Five years ago today, I left the comfort of a relatively secure job and paycheck to launch my own company. I spent my first day as an entrepreneur not in an office, but serving as a juror in a murder trial. The trial lasted two and a half weeks and I think I earned less than $100 for my time served — not a great way to start off financially, but serving as a juror was a worthwhile experience nonetheless (see the post below that I wrote after the trial ended).
“How’s the business going?” is a question I get often from family and friends, and my typical response is, “Well, I still have a roof over my head, and my kids are clothed and fed, so things are going well.”
“Any regrets going off on your own?”
“None,” I respond, “absolutely none.”
I honestly can’t believe it’s been five years. I still feel that same nervous excitement I felt the very first day — nervous because the future is always uncertain, and excitement for the same exact reason.
As I wrote last year, there is never a right time to become an entrepreneur, and we all have our reasons to become one. But as I reflect on my experience to date, I believe there is a universal truth to entrepreneurship: success, especially in the early years, is built on trust and relationships.
I am grateful for the trust my clients placed in me five years ago, and for the relationships we continue to develop and grow — not only business relationships, but personal ones too.
I am also grateful for the ongoing support I receive from my family and friends, and for all of you — our subscribers and followers in the supply chain and logistics community — who make it all worthwhile.
Thank you all for making this journey possible and fun.
Late last year, I spent almost two and a half weeks as a juror in a murder trial. Like most people reporting to jury duty, I had hoped I would spend a few hours in court reading a book and then get dismissed. Instead, I survived all the cuts made by the judge and lawyers and found myself in the jury box. But after going through the trial process, even though it was emotionally draining and highly disruptive to my work schedule and personal life, I agree with what the judge told us at the very beginning: That serving as a juror will be (and was) one of the most fascinating experiences of my life.
I’m not going to discuss the details of the case. I’ll simply say that when you mix youth with alcohol and drugs, you often end up with a bad situation.
What I want to talk about today are the parallels I saw between a jury trial and supply chain.
Bringing together a diverse group of citizens to determine the facts and render a verdict is not unlike bringing a group of people from different functional groups together in a monthly S&OP meeting to determine “one version of the truth.”
In a trial, the jury has to determine the credibility of witnesses and the truthfulness of their testimony. Participants in an S&OP meeting have to assess the accuracy of forecasts and the “testimony” of their colleagues (Is sales being too optimistic? Can logistics really handle the anticipated volume spikes of these planned promotions?).
While the stakes are not as grave as life without parole, the verdicts supply chain teams render each day, week, and month can have lasting consequences. For public companies, the verdict slip is read each quarter by the CEO (“the jury foreperson”) in their call with investors. Guilty is falling short of analyst expectations, missing the numbers for the quarter. Innocent is exceeding expectations, taking market share from the competition, and raising the bar for next quarter.
Shifting gears a bit…
I received an email yesterday from a 3PL executive. He posed a simple question: Where are we versus the needs of the market and our competitors?
Here was my simple answer: Ask your customers–they are the best and only jury that ultimately matters.
If you’re renewing your contracts and growing your business, then you’re obviously meeting the needs of the market. If you’re losing customers and winning fewer deals, then you’re missing something.
The second best people to ask are customers you might have lost or didn’t win after an RFP process. Was it just about cost or did other factors contribute to losing the business?
And don’t be afraid to take the stand yourself and let your customers play the role of prosecutor and ask you tough questions. Their assessment of your credibility on the stand and the truthfulness of your answers will factor into their decision to grow their relationship with you or walk away.
So, the next time you’re called for jury duty, bring a good book to court. And if you get empaneled, especially for a criminal trial, don’t be upset. Unlike an S&OP meeting, it will be one of the most fascinating experiences of your life.