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3PLBest PracticesCommunityCustomer ServiceIndustry NewsLeadershipThird-Party LogisticsTransportationTruckingUncategorized

By Michael McKinney, CTB   This week, I was notified that AM Transport received a longevity award from the TIA (Transportation Intermediaries Association) for 25 years of continuous membership since 1993. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool to be recognized, and it’s hard for me to believe it’s been that long. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. The recognition comes at a great time. You see, I’m getting ready to attend the 2018 TIA Conference in Palm Desert, California. It’s TIA’s 40th conference, and I’m guesstimating that it’s my 15th or 16th, but to be honest, I’m just not sure how many I’ve attended. Like all great experiences, these conferences have become one long good memory I reflect upon often. Did you know that the TIA Capital Ideas Conference & Exhibition remains the only conference solely for 3PLs? AM Transport has been in the brokerage business for nearly 30 years, and this conference is always one of the highlights of my year because spending time with other brokers rejuvenates my passion for the industry. I could give you lots of reasons for why I attend--I like traveling to new places, meeting new people, and catching up with old industry friends. But there’s so much more to the TIA conference. The energy is palpable when industry leaders mingle, when ideas fly over the dinner table, when newcomers walk into the trade show for the first time!     Let’s talk about the membership. TIA members share ideas. It’s surprising, really, how willing members are to share best practices, tools of the trade, risk issues and their unique take on the industry. It might seem counterintuitive--competitors coming together to help one another. In fact, I’ve heard first-timers express real disbelief at how willing everyone is to share! I always head to the TIA conference with a list of challenges we face, as well as, thoughts I’d like feedback on and questions about industry tools/services. And of course, I like to share too. I’ve learned so much from others in my career, that I’m determined to give back when I can!   Education is another biggie. If you want to learn and grow knowledge, the TIA conference is the venue for you! Industry experts offer educational sessions on a deep and wide range of topics from Sales & Marketing to Technology and Risk Management; from Legal Concerns to Regulations and Capacity Sourcing. Whatever your interests might be, there’s a session for you because the list also includes: Compensation and Personnel, Finance, Change Management, Data Analytics, and so much more.   And let’s not forget the amazing trade show. The TIA trade show is the place to find out what’s new, upcoming, and cutting-edge in the industry. It’s where we go to review and learn about services and tools to boost productivity and efficiency. TMS solutions, visibility and tracking, compliance, insurance, payment solutions, LTL, rail, it’s all there.   I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I like a challenge, and that’s another reason I don’t miss out on the annual TIA conference. Each year, I attend to see and hear what other companies are doing--growth they’re experiencing, new solutions they’ve created, staff development they offer. When you’re hanging with the best in the industry, you can’t help but catch the energy and the desire to do better.  It reminds me of what motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Come to think of it, Goethe’s maxim might be more appropriate, “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are.” If it sounds like I’m looking forward to the TIA conference, then I’ve done my job. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t end with the one aspect of the conference that I simply can’t do without. It’s friendship. Over the years, I’ve met some awesome people who turned out to be good friends. This annual conference, is often the only time of the year I see them in person.  Sure, we talk on the phone, but you can’t beat talking in person, catching up on work and life. After all, breaking bread together and relaxing in the company of others who understand is a big part of who we are at TIA.  ...
