Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nefarious - Part 6

a bit part in a TV gangsta pilot

meet the family -
I mean "THE" family

[continued from posts of May 3 & 26, June 7 & 21, and July 4, 2009]

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Latin nefarius, from nefas = crime, from ne = not + fas = right
There were a lot of things that were not right in the unfolding of these vignettes. Like many things, though, you sometimes don't spot them except with hindsight. Then it is usually too late to change things.

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It was somewhere in the 3rd - 4th month after the take-over of the company - or should I have said the purchase of the company. The original announcement stated the company had been sold, so we'll stick with the original terminology. Eventually I came to view it otherwise.

I met with our Vice-President of Sales for the Western Region at our company terminal office in northwest IN as requested. Our discussions quickly turned to efforts to increase revenues. He told me he was impressed with the efforts to reclaim business from various government entities. Many of our company's terminals were starting to get calls from various government agents asking us to transport freight for them.

That was the good news.

The other news was that he was getting pressure to produce more in his efforts to help to make additional acquisitions. I was not privy to what was going on in the acquisition area.

I was soon going to know a little more than I was comfortable with knowing.
He had an idea he wanted to explore with me ... over a nice lunch someplace.

We drove to a nice restaurant in a south Chicago suburb.

Conversation continued on many different topics. Part of it helped clear up, for me at least, what some of the miscellaneous meetings he often had with non-trucking related businesses were about. He explained that the parent holding company that had acquired our company was involved in a lot of different types of holdings, including other trucking companies. Part of his responsibility was to help in the acquisition of companies that were in financial difficulty.

Our parent company had teams of lawyers and accountants who spent their time and energies identifying medium sized companies who were in trouble with various lenders. Once those companies were identified, they sent in people to talk to those businesses about helping them get out of the financial trouble in which they found themselves. My impression is that the tactics used were definitely strong-arm tactics.

That helped make sense of some of the experiences I had with him - like the guy who came out of his office screaming and cussing and calling me a 'goon'.

That was part of my VP's job - to convince these distressed business owners to sell now, while they still could. Of course the offers were for very low prices. He wasn't scoring too often lately and he needed to make some kind of headway soon.

In the short time with our company, he was learning a bit about our industry. He thought he noticed an area that was ripe for growing, and he thought I could help make it happen. The old adage, "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" came to mind. In his words, "You help me, I owe you - I help you, you owe me."

There is a segment of the trucking business that is not controlled by the trucking companies. It is controlled by Independent Agents ... similar to the Independent Agents in the insurance business. An Independent Agent represents a number of different trucking companies. It is his job to find the best company with which to place the business for his customer, the shipper. Agents have access to additional trucks that are not in the employ of the one specific trucking company. They also have access to many shippers of freight that don't rely solely on specific trucking companies.

Our Vice President of Sales for the Western Region wanted to explore the possibility of growing the segment of our business that is controlled by these agents. Like many trucking companies, we had a network of agents that carried us as one of the choices they had available to them. We needed to find a way to get them to tender more freight to us.

How were we going to do that?

[to be continued as I make the time - stay tuned]