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IT Mag - JulyAugust - One Horn Trans


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IT Mag - JulyAugust - One Horn Trans

  1. 1. BY LARRY HURRLE, EDITOR Automation SensationHowautomationhelpedabrokerage thriveinthemidstofarecession In the mid-2000s, life looked good in the United States. Housing markets were strong, interest rates were down and the economy was booming. Then, in 2007, a marked decline in the global economy began. The housing bubble burst and caused values of securities tied to the U.S. real estate pricing to plummet and damaged the financial institution globally. A sharp downward turn in September 2008 plunged the world into the Great Recession. It was a difficult time that saw many businesses fail. It was not a time to think about growing a business. For Louis and Cheryl Biron, though, the difficult economic times forced them to innovate. Economically, what became a nail in the coffin for many businesses, became the cloud with a silver lining for the Birons. 20 IT MAGAZINE July/August 2013
  2. 2. In 2005, the Birons purchased the assets of a trucking company and began to reinvent the business. A month after purchasing the business, they began creating a brokerage company. In the two years following, the couple worked on changing from a trucking company, One Horn Trucking, to the brokerage, One Horn Transportation, and with the slowing of the economy, they began look at how they could save money. “Technology-wise, it was a great angle the way we ran the company during that point in time,” One Horn Transportation CEO Cheryl Biron says. “Louis automated every process and we never had to hire new people. In the ‘07 to 2010 timeframe, we didn’t hire anybody and we refined our processes.” In order to do that, the Birons set a plan in motion to become completely automated. “We had carriers who were calling us within days of sending their invoices to check payments status and which was eating up our time,” Cheryl Biron says. “It was a complete waste of our time, because we always pay our invoices on time. You do not want to spend money to do something that is a waste of time. You want to automate it.” A software package written by Louis Biron, One Horn Transportation’s chief operating officer and Cheryl Biron’s husband/ business partner, allowed the company to take normally long, arduous processes and shorten them by going to a paperless system. “So now with a click of a button, when we receive carrier invoices,” Cheryl Biron says, “A fax goes to the carrier and tells them how much they are getting paid and when they are getting paid. It cuts down on calls. It’s all automated, click, click, click.” “We used to receive faxes from customers,” Louis Biron says. “Our first function was an image viewer to bring the image to the screen. That saved a couple hours a day. Now we’re working on making our billing totally efficient. Internally, we’re totally paperless.” Louis Biron says they set goals. “If we used to get 10 things done in a day, we would automate so we could get 20 things done in a day. Then 30 things. We keep automating ahead of the need.” Automation was important for One Horn Transportation because its headquarters, located in Wayne, N.J., consisted of just three employees: Cheryl Biron, Louis Biron and another employee. Being able to accomplish more in less time was key to the operation. “We have a saying that before you give a task away, you automate the heck out of it,” Louis Biron said. “Once you give that task to someone, it becomes their livelihood.” And through their automation, One Horn Transportation found its niche. Doing more, in less time, allowed the company to begin taking on agents and become an agent-based brokerage. “Originally, we didn’t want to do the agent-based model,” Cheryl Biron says. “Because agents could come with a book of business and leave with a book of business. “In a moment of epiphany we had — our tipping point — we said we have to make it so attractive to be with One Horn that people will not want to leave. “Now we love the agent- based model. As an agent- based company vs. a trucking company, we have an advantage. If a truck falls off a load, we can get another one right away. It’s kind of like a virtual trucking company: We don’t own any trucks, but we’re doing a trucking business. We don’t need sales territories anymore. Just because we live in New Jersey doesn’t mean we can’t have customers in California.” Cheryl Biron says One Horn has a data base of 30,000 to 40,000 trucks, and though they don’t use them all (some they use regularly and others depending on customer needs) having all of the trucks allows them to make sure loads get where they need to go. “We get goods where we need to get them,” Cheryl Biron says. “That’s what we’re all about.” One Horn is now nearing 25 agents that work for the company across the nation. Many of those agents, too, have sub agents. One Horn boasts agents in Wisconsin, Florida, Colorado, Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio. “Our agents spontaneously refer to our company as the One Horn family,” Cheryl Biron says. “We wanted to create a company where people were happy to come to work, not the cutthroat July/August 2013 TRUCKSTOP.COM 21
  3. 3. corporate environments we experienced prior to becoming entrepreneurs. People matter to us and we give them a lot of attention. We like to take care of our agents.” Both Cheryl and Louis Biron hold a Master of Business Administration degree and both have been involved in the corporate world. Because of that background, the Birons wanted to approach more corporate customers when it came to their business. “We talk the language and know what they want,” Cheryl Biron said. “We were very demanding when we were customers. We used to be the client. We know things go wrong. We want to be proactive and completely transparent in that sense.” That is what sets One Horn Transportation apart from other brokers, Cheryl Biron says. “We treat people like we want to be treated,” she says. “We tell the truth and cater to what they need.” Being up front, she says, is the key to making the company successful. For instance, Cheryl Biron says, if a truck is going to be late, they call the customer and tell them. “We view our personal role as serving the agents and the agents serve the customer,” Cheryl Biron says. “We’ve changed our mindset to what can we do to make the agents’ lives better and easier with One Horn. We give them as many resources as possible.” The same holds true for the carriers, Cheryl Biron says. “We have great respect for the industry. We offer quick pay and cater to the carriers as well. They are an important part (of One Horn) too.” Caring for the customer, the agents and the carriers is what has made One Horn Transportation popular. “People are happy to be associated with us and we continue to grow,” Cheryl Biron says. And the growth shows. One Horn Transportation was recently listed among the top 50 fastest-growing women- owned or led companies in North America by The Women Presidents’ Organization. It is the second time One Horn Transportation has been on the list, this year coming in at No. 49. “We’re very excited about it,” Cheryl Biron says. “It’s good for us because we are recruiting agents. Our major plan is to enact an accelerator program and hire high potential, entrepreneurial agents who are good at sales. They don’t have to worry about the back office side because we have taken care of that.” Louis Biron’s STRATEBO (Strategic Back Office Systems) program allows agents to work through One Horn’s main office with seamless effort. That became evident in October of 2012, when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast. “Our phone system is in the Cloud and our fax is in the Cloud,” Louis Biron says. “When we had Hurricane Sandy, we never did anything to the business, even though we were out of power. Everything was in the Cloud. We ran the personal computers with a generator and the internet through the phone.” Technology proved to be a pivotal point for One Horn Transportation in the face of natural disaster. “Years ago, all our servers were in the office,” Louis Biron says. “It would have been a nightmare. Now, even though we were not working, the agents saw no difference. It was a nuisance that we didn’t have power, but that was it.” Cheryl Biron, CEO, and Louis Biron, COO, of One Horn Transportation Technology provedtobea pivotalpoint forOneHorn Transportation intheface ofnatural disaster. 22 IT MAGAZINE July/August 2013