Best PracticesCommunityCustomer ServiceProductivityShippersThird-Party LogisticsTransportationUncategorized

By Michael McKinney, CTB   “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” --Peter Drucker, Founder of the Drucker Institute   Why would a shipper work with a small company like AM Transport? It’s a valid question; after all, we compete with multibillion dollar behemoths who have vast financial resources, dirt cheap pricing, the latest gadgetry, and seemingly endless hiring budgets. You might even think the behemoths hold all the advantages. But you’d be wrong. You see, when I have the opportunity to talk about the benefits AM Transport offers, I always come back to our great culture. Culture? Really? Sure, the hardline skeptics will tell you culture isn’t a benefit--that culture is too vague and intangible to be measured or defended. I argue otherwise because the effect culture has is real; I’ve experienced it.  In fact, I believe a company’s culture is perhaps the most telling indicator of the value they bring to the table.   “Who we are matters more than what we know or who we want to be.” --Brene Brown, Author of Daring Greatly--   The other day I had coffee with Connor, one of our long-time team members and posed this question, “What makes us different from our competition?” Connor paused, raised his eyebrows, and looked at me. I could tell he wondered if the question was a trick. I’m pretty sure he thought the answer was simple, so what the heck was I getting at? After a second, he said, “When a customer calls AM Transport, they know they’ll get someone on the phone who knows them.  They know when they call or email they’ll get a quick response. Customers know we care about their business and are committed to getting the job done.  That we’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days/week. They know we have highly talented and trained people and low turnover. That we’re high energy and eager to serve because we have a great team and atmosphere.”   He went on but I think you get the point.  Connor was talking about culture!   “A hallmark of a healthy, creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candour, if unchecked ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.” --Ed Catmull, Co-Founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios-- It all starts with culture! You see, the right culture breeds a team that cares about each other, their customers and their carriers.   So, let’s break this down a bit. How does the culture at AM Transport translate into real, tangible benefits for our customers? We’re a happy bunch! What’s happy got to do with it--come on, we’re talking about business? Quite a lot if you look at the research. Over at The Happy Manifesto, Elinor Schmitz-Jansen breaks it down. She claims that happy people are more creative, accurate and have better analytical skills. Furthermore, she highlights how happy people handle adversity with aplomb, take fewer sick days, and are better negotiators. Research indicates that happier people are more productive and provide better service! Finally, happy people stay!   If we look at the happiness factor a little more closely, you’ll see why culture is important. Everyone’s talking about creativity these days, but is creativity really a big deal? After all, we’re here to move freight, not write poems. Let me assure you, the importance of creative thinking cannot be overvalued. A culture promoting creativity promotes innovative ideas and quick decision making. Our team members have the autonomy and authority to make on-the-spot decisions for the customer!   We all know that in the transportation industry, adversity is the name of the game. Our team members aren’t afraid of adversity. They are great problem solvers. Sure, we enjoy those difficulty-free shipments that go off without a hitch, but we don’t shy away from challenges. In fact, we thrive on finding solutions!   We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service. We care about our customers and get to know them. But we also know and have great relationships with folks all along the supply chain--logistics managers, warehouse personnel, consignees, and over 10,000 carriers. Our ability to cultivate relationships translates into great customer service all the way around.   Let’s talk about retention for a minute. All the research shows that a good company culture means people stick around. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly  says that human beings are hardwired for belonging. If you belong, you stay. People who stick around have more experience, more know-how, more relationships, more skills.   “Company Culture is the product of a company’s values, expectations and environment.” --Courtney Chapman, Product Manager, Rubicon Project--   Here’s the deal--culture matters. It matters a lot. If you’re not convinced--think about this for a minute. The big guys promote a culture of competitiveness among and between their employees who are always looking at the bottom line and concentrated on the top dollar--for themselves. They have to--it’s the nature of the beast when you’re looking out for number one. Instead of working together, employees compete--your freight is just a vehicle, if you will, for someone else’s drive to the top.   At AM Transport, we work together. Always. We truly believe that who we are makes everything we do better. ...
