Truckstop Leadership: Effective Leaders = Improved Profits

Great leadership not only improves the energy and atmosphere of a business, it can improve the bottom line. Research from the Gallup Organization shows that committed workgroups are 44 percent more profitable, 50 percent more productive and have 50 percent higher degrees of customer loyalty.


Great leadership not only improves the energy and atmosphere of a business, it can improve the bottom line. Research from the Gallup Organization shows that committed workgroups are 44 percent more profitable, 50 percent more productive and have 50 percent higher degrees of customer loyalty.

During The NATSO Show 2015, Ken Schmidt, the former chief marketing officer for Harley Davidson, told truckstop and travel plaza operators that we live in a world where everything is commoditized.

“I will say until my face turns purple that there is nothing you are selling that I can’t get from someone else for less money,” Schmidt said.

That is what makes the people behind the business crucial to its success. “In a world where all things are equal and there is nothing we can sell you that you can’t get for less money, who do we choose to do business with? It is people who we like, period,” Schmidt said.

Effectively Service Your Employees
The way employees treat customers often mimics how they are treated. Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO, said, “My favorite quote is from a guy named Keith Kirkpatrick. He says, ‘If you do not effectively service your employees, you’ll never effectively service your customers.’”

Properly servicing employees starts with the leaders of the company. John Egan, owner of WorkForce Innovations and an expert in leadership, said a general at the United States Military Academy at West Point once said that out in the field, there is no tired unit or fearful unit. There are only tired and fearful leaders. “The unit portrays the values and the attitudes and the energy of the leader,” he said.

Schulte said, “In war people fight for who is on their left or their right. We say we work for companies, but we work for our bosses. We work for leaders. We work for the people we are connected to.”

Employees that are engaged are happier and more productive, and an employee’s relationship with his or her direct manager is the most important single factor in employee engagement.

Understand Good Leaders Make Good Managers
“The most important thing to do if you have a good hire and want her to succeed is to assign her to your best leader. The best leaders will challenge her and give her recognition,” Egan said. “If you want to destroy that ability, assign her to a bad manager. People will eventually give up.”

Well-trained managers who serve as good leaders to their employees boost morale. In turn, that improved morale boosts retention. What’s more, today’s young managers and employees will become tomorrow’s leaders, which increases the odds companies will be able to hire from within.

Managers should also coach and develop employees. Egan said coaching is an important part of a business. “Sometimes people want to do the right thing, but they don’t know how,” he explained. “You can put them in a class and give them the right tools and techniques.” (Learn more about how today’s leaders engage and train their employees in 8 Tips for Strengthening Your Truckstop Team).

Focus On Employees Working Directly With Customers
Egan told Stop Watch that business owners should always take a close look at the employees working directly with customers. He asked, “Are they committed to doing quality service or are they doing what they’re told? What do you want that interaction to be?”

“You’ve all been to a restaurant and a very friendly waiter sees a camera at your table and comes up and offers to take a picture. Another waiter will say yes if you ask them to take a photo and the third person will say they can’t,” Egan said. “Which restaurants do you most enjoy going to?”

Know That Passion And Time Matter
Schmidt said passion is the most instantly mimicked behavior and that passion can transfer from leaders to their employees to the customer. “Human beings are pleasure seeking. We like to show people we are joyful and nice because that makes us more likable to other people,” he said.

Timing is also important when caring for both employees and the customers. “The faster people seeing us reacting to them, the faster they like us,” Schmidt said. “Every human being wants to be lifted up to feel special. Who are you going to lift up today?”

Take A Look At Your Culture
Doug Rauch, former chief executive officer of Trader Joe’s, a retail expert and a featured speaker at The NATSO Show 2015, said that culture—the core values within a company—help create brand identity, build a strong workforce and attract consumers, all of which factor into a company’s bottom line.

“Strategy is important. The problem is, some companies forget about culture,” Rauch said, saying cultures of care or cultures of trust, which start with the type of leadership within a company, beat cultures that are fear driven or command controlled.

A culture that resonates with customers will result in increased sales and customer loyalty. “If you give a great customer experience, you’re going to get more engaged customers who are out there being your ambassadors. When your customer is having a great experience, your employees get the echo.”

Sometimes innovation, which is crucial to the long-term success of a business, can only come from being willing to experiment and letting employees try new things. In order to really succeed, businesses and the leaders within them have to create learning organizations where mistakes can be part of a grander plan, Rauch said.

“Make sure you’re taking a risk and willing to fail in those areas where you need to learn something,” Rauch said, adding that failures should not be swept under the rug. “To be a learning organization, you have to share your failures. If you have a culture where people have to hide their failures or they’re punished, you’re not creating a culture of trust.”


This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations.

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