on the phone with the broker and say, hey, man, I need $3.50. I need to get Brits like, I don’t have it. Well, you got to focus when you can control first. We get a lot of folks that get it. They understand it. They get in there and they dig in and we get those sub $2 breakeven points. We get the 170s and the 165s and the 180s and those guys. Let me tell you something. You can put them in any freight marketplace. If it’s spot related, I can put you, if your truck, Brent, was getting $1.70 a mile was your cost per mile, I can put you in any spot environment and you would survive. Because you have such a spread on the overall NTI and what your truck’s actually operating out, you’re running 20, 25, 30%. But then if it’s the flip side, then it’s a problem. You know, and that’s when I look at the fixed costs, which is the second point of it all is that they go and they’ll buy a truck that they might got hosed on the deal, you know, they get a truck that the industry, it happens. So, but we focus on variables first. We focus on trying to reduce the variable expenses, teach them how to understand variable expenses, understand that variable expenses vary. So you can’t just sit a variable expense and then look at it eight months later. It’s something you got to be mindful of constantly.

Brent – 00:28:58:

Right, so I’m assuming that part of your advice is staying on top of the particulars all the time. Like I’m going to guess your advice is for them to pay attention to it. Not weekly, not by the load, but every single day.

Adam – 00:29:18:

You know, when I worked for someone, whether it was a retailer or it was a restaurant, and I know you’ve probably worked at a restaurant before, a retailer before. End of every day, what do they do? They went into the day. It’s a recap of business for that what? That entire day. Why isn’t it that an owner operator doesn’t do that either? Is what happened during that day, any expenses that were transcribed, any fuel that was consumed, any loads that were booked, anything that came through that, that’s not important? Or is it only important when we got a hurry and crunch and send out an engineer?

Brent – 00:29:53:

Right, I got a question for you. So I can imagine, and I hear this from owner operators, there’s so much to keep up with. There’s so much to keep up with- I just love driving the truck. I’m world class at driving the truck. So obviously when you started innovative to help solve those problems of the organizational effort, tell me a little bit about, and tell the audience a little bit about what it is that innovative does that organizes that. So the trucker can do, the owner operator can do what they truly love to do, which is to drive the truck and enjoy the road, right? And, and deliver like nobody else’s business. How does innovative, what’s the advice you give on that aspect of monitoring and managing this thing? Cause that’s the devil’s always in the details. And so how you manage those things, you got to have an efficient way to do that.

Adam – 00:30:38:

That’s right. So we created a program called truck and virtual assistance. And so, a program where we dedicate six to eight people to your business specifically. So every single owner, I have a team of six to eight people working for them in a variety of different things, whether it’s TMS uploads, whether it’s factoring, whether it’s monitoring fuel car purchases, whether it’s ELD monitoring, they’re doing all of these things on the backend to run efficiently and providing you with a report at the end of the day on all the things they accomplish. That’s your team, that’s your outsourced team working for you while your focused on that particular peice of the business. So what we wanted to do was create resources. And most freight laborers, in an article published by Freightwaves we were top 5 in that program. And so we’re very, very intentional on making sure that we provide a service that an owner operator can take some of that stuff off of their plate. Now we’re not going to be able to back bump the docks for you, but what we will be able to do is we’ll be able to handle all of the paperwork in between will be able to evaluate your breakeven point, get you suggestions based on where your breakeven point is and say, Hey, Brent, this week was a little- we struggled this week. Let’s talk about that a little bit. And then we provide you with a visual recap at the end of the week, every week to kind of tell you where you’re at. So these tools were provided for just that reason.

Brent – 00:31:53:

Right. And so my guess is, and because I know your heart and I know you as a person, my guess is you would tell any owner or operator, if anybody is not the company that can help you with it, please go find somebody to do it.

Adam – 00:32:28:

Let me tell you something. Here’s the thing. I’d rather pay brilliant people than to try something on my own. Yeah. You call it, you know, can’t teach an old dog new tricks. No, I call it, hey, I want to make sure I maximize my time and my efficiency and I’m good at it and I’m good at it. And one of the things is self-awareness. You talked about that early. You know, just because you can ship gears like nobody’s business and you’ve been calling brokers for 20 plus years, that doesn’t mean that you’re the best at what you do. And if you want it best in business, you have to be humble and submissive to the fact that you probably aren’t. But you have the opportunity to bring brilliant people onto your team, regardless of whether or not you think it’s important or not. But your team is going to be able to take you to heights that you’ve never been able to accomplish on your own.

