A Turn-around Story

When Nussbaum Trucking first engaged Trincon in 2001, consolidation in the less-than-truck-load (LTL) carrier segment made profitability an elusive target for small, regional participants. As a result, Nussbaum was already moving away from LTL into the full-load segment.

But, according to President Brent Nussbaum, problems at the 60-year-old family-run operation ran deeper than navigating a major transition.

“Back then we were doing the majority of our dispatch, billing and accounts receivable work by hand,” says Nussbaum. “ We were literally writing orders on cards and passing them to the dispatcher. We were dispatching by hand, moving the paper cards around on a rack.”

In addition, he said, the company needed a new pay system for its drivers, improved billing and much more sophisticated information technology.

Most important, the company needed to return to profitability, said Nussbaum.

“Duff (Trincon President Duff Swain) convinced us we needed a new office computer package,” said Nussbaum. “He helped us work on a brand new pay system for our drivers. They had been paid a percentage of revenue. He helped us work through a pay-by-the-mile plan.

“But, the big thing Duff helped us with was our costing model,” added Nussbaum. “He sat down with our CFO and literally worked out our costs on a per-mile basis. If it was this many miles from Chicago to St. Louis, this is how we would need to price that freight in order to make a profit.

“We set like 40 different metrics in place so we can see on a day-to-day basis how we are operating. The software we now use tells us exactly how we are operating — our revenue per mile, our deadhead, the percentage of brokerage, revenue per day, miles per day, miles per driver. If something is not right we see it almost immediately instead of at the end of the month.”

As a result, said Nussbaum, “We went from operating at a loss to almost doubling our profits every year for the last three years. We are in the fourth year of doubling our profits.”

Nussbaum Trucking was founded by Alden Nussbaum, Brent Nussbaum’s father, in 1945. The company now employs 175 people and operates 150 trucks.

“Working with us was probably slightly challenging for Duff because we are not like every other company,” said Nussbaum. “We have a family culture here and we are a Christian company. We hire first for character and that is extremely important to us.”

The Nussbaum president noted he especially appreciated Trincon’s individualized approach.

“Part of it is that Duff kept challenging us to be better. A lot of consultants do come in with canned approaches and I won’t say Trincon’s isn’t somewhat canned. But Duff will come in and assess where you are and he will say this will work while you are this size of a company, but you will have to change it when you get this much bigger.

“I don’t use everything he brings to the table because not everything is applicable to our business, but what he does bring to the table always challenges us to make sure that we’ve thought through every decision. We’ve really become good at thinking things out.

“I can’t attribute everything that has happened here to Trincon, but I can attribute a lot to the company. I often kid Duff that we were one of the fun companies to work with because there was so much that needed to be fixed.”