Delivering Better Solutions. Client Interview: Greg Mulder

What’s the biggest perk of being a business coach?

That’s easy. Meeting amazing leaders who inspire me with their skills, vision, and character. It’s an enormous privilege that I get to enjoy over and over. The icing on the cake is that I get to actually help these successful leaders become even more successful through the StratOp process.

This post is part of my every-now-and-then series of client interviews to introduce you to some of these outstanding people. I give them each a set of questions, then let the chips fall, good or bad. Hopefully, we’ll all learn and grow by considering their responses.

In this edition, I interview Greg Mulder, one of the owners of Mulder Holding Company, a transportation company. I’ve had the pleasure of working with this vibrant Holland-based company for about four years. Here’s Greg’s feedback (edited for clarity) …

How did it all begin?

50 years ago, my grandfather, Art Mulder, started hauling cattle with a box truck to local sellers and buyers. Five years later, he bought his first semi and began shipping bailed hay. Basically, he was a farmer with a dream.

You’ve grown a bit since 1971.

It’s been quite a ride. Today, Mulder Holding Company is a leading provider in refrigerated transportation logistics, brokerage services, and truck leasing. Currently, we have a fleet of 40 trucks, 100 refrigerated trailers, and a team of 125 full and part-time employees.

Are your core values still the same?
Three generations of hard work and shared values have shaped our business model. We still try to live out our original Mission Statement with every job: “To be faithful stewards of the business God has given us by serving with integrity and exceeding the expectations of our customers, carriers, vendors, and co-workers.”

How would you describe your company?
We’re a full-service logistics company. Our main focus on the transportation side is temperature-controlled LTL shipping. (LTL means “less than load” — a shipper pays only for the portion of a truck trailer that their freight occupies, while other shippers fill the unoccupied space.) Our main customer base is food manufacturers. We also offer equipment leasing and service. We pride ourselves on an exceptionally high level of service to customers and vendors.

Several years ago, you and your team decided to embark on a formal strategic planning process. What prompted that?
Historically, we had always made big and small decisions at the ownership level. For us, that meant five Mulder family members from two generations. To help us expand, we brought in our first non-family executive, fully empowered to participate in high-level decisions with the owners. As an outsider, he saw our weaknesses when it came to long-term planning and casting vision — and pushed us to look at a more formal process.

Why did you select the StratOp process?
The idea of getting outside help on formalizing our strategic planning was a brand-new concept to us. Jay understood this. The stories, examples, and references he provided during the interview process were very convincing. The fact that the Paterson Group (creators of StratOp) had been doing this for so long, and had a fine-tuned process, helped confirm our decision.

What difference has using StratOp made with your team?
It’s helped us shorten our decision-making process. It’s also given us clarity in determining which important tasks we need to focus on. We used to get so overwhelmed with the seemingly endless areas in the business that demanded our attention. Using StratOp, we’ve been able to isolate and prioritize tasks within any given timeframe and work on those specifically.

How has engaging with StratOp affected your leadership?
It has given our company a more well-defined organizational structure. This clarification is now empowering other leaders at all levels within our company to be more effective. And it has allowed me to spend more time developing and pouring into our current and future leaders. I like to say it’s allowed me to work more on the business and less in the business.

What’s one thing that StratOp did that you didn’t expect?
It’s accelerated the delegation of key leadership roles to non-family members. We have already been able to incorporate several other managers in the organization into the process. We are now to the point that most of our Action Initiatives are led by someone outside the family. Before we started with StratOp, I didn’t think this would have been possible.

Can you share a story on how implementing StratOp was a challenge?
Honestly, in the beginning, I struggled with the time commitment it would take. I was so deeply entrenched in the day-to-day operations, that I couldn’t see myself being able to pull away for one or two days of meetings. But I took a leap of faith and jumped in. We ran the first StratOp sessions, and (surprise!) things held together in operations. Looking back, I can see that committing to those meetings was really the beginning of empowering others in the organization to step up and lead.

After managing the company with StratOp for a few years, what would you say is your number one takeaway?
Focusing on the next 90 days between each quarterly meeting has allowed us to move mountains over the last four years. Learning to zero in on what’s most important seems easy, but most businesses never learn how.

What advice would you give small and midsized business owners with regard to strategic planning?
You will never regret the time and resources you put towards it. In the “fog of war,” it is so hard to step outside of the day-to-day grind and see the big picture of your business. Taking the time to pull back, get a fresh perspective, and work on it strategically with a good StratOp facilitator will make all the difference in the world. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner.

Any final thoughts?
Get a coach who shares your vision and values. Jay Hidalgo is a high integrity guy who’s become a trusted guide — with a belief system that’s compatible to ours. At Mulder Holding, we’re dedicated to serving others and developing long-term relationships with our clients. That’s Jay’s philosophy, too. Make sure you’re on the same page as your advisor.

Closing the loop.
Many thanks to Greg Mulder! And to you for taking time to read this client interview. Watch this blog for more leaders and entrepreneurs to step up and share their candid thoughts going forward.

And if you’re wondering how strategic planning can make an impact on your business, I’d be honored to share with you what I’ve learned. Feel free to contact me, and we can talk more about the rewards and challenges of implementing StratOp at your organization.