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Three Hats your Broker Should Be Wearing - Part 3: The Partner

I love horses. Their actions often remind me of people and how we interact with each other. Many of their behavioral characteristics are similar, but the difference is that there is no underlying guile, hypocrisy, or fear of being misunderstood. In other words, what you see is what you get. Sort of refreshing, isn't it?

Because they are herd animals, their buddy system has to be pretty solid or life gets pretty intense. This is particularly true for pasture horses because everything they choose to do will probably result in some interaction with another horse, friend or foe.

I put my horse Parton in the pasture the other day and watched his pal Dually stroll over to greet him. I enjoyed watching their reunion and was struck again with the unique partnership horses enjoy. They eat, sleep, play and work together. They defend and groom each other.

Sometimes these friends can get so close that it become difficult to separate them, which becomes a problem when new horses are introduced into the pasture, or if one needs to leave the pasture to train or get farrier/vet work done.

As I began to work on this post about how important partnerships are between brokers and their freight and carrier customers, the relationship dynamic between equines came to mind. We leave so much opportunity behind to be closer to the people who are so important to us because we choose not to work on the partnership for some reason.

Some of the obstacles?

People can be unapproachable. Some individuals don't know how to communicate well, and are either unwilling or unsure about how to learn this skill. Often there is an underlying assumption that satisfying friendships have no place in business. No news flash here, but of course, time and effort, sometimes in great measures, must be spent in bringing an acquaintance to a true partner.

We are officially in 2016, and already there are many discussions, some new and others continuing from last year, about significant issues that have great potential to disrupt both the produce and transportation industries.

Companies can choose to move through these challenges either on their own or with support from others in a better (stronger, more strategic, bigger etc) position to help them navigate down the paths ahead.

Can you see how a broker can be the perfect partner in these situations?

Being in the middle, having competently and carefully advised and advocated for the people who most depend on them, a broker is wonderfully positioned to be the friend indeed to those in need.

As I have read through all the updates and articles on food safety, E logs, safety scores, and so on, there is a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion about what the final outcomes will be, both in terms of implementation and enforcement. And worse, as those things happen, what will the effects on businesses be?

Greater costs, liability and accountability all begin to weigh on those responsible for compliance, financial growth, employee satisfaction and a myriad of other considerations will

Things may be daunting, sort of stressful, definitely complicated...yes, all of the above. But, it is here that the door is wide open to forge great partnerships with people. Why go through the transitions alone?

Share information, learn from each other's mistakes, try new things together, and in the end, grow together. There is strength, wisdom and serious reward awaiting those who work (and hopefully play) together.

And speaking of together, there is one last illustration from the horses that is very true of people.

Not all horses get along. And some are just plain brats and bullies. When there is a problem out in the pasture, the first thought, of course, is that it was the troublemaker who started it.

Yes, my point is...choose your partners wisely. Not only will you need to depend on them, but here's something to think about...and it's probably something you had a parent or teacher tell you.

Who you hang out with may say a lot about you, true and untrue.

We don't know how some of the upcoming changes will affect us, or if and when there is a problem, how courts will interpret rules and allocate liability. But having partners that have helped you build a credible reputation for integrity, thoroughness and a high regard for people will be very valuable.

I left the gate where I had watched Parton and Dually, and turned around to see my son's filly resting on her friend's back. Horses definitely use each other. There is a good measure of 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.' But it's more an attitude of 'Let me get that itch for you.' See the difference?

It's a good place to be with a good safe friend.

If you are a produce or freight customer, interesting times are ahead. Don't settle for a broker who is disinterested in you or your company as a partner. There is too much ahead to risk not having a true, interested friend with you in and through the upcoming turbulence.

And if you are a broker, step up and be the partner your customers need you to be. Be accountable, proactive and learn what you need to so that you have answers when questions arise. Be prepared to serve your friends in the industry and experience the rewards of true partnerships.

Have a great 2016! And no matter what is going on, don't forget to find time to just hang out and enjoy your friendships.

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