Channeling The Past, To Move Forward: Wadhams’ 3rd Generation On Overcoming Industry Challenges
It’s no secret that the trucking industry faces a number of challenges. Companies that survived the 2007 recession still have to contend with changing DOT regulations, the driver shortage, and fluctuating fuel prices, among other challenges.
Counting my siblings and cousins, six members of the Wadhams’ third generation are taking an increasingly active role in the company. As such, these industry challenges remain focal points for us. Even as we look at new ways to tackle these issues, we’re also aware of the need to maintain company legacy, and remain true to the family values that set this company apart.
Here’s a look at how we’re working to overcome three major hurdles, without losing what makes Wadhams unique.
Challenge #1: The Driver Shortage
At a time when recruiting drivers is already difficult, we maintain high expectations. Since several divisions travel to Canada, we can’t have drivers with any kind of criminal background, to make sure there’s no difficulty crossing the border. Our new drivers also have to have endorsements, and they go through a rigorous training program to ensure their safety and so they continue to develop skills.
We are thorough with our hiring and training process, so that we have the right drivers on the team. That way, we can trust that they will meet our expectations. Still, there’s an industry-wide need for skilled, experienced candidates that we can’t – and won’t – ignore.
My cousin Anthony puts it this way: “The future is very grim… And that’s industry-wide. If we could figure out a way to overcome that internally, it would be huge.”
We know that finding a working solution would be an important step for our business, and for the industry, but we’re also realistic about how difficult it’s going to be to overcome this. A key strategy for us is to continue recognizing the central importance of the work drivers do. We’re also committed to showing the same respect and appreciation that our grandfather prioritized in all of his relationships. When it comes down to it, I really feel that the employees are the company. It is my hope that every Wadhams driver feels the respect, appreciation, and admiration myself and the other third generation family members have for them.
My sister Stephanie shares: “We need to make sure that the drivers are happy and that they’re enjoying their work. I mean, the drivers are the core of this company. If we don’t have them, we don’t have anything.”
Challenge #2: New Technology
Other challenges on the horizon include customers’ growing expectations of better traceability, and our desire to achieve better operational insight. To address this, Anthony has been working for the past two years to beta-test and implement a new software program that is reshaping the company’s RIST LTL division.
“The thing we gain from making the switch [to the new software],” he says, “is that we are able to capture and retrieve and pull all kinds of data… to be able to make more informed decisions.”
Unfortunately, new technology also comes with growing pains – as some drivers experienced in the switch from paper logs to E-Logs. Finding the balance between the potential benefits of new technology and the pains of implementation will always be a challenge as the company modernizes, but that’s why we have processes and people in place to help ease those transitions and support one another when we’re making difficult, but necessary, changes.
Challenge #3: Maintaining Close Relationships & Family Values As They Grow
At a time when many companies are slashing prices to remain competitive, it might seem that focusing on loyalty and relationship-building is the wrong approach. But for us, those aren’t electable service options – they’re integral aspects of doing business right.
Jeffrey reminds us of our grandfather’s maxim that “a person is only as good as his word.” Taking the time to do things right – even if it means more work – is part of what makes our customer service unique in the industry. We know that being accountable and dependable is always worth the extra investment of time and energy, and our customers appreciate that.
My cousin Gabrielle stresses that co-operation and humility will help our generation continue the legacy begun by our fathers and grandfather. “We have to continually learn from our parents… I think we definitely have to work together to make sure we’re on top of all the challenges and new things that come up.”
As third generation members of the Wadhams family, we know that we’re inheriting a business that needs constant work, attention, and foresight if it is to remain the acclaimed business our grandfather and fathers made it. But even amidst difficulty and change, we recognize the need to uphold the family values that have been instrumental to the business’ success as we grow. We remain committed to our founding values of honesty, integrity, respect, and hard work – for ourselves and for our staff.
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