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  • Writer's pictureCorey Coogan

So you’re a new Broker? Here’s what to focus on first.

Updated: Aug 15, 2023


November 8th, 2021




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Being a new Broker is tough work, but taking the right steps will lead you to success.



Freight Brokers have become an essential component that keeps the world’s goods moving, but gaining a foothold in the market can be a monumental challenge – Brokers have the unique role of not just connecting shippers and carriers, but also maintaining steady and strong communication with both stakeholders, simultaneously. At the end of the day, most Brokers need to address the same key challenges to get themselves going – and when they do, logistics technology suddenly has immense value. Following the steps listed below can have a great impact on determining when to purchase a TMS, and what key features you need it to accomplish.

DEVELOP CARRIER RELATIONSHIPS

Freight Brokers will always have a need for load boards when shipping FTL, as spot market carriers are a great way to cover a load and build a carrier network.. They may also benefit from receiving load tenders in advance, and pre-planning their carrier base for a given day or week. On the LTL side of things, having access to multiple Carriers and rate aggregation tools can be a huge differentiator for Brokers. In addition, there may be opportunities for drop trailers with Carriers who are getting a good bit of a Broker’s freight. But at the end of the day, having healthy relationships with one’s carrier base is a must. A Broker’s carrier base is an extension of the business. The same rapport effort that goes into Customer acquisition and retention must be equally given to one’s carriers. Brokers who ensure that they maintain a great relationship with their carriers and find common ground with them, effectively enhance the longevity and durability of their own Customer relationships.

FIND CUSTOMERS!

This one seems like a given, but is often overlooked by new Brokers trying to establish themselves. Having transportation technology in place does not mean Brokers will also have Customers, and many Transportation Management Systems (TMS) are only truly useful if Brokers have freight to book. And who is going to give them that freight? Shippers! This is where the grinders separate themselves, and long term, it’s where those who manage their relationships effectively, win. Once there is freight to move, transportation technology becomes more of a necessity, and Brokers can hone in on what they need their technology solutions to accomplish.

FIND YOUR TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS

Ultimately, a TMS (and other freight technology solutions) should address clear needs, and drive collaboration and efficiency for all stakeholders. This is one part internal function, and one part external collaboration – Brokers should be open and communicative with prospective Shippers about what they are able to achieve with the technology they currently have access to, and similarly, they should search for solutions that address their internal needs and the needs of their customers. It might be great if the software is free-to-use, but does it address the needs of the Shipper as well? This is just one of the questions a new Broker should be asking when looking at various freight technology solutions. As a Broker, if you’ve found the right technology solutions, they will address some of the biggest issues new Brokers face when they’re getting up and running…

AND THAT LEADS TO…THE PAY CYCLE

Many new and smaller-scale Brokers end up paying their Carriers before being paid by the Shipper for a completed delivery. Going about things in this way can be an obvious cash flow killer, especially if Brokers don’t have the capital to handle paying out before being paid – and delaying Carrier payments can have a negative effect on a Broker’s Carrier relationships. It’s not unusual for Brokers to wait 4-6 weeks, or longer, before receiving payment from some Shippers. So how does one go about addressing this?

Shortening the pay cycle is so important for small Brokers trying to grow their business. Requiring advance payment from a Shipper can eliminate the pay cycle altogether, but that also has the potential to lead to tension with the customer and disputes down the line – obviously, it’s best to avoid those if you can. Brokers can also make use of factoring companies, but of course factoring companies will take their own cut in exchange for their service – which effectively reduces a Broker’s margin on a load to load basis. The best way to shorten the pay cycle without too much fuss, is by implementing a technology solution that allows you to submit Proof of Delivery (POD) in real-time. As soon as the receiver signs the POD, a digital version should be available to all invested parties. The days of snail-mailing PODs are long gone – and the best part is that there is no shortage of technology solutions providing this type of service today.

FIND WAYS TO OPERATE IN A COST EFFECTIVE MANNER

New Brokers often focus on building their team or their website long before they actually have any customers to work with. Adding team members can be useful if those team members are well versed in the process of acquiring new Shippers to work with, but if they are dispatchers, are they really needed yet? Dispatch centers are often crowded with staff working phones, email, and business machines. Much of that time is spent handling quotes, confirming load acceptance, preparing and transmitting paperwork, and making regular check calls to Drivers to locate freight.

Maintaining this extra staff is a drag, both on finances and efficiency. New technology is designed to enhance the process commonly handled by in-house tracking and dispatch teams. Look for true end-to-end solutions that provide rate aggregation, market data, documentation, customer portals, load tendering, real-time tracking prior to pickup, and real-time milestone updates all the way through delivery and invoicing. In the past, many of these tasks and the collaboration associated with them were handled manually on a day-to-day basis by internal teams, but that is no longer necessary. New and smaller brokers must utilize technology so they focus more effectively on streamlined staffing and relationship-building.


BUILD THE SCALE OF YOUR CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS

Building customer relationships on a large scale can be a challenge, and most new Brokers focus their efforts solely on local Shippers when they are getting started. But many local Shippers have shipping needs that extend beyond the local region. In many cases, newer or smaller Brokers limit themselves by bidding only on certain freight or lanes when they feel they have a competitive advantage regarding pricing and/or coverage. While it’s great to have lanes you are the best at, approaching things in this manner can restrict a new Broker’s ability to scale and grow over time. Larger Brokers and 3PLs bid with complete confidence, knowing they will always find a Carrier to take the shipment and still clear a profit. There is no shortage of technology solutions that help newer Brokers hack into the marketplace to compete more equally with bigger logistics players.

Whether you’re looking for market rates to ensure a spot quote is competitive, or whether you’re hitting a load board to access capacity on a lane you don’t run frequently, there is something out there for every Broker.The key for new Brokers is identifying what they are looking for, and being open and communicative about that throughout the buying process with a prospective vendor. Similarly, understanding the needs of the Shipper can greatly impact how effective various shipping technology platforms are in addressing the day to day needs of a Freight Broker’s shipping operations.


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