Wanted to share an example of good business and employee relations. This experience comes from my last job working for someone else aside from myself. The timing for this story is ripe for today's date.
What happened was we moved from Ca to Az to start a new truck repair business in a killer location with tons of truck traffic and no
competition at all in the area. In 2000 we bought 20 acres in a prime location halfway between Kingman Az and Boulder City Nv on the US-93 that goes over Hoover Dam into Nevada and Vegas. The plan was to start with road service and invest back into the business to build a repair shop and eventually a truck stop.
We were kicking ass and well into our schedule and budget to make this happen and just about ready to build the repair shop as the
second phase in the project when the 9-11 event happened in 2001. I looked at my wife as we watched the second plane hit the second tower on TV that morning and told her "Well...we are done here, now they are going to shut down the Dam for all truck traffic".
So on todays date 9-12-01 I started making calls to let my contract customers know I was done because I knew our project was now dead in the water and we were going to go down hard if I didn't make new plans right away. One of my good service contracts was with Waste Management, so I called Rick and told him I was going to have to shut down and make different plans, He offered me a full time job as a WM company employee running their shop working on garbage trucks rather than the contract service I had been providing for them. One week later they shut down all truck traffic over the Dam and posted check points with military personnel armed with full auto assault rifles.
It was an opportunity I could not turn down at that time, So on todays date in 2001, I went to work for WM. I worked for them 6 years before and finally got real tired of their big Corporation micro-management policies and political crap hindering my ability to do my job right. So I applied to a very large nation wide trucking company who had a terminal right down the street as an entry level mechanic, I did not let my ego get in the way because I just needed to get my foot in the door and hired up with them ASAP.
Within one week working for this new company I was handed the title of shop foreman and terminal manager because of my knowledge and experience along with a substantial raise, huge increase in authority, and unfortunately many more new responsibilities than I truly wanted. So now I had only three levels above me in the chain of command,
The company head maintenance manager (Family), my direct local boss who was the regional director of operations for the western half of the US ( used to run IWX), and the "old man", who was the self made owner of the whole family business.
On week two the old man came to visit our facility to look over the grounds because he was building a huge new shop and terminal for our location. He was old school and nice as hell with no ego trips and him and I hit it off right away. He asked me what I thought about the condition of his trucks. I stood tall, faced him off, and said "You mean my trucks?". He gave me a funny "how dare you" look and then said again "they are my trucks!". I stared back and said "no they are not, when they are in my yard and my shop they belong to me and I will respect and treat them as if they were my own".
Well needless to say, all he could do was smile and tell me that he appreciated my thoughts on this very much and wished more of his staffing felt like this. So I asked him if we could take a walk and talk a bit. I explained that if he would give me the authority to make all decisions concerning the maintenance of every truck coming through our terminal, The absolute control over parts inventory, and total control over hiring and firing of maintenance personnel without restriction and micro management, I could save him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in maintenance costs.
I shared with him what I had learned from WM about corporate micro-management policy costing more in the long run than to just practice real true preventative maintenance when it needed to be done while I had a truck going through for only an hour due to load schedules. He agreed and told me to prove it, he then gave me free reign and authority from that point going forward. Now I had only one level over my own authority... The owner himself, and he now trusted my absolute judgment and call with "My trucks".
In the first year, my personal efforts and sacrifices as a loyal employee saved him over five million dollars in maintenance and "lost
load" costs, I kept a running account and kept track because I knew I would need documentation of all this at some point in the future. And I did, The old man was killed in a "questionable" accident and this huge conglomerate company was handed off to his 35 year old micro-managing idiot son who had no clue what he was doing or how to do it.
I hung out and tried to make it work for another year but got tired of being blamed for his own very poor decisions and calls in
practicing micro-management and no raises, I gave three months notice then walked away because I was now being treated like a "dime a dozen" McDonald's employee after all I had done and sacrificed to serve this company and superiors.
Now that I have set the stage and backdrop for a perfect example situation, I will to get back on topic about treating employees with respect and how it can greatly benefit the business as a whole. It all starts with preventative maintenance... Just like a piece of
equipment, if you do not practice preventative maintenance the resulting residual costs can be ten times as much in the long term...
So when I went to work for this huge trucking company there was a general ideology that Drivers were a dime a dozen and easily replaced with no problem. Well the delayed effects of federal regulations on drivers and backgrounds of drivers were just starting to affect the industry making it not quite so easy to find "clean" drivers. They started having a hell of a time finding and keeping drivers.
