Managing the countless moving parts within a global supply chain is no easy task. In our latest Q&A, we spent some time with First Call Logistics expert and Director of Carrier Sales Shawn Machowiak for his take on supply chain challenges, the best way to approach 3PL partnerships and how to provide value in a transparent industry.
So Shawn, how did you get started in logistics?
I began working in the industry right at the end of 2011, essentially right out of college. I was hired at CH Robinson as a carrier sales representative in what they called the “Red Zone,” providing options on hot, must-go freight. The nature of the role was very transactional and fast-paced, but during that time I realized it is not always strictly about the money you pay a carrier; rather it is the intangibles and value you can bring to their operations.
In a market with near-full pricing transparency where everyone is paying comparable rates, those that bring value and service to an asset win. Logistics, just like life, is all about managing relationships. With my ability to manage capacity relationships and mutually grow our businesses between both customer and carrier partners, I was asked to be a member of the very first steering committee. This committee, tasked with developing a set of SOPs used to create a carrier sales center; a separate P&L where customer teams can feed their freight for cost-effective coverage. SOPs focused on being scalable, providing top-level service, sustainability, and a career path for carrier representatives.
A decade-long career in carrier sales ensued. I managed carriers from owner operators all the way to organizations with upwards of 600+ trucks. A personal touch and emphasis on service remain a winning formula regardless of the carrier size.
What industry roles do you think had the biggest impact on your career?
I have been carrier-facing in some regard for the entirety of my career. The current position I hold as Director of Carrier Sales at a young, growing, and hungry brokerage really brings my career full circle. I am now able to coach others in that winning formula and develop processes and standards that will aid First Call in its path to growth and success.
I will say the role that I’ve held the longest, and always seems to be the most overlooked, is that of the student. This industry has a lot of nuances and it is constantly evolving. I look to learn from my team and the industry just as much, if not more, than I hope they learn from me. My goal is constant progression, and as such, the job is never truly done.
Have you found yourself specializing in a certain niche?
I’ve only ever worked in sales and logistics. I am logistics til I die; you get a front-row seat to the state of the nation. From the economy down to local geographical differences in consumer sentiment, you can see how the country operates from a top view. It’s really cool.
My “niche” is really more of a mantra than a position or skill, and that’s the notion of value. I strive to bring value to everything I touch. Value is recession-proof. Value is apparent on good days and bad days, ebbs and flows of the market, governments, and society. Value is knowledge, effort, and most importantly, the desire to learn.
What are the primary challenges your customers face?
In this industry, there’s no shortage of challenges. From a 3PL standpoint, by definition, you are the middleman. The challenge is how can all three parties; customer, carrier, and brokerage – mutually grow and how can they bring each other value. I’ve always assisted in living outside of the “margin.” What other roadblocks do we face outside of money? True value comes from the ability to help all parties improve efficiencies in an inherently inefficient industry.
Are there any misconceptions you wish people better understood about the logistics industry?
There are many misconceptions on all sides of the fence. Customers, contrary to popular belief, care about far more than just money and keeping costs down. Carriers aren’t only focused on taking the best possible paying loads. Both of these entities in conjunction with each other allow this country to operate as it does, and without them, the whole system would fall.
The 3PL isn’t here just to take as much money from the customer as possible, and we certainly aren’t here to pay the carrier less than they deserve. The 3PL is here to increase the efficiency in which the two most important pieces of this puzzle interact and bring all three together in a manner that drives all three forward. The 3PL in this sense (the right 3PL) is the catalyst in which a customer and a carrier can thrive.
What characteristics should someone possess to be successful in a role like yours?
From a carrier sales standpoint, you must possess empathy and think analytically at the same time. Carrier sales is truly a “jack of all trades” position. The ability to work efficiently and be able to push others’ efficiencies drives value, and value is ultimately what an asset partner is looking for. I have always told anyone who asked, you need to be the end-all-be-all for your carriers. Trucking is not a 9-5, and being available as that beacon of light in any situation is key to driving the relationship.
What do you value most about your career? Why should someone work at First Call?
In my career, I value the ability to learn, as well as the ability to pass on what I’ve learned. I want to be able to look back at a storybook that is my career, turn to any given page, and point out something I learned or someone I’ve influenced in each chapter. And at the end of the day, when that book is closed I can look at the relationships I’ve built and see the fruits of value.
First Call affords the opportunity to grow and learn. If you have passion, purpose, and competitive nature to be the best version of yourself day in and day out, then we have a place for you. The industry can be taught, and experience, in time, is a wise professor. The right mindset and the right team truly lead to endless opportunities and limitless avenues to success. The limit here is well beyond the sky – we’re shooting for the stars.