Brent – 00:32:55:

Here’s the thing that is important to realize that everybody needs help. We all need to improve. Life is designed for us to continue to improve all the time. And by the way, business changes. The marketplace changes. And so knowing how to change along with this is primarily important. Tell me a little bit- so that’s great advice for owner operators. So you took innovative and you not only started out with advice for owner operators, you’ve actually built some systems into this too, where you’re taking and not just applying good knowledge and maybe good experience and good coaching into that. You actually have built a organizational tool as well for them. So tell me a little bit about that, because that’s you taking and building something new for trucking, which is really cool. So tell me a little bit about that.

Adam – 00:33:33:

So we built two different platforms. One was on a platform on monitoring compliance. So we’re able to take multiple different triggers, whether it’s the ELD, it’s your driver files, things that you use from a compliance. And we put it all into system. We built a system so that an owner operator can go in and can view the dashboard, kind of see where everything’s at, see how they’re performing. If they want to bring on additional drivers, we’ve integrated to where we can run your PSP, CDLIS, MVRs, the whole nine. So we created a compliance system. But we also created a hub, a dispatch hub, where we’re able to monitor the kind of a TMS light. So we have access to all of your load information, all of your drivers, the whole nine yards, able to have seamless communication with brokers through. The biggest thing for us, we’re continuously looking at technology and how to implement it in an easy way for you to be able to see your business holistically in one place. That’s my vision is just. It’s just simple. We just want to simplify the tip. We just want to simplify your day to day and allow you, even if you choose not to drive. I just want to give you your time back because as a business owner, one of the things that I’ve realized more is the flexibility is something that I’m so, so, so blessed to have and the more flexibility and I have more opportunity that I can do and to impact other people. And that’s how I look at it from an owner operator perspective. I love driving a truck. There’s nothing that would, if I’ve ever had a point where I get down on myself, or I’ll just go hop in a truck

Brent – 00:35:03

Yeah, Still?

Adam – 00:35:05

Yeah, absolutely- without a doubt. But I do also know that my calling is big and my purpose. And I finally found that TD Jakes wrote a book called, you know, Purpose Driven Life. I really really really really found what my purpose is. My purpose is truly to help people in this industry And that’s the reason why it’s never worked to me.

Brent – 00:35:26:

Well, one of the things that I think most people find in life is that we’re designed to help serve each other. And nobody does it better than truck drivers and serving the American public. One of the things I love, we ran a bunch of research during the pandemic on truckers, because obviously truckers were considered critical as far as the maintaining our public health and everything. And so ask owner operators, were you concerned about your health? And 80% said yes. Then the second question was, does that concern keep you from driving a truck? And 90% said, doesn’t keep me from driving a truck. I’m going to be out there doing the things and helping people. So to me that explains a lot. And it also explains a lot of reasons why regardless, they love what they do. And they’re going to stick at it even when they’re not profitable because they truly love what they do. But it’s a whole lot more fun when you can make money at it and enjoy it and do it on your terms, not on the industry’s terms or your cost structure’s terms. And so tell me a little bit more about your light TMS that you use for owner operators, because we have one Truckstop has one too. We’ve had ITS dispatch for gosh, almost two decades. And so it’s been a good product and helps a lot of people. And I’m excited that you guys have one too, because there’s a lot of truck drivers out there that need help. So tell me a little bit about when you were building this, what were the unique things you put into it? I just say this, I asked this question not to, I’m not here to advertise your product, but it’s like talking about the why of why a product like this is needed for an owner operator.

Adam – 00:36:54:

So you think about some of the features that I look at. They’re so important, right? So a lot of times, you know, your own operators are dealing with spot market, the three PL type situations where brokers constantly looking for updates. Well, the system’s got it where anytime that driver makes a decision, whether it’s to leave the ship or arrive at a receiver, it’s going to send an email out, it’s going to send a notification out to everybody that’s involved, including whoever the dispatch is, whoever the broker is, whoever the admins that are associated with accounts. So that’s really, really important as well. It provides them with a dashboard so that we can calculate their breakeven costs. So there’s a tab in there where they can calculate their own costs.

