I interviewed Cheryl (Yancey) Biron who discussed Making Supply Chain Projections.
It’s great to speak with you today, Cheryl. This sounds like a very interesting topic on reinventing one’s company. I look forward to hearing your views with our supply chain audience. Can you first talk about what it means to reinvent your company?
Thank you, Dustin. For One Horn, it really means that we completely changed our business model. Back in 2005, we purchased the trucking company, so we owned our own tractor trailers, 15 * (00:38—unclear) between employee and owner-operators and 80 trailers.
Then, as the Great Recession started to hit, the housing market started to go away, a lot of the construction started to go away, and a lot of our business had to do with those industries. We had simultaneously started a freight brokerage company called One Horn Transportation. We decided, after doing a strategic analysis, that trucking was bad and brokerage was good because of the way the costs were structured in the sense that the trucking costs were all upfront, but the brokerage costs were only incurred when we had business to run.
We basically reinvented ourselves as a freight brokerage, sold off all our equipment, and serviced all our customers through the freight-brokerage side and got new customers that were more recession-resistant. Transforming our company, reinventing it from a trucking company that had assets to a nonasset-based freight brokerage.
Then in 2010, we decided we weren’t able to grow fast enough just by being a traditional freight brokerage. I was doing sales; my husband/business partner, Louie, was doing the operational side; we had another employee. What we decided to do was reinvent the company yet again into an agent-based freight brokerage where agents come with the book of business, they do the sales and dispatch, and we run the back office using our proprietary software package, which is called Stratebo. That is what Louie actually wrote during the down times during the Great Recession, when we had some extra time on our hands, when we had fewer loads to do, so we really became one of the most efficient back offices in the market.
Now, with the recruitment market for freight agents getting tight, we’re adding on—we’re not completely reinventing because we’re still completely committed to our current agents—we’re adding on a corporate-agent model where shippers, the companies that are our customers, can use our software package to broker their own freight. That’s just another reinvention, another way of doing business as the circumstances have changed.
Is there anything more you can say about why it’s needed? Why should companies be able to reinvent their companies?
I think reinvention is needed when there’s a change in the marketplace that affects one business. It could be something that’s most likely out of the control of the owners of the business. For us, it started with the Great Recession, the economy going down. In order to survive and thrive because we were all in—we’re entrepreneurs; we can’t just quit and get another job—we had to say, “How can we make this business work?” It could also be if somebody loses a major customer or something like that, maybe they would change the way that they’re doing business and go after a different type of customer base. It really has to do with when things happen in the business environment that are beyond your control, how you can survive, thrive, reorganize your business to continue to be successful.
And how do you do it effectively?
We do it effectively by assessing the environment and our own business strength. We basically do strategic-planning sessions all ghee time, every several months because our backgrounds are M.B.A.’s and we worked in Corporate America. By doing strategic-planning sessions, we take a look at what’s working for us, what’s not working for us, do more of what is working, abandon what’s not working, even if it’s really the bread and butter of the company. Like, the trucking, at a certain point, just wasn’t working anymore, while the brokerage was working.
That’s kind of how we did it. Me running around doing sales, the long lead time really wasn’t working for us with our growth objective, but being able to hire freight agents was a way for us to add revenue very quickly. Looking at options for alternative models is a way to do it as well.
I also read this book called The Blue Ocean Strategy, trying to figure out maybe a market that isn’t even out there to put our own footprint in there, and that’s how we came up with the corporate-agent model. I would say exposing oneself to other models that are out there and really being open to change and being open to abandoning any investments you’ve made that just aren’t working anymore.
Thanks. Can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Sure. I earned my M.B.A. from Wharton. Before that, I worked at Merrill Lynch for a couple years as a financial analyst, and I got my B.S. at Cornell. I worked in consumer packaged-goods marketing doing brand management at companies like Procter and Gamble and some pharmaceutical companies, but I really wanted the freedom and flexibility to do what I wanted when I wanted in terms of being able to see my children, and the corporate lifestyle back then didn’t really mesh with me seeing my kids.
I read this book called The Millionaire Next Door, which really featured the freedom entrepreneurs have and the entrepreneurial lifestyle. My husband, Louie, and I decided to buy a business together. His background was in the transportation industry, and that really made us credible borrowers and buyers for people who were selling trucking and distribution companies.
With my M.B.A. and marketing background, I felt I could run any business, so we just took that entrepreneurial plunge and decided to own our own business. We have the background of the corporations we worked for in the past to help us really know when things are run right, how well they can be.
Thanks for sharing today. This is a great story to share with the community.
About Cheryl (Yancey) Biron
Cheryl (Yancey) Biron
President & CEO, One Horn Transportation | CMO, Stratebo Technologies |Freight Agent Blogger | Speaker | Guest Lecturer