Starting your own business is an exciting endeavor, filled with big decisions about how to build the foundation of your business. When it comes to starting your own freight brokerage, there’s certainly no handbook to follow or blueprint to reference, but there are key resources that you can draw upon for training, real-world advice and guidance from industry veterans.
Trucker Tools’ recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael Clements, Jr., president of PDQ America, an asset-light freight brokerage based out of White Oak, Texas. In addition to leading the team at PDQ America, Michael is one of the hosts of PDQ America’s Trucking for Millennials, a podcast for and about truckers in their 20s and 30s. In the course of our conversation, Michael offered several insights on how to start and successfully operate a freight brokerage no matter what your age, which we share here.
1. Use Social Media To Network, Build Knowledge Base
“It’s about listening and getting as much advice as you can and filtering it,” Michael advises. “LinkedIn is a great resource. There are tons of freight brokers, freight agents, business owners and others on there who can give you good advice.”
LinkedIn is a powerful tool that help you connect with veterans in the industry. In addition to starting individual conversations with seasoned freight brokers, truckers and others, you can join LinkedIn freight brokerage groups to gain knowledge and learn about best practices for being a broker. Michael also notes that podcasts can be a valuable resource and pathway for starting a dialogue with veterans within freight brokerage and trucking. Podcasts also can help you build your industry knowledge and network with fellow transportation professionals.
2. Get Good Training
“We train with the CTB, TIA’s Certified Transportation Broker course,” says Michael. “Our brokers become certified. I think that is a great place to start for someone who wants to learn about freight brokerage.”
TIA’s Certified Transportation Broker program is the highest broker certification offered in the industry and is the most widely recognized credential among logistics providers. TIA’s CTB program is an online study and exam program that teaches general broker business principles, contract and pricing fundamentals, case law, and best practices for shipping, claims, fleet and traffic management. The CTB online study course is offered several times each year. For more information on TIA’s CTB program, visit https://www.tianet.org/courses/certified-transportation-broker/.
3. Put Customer Service First
When Michael first got into trucking at the age of 26 after working in manufacturing for several years, he says that he admittedly didn’t know much about freight brokerage. As one of the principal owners of PDQ Trucking, he first encountered brokers when he was looking to reduce deadhead miles and find freight for return trips.
“For a few months when the oil and gas markets were going down, probably 80 percent of our loads were from freight brokers,” said Michael. “I had to work with just some really tough and difficult people. It was difficult to deal with when you’re trying to make sure that drivers are feeding their families, you’re paying for insurance, paying for fuel and trying to stay on top of your bills — and you have someone beating you over the head for $50. That was really challenging.”
The experiences Michael and the PDQ Trucking team had during that time influencedthe decision to transition the trucking company into an asset-light freight brokerage business, which today is PDQ America.
“It was a perfect storm,” Michael said. “I thought that if this is how we were going to be treated, then I think we have the opportunity to be a freight broker. I saw an opportunity there to put customer service first, to put the carrier first. That’s how we got our start.”
4. Understand Your Carriers
Speaking of carriers, it’s important to understand the challenges that carriers face if you want to be a successful freight broker. As a freight broker, you’re the intermediary between truckers and shippers and your job is to make and keep both happy. Michael sees forming positive relationships with carriers as one of the most important aspects of freight brokerage.
“The biggest thing you have to know is that you’re a broker behind a computer,” Michael advised. “It is extremely stressful at times, but it’s not more stressful than the load and the stress that the person hauling it experiences. That’s something that younger brokers and newer brokers don’t always understand. The person on the other end of the phone, the carrier, they’re pulling 45,000 pounds down the interstate. You need to be polite to them and take care of them.”
5. Leverage the Knowledge of Fellow Freight Brokers
Thanks to the internet, it’s possible to get to know and compare notes with other freight brokers around the country with relative ease. This can be especially useful when you’re just starting out as a freight broker and want to learn about best practices within the industry. You can connect with your fellow freight brokers via Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or in other online forums or social media platforms. Talking with other freight brokers can help you make strategic decisions and build relationships within the industry, which is always a good thing.
“The beauty of LinkedIn is that it allows you to develop these relationships where you don’t see each other as competition — you’re just trying to grow your own business and take care of your customers,” Michael said. “When you’re in different parts of the country and you service different industries, you can have these conversations openly and not feel like someone is going to take your business or one-up you.”
For more on PDQ America’s podcast, read Aaron Dunn on Trucking for Millennials, Preparing for the CBT Exam and the Great Rate Debate, our interview with Michael’s co-host, Aaron Dunn. To learn more about Trucker Tools’ real-time visibility and digital freight matching and Book It Now®, schedule a demo with our sales team.