CommunityMeet the Team

March Madness is winding down as fans across the country prepare for the Final Four this weekend. Kansas, Villanova, and Michigan make up the remaining bluebloods in the field, and Loyola Chicago is playing the role of Cinderella as they – along with Sister Jean – have captured the nation’s heart leading up to the championship game on Monday night. The basketball-loving group that makes up AM Transport couldn’t wait for the weekend games and decided to hit the hardwood with a March Madness Shootout of our own to crown our 2018 champion. Sixteen AM Transport employees took to the court, and our own Cinderella story emerged victorious when it was all said and done. The high-seeded participants fell early and often, and the championship showdown featured a matchup between No. 10 seed Jimi “Call me Steph Curry” Fehrenbacher and No. 11 seed Jesse “The Commish” Baker. Leading up to the championship game, Jesse put on a shooting clinic that was highlighted by a shootout-best 36 points in his second round matchup by knocking down nine three-pointers (worth 4 points) in 30 seconds. Jimi matched Jesse shot for shot over the course of the night but ultimately saved his best for when it mattered most and edged Jesse 32-24 in the championship round to claim the 2018 AM Transport March Madness Championship trophy. Congratulations, Jimi! ...
Best PracticesCommunityCustomer ServiceGPS

Michael McKinney, CTB Who do you blame when the new stackable washer/dryer you ordered doesn’t show up? It was shipped--these days you can track almost any order--but it’s now a week or two late, and you’re tired of lugging your family’s clothes to the neighborhood laundromat. Are you on the phone with a carrier? Probably not. More than likely, you’re wrangling with the company you ordered from. After all, you paid for the merchandise, and you were promised a delivery date that has come and gone. Will you order from this company again? *** Recently, my wife and I moved into a new old house with our three daughters. We ordered a cool loft-bed for our youngest from Pottery Barn Kids, a high-end home furnishings retailer who promises to deliver right to the door, and in certain cases (with loft-beds for instance) assemble the furniture for you. Sounds like a pretty good deal, huh! Not so much. Here’s what happened--the loft bed was shipped in a timely fashion, and then we waited. And while we waited, our youngest, a fourth grader, slept on a mattress on the floor. At first, it was kind of fun. She’s an easy kid with a big imagination who didn’t mind the “camping” aspect of the floor-sleeping adventure, so no, it wasn’t the end of the world. But here’s the deal--I’ve been working as a logistics provider for 23 years, and it started to get on my nerves. This isn’t how we do business at AM Transport Services. You see, I could track the beds to St. Louis where they sat for a week and a half. Sure, I understood that my daughter’s new loft bed was likely sitting with a last-mile delivery service who didn’t want to make the trip to rural Illinois until they had a little more freight to bring. I wasn’t so much aggravated with the carrier as I was with Pottery Barn who wasn’t keeping their delivery promise. I work with customers all the time, and I have a pretty good idea of what it means to keep your promise. My wife called Pottery Barn Kids. And then she called some more, and finally the loft-bed was on its way. It showed up, two weeks late, was assembled, and my daughter ended the in-house camping adventure she had tired of. Like I said, a slow-to-arrive loft bed isn’t a catastrophe, but it did get me thinking about how important a logistics provider is to a company’s reputation. *** At AM Transport, I have the good fortune to work with a group of logistics experts who care about your freight. We know that your reputation doesn’t depend only on your excellent product but with your ability to deliver that product efficiently and on-time with no hiccups on the way. You see, at AM Transport we treat your freight like our own. That means we track it from pick-up to delivery, using a high touch model to make sure we touch it at every point on the supply chain. Our people are available 24/7 by phone or email. If your freight runs into trouble, we step in with proven solutions. Let’s take a look at what happens when you select a provider who doesn’t take the time to ask the right questions, who doesn’t research the delivery, whose staff is inexperienced and undertrained. Let’s say you manufacture industrial equipment. Your shipments are crated and skidded--not tricky freight from a loading and unloading standpoint, but it takes care. You tender a couple of truckloads to a consignee in Chicago in the middle of upgrading their facilities. The tender lists the equipment, ship date, weight, consignee, delivery date--all