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DG&A's Transportation Consulting Blog

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On February 28, 2016, I posted a blog entitled Passion (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/passion ). The objective of the article was to share my thoughts on one of the most important elements of career and personal success, the inner drive to achieve fulfillment and self-actualization. In the blog, I highlighted the importance of having a “passion’ for what you do. I was very pleased to receive some positive feedback on this piece and to learn that it inspired people to rethink their current positions and move to more fulfilling work environments.

I was reminded of this blog after reading, I left my corporate job, and these 8 things became clear (http://www.businessinsider.com/i-left-my-corporate-job-and-these-8-things-became-clear-2017-6 ). The decision to leave the corporate world to go in a different direction is not for everyone. I had the desire to move in a new direction several years before I made the decision to become an entrepreneur. Initially, as I started down the path, I was attracted to a new corporate opportunity and pulled back. Finally, I summoned the courage and “passion” to resist the temptation of a corporate job and launch a freight transportation consulting practice.

I am now in the fourteenth year of running my own business. This is what I can tell you about the experience. Every person has his or her own unique financial situation, level of risk tolerance and self-confidence, and set of skills and competencies. Unless one comes from an affluent background, has backers with deep pockets, or has a war chest to fall back on, almost everyone requires some level of consistent cash flow. If one transitions from the corporate world to academia, or to a small business that has an existing revenue and profit stream, this issue is of less concern. If an individual takes the leap into his or her business, or a start-up venture, with others, this issue must be carefully evaluated.

As we all know, there are few guarantees in life. Many new businesses fail. Some combination of poor business planning, weak execution, inadequate finances, and/or insufficient human resources sink many companies. On the other hand, the rewards of becoming a successful entrepreneur are extremely gratifying. The last 14 years have been among the most enjoyable of my career.

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Over the past few years, I have noticed a disturbing trend as I meet with both our shipper and carrier associates. They have changed their leadership team again. The VP of Transportation or Logistics (in manufacturing and retail organizations) or the President or other senior officer (in transportation organizations) has now been replaced multiple times. In fact, in some companies, they change executives like some people do spring cleaning in their homes. “It is out with old and in with the new.”

What is interesting for me is that in some cases, as an outside consultant, I have had the opportunity to work directly with the business leader and the company. I have been able to observe their performance and that of their superiors and subordinates. I have the following observations to share with you.

In some situations, the terminated business leader was doomed to fail. The expectations for the individual may not have been realistic. He or she may not have received the full support of the business owner or senior executive or the collaboration between them wasn't there. The departed person was charged with implementing the failed or poorly conceived vision of the business leader. The terminated executive “took the fall” for the unsuccessful business plan or weak leadership of his or her boss.

In other cases, the individual did not perform at the required level. He or she may have not had the required skills, did not fit with the company culture and/or did not work well with his or her peers. In some cases, there was an overreliance on specific subordinates who were not performing their jobs at an acceptable level. This overreliance and/or a poor hiring process cost the individual his or her job.

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Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of watching President Obama bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with distinction, the highest U.S. civil honour, on Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama referred to him as “the finest Vice-President we have ever seen.” Coming a day after President-elect Donald Trump’s bizarre news conference, it was an extraordinary ceremony. It highlighted some key elements that are part of any successful business or personal relationship.

Eight and a half years ago, President Obama asked the then Senator Biden to become his Vice President. It should not be forgotten that Joe Biden ran against him to become the democratic nominee of his party. In selecting Biden, President Obama undoubtedly was looking for someone with extensive government experience but also someone with extensive life experience. Yesterday’s remarkable tribute said a lot of about their relationship and about the components of a truly successful relationship. Here are few take-aways from the speeches of the two men.

Shared Values Created a Strong Bond

The two men came from modest beginnings. The president was raised by his mother and her parents. His father played a minimal role in his life. He initially worked as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago. President Obama is a devoted husband and father.

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Last week, while on a brief vacation, I had the privilege of reading the book, Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. The book tells the story of how the author, a self-described Hillbilly, rises from a life of poverty and instability to graduate from Yale Law School and join the ranks of the “elite.” It is a remarkably honest story in which Mr. Vance shares some very intimate, personal observations on the very significant challenges he had to overcome to achieve success in both his personal life and career.

Hillbilly Elegy has received a lot of attention from the media since the life it depicts is thought to be representative of many blue-collar Trump supporters. Mr. Vance was recently interviewed on several leading Sunday morning news shows.

I am not qualified to assess whether the Kentucky Hillbillies that Mr. Vance depicts in his book are typical Trump supporters. What I can say is that this is an extremely well written book that is well worth reading for its observations about life. I would encourage anyone seeking to advance their careers in the Transportation industry to read and reflect on the experiences of Mr. Vance. The following are a few thoughts.

J.D. Vance describes the Hillbilly culture in detail. He explains how the decline in manufacturing in Ohio, where Mr. Vance lived for much of his early life, had a major impact on the community. A quirky culture characterized by a low work ethic, a low priority on education, particularly for males, and poverty, led to problems with alcohol, drug addiction and human relationships. Mr. Vance had a very challenging family life.

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One of the business trends over the past couple of decades has been the employment of personal coaches to help key leaders and executives enhance their skill sets. These coaches can be engaged to tutor an executive in such areas as leadership, decision-making and team-building; others may be hired to coach an individual in media relations, in certain “technical” job functions or in speaking another language (i.e. French or English).

When used wisely and effectively, these resources can be very helpful in expediting the career growth of a potential high achiever within an organization. For some organizations, they can help “weed out” those business leaders who don’t possess the ability to learn and adapt in a timely manner.

Some businesses and government functions are willing to spend significant dollars to fast track their top executive talent. In fact, in some companies, we encounter business leaders who have multiple coaches with each one having a specific area of expertise. The question is, what can individuals do, who wish to progress rapidly in their careers, if their organizations aren’t willing or don’t have the budget to provide this additional level of mentoring and education? Here are a few suggestions.

Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and construct your own Career Development Plan

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