Adam Burroughs: Every day there’s a chance to learn something new

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to learn … a lot. I learn about people, their jobs, their personal stories. I learn about markets, industry challenges and what it takes to make a company successful.

For example, this month I learned that in 2005, the turnover rate at large truckload carriers was 130 percent, the all-time industry high according to the American Trucking Association. How does a senior manager in that industry deal with potentially losing all of his or her drivers, and then lose 30 percent more in the same year?

In this month’s issue, I got an idea of the answer from John Paugh, president and CEO of Carter Logistics LLC. The company employs some 800 drivers and expects to lose 240 of them each year. The high industry-wide turnover means drivers can easily change jobs for a better offer or just because they’re irritated with their employer.

“It’s very important that you really try to take care of your people, and we’ve always felt like it’s a lot easier to keep a driver than to hire a new one,” Paugh says. “It’s a lot easier said than done sometimes.” He explains more of his approach to employee retention in this month’s cover story.

The guys at PERQ, an incentivized promotions company that does marketing in print and online, say they’re constantly learning. Having started their company in their mid-20s, there were times when they felt they were chasing the company. To get ahead of it, they took a course at a university, consulted with local business leaders, read any business advice they could find and ultimately leaned on the knowledge of the people they brought into their growing organization.

“We had to get ourselves ahead of the company by doing a lot of education with ourselves, but also getting to where we had a clear vision and strategy of what we wanted to do with the company, and then we were able to start bringing in the resources just to be able to attack that,” says Scott Hill, co-founder and executive chairman of PERQ.

As the company rebranded the founders recognized that their existing way of operating was not going to allow them to achieve their goals. They needed clarity around the vision and strategy.    

Hill told me that growing and innovating put him and his partner outside of their comfort zone. He said anytime a company is branching out and growing, there’s a need to bring in new knowledge. “And that new knowledge is internal hires but then also external advisers,” he said.

Key to learning is listening. This month’s columnist David Harding, president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, echoes that sentiment.

“Some 70-80 percent of our waking hours involve some form of communication. Of that, just 40 percent is spent listening. And from my experience, that’s generous. I think that equation should be reversed,” he says.

Learning is a life-long process. It means growth. If you’re not learning, maybe it’s time to ask why.


Adam Burroughs is assistant managing editor of Smart Business. Contact him at [email protected].