pertinent information needed for transit. A provider can send a truck in to pick up freight as scheduled. The truck heads out with plenty of time to make the delivery. But there’s a problem. You see the loading docks at the delivery address can’t handle anything longer than 26’. This downtown location was built before 53’ vans existed. It’s a bad deal. The crew is ready to unload the truck and another crew is ready to install the new equipment that can’t be unloaded. Your customer--the folks in the middle of the upgrade--are very unhappy to say the least. Charges are mounting and delivery isn’t going to happen. The consignee has a big mess and guess who they’re blaming? You got it! They’re blaming you! Here’s what really happened because our customer used AM Transport Services! We receive the tender with the Chicago address. Our antenna goes up; after all, we know what city deliveries are like, so we ask more questions than usual. We call the consignee, because we ALWAYS call the consignee, to confirm the shipments. The consignee confirms and explains that they’ll have a line shut down while they swap the equipment coming in. We inquire a little further because we don’t like surprises and learn that they are in an old building that can only accommodate trailers up to 26’ in length. We spring into action. We contact a warehousing company we know in the Chicago area and arrange for the equipment to be unloaded off the two 53’ trailers we arranged and reloaded onto 26’ straight trucks. We reach out to the customer, explain the needed change and the solution. We contact the consignee again to explain the shipment will now be arriving on four instead of two trucks and coordinate the times. We follow through from pickup to delivery and everyone is happy! You see, we’ve been in the logistics business for 30 years, so we know what to do, and with over 10,000 approved carriers, we don’t just match your freight to the best carrier, we make sure it gets to where it’s going efficiently and on-time! Your reputation matters, and slow, inefficient, and late delivery of your product is the quickest way to erode the high esteem you’ve earned. Don’t throw away your good name by entrusting your freight to logistics partners who don’t care.  ...
Community

Written By: Jordan Pottorff, CTB A group of AM Transport employees hosted the RCMS 5th Block after-school program at Elm Street Christian Church for our annual Give Thanksing program on Tuesday. We cooked turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing and various pies and desserts for nearly 70 students and 15 adults from the school and church. The Give Thanksing program was made possible through collaboration between AM Transport, AMT Squirrel Works, Elm Street Christian Church and the RCMS 5th Block program. Hillary Steber was the lucky employee in charge of coordinating the day-long program with planning starting months ago. “I had to start planning in late September,” Hillary said. “I first reached out to the 5th Block Director to get a date that worked well for them. In years past, we would do it the week after Thanksgiving, but I always felt like Thanksgiving was over and everyone was ready for Christmas at that point. This year we decided to do it the week before to get the kids prepared for Thanksgiving the following week. We also decided to do it at Elm Street Christian Church, which was very convenient for both us and the kids since it was in town.” To make sure the day went as planned, we pooled together money to gather all the necessary food and then split up in groups to handle the cooking, food prep, serving of the food, and the clean up all while making sure we had necessary coverage at the office. “I thought it was easier for some people to give a little money instead of having to go grocery shopping or make a turkey or a pie the day of,” Hillary said. “I then asked for volunteers for the day of to help prep and serve the food. After that it was just collecting money and then going shopping. One other change we did this year was grilling the turkeys. We did 7 turkeys on R2BQ and they turned out wonderful! The kids kept talking about how good the turkey was and how it wasn’t dry at all, so that was a win! We were also able to send 8 boxes of food back with the kids that will be used for a cooking activity this week for the 5th Block program. “The best part for me was watching the kids come in and seeing how excited they were,” Hillary said. “I loved watching them fill their plates and just knowing we were able to provide that for them was a great feeling.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many kids like pumpkin pie! Sometimes their taste buds will surprise you! All the kids were so good and polite (as they are every year)!” The day was a complete success, and we are already looking ahead to Give Thanksing 2018!  ...
