Six Tips From Three Experts
It’s no secret that recruiting Owner Operators is harder than ever. By some industry estimates, the total number of Owner Operators in the market is 1/3 what it was just before the recession began in 2008.
Not only that, says CareersInGear.com’s Carol Gibson, Owner Operators are less likely to switch companies now than they were just last year. “Freight’s good for Owner Operators now, so why would they leave—particularly if they’re with companies who took care of them when freight was down?”
Which made me think that now might be a good time to ask a few experts (including yours truly) for specific lessons they’ve learned—either from others, or from experience—in recruiting Owner Operators over the years.
FRANCIS HARE TalkingTruckers.com
1) Don’t underestimate the challenge. You have to invest more to attract Owner Operators than you do to recruit Company Drivers. Particularly if you’re just now entering the Owner Operator market. That starts with developing a powerful brand message that sets you apart from the competition. A message that’s communicated consistently, from your print and online ads to the “talking points” your recruiters use during telephone interviews.
If your brand isn’t well-established, the only way to overcome that disadvantage in the short term is with a truly superior offer, IE: Significantly higher pay or sign-on bonuses; or maybe an especially competitive Lease Purchase program. And don’t even think about recruiting Owner Operators without a solid referral program.
2) Don’t change your message in mid-stream. One of the most important reasons to think through your messaging strategy is because it takes time to establish that message in the market.
Common ad-world wisdom holds that someone has to see your message three times before it sinks in—so if you change your message, it’s like starting over from scratch. Particularly with online job boards—where every content change drops you down the queue in maximizing your job posts’ prominence on the web, and frequent changes will pretty much keep you stuck at the back of the line.
Bottom line: Develop a strong selling message and offer. Then give it enough time to start working. And don’t panic if it doesn’t generate immediate results. You’ll only make the situation worse.
JEFF GRAY Randall Reilly
3) Don’t limit your advertising to one medium. Different generations access information differently. While there’s been a decided movement in spending toward online job boards, Gray notes that the truck driving population is aging. “The youngest Boomers will be 50 by the end of 2014, and studies clearly indicate that older drivers (who are typically not computer savvy) are much more apt to seek job info from print sources.”
4) Don’t under-spend on your ad budget. Gray notes that when Randall launched the Owner Operator Network in 2011, the company committed a huge investment in search advertising to reach Owner Operators. “And remember,” Gray says, “that was two years ago, when the pool of Owner Operators was larger than it is now.”
CLAIBORNE CROMMELIN Baggett Transportation
5) Don’t “sell”. More importantly, don’t over-sell. No company is right for every driver, says Commelin—so it’s important to determine first if there’s a good match between a prospect and your company. “If you try to make an opportunity sound better than it really is, or if you try to place a driver in a position he won’t like, you’ll end-up losing that driver. And you’ll probably hurt your reputation in the process.”
6) Don’t expect to hire drivers on the first call. Hiring Owner Operators is like any business sales cycle, Crommelin notes: It takes multiple contacts. “It’s a process of building a relationship, and mutual trust—and that takes time.” Conversely, Crommelin cautions against hiring drivers who are ready to start work with you immediately. “Whenever we hear from a caller like that, a red flag goes up. And we almost always find-out there’s a good reason we were suspicious in the first place.”