Rose Rocket’s Key Account Lead, Rob Doherty, recently spoke with Aaron Dunn and Michael Clements on Trucking for Millennials. At Rose Rocket, Rob helps some of our larger customers implement and use our transportation management software or TMS software. Rob is a wealth of industry knowledge, having started out in the transportation industry about 12 years ago. He’s worked in many departments within a trucking company, from claims, to pricing, to dispatch — he’s seen it all. He’s also very familiar with the Rose Rocket TMS and loves sharing the benefits of how a TMS can help your trucking or logistics business.
During the episode, Rob talks about how to optimize your trucking and logistics operations with a transportation management software and how a TMS can help future proof your business and grow with you.
We highly recommend listening to the episode in full but if you’re tight on time, we’ve pulled out some highlights of the conversation.
(Highlights have been condensed and edited for clarity)
Michael: Well awesome, man. Tell us about how you got into what you're doing now then. So you're building this bank of experience. You're in the yard. You're dispatching. You're doing all that. So what happened then?
Rob: As I bounced around to different departments, I had a leaning towards technology and using technology to solve some of the problems that we had ... or not necessarily problems, just areas that we could add more value to our customers. So I, as I mentioned, I jumped around to different departments, and I kept seeing great applications for technology, and so that became an itch I really wanted to scratch more and more and more. For example, there was a time when we had difficulty with getting information into our systems fast enough so that we could produce offload manifests so that the trailers would turn so that the whole thing flowed. And the easiest solution at the time was to hire somebody who was quite literally a runner.
So, imagine, driver returns home after all their pick ups at the end of the day. They're at the security gate, and the fastest way that we could improve our lot in terms of getting this data, this precious data that told us where all the shipments were going into our system so that way the rest of the team could work with it, the fastest solution for us was to hire somebody, a kid to run from the gatehouse with the drivers stack of bills of lading back to data center to get the data entered. And I thought, "Man, that's crazy. It's crazy that that's a solution." And it's not a judgment statement because it's an example of when you're in this industry, you do what you need to do to meet the customer's needs. This was our solution during peak season, when we simply couldn't keep up with the amount of data entry. And any time savings that we could get, we would do.
It was experiences like that that made me start thinking, "Man, there's got to be better software and technology coming and out there because ... " I'm a millennial. And I was used to having a smartphone that gave me apps that integrated with my banking and/or other things. To have that kind of modern software wasn't common in the industry, and I thought, "I think that there's going to be a change coming. I think that we're going to see newer and better technology in the industry," and I wanted to be a part of it. So I started to reach out within my own network. I got connected with the founders at Rose Rocket. We hit it off. And eventually there was a home for me. And I was the ninth person to join Rose Rocket. It's been really, really exciting to kind of build the software that solves the problems that I know exist and that I had to live with previously.
Michael: So, Rob, going back to your time there, and now with Rose Rocket, give us like three things that you definitely know have impacted you in a positive way whenever you got started with Rose Rocket and to where you're at today with this business.
Rob: I think that I got really lucky in that I ended up in the trucking industry, obviously, but also very lucky that I ended up at a company that gave me the opportunity to sort of solve problems where I saw them. If I saw a problem, whether it be in the billing department, the ops department, I was given the latitude to go in and to try and solve those problems. I think that's number one. And I think, again, like we talked about earlier, there aren't very many industries where that is welcomed, because it is such a team sport. It is such a team sport. So I think that that's the first thing.
And then the second thing would be the opportunity, the exposure I got to customers. I still love learning about completely different industries, not necessarily about trucking, right? Everybody's got something to move. You could be moving clothes to a retail store, and the planning and the process and the considerations that you have to make in that field is maybe similar or very different from if you're moving an MRI machine across the country, or you're having to work with marine logistics people or air logistics people. I think that we said it earlier, you've got to love problem solving, but I think you also need to be very curious because you can't deliver value as a freight broker or a carrier unless you really care intimately about your customer's business.
And so now I'm in the unique position of being able to care about my customer's customer's business but in a way that allows me to build software that is used by a logistics provider, right? So it's one step back, but I get to see even more now. I get introduced to freight brokers that are specialized in refurb, and then I deal with a carrier that does oversized loads or final-mile. That's one of the things that this industry has really given me, the opportunity to be curious and to learn a heck of a lot about not just trucking, not just logistics but the economy, economics. Like I did a degree in economics. Well, I am using that. I am understanding supply and demand more intimately than, I think, a lot of people.