My closest boss the regional director also became a very good friend and we talked about this one day shortly after I hired on and acquired my new local authority from the owner. I told him I could help with this in the shop if he would let me. He had the attitude "screw those drivers, they are insignificant and they get what they get because these are company trucks".
I then explained that there were several things that I could do that might help quite a bit towards retaining drivers through giving them a little recognition, appreciation and respect from the shop that would in turn benefit the whole driver retention problem. I also explained it was free, cost the company very little, and it was our job in the shop to make these efforts anyhow.
There were a couple very simple problems creating the retention issue, first they were what drivers call a "slip seat" company. If you
are not familiar with this term it means that there are no particular trucks designated to particular drivers as a rule. Maintenance and dispatchers would knee jerk when they heard there was a mechanical problem with a truck and immediately make the driver clean out that truck and move into another truck. Sometimes a driver on off time had to come clean his stuff out of the way first.
Well...because of the pushy company demands for their services, most of these drivers LIVED in these trucks for months on end, They had everything they needed for comfort installed into these trucks. TVs, DVD players and stereos, Microwaves, CB radio equipment, all their clothes and other needed accessories to live in the truck. Dispatchers would immediately issue an order for these guys to "Change trucks and get rolling again".
So for them to change trucks and hook everything up in the new truck it would take half a day. And I don't blame them a bit, but they would not roll out until everything was dialed in and hooked back up in the new truck. I explained to my new boss that we are now a fleet maintenance crew under my management. Not retail, Retail drags out repairs as long as possible to make more on an hourly basis, sometimes weeks.
I said look... 99% of the repairs we do in here usually take no more than 1-1.5 hours if we get on it as a priority and get it done. I told
him "This is fleet maintenance" and there is a huge difference from "retail maintenance". Get it done and get the truck out and rolling again ASAP. Within 3 months my talk with him and his "J.R. is right" talk with the owner changed how the whole company approached this issue. Why hold a truck for almost a whole day to change a driver out, when we could repair it and have the same driver and truck back on the road in an hour while he goes across the street and has lunch?
Oh boy did this piss off the dispatchers! They liked exercising their "authority" over these peon drivers, Some of them were even
using the "slip seat change" to punish and teach drivers a lesson for even daring to want to be treated like a "human being" in this whole mess. The dispatchers came to hate me before this was all over with, but I answered to a higher power and the "old man" loved it. SO DID THE DRIVERS!
Second was the "Write up books", These were the slips drivers filled out each trip to report mechanical problems with the truck. Before I came in the only things being addressed were extreme problems that prevented the truck from getting under the next load and rolling out. All the "comfort" items were completely being ignored as unimportant and non-issues. In fact drivers were being discouraged from writing anything at all or turning one in. Well except for "Gary", Gary was a union driver who drove for us when he wasn't driving for another big company and felt it was his duty to fill every available millimeter of a write up slip. Good for him!
I saw right away this was very unproductive and costing the company huge costs in out on the road breakdowns because drivers retaliated by not even reporting very serious problems with the truck too. We never found out until the truck was on a hook headed to a repair shop halfway to it's load destination. And of course it was OUR fault for not addressing the problem we didn't even know about.
I put this to a stop right away and made it point to let the drivers know that we now wanted and welcomed write ups about EVERYTHING wrong with their truck EVERY trip! And no matter how trivial they were, we actually fixed them. All those "Comfort" items paid off huge in driver retention for the company, We actually had drivers from the other three terminals requesting loads out our way so that they could get their "comfort" items repaired! lol
And this company had 800 drivers, 175 out of our local terminal alone...
Last and most important was I then created a "Family" environment, where everyone who put in also benefited from the total of it all. About 6 months in, word got out that I was an ordained minister. Within the first year I was "adopted" as the company chaplain. This was very rewarding for me in that I was able to help almost all the drivers with their personal problems that were causing conflicts with business operations for the company.
The employees made that company... The day I quit and walked away, 50% of their drivers across the country "wanted" to walk at the same time as soon as they found out. They knew I had poured my heart into that company and fellow employees as equals in respect... Their quality of maintenance for the whole company declined right away. No longer was that universal company pride to beat J.R. at his own competitive shop game there anymore...
McDonald's our asses and this is what you get... We were all just a little more than robots and can make you or break you.
But to be fair, I have to share that without a great Man and Boss, none of my abilities could have been shared and excercised in practice. Thank you for the GFYS Terry... and yes...even though I had a direct connection with the old man, I always went through you out of respect and appreciation for how you directly treated me Sir. :)