It begins when school ends for summer holidays and continues until Labor Day. That’s when the ritual of loading the kids into the minivan and heading “up north” starts.
“Up north” is a state of mind that has zero to do with the direction your car is travelling and everything to do with being a Canadian. Boats, cottages, and trailers are some of our favorite destinations. However, anyone who has a place “up north” and who works in trucking will tell you that the combination of the two can make you a very popular person. If you work in the business and enjoy getting “up north” I’m sure my experiences will sound eerily familiar.
Pro Bono Service
The day the neighbors see your truck delivering furniture to the trailer park is the day your company starts a pro bono line-haul service to and from the lake. “When’s the next time your truck is heading up this way?” becomes a common question around the campfire. The surprise back haul consists of old furniture you’re expected to take back to the city to throw out in the company’s garbage bin. The good news is that there are no administrative costs and the only receivable is the two-four your buddy now owes you.
In trucking, free parking for employees’ boats, jet skis, campers, trailers, and other summer toys is a condition of employment. Why pay the local marina or take up space in the driveway when there’s so much room in the yard? Customers and suppliers seem to get the same privilege as part of your ongoing business relationship. If you run a maintenance shop, winter boat storage ends up including a trailer lube and power washing. With such good service it’s no wonder your “up north” customers return every fall. Hope you’re thirsty, because your supplier also owes you a two-four.
Furnished by Trucking
When it’s time to furnish the cabin you’ll find that the OSD dock is cheaper than Crappy Tire. Dents and scratches that would be unacceptable at home seem harder to notice “up north.” Shopping on your dock is something your northern neighbors will enjoy. “Got any more of those scratched kitchen tables hanging around, ol’ Mikey boy?” Throw in the free weekend delivery and OSD deals are hard to beat.
Over the years I secured lots of new business because I made the time to play with customers who spent time in my neck of the north. Getting to know people and their families in such a relaxed setting is a golden opportunity to strengthen any business relationship. When people are comfortable and have their guard down you get great insight into what makes them really tick. When my kids were younger I used to get a lot of new business when my family went “up north” for all of July and August. The five days (and four nights) in the city without my taxi-dad responsibilities gave me some bonus time to see customers and prospects. Think about it. Summer represents 17% of the entire year. Too many of us justify making puppies during the summer because they feel everyone else is. No company can afford to shut down the sales pipeline for eight weeks. While my young family frolicked “up north” I took full advantage of the free time on my calendar to outwork my competitors. I played too much golf, spent too much time on downtown patios, and caught too many salmon on Lake Ontario. In the process I also stole too much freight from my competition. Ironically, I am writing this column overlooking the lake. For years I resisted bringing a laptop and going online “up north.” The old school in me was adamant that it defeated the purpose of being here. Persistent lobbying from the clan changed all that. I realized that working from the lake allowed me to spend more time there. It turned out to be one of my better ideas! Now my workday is done and my neighbor from the end of the bay has dropped over to deliver the two-four he owes me from Last summer. Cheers from “up north.”
About the Author Mike McCarron was one of the founding “M”s in MSM Transportation and currently works for Wheels Group in M&.A. He is a finalist for the 2013 Kenneth R. Wilson Award for the Best Regularly Featured Department or Column in a Canadian B2B Publication. He can be reached at mMcCarron@wheelsgroup.com or follow him on Twitter @AceMcC.