Badger football, workplace fun keep BCP Transportation miles ahead of competition
The following is the fifth in a series of stories on the 2014 Dane County Small Business Award winners. Our previous installments in this series can be found at the following links: Tweedee Productions, Berntsen International, Banzo, and JP Hair Design.
If you want proof that Deerfield’s BCP Transportation is not your average trucking company, all you have to do is call the business’s main number any time, day or night.
When you do, you’ll be treated to one of the oddest outgoing voicemail messages you’ll ever hear:
Hello, and thank you for calling BCP
For dispatch, press 1
For the warehouse, press 3
For safety and compliance, press 4
For directions, press 5
For the duck quacking, press 6
For accounts receivable, press 7 …
And what happens when you press “6”? Well, that’s the $64,000 question, and the answer is right at your fingertips.
“People are so funny,” said Nancy Spelsberg, president, co-owner, and co-founder of BCP. “They’ll say, ‘What happens if you hit it?’ Well, hit it! If you hit it, it’s just a duck quacking. And they say, ‘Well, why?’ And my question is, ‘Why not?’”
“I always tell people you might come in the office and hear us all laughing hysterically, but don’t think that we aren’t getting a lot of stuff done, because we are working our butts off.” — Nancy Spelsberg, president, BCP Transportation
It’s the same question that seems to inspire much of BCP’s business philosophy. And it’s the same question Spelsberg asked when the opportunity arose for BCP to become the official trucking company of the UW football team. The company’s partners talked about bidding on the contract, but on the surface at least, it didn’t appear to be a great fit. For one thing, BCP is more of a business-to-business, dock-to-dock hauler, and the UW job required something more akin to a moving truck.
“One of the other owners here said, ‘Why would we want to do that?’ And I said, ‘Why not? Because it’s cool!’” said Spelsberg. “It’s not like we’ll make money — it’s not the moneymaker by any means — but our employees were really getting excited about it, and just for that alone, it’s a pretty neat thing.”
On that score, BCP’s relationship with the UW has paid almost endless dividends. Strictly speaking, the company actually loses a little bit of money on the UW contract (which Spelsberg, an alumna of both the university’s industrial engineering and MBA programs, regards as a donation), but it’s been a boon for employee morale.
For one thing, the truck that BCP has set aside especially for hauling UW football equipment has turned out to be ideal for tailgating as well, and that’s made BCP a much more rewarding (and fun) place to work for its Badgerland drivers and staff.
“We bring the [truck and trailer] down there on Friday night and it’s there all day Saturday, and then we have a driver remove it Saturday after the game and then bring it back for storage,” said Spelsberg. “So they said, ‘If you guys want to go and tailgate there, you’re more than welcome to. So we load up a grill in the back, some coolers, and then we get the burgers and brats and all that stuff, and we’re able to open the trailer, roll the stuff out, and just have a tailgate party right at the side of the trailer.”
For BCP, which recently won a Dane County Small Business Award (which recognizes local companies for their community contributions and positive workplace environments), inviting employees to a splashy, jumbo-sized tailgate party is a team-building opportunity like none other. But what Spelsberg ultimately discovered is that the UW contract has set her company apart in other ways as well.
“This is something I did not anticipate; I think it gives us some more credibility,” said Spelsberg. “There are tens of thousands of trucking companies out there. How do you differentiate yourself from everybody else? So for one thing, we’re women-owned. But also, I think [the UW contract] lets people know we are substantial, we are reliable. Obviously, this university system has enough faith in us.
“So we put it all over our webpage, because I think a lot of people, whether they’re from Wisconsin or not, will call and ask questions, even if they’re customers in other states. They find it interesting and valid, and so I think it has actually helped us differentiate ourselves from our competitors and be more respected.”
An employee focus
Another thing that differentiates BCP is its status as a state-certified woman-owned company. That may make BCP a bit of a, well, odd duck in the testosterone-and-diesel-fueled trucking world, but Spelsberg tends to shrug it off.
“It’s been interesting, because in the trucking world, they seem to have a bit of a fascination with it,” said Spelsberg, who notes that BCP has been written up in the female-focused trucking publication 18 Wheels & Heels. “They seem to be fascinated by the fact that there’s this woman running this trucking company, and I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but if it gives us more publicity, great. From my standpoint, I’m not consumed by it or preoccupied by it. If it helps us, that’s good. But otherwise, it’s business, and business pretty much is the same everywhere. You’ve got to watch your numbers, and you’ve got to treat people right.”
Treating people right has been a key focus of Spelsberg and her partners since they purchased the former Badger Custom Pallet Inc. in April 2011 and converted it to a for-hire carrier.
Despite launching the refitted company in what was still a fairly challenging business environment, BCP’s fleet has grown from six trucks and 15 trailers to 80 trucks and 200 trailers. In the meantime, its workforce has grown nearly as fast.
Part of the secret to its success, says Spelsberg, is its dedication to its employees. For one thing, the company has made a commitment to pay its workers in the top five percentile of trucking firms.
“We covet a positive working environment, and our thing is, if you treat people right, they will give that back to you tenfold,” said Spelsberg. “It’s amazing to me to hear some of these stories about how businesses in some cases don’t treat their employees right, whether it be a specific manager or the company itself. It’s so silly. It’s just one of the simplest things, and it really isn’t an expensive thing to do.
“Whether it’s being flexible so a mother or father can go see their kid’s concert at 1 o’clock in the afternoon or come in late because they want to see their kid off to school, that doesn’t cost me anything. Why would you say no to that? And yet I hear stories from people who say, ‘I could never do that at my last company.’ Oh, my gosh, that’s just silly.”
Of course, that courtesy extends to drivers, who do what Spelsberg describes as extremely difficult, often lonely work.
“A lot of our growth [with respect to drivers] has been word of mouth — so we have a driver and he has a buddy over here, and he starts talking about us. And I can’t say how many times I’ve heard, ‘Wow, you really treat us like we’re human,’” said Spelsberg. “Like we’re human? Are you kidding me? And here I might be talking to a Vietnam veteran, and someone dare treat you like you weren’t human? It just makes you sick.”
Spelsberg sees some challenges on the horizon. For one, the aging workforce is a big issue when it comes to truck drivers, and the situation could get worse if and when government regulations require drivers to log their hours electronically — something Spelsberg sees as inevitable and likely to bring unintended consequences that could discourage many older drivers.
At the same time, BCP appears set up for the kind of success that should keep a smile on everyone’s face, from ownership to management to the drivers on the road.
Then again, just because you might hear a stray duck quacking when you’re not expecting it, that doesn’t mean serious work isn’t getting done.
“I always tell people you might come in the office and hear us all laughing hysterically,” said Spelsberg, “but don’t think that we aren’t getting a lot of stuff done, because we are working our butts off. We just choose to have a good time while doing it.”
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