Inside Fuel: April 11, 2023
More Conversations, More Often: the importance of long-term partnerships in supply chain management
By: motto

We recently launched a new content series on strengthening our supply chain. In our first installment we broke down the conditions that cause a supply chain crisis, and this week we’re focusing on the first step that companies and their logistics partners should take to prevent the next one.

Communication = preparation

The only consistent element of the supply chain is change. Whether you’re looking at capacity, equipment, rates, or the world events and consumer habits that impact all of those elements, nothing ever stays the same. If companies want to establish stability and adaptability within a supply chain rife with inconsistencies, the only real solution is to have frequent discussions about it.

Maintaining frequent contact allows us to show our clients what trends are taking place, hear what their challenges are, and discuss what they’re up against in terms of volumes or production or inventory management. Our diversity of options allows us to bring a lot of solutions to the table, but we can’t do it alone. We need to have those conversations, so we can leverage our combined knowledge and carve out the best course of action together.

Increasing communication is good advice for any business, in any industry. A recent study released by Grammarly and Harris Poll research estimates that businesses lose $1.2 trillion each year due to poor workplace communication. Nearly all business leaders (93%) acknowledge that communication is the backbone of business, with 9/10 leaders saying that poor communication impacts productivity, growth, and morale.

Our job is to listen

The real value we bring is in hearing our clients out, and giving them a space to speak candidly about the challenges they’re facing. More than understand how our clients’ operations are performing, we’re looking to surface why they’re performing that way. And that requires an open dialogue. Our clients know what’s best for their business, and it’s our job to listen and see how we can best compliment their needs. When we have strategic conversations with our clients, we can identify the best ways to provide the services required and create the most value for them.

We’ve been having these strategic discussions with clients for years but recently we’ve been having more. Since the pandemic, 94% of Fortune 1000 companies have experienced supply chain disruptions, and 75% of companies are having negative or strongly negative impacts on their business due to these disruptions. So many companies are faced with supply chain issues now, that more leaders are open to sharing their challenges, because they’re feeling the pressure to find solutions.

The power of face time

Something powerful happens when you connect with someone in person, instead of through an email. And that’s not just our opinion. A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology revealed that a request made in person is 34 times more effective than a request made over email.

Making that face-to-face connection will always be a foundational principle for us. When you have a recurring dialogue with someone in person, there becomes a stickiness to that connection. A bond develops, one that makes you feel as though you’re on the same page, fighting the same fight. When you leverage these in-person bonds in a collaborative setting, the most powerful strategic thinking can result.

A company selecting a logistics partner through a cold RFP process isn’t the same as selecting a partner after a face-to-face meeting. A name on a screen can’t compare to a real life connection. But making that in-person contact can be a challenge when contracts are decided by company leaders who are mandated to find short term efficiencies and cut costs. Our goal is to get in front of these decision-makers at the outset, so we can start that dialogue about creating value beyond what the RFP is calling for.

Communication at every level

Our business couldn’t function the way it does without constant communication at every level. On the operations level, our teams are communicating with carriers and facilities, managing volumes and roadblocks. At a management level we’re dissecting volumes, profitability and consistency. And at the executive level we’re in regular touch about emerging trends, goal-setting and forecasting. It’s at this top level where we can make bigger decisions with our clients, change habits, and explore new ways of operating.

Our employees, who are in the trenches every day, are the gateway to uncovering both problems and solutions. Empowering our employees to communicate openly ensures that real concrete feedback is sent upwards, which in turn makes us more adaptable. The more perspectives we have at the table, the better picture we have to inform our strategies.

Beyond the strategies we develop, our culture of feedback has other positive impacts. One Gallup study indicated that managers who are receiving feedback are leading teams that are 8.9% more profitable than those who are not. A study from Atlassian revealed that teams with open work styles are 60% more likely to achieve more, faster, and 80% more likely to report high emotional well-being. For all of these reasons, it’s good to keep those lines open.

Tech is great, but people are greater

Technology has transformed how people communicate, as well as what we’re able to communicate. It’s given us measurement and forecasting tools that show how operations are performing, and indicate trends that can help predict the future. The data we have access to is instrumental to the solutions we create at Fuel.

But tech still can’t do what humans can do. When people get together to tackle a challenge, they explore it from all angles, examine root causes, and brainstorm a solution, through a combination of knowledge, imagination, and collaboration. While data will help validate that solution, technology alone still can’t replicate the innovative power of the human mind. Our most valuable asset in life and in logistics is that sticky bit of magic that happens when people put their heads together.

Conversation is just the beginning

Organizations with effective communications processes are 3.5 more likely to outperform their peers, so we encourage company leaders to have more conversations across their entire business. And if the goal is to have a more consistent, sustainable, and profitable relationship with the supply chain, we encourage more conversations with us.

To make real significant change, these conversations require decision-makers to think differently about the supply chain, and about how they operate within it. When our clients are open to change, that’s when our strategies gain traction.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Rethinking the Supply Chain.