When Bob Walters started in the freight management business, it was highly regulated and competition was stifled. Today, it’s a high-tech market based on making the most of information from a variety of sources and managing the freight accordingly.
“My business name is Freight Management, but in today’s world, I might as well be called ‘Data Management,'” Walters says. “Lower rates get us in the door, but we stay there based on how well we manage information for customers.
“Deregulation is a seed that grew into the industry I’m in. With deregulation, you ended up with thousands of options for shippers to consider in moving their freight, compared to regulated days when there were very few choices.”
FMI adapts with the times to continue delivering great service With so many options, many shippers chose to eliminate the traffic managers and departments that managed the shipping process because they assumed they were no longer necessary.
“They figured because the market was deregulated, anybody could handle the freight,” Walters says. “The reality was the opposite. Brokers and logistics companies came in to fill the gap and, in effect, act as the traffic department or enhance the one that remained.” The major industry players started to move away from a low-tech shipping business to a high-tech, fullservice logistics business, but not everyone has noticed the transformation.
“It’s assumed to be a dummy business,” says Walters, president of the company he founded in 1988. “It’s assumed that it doesn’t take any intelligence to be in the trucking or freight business. But, in fact, it’s very complex and there are lots of loose ends to tend to in order to have a successful freight and traffic program.” Clipboards and paper have been replaced by transportation management systems based on cloud services with electronic data interchange links.
Freight Management Inc. is not a traditional thirdparty logistics provider or freight broker. From the inception of the first freight management company he launched in 1969 and on through the beginning of FMI, the management of changes in the industry and the growth of technology, Walters has remained vigilant in making sure his business stays at the top of its game.
Filling a need
Many people assume it’s easy to take freight and move it from one place to the other. This is something Walters works every day to help clients understand.
“We’ve begun to do more to educate our clients so they fully understand all the different modes of transportation, the claims that need to be filed, how you get rates and how you learn to read the classification book,” Walters says. “We’ve realized now that the more we teach our clients about what we actually do for them, the more they will appreciate the result we bring.” The most important aspect is listening to what the customer needs so the right solution is implemented.
“It’s consultative selling,” Walters says. “Whether you do it for new or existing clients, it’s the art of asking a lot of questions and doing less talking. Then you begin to realize what the hot button issues are that mean something to this client.
“What needs to be always kept in mind is there has to be a sense of partnership between the third party and the client. Without that one-on-one relationship, there will always be a rough edge, and that’s not healthy for a long-term relationship.”
Regardless of what clients’ needs are or how the industry changes, FMI will be ready. “We grew up in the new regulated world, and we have learned nothing stays the same. You have to be able to quickly change what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.”