It allows them to see how they perform in a certain marketplaces. So if, you know, owner operators in Montana or whatever, and yeah, hey, he can look back in the history, look at the map and click on the last time that he was in Montana to kind of see what outbound line they ran out of Montana and what rate that they got when they were in Montana for that load that they particularly ran for. And also provides them the broker information on the load that came out of Montana so that they can probably reach out back out to that broker and reach out into foster that relationship. Just the things that I looked at when we were developing it and putting in the plays is I just wanted to look at it from my seat when I sat by this seat, because I want to draw a critical experience to my customers. And when I was a driver, an owner operator, I wanted my customers to have an experience that they couldn’t go nowhere else. Right. Me and you, we can pull two Peterbilts up side by side right now, and there’s no difference. We got a 53 trailer behind us and we got the Detroit diesel under it. There’s no difference, but the difference would, would come in and differentiated that would provide you a leg up over me is your service offering. Will you offer customer outside of me and allow them to see that they have that compelling conviction of just, Hey, I got a truck you owe it to me. You need to pay me my worth. That’s how that works. You know, that’s an additive landscape. And if you want your customers to buy from you, you got to provide them with a great product. And that product, that product is your service. That product is your differentiator. That’s the reason why folks will eat a burger from McDonald’s over Britt’s hamburgers when they come to Alabama because of that brand, because of the reputation, because they offer. And those are the things that we have got to get to the ground floor when it comes down to owner ops. So I know we were talking about the software, but I wanted to get a little bit into that because it still goes back to differentiation and the differentiator that you offer as an owner operator is what signifies your success.

Brent – 00:39:25:

Yeah, and thank you for saying that. I wanted to ask you about the software because you as a business, I mean, you’re in the trucking industry, you’re a business in the trucking industry, you’re developing products that help a part of the market create more success. And so I wanted to ask you about that just because so you could kind of give some, this are the things you look for when you’re trying to have an organizational tool that helps you with things. And so that’s just super important because the organizational aspects allows you to enjoy your trucking business even more and more. And you pointed out something, I said this all the time, you’re talking about brand and about the brand you have and the brand that you’re pushing forward as you. You represent that business, you’re the face of that business. And I say this all the time to people, the only brand that you can control is the brand of you. And so you wanna make sure that brand is as valuable as possible. To the market that you’re bringing it to. And the person who makes that happen is you. And so I appreciate you saying that. Let me swap lanes just for a second real quick cuz we have a few minutes left here on the podcast- on Freight Nation. I wanna ask you a little bit about the current marketplace because obviously things have changed a bit since we went through this crazy historic market during the pandemic, but we come back down to normal. So you see it like I see it, you see it all the time. So what’s the advice you give today to owner operators about operating, the owner first and then operating that 99% and then that 1% of operating. What’s the advice you’re bringing in today’s environment?

Adam – 00:40:56:

You gotta be a student of the industry and understand the cycles that this industry is cyclical okay. So no matter how high it goes, it’s gonna come back in the same force. So when we looked at the pandemic and looked at the amount of motor carrier that were established during that time, they were record breaking. So in order for it back to normal, the amount of revocations have to be record breaking as well. Our market consumer is not gonna consume at that rate that we were fulfilling product in its warehouses. So you really have to understand it. That was just part of, unfortunately, that was just part of a restock scenario and not something that’s sustainable. But as we get back down to normal, one of the things that we want our own operators to understand is that when things are, you store things away for times when times go down, because it’s for sure, without a doubt, and you’re afraid cycles, they last what 16 and 19 months. So you’re gonna have cycles and you got time for that. You got to plan for, Hey, you know what, man, things are getting good. I need to make my plan. And kind of like what I was talking to you about early me as a business owner, I always plan a quarter ahead. So for me it was part of that plan. I need to make sure. Okay. All right. So when the market swings back down, can I continue to keep running my operation at the way I’m running it? Do I need to, how much do I need to store away in order to offset the costs potentially of the falling spot rates? Do I need to establish contracted carriers at that point? Am I digging in my business? Establish contract at business because we all know that the contract market is going to give you about a 60 to 70 cent spread. So do I need to establish relationships so I can get off of that market, establish those direct customers. So that way, when it’s time, I have the opportunity to have, I want to reject those tenders. I can reject those tenders every now and then and take advantage of the spot market, but we’ve got to change our mentality and what our overall plans are. So my advice is establish a game plan and establish that plan. Establish that third and short plan, establish that third and long plan, and always have more options when you get to the line of scrimmage.

