For Matrix Inc., a non-asset motor carrier based on the outskirts of Chicago, business is built on relationships.
That starts with forging strong working relationships with its 80 owner-operators, who are rigorously vetted and selected before joining the fleet — but who are also treated to individualized load planning and assigned a dedicated fleet manager as part of a small team. “This way we can personalize our communication and make sure their needs are met,” said Geno Roussev, operations director at Matrix.
Admittedly, he says, these relationships take some nurturing. “Every owner-operator has different demands,” he said. “Whatever they say they prefer for home time, geography, loads — that’s the guide for their manager. We’re at the service of our owner-operators, and we’re very considerate of their demands. They’re the boss.”
Matrix’s focus on relationships also extends beyond its four walls. The carrier strives to find and build productive and effective relationships with its broker partners, too. “To me, every relationship is important, with all of our brokers out there,” said Roussev. “I try to be on good terms with everybody. If something goes wrong, I immediately try to jump in and smooth any hiccups.”
The trouble, however, is finding and maintaining relationships in which both parties reciprocate. Of the dozens of freight brokerages and third-party logistics providers that Matrix works with, including some of the biggest names in the industry, there’s one relationship the company puts a particular focus on maintaining and serving.
In a crowded and growing field of brokerage providers, Circle Logistics stands out.
“They’re just on a different level,” said Kristiyan Hristov, Operations Assistant for Matrix. “When we run Circle loads, we really feel like we’re on the same team, even though we’re two different companies.”
It’s through building these strategic carrier partnerships that Circle Logistics has sought to stabilize and mitigate the ongoing capacity crises plaguing many shippers and brokers. With the relationships and network Circle has developed with its carriers, the company offers a commitment to no-fail service on each and every load for its shipper partners.
“Matrix treats our customers like their own, and that’s the type of network of carriers we strive to maintain,” said Michael Zerbes, Sales Director at Circle Logistics’ Phoenix office.
“Both Matrix and Circle value and appreciate what the other brings to the table,” he said. “Going through the ups and downs of transportation day in and day out builds a natural bond and a working relationship that only fosters more trust and more loads. They take care of their trucks, and they take care of their owner-operators. They don’t fail loads for us or flake at the last minute.”
Cultivating these relationships and access to capacity for its shippers starts with Circle’s fast response times and emphasis on proactive communication, and extends to offering competitive per-mile rates across their lanes. “We know the rates are going to be good and fair,” said Hristov. “Every load we see come through from Circle, we reach out immediately, no matter what the case is, to see if we can book it.”
Matrix runs about three to five loads of hazardous materials — mostly chicken manure used as fertilizer — for Circle each week, the latest in a relationship ongoing for more than seven years. Beyond the good freight and rates opportunities, “their communication is just outstanding,” Hristov said. “That’s the most important thing. Whenever we have any issues, they work with us immediately to start solving problems as they arise. With other brokers, it’s crazy sometimes how long it takes for them to respond to a simple phone call or email.”
“We work hard on these relationships so that we can make service our No. 1 focus and offer that commitment of no-fail service to our shippers,” said Cory Petersen, Managing Director at Circle Logistics’ Phoenix office. “We don’t like to trust our customers’ freight to random carriers we don’t know. Service to our shippers starts with service to our carriers — and we create an environment where all parties succeed and win.”