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It is still the morning after the night before. Thus, it is somewhat early to draw any conclusions about how Donald Trump and The Republican Party achieved such a major victory in the US elections this week. Having said that, there were some powerful business lessons that emerged from this election process. Here are some that immediately come to mind.

Understand the Needs of your Customers

Everyone is acknowledging today that Donald Trump heard the voices of white working class Americans and other disaffected groups better than anyone in the Democratic Party. He heard their concerns about the challenges of lost jobs, technological change, stagnation in wages and other troubling issues. Moreover, he channeled this dissatisfaction and anger into an unprecedented, historic victory.

Key Takeaway: Business leaders must take the time to tune in to their customers, to peel away the layers of the onion to hear their true concerns and then to meet their needs. It was clear from this bitter election campaign that the Democrats, the party of the working class, were not in tune with many Teamsters, working class people and other groups that have aligned with them for so long.

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Last night, history was made in the National Basketball League. For the first time in the long history of the league, a team came back from being down 3 games to 1 in the Championship Final to win the series. This is a remarkable achievement in view of the fact that their opponent, the Golden State Warriors, had the best regular season record of all time, having won 73 games and lost only 9 times. The Warriors had an excellent team with two of the best “pure” shooters that the league has ever seen. Moreover, they had only lost 3 games on their home court in the entire season. On top of that, one of their players, Stephen Curry, was the league’s most valuable player.

The Cavaliers managed to win two games in Oakland during the series.  How did they do it? What are some business lessons that one can take away from this astonishing victory? Here is my take.

Change your game plan when it is not working

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This is the fourth in a series of blogs on Technology in Transportation. The three previous articles appeared in 2013 (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/quotemytruckloadcom-and-freightopolis-enter-the-automated-freight-brokeragefreight-portal-space, http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/innovation-and-technology-come-to-the-freight-brokerage-industry, http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/freightsnap--an-exciting-new-visual-tool-to-verify-the-density-of-ltl-freight) and featured 5 interesting companies, FreightSnap, Freightopolis, QuoteMyTruckload, BuyTruckload and Post.Bid.Ship. In this piece, I will examine two other innovative freight transportation companies, Zipments (https://www.zipments.com/) and DashHaul (https://www.dashhaul.com/) that are using technology to transform their segments of the freight industry.

Walmart, Amazon, and Google, among others, are piloting same-day delivery projects in select locations around the country that have enough density and demand to drive the value proposition. However, obstacles persist, and success is contingent on critical mass. Expedited transportation is costly, and last-mile capacity is likely to become even more constrained as e-commerce grows. Moving small volumes over short distances at high speed is a significant challenge.

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Zipments aggregates courier capacity—whether it's a truck, van, or bicycle messenger—in effect, creating capacity that didn't exist before, especially in urban areas. This New York City-based technology company has evolved into a “virtual freight broker for local and regional courier services”. The company serves four types of customers: retail, professional services, consumers, and restaurants. Many startups in the same-day delivery space are searching for capacity to provide consumers with the fastest delivery possible. That's not the case for Zipments that is focused on tapping into latent capacity. So whether it's auto part milk runs, florist delivery vans, or bicycle messengers, there's a huge nationwide fleet of available but untapped capacity. Zipments tries to work with fleet managers to help them better utilize their assets and serve other sectors.

The business is segmented both in terms of the markets it serves and the modes of transportation. Metro delivery is anything less than 10 miles, local deliveries extend out to 20 miles, suburban deliveries reach 30 to 50 miles and regional deliveries would represent going from New York City to Philadelphia or Montreal to Toronto. Zipments doesn’t do many regional deliveries yet, but as their network grows, they expect that segment to expand. There is capacity for regional deliveries; people are passing through these corridors every day.

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Two developments over the past five years have reshaped the Canadian Freight Industry. The Great Recession in the late 2000s caused many Canadian trucking companies to shrink in size or leave the freight industry. During the past couple of years, there has been considerable consolidation in the small parcel, domestic LTL over the road and Intermodal segments of the Canadian freight industry. Shippers looking for a national courier or LTL carrier now see many familiar brands in the hands of a small group of companies.

Shippers worrying about whether there will full and fair competition in the Canadian freight industry in the years ahead can take solace from what is happening south of the border. Our American friends experienced the same economic downturn in 2007. Some experts believe that as much as fifteen percent of the freight capacity in the United States left the market during the Great Recession.

The good news is that as this capacity left the market, several emerging trends suggest that new strategies and business models are providing increased competition in the LTL sector.

Build a Carrier Partnership Network

Some significant carrier partnerships and alliances have been formed to provide more competition on the national and regional level. In an effort to compete with the national LTL players (e.g. YRCW, FedEx Freight, Old Dominion etc.), The Reliance Network was formed. It brings together:

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If your trucking company hasn’t been purchased or doesn’t get purchased by TransForce, will it be in business in five years?  That is the question that came up in a recent discussion with a long time industry colleague.  The response I received was that he didn’t think his company would survive.  I was a bit surprised by the response and asked him for an explanation.  This led to an interesting discussion on what it is going to take to make it in the trucking industry in 2014 and beyond.

We both agreed that while the trucking industry has changed in some ways over the past decade (e.g. more use of technology, better cost controls after the Great Recession, LNG vehicles, greater use of 3PLs as customers), the industry is not that much different from ten years ago.  The slow economic turnaround since 2008 has created a challenging environment and there is little reason to expect a major improvement in the short term.  Rate increases are hard to come by, even with a tight driver situation.  Even more of a concern is the lack of innovation in the industry and the threat that such changes could wreak on so many complacent companies.

The warning signs are there.  As a Canadian, you don’t have to look much further than Nortel and Blackberry to see what can happen to industry leaders that were not able to keep up with changing consumer needs and quality competitors.  At the same time, one can observe what companies such as Amazon and Apple have been able to do to change the paradigm of some long established industries. 

Some of the large trucking industry players are making investments in technology and people.  They are integrating back offices and focusing on achieving economies of scale.  They are thoughtfully expanding their service portfolios and geographic footprints. 

Some of the small players are offering solutions that are very tailored to certain industry verticals and geographic areas.  Companies that are focused on same day delivery, refrigerated intermodal service, pooled LTL service, energy distribution and other emerging capabilities are creating a space for themselves in the industry.

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