Brent – 00:42:52:

No doubt have the options. We saw that a lot during the pandemic. And so you talked about the cycles being 16 to 19 months. And there’s a lot of people trying to predict cycles these days. And if you take the pandemic and just pluck it out of the last decade, then you can look at some cycles in those ways. But the challenge is, and this is what we saw, I’d love to get a little bit of your opinion on this as well, is that what changes the overall freight transportation market in the United States are typically is what I call government regulated. Are government regulations or regulations that can constrict capacity? ELDs did that when it pinched the number of hours back, which caused a capacity shortage, which made rates go up. It’s good for brokers. It’s good for carriers. It’s not so great for shippers. When you look at those cycles and you look at those things, so it’s good to understand that cycles can be different and are different after unique things that happen like the pandemic. And so everyone’s wanted to know when we’re going to get back to that. So what’s your advice to owner operators about getting back to what it was a few years ago?

Adam – 00:43:53:

So we’re not going to get back to the pandemic. The pandemic was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I said, we have another world. I’m a knock on wood. I don’t want to see any of that happen again. But it would have to take a significant life change in experience that would impact the entire world, because supply chain is global. It’s not just what happened from Atlanta to Dallas. It’s what happened that the entire global supply chain was disrupted at the time. And you’ve got to understand that the industry is eradicated by global supply chain. And that is one of the, unless that changes. And we had another mandate. You talked about the ELD mandate. I talked about the drug and alcohol custodian. The drug and alcohol custodian removed about 100,000 drivers out of the pool, which obviously the more that becomes an issue, the more we’re going to have folks being removed, that availability to be behind the wheel and move a truck. So we’re not going to see COVID-19 again. It’ll be COVID something else, whatever it may be. But we’re not going to do that again. What we’re not going to see is that retailers are a lot smarter now, Brent. They’re not going to go buy. And I remember during the pandemic, I won’t call the retailer out, but they bought their own ship line in order to facilitate their own product. They’re not going to do that again. Those are decisions that they’re going to be like, no, we played this game before. We overstocked our warehouses before, sat on excessive inventory for long after that, because our inventory turned to turn way out of whack. We’d rather get North Shuren involved. So you see North Shuren, me assuring, is becoming. One of the things you see in them starting to do, because they did exactly what you said, what can I learn from the pandemic? So your shippers are getting smarter now. They know what to do if a supply interruption took place again. So we probably won’t see that again. So you as an owner, operator or fleet owner, you need to have that same mentality of making that same adjustment as if something ever happened. What would plan B be? So what I learned from the pandemic? It can’t be complaining about brokers and all of that stuff. We have to really look in our business and understand.

Brent – 00:45:58:

Without a doubt complaining doesn’t get us very far in owning and operating our business. Well, we’re close to out of town, but I want to give a second on this. I want to say you’ve been doing this a while and you see a lot and you are part of what I call a wisdom information in the market. So what’s one of the greatest wisdom things that you like to teach to operators in this marketplace and then we’ll close after that.

Adam – 00:46:27:

The thing I love to teach is related to mindset and your mindset will always determine your grindset. And what I mean by that is that there’s going to be a lot of people in this industry that’s going to tell you that you can’t, there’s going to be a lot of people that’s going to tell you that this is a tech industry to be in. But I want you to remember something in 2021, there were over $879 billion in freight tinder in the United States. In 2022, that number went up to 940 billion. That was reported by the ATA and ATRI. So the industry is growing, it’s growing somewhere and we need to become part of the minority in terms of the ones that are focused on being a part of that growth that are insinuating that the ability is not there. So it’s all about mindset. And I want my own operators to know that it all starts with you.

Brent – 00:47:18:

Man, Mindset and grindset. I’m gonna write that down and put it up. I’ll put your name right by it says mindset equals your grindset. You got to have it up here first in order to get it done. That’s awesome. Well, I admit it has been a pleasure and an honor to have you on. I appreciate you I’m thankful for you. I’m thankful for what you do Mostly to help on operators. I have a heart for them. They’ve been so important in my life Truckstop has a giant heart for him for to help them be successful in their business That’s why we create everything we do the reason why we do it and it’s so good to hear you speak publicly and hear you speak today about your heart towards wanting to be successful too. So thank you so much for being with us today. And uh, Catch us the next time on Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast

Adam – 00:48:00

Thank for having me Brent!

Brent – 00:47:18:

On behalf of the Truckstop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to truckstop.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. Until then, keep on trucking and exploring the open roads with Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast.

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