CommunityOffice EnvironmentUncategorized

Written by Jordan Pottorff, CTB Monday marked the first total solar eclipse that was visible from coast-to-coast across the contiguous United States since 1918, and to say people were excited for it would be the understatement of the year. The national media covered the eclipse for what seemed like the entire day, social media was buzzing with eclipse-related posts, and people came in droves to areas of totality to witness the rare natural phenomenon. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL, was the epicenter of the event and the town expected an influx of over 45,000 people for the viewing of the eclipse. Surrounding towns, national parks and roadways also saw increased traffic as southern Illinois became one of the most prominent places in the country for the day. With us being based in Olney, which is a small town in southeastern Illinois and just a couple hours away from Carbondale, we had the privilege of seeing nearly 98% totality at our peak time of 1:22 pm. We did what millions of others did across the country by purchasing our official eclipse glasses and celebrating with moon-themed foods while stepping outside to catch glimpses from time to time. Despite it being an overcast day, the hours and minutes leading up to our peak viewing time looked promising but as it got closer to 1:22 dark clouds started to form over our office and eventually ended up blocking the eclipse completely when it mattered most. We did get to witness the sky change to what it would look like in the early evening and confused cicadas began to chirp, but to summarize it briefly; it was a letdown. Our viewing area and the forecast leading up to Monday made it seem like we were in for a treat, and although it was still a cool event to witness, the hype didn’t materialize. What we had all hoped to see was blocked by a dark cloud. It was your typical “Aww, shucks” moment. I’m sure you can point to several moments in your life where the hype of an event didn’t materialize and you really had no choice but to accept it and make the best of the situation. A dark cloud put a damper on our day but I learned this morning that Olney will be in complete totality when the next total solar eclipse dawns on us on April 8, 2024. You can bet the nation will be watching again, and for our sake let’s hope it’s a cloudless day....
Community

Written By Justin Hatten, CTB One of the values at AM Transport Services is community as employees participate in local events throughout the year. On August 5, AM Transport Carrier Managers Joe Eagleson, Sam Rodgers and Colby Shawver took part in the seventh annual Richland County Recreation Council White Squirrel Triathlon with Eagleson pedaling 14.6 miles on his bicycle, Rodgers competing in the 5K run and Shawver swimming 200 meters for the “Transport Bandits.” The trio placed third out of seven teams in the male division with a time of 1:15:04.80, behind Unfair Advantage (1:08:22.60) and Splash, Flash and Dash (1:12:56.95). Competing in his first triathlon, Eagleson finished the leg in 46:30 on his Kona Jake CX, a cyclocross bike built to withstand terrain that varies from asphalt and gravel to dirt and mud. “The White Squirrel Triathlon was a blast,” said Eagleson, who puts in 50 to 75 miles a week, riding to work nearly every day. “I enjoyed how many competitors encouraged each other throughout the bike portion the most.  I heard ‘Good job’ or ‘Keep it up’ plenty of times, even though everyone was huffing and puffing their way down Saint Marie Road. “The main preparation I made was riding up hills to get ready for the Saint Marie Road hill that I would have to ride over twice.” Rodgers runs 15 to 20 miles each week and recorded a 3.1-mile time of 22:40 during his first triathlon. “Definitely not the last,” Rodgers said. “I will be doing some full triathlons in the future for sure. “It was a great experience and a fun atmosphere. Everyone involved was very friendly and welcoming. They gave out some awesome swag to participants. It was absolutely perfect weather to be out and about.” With the temperature in the 50s the night before and at race time Saturday morning, Shawver braved chilly water at Olney’s Musgrove Aquatic Center to clock a time of 4:57. “It was pretty frigid but after the initial shock, the adrenalin kicked in and took over,” said Shawver, who swam several times a week in the pool at his house training for his triathlon debut. “I loved it. A lot of the community was cheering on everyone. I will do it next year also.” Commitment is another AM Transport value, which the “Transport Bandits” showed while working as a team to earn a top-three finish....
