John Brockmeier is a veteran of the industry. With 30 years of experience in transportation and operations management, his wealth of knowledge and skills have helped to build superior teams that support Milestone Trailer Leasing’s comprehensive national network.
Brockmeier shares how he get got started, what urgent issues face the industry, and the secret to good leadership.
Tell us about your role as Director of Operations at Milestone Trailer Leasing. What are your responsibilities?
My responsibility is to oversee all the branches in our national network. I make sure our branches are keeping track of inventory and processing their purchase orders and I also do all of the auditing. I go through every branch, examine their paperwork and make sure everything is going smoothly. We have over 25 locations across the US, so I do a lot of traveling. At the end of 2017, I was traveling almost every week.
How did you get started in this industry?
I started in this industry in 1987 with AJF Trailer Leasing. My advisor from college had connections with the company and encouraged me to start my career there. I went to Chicago and worked there for four months, then moved to Louisville, Kentucky, then worked for the AJF branch in St. Louis. Later, I transferred to AJF corporate headquarters when they started a 24-hour road service. There were a lot of changes in the coming years – AJF merged with XTRA Lease until 1997, then went to Fruehauf Trailer Services from 2000 to 2003. They sold that division to Aurora Trailer Leasing, then sold to Milestone, which I joined in February of 2012.
The best thing about your job?
What I like about it is that every day will be different. I don’t know what’s going to be happening, what will unfold. It’s kind of fun. You walk into the day thinking, “What’s going to be the new problem that needs to be solved?”
Also, I enjoy interacting with our team. I like giving them ideas that I’ve used over the years and watching them apply it to their professional lives. One example of this is a trip I made to one of our branches in Chicago. I had completed an audit and unfortunately the personnel received a D rating. I watched the two employees take my ideas, reinforce what we needed to do and they went from a D rating in 2012 to an A in 2017.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I’ve been in this industry for 30 years. Coming to work for Milestone has been the highlight. XTRA is the big gorilla in this industry, but I wanted to be in a culture that felt more personalized. At Aurora, it was more accounting driven, if a deal wouldn’t work in their structure they just wouldn’t do it. But at Milestone, if a deal comes us and no matter how goofy it is, we will try to figure out how to make it work. I’ve been very happy to be here and figure out how to serve our customers. Watching these deals happen gives me my greatest sense of accomplishment.
Urgent Issues Facing the Industry
What are the most urgent issues facing the industry right now?
The lack of good drivers. There’s a general lack of accountability and caring about your equipment. I’ve been in this industry for 30 years now. If a driver has a light out, he would replace it. But now they call in for service and get it repaired for them. There’s just not enough quality drivers in the industry.
How is Milestone addressing those challenges?
We can’t recruit drivers for our customers but we can give them better trailers so their drivers don’t tear them up so badly.
Tell us your thoughts about leadership. What do you look for when building a team?
Good communication. From my standpoint, the ideas we put into place get clearly communicated to our field personnel. From there, if they don’t understand something, they need to communicate back with us, and make sure they are totally understanding what is expected of them. The key to a whole team is communications up to down and down back up.
Ahead of the Competition
What sets Milestone apart from the competition?
We are easier to work with than our competition. That is the long and short of it. Compared to other companies, and I’ve worked at a lot of them, they’re not even close.
What is the key to superior customer service?
Number one the people who are willing to do the things not during normal business hours. To make the customer happy. Of our two national accounts, FleetNet and Goodyear, drivers who break down can call into one centralized number to get help. Both vendors have my cell phone number. It’s all about accessibility. It’s a 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year kind of working relationship. I never turn my cell phone off. I’ll take the call.