Aaron: You're touching into what your active role is, but we haven't really talked about that. As a Key Account Lead, you came from number nine, so what is your kind of main role and objective at Rose Rocket now?
Rob: Yeah. I mean, it's changed a lot with my time here. So the things I did as employee number nine are different than what they are today, but the spirit I guess is the same, which is interacting with customers, understanding the problems that they're facing and often the value that they want to bring to their customers. That's something that really resonates with all the people that sign up for Rose Rocket. It is that they want to make sure that they've future-proofed their business, and they believe that technology is one of the main pillars if not the pillar in that strategy.
So my job really today is to make sure that the accounts that I deal with and that my team deals with are getting the value from the system that they expect, that they signed up for. And then of course it's a partnership, right? So I think that's ... Not to get too much into the commercials of the way Rose Rocket works, but the nature of our relationships with customers are long term — we're a modern SaaS company, and that means that we have an interest in keeping customers for as long as possible, so that means listening to them from day one and beyond. So my team's main responsibility is making sure the customers are getting value out of the system today and into the future.
Michael: So making sure new customers get value out of your system. What types of questions are you asking freight brokerages and logistics companies? And in return, what question do you hope that they're asking other software providers in their demos?
Rob: So when we ask them, what we're usually very interested in is, "What's your growth strategy?" So we get a prospect on the phone, and we want to talk to them about, obviously, "Why are you calling us?" But what we're really interested in is understanding in many ways what is their growth strategy? The world is changing, and people are asking for more visibility. People are asking, if you work online, "Does your business operate online? Do you have a TMS and ERP that's online that I can connect with, I can connect my ERP, my WMS with?" What we are really interested in at the beginning of our relationship with any prospect is do you believe ... Is part of your growth strategy getting online and being a technology provider yourself in many ways to your customers?
In terms of questions they should ask — ask about integrations. Rose Rocket has many, many point-and-click integrations that allow us to integrate with any of the other systems, cloud-based systems that you might use to solve mission-critical business problems like ELDs or load boards, but also asking about APIs. API was a new acronym for me. I didn't know what the heck it was before joining Rose Rocket, but I know how important it is today to the future-proofing of a business. They're ways that you can take Rose Rocket and connect with other systems.
So let's say Rose Rocket doesn't have an out-of-the-box integration with the thing that you want to integrate with. Maybe you want to hire a developer on your staff to build widgets to add value to your customers. Rose Rocket publishes our APIs. You can go to our website. You can go to roserocket.com, go to the developers page. Again, we're trying to empower our customers with the ability to future-proof their business and to meet their customers where they are, which in this day and age and probably well into the future is online.
Michael: Rob, what are companies doing right now with their software, the ones that you think are moving in the right direction? For listeners that are within freight brokerages and logistics companies, what are the good businesses doing right now, and how are they starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack?
Rob: It's thinking about value, I think, to your customer, but beyond that as well. How can, for example, I as a freight broker deliver value not just to the shipper who might be my customer, but let's say to my customer's customer? A great example of this would be visibility to the status of a shipment to a party that is not necessarily paying for the freight, right? For example, if I order something online, I get a tracking number. But if carrier ABC is delivering it to me ... Let's say I ordered a book — I as the purchaser of the book, I'm not paying for the freight charges per se. I'm not getting an invoice from the carrier that's fulfilling the order, but somebody else is.
And so the idea here is that providing visibility to the status of shipments, as an example, not just to your customer but to your customer's customer is an example of how people are really thinking outside the box, thinking beyond simply the piece that they are handling, right? They are recognizing that they are a part of the, in this case the delivery of a book. And if I can help my customer minimize the number of tracking and trace calls that they receive, I become that much more sticky as a business, right? So, am I a freight broker who simply finds the carrier and then passes the buck so to speak or sits on my hands and says, "That's all I need to do. My job is done," or am I providing visibility to the full length of the order's life? So things like that. I think thinking beyond just simply your part.
Aaron: Rob, one question I wanted to ask was what is the biggest aha moment that Rose Rocket sets freight brokerages up for? Because there's a lot of TMS systems out there. There's free ones. There's paid ones. There's expensive ones. There's ones that you've heard about. There are legacy products. Everybody's got a flashy website these days, so what are the things that Rose Rocket's excited to get somebody on a demo to really be like, "Look at this slam dunk"?