Community

Written by Justin Hatten At AM Transport Services, hard work is mixed with fun. Throughout the course of the year, AM Transport employees participate in a variety of social events, culminating with the Christmas party. To kick off 2017, AM Transport hosted its first Chili Cook-Off on January 13 as judges picked winners based on five categories – aroma, texture, flavor, initial bite and lingering bite.  Eight cooks participated with Jesse Baker (spiciest chili), Laura Matthews (judge’s choice) and Colby Shawver (people’s choice) crowned champions. A St. Patrick’s celebration and AM Transport Bowl-A-Rama was held on March 17 as Bert Lathrop earned top honors, rolling a personal-best 203. A week later, AM Transport employees laced up the sneakers and showcased their basketball skills during the March Madness Shootout, won by Chad Martin, who upset top-seeded Connor Dixon in the championship round to take home the trophy that currently resides on his desk. In May, the AM Transport team took part in National Bike to Work Day for the 12th-straight year and the company will hit the links on August 18, competing in the AM Transport Golf Outing followed by the Halloween party on October 27. In addition to the social activities, AM Transport recently hosted Kickoff to Summer featuring a limbo contest to start the day. For lunch, hot dogs and bratwursts were cooked by Jason Doris on R2BQ, AM Transport’s mobile grill. Along with bowling, basketball, and golf, employees go head-to-head in a bags tourney, play in the AMT Fantasy Football League and NCAA Tournament bracket challenge, participate in a weight-loss challenge and partake in the No Shave November mustache and beard contest with the winner announced during the Christmas party. Speaking of Christmas, AM Transport headed into the studio last winter, cutting the first-ever AMT Holiday Album last winter produced by Connor Dixon. AM Transport also prides itself in volunteering and participating in local programs and events, including Richland County Recreation Council Bunny Hop 5K, White Squirrel Triathlon, Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids’ Sake, Richland County Middle School 5th Block and Musgrove Park Clean-Up Day headed by Joel Carey, who oversees the weekly summer landscape maintenance project at Musgrove Park as well. Giving back to the community of Olney is just as important to AM Transport as serving customers and carriers....
CommunityOffice Environment

By Michael McKinney, CTB When I heard our people were making a Christmas album, I was a bit nonplussed—my eyebrows furrowed, and a bah-humbug sigh escaped my pursed lips. You see, my first reaction or instinct about something is often not in line with my beliefs. I can be a little narrow and reactive—driven by the urgency of now, by productivity and efficiency. It’s not a trait I treasure; however, I am lucky to be surrounded in my workplace by creative people whose love of fun can bring unexpected and long-ranging benefits to all of us who work at AM Transport. Take the Christmas Album as an example—talk about a labor of love and creativity. Now you might be wondering, as I was, what in the heck are we doing producing a Christmas album—we’re here to generate revenue. It’s a pretty good question—one I’ve been pondering. First of all, I’ll give you a little information about our Christmas Album Who Knows Christmas: These Guys! The album features 13 full-length Christmas favorites from Blue Christmas to Winter Wonderland with the additional full-office rendition of We Are the World. Out of 32 on staff, 22 participated in the making of the album. We had duets and trios. People gave up their after-work time to sing songs together. As I watched it coming together, as I saw first-hand the excitement and genuine cooperation that went into the making of the album, I began to realize that the music itself was a gift to AM Transport, a gift that would create long-lasting bonds. Let’s talk about vulnerability. Brené Brown, whose ground-breaking research has resulted in the famous TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability as well as the best-selling books The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, asserts that “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity.” Now that’s pretty interesting, as most of us think of vulnerability as a very dark emotion, something we want to avoid because society tends to equate vulnerability with weakness. What if Brown is right, and vulnerability is essential to creativity and innovation? If that is true, then coming together as colleagues and creating a Christmas album might be the smartest thing the team at AM Transport could do. After all, can you be more vulnerable than you are when belting out Christmas songs in front of your colleagues and friends I had the pleasure of watching the joy and exhilaration in the people who sang songs together and alone for the Christmas album, and I began to realize how lucky I am to spend my days with a group of people willing to initiate and participate in team-building