Rob: Yeah. Two things really stand out for a freight broker. One is something called Orderbot. That's a tool that Rose Rocket provides where, say, you've just received a tender from your customer. You've got the classic PDF bill of lading. And what I think most other TMS software would have you do is sort of print that off and type it out. We've got the ability for that person, so the dispatcher, the customer service person, say, to email it to an email address. We have technology that reads ... reads in air quotations here. I'm doing air quotations for anybody who's not watching me. It's reading the paperwork, and it's creating the order for you. So you go from receiving the tender, clicking forward, and then within 10 seconds later when you're in Rose Rocket, the new order appears. That's like magic, right? And that's an example of where we are I think providing a very, very significant opportunity for our customers to free up bandwidth to bring more value to the customer as opposed to doing data entry.
The second thing would be our ability to connect with other logistics providers on our network. So, say you are a freight broker, and you do regular work with another carrier who is also on Rose Rocket. Well, we have the ability, without having to build any sort of integrations or things like that, we have the ability to connect your account with theirs. So that when you get that order via email, let's say, from your customer, and you've sent it off to the Orderbot. It's created the order for you. And you now dispatch that order to a partner carrier who is also on Rose Rocket, that order gets automatically created in their system, and the two are connected, and they're connected in very meaningful ways. So when that carrier dispatches to a driver, and that driver says, "I've picked up the load," and that driver says, "I've delivered the load," and the driver scans the documentation, it flows all the way through as if that freight broker had dispatched that driver themselves. So those are two extremely significant aha moments for brokerages, and I think they're also really good examples of where the industry is going and where strategic leaders think about adding and improving their business.
Michael: If your TMS doesn’t have it, what features should you be asking your TMS provider to provide?
Rob: So, it's not a feature per se. I think it's more a characteristic of the transportation management software, so that would be the ability to have point-and-click integrations. Rose Rocket has an integrations marketplace. If you have an account, you can go to the integrations page, and you basically see this menu of other softwares that we are integrated with. And then all you need to do is sort of point and click, and now the two systems are talking to one another. It's a fundamental characteristic of the platform of the system that you're buying. And the reason why that's important is because people are doing business online. That's the way the world is going. Your customers are going to be asking you to connect with them. If not today, "Call me in a week or two." you will have customers asking you to meet them online. And it's really important that you need a platform that has built in integrations that you can simply turn on, or I mentioned those APIs earlier, the ability to connect with other systems to meet your customers or meet your partner carriers, your vendors where they are.
Michael: So, Rob, just kind of give me an idea of what a brokerage needs to be looking for to position itself for the future. And even though it may not be getting this tech now, when they're ready to pull the trigger what are those things that they've got to look for and have?
Rob: So it's customer portal visibility because that's going to be brass tacks. I use the analogy sometimes — I can order a hamburger on a food app, a food delivery app, and I can watch that thing get picked up and delivered to me. And I've got some other customers, or I've witnessed somebody moving an MRI machine or a museum exhibit or some other really expensive item, and once it starts to move it's in a black box. And that's kind of crazy, right? Like I can see the pad thai or the hamburger get picked up and delivered to me, but I can't see where the MRI machine is. So I think that visibility tools, let's call them, are extremely important. And then to come back to ... I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but it's APIs and being truly online.
I mean, besides those things, I think that it's important that before you start to investigate the transportation management systems ... Because I do these discovery calls and demos very often, and usually there's certain customers, certain prospects that come to us, and they have this list of a thousand things that they need the software to do. They say, "It's got to do these 1,000 things." And those are often very, very important. There's certain things that are definitely brass tacks, but it's also important to create a list of the things that you're anticipating that your customers are going to be asking more of you. And we are a great source. Rose Rocket's a great source even just to talk to. So, what would be on that list? It's APIs. It's integrations with other cloud-based softwares. It's understanding what does the software provider believe about where the industry is going. And we believe that it's going to be a future where collaboration is more common, brokers, carriers being more connected, parties being more connected than they are today.
Rob: Exactly. And that's a common trend too. I'm often on calls with the second or third or fourth generation of a family owned business, and let's say we're from the same demographic. It's the expectations of millennials for software is very different than of previous generations. Where the previous generations might just ... Really what they're asking for is like an Excel spreadsheet on steroids. That's what the previous generation might have expected from their TMS. And today's generation is of course all the bells and whistles but the connectivity that comes with being online. That's I think the biggest difference.
We hope you enjoyed reading some of the highlights of Rob, Aaron, and Michaels conversation! When you have the chance, be sure to listen to the full episode.