activities that other companies might pay thousands of dollars for. Vulnerability may well be at the heart of creativity and innovation, but I believe it is also an important component of what researcher Amy Edmondson calls “psychological safety” in the workplace. In Charles Duhhig’s excellent book about cultivating productivity in business and life, Smarter, Faster, Better,Edmondson defines psychological safety as “a shared belief, held by members of a team, that the group is a safe place for taking risks,” as well as “a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up.” It follows then, that what the participants in the Christmas album felt as fun, exciting, creative, and joyful also helped to cultivate in them a sense of psychological safety in their work groups. Singing is hard work. Let’s be honest—singing in the shower is nothing like singing in front of colleagues and friends. There is a vulnerability inherent in the act of throwing our voices out into the world. Each time one of the AMT crooners did this amazing thing, he or she received not only acceptance but encouragement. This cannot help but grow confidence in the group as a whole, confidence that this team is a safe place. And as if “psychological safety” were not enough of a benefit, I was pleased to see the singers stretching beyond their comfort zones, taking risks. I firmly believe that this will translate to their work in teams and to the cohesiveness of the workplace. In fact, I ended up loving the idea so much, that I too participated on the group rendition of We Are the World and enjoyed first-hand the camaraderie and fun that comes from trying something new and risky with a group of friends and colleagues. I can’t wait to see what this creative group comes up with in the year to come. I plan to keep my furrowed brow to myself and jump right in....
CommunityIndustry NewsLeadership

A Much-Needed Slap to the Head By Michael McKinney, CTB Often we don’t even know we are sleeping. Let me explain; a few weeks ago, I attended a Small Giants Passport Event in Boston with David Abell. It was a much-needed wake-up call—a metaphorical slap-to-the-head! AMT belongs to a group called Small Giants. Small Giants is a collective of business leaders who heartily believe in making money but “share a passion for values-driven leadership, committing to let purpose and people drive our strategies rather than financials.”[1] Within the Small Giants group, we’ve found other small to mid-size businesses who want to make a difference not only in the lives of their employees, but in the community at large. Passport Events are offerings from Small Giants that bring together 20 values-driven business leaders for intimate conversation and workgroup discussions and in-depth visits to some very successful value-driven businesses. In Boston, we were lucky enough to visit the successful and warm business workplace of Life is Good. I was excited to visit Life is Good as in the McKinney household, we are the proud wearers of Life is Good t-shirts. The highlight of touring Life is Good was the opportunity to hear co-founder Bert Jacobs talk about the company he and his brother John founded in 1994 and to talk to him about what is important to him as a business leader. Theirs is an amazing story about resilience and optimism. In fact, the mission statement of Life is Good is to spread the power of optimism. Bert explains that believing in optimism isn’t an exercise in blindly accepting what is, but rather an empowering belief in open-heartedness and open-mindedness. Being optimistic doesn’t only inspire us to do good, it also feels good. Something I found most interesting about the Life is Good mission is that Bert says that mission—to spread the power of optimism—underlies everything they do in the company. When things have been tough, that mission gives them something to fall back upon. Everything they do must help them spread the power of optimism. What a powerful mission! In support of that mission, Life is Good donates a full 10% of its profits to support children in need due to violence, poverty or illness. The trip to Boston rejuvenated me, and it inspired and continues to inspire me to be more optimistic in my own life. Bert Jacobs gave us an effective method of generating optimism in our daily lives. It’s easy and makes a difference. I’m calling it my new “Get-to Pledge.” Here’s how it works: When my daughter has her fourth ball game in as many days, Instead of saying, “I have to attend another ball game,” with an irritated tone, I say, “I get to see my talented, healthy kid play ball tonight.”  It works across the spectrum—GET TO instead of HAVE TO. Try it a few times, and you will see. And speaking of talented kids—when I arrived home from Boston, I was so excited about the trip that I was discussing it with my daughter Madeline who is a high school freshman and a wonderful artist. We talked about optimism and its power to change lives. Inspired by our conversation, she drew this great picture I will leave you with.   [1] From the Small Giants Website...