It is my firm conviction that everything boils down to a matter of perception. Take a half a glass of water, by way of example. An optimist thinks the glass is half full. A pessimist thinks the glass is half empty. A pragmatist thinks he is halfway to the next drink. A defeatist thinks if he sticks around, he'll have to wash the glass.

The point of view of your customers and drivers — their perception — is what matters, never yours.

The challenge for today and tomorrow is to constantly dazzle both customers and drivers. That's the fundamental way to create genuine value, clearly differentiate your company from the competition, and build solid relationships, loyalty and referrals, all of which contribute to a continuing profit cycle.

A strong foundation for achieving this is management of drivers' and customers' perceptions. And when it comes to creating impressions, it's the little things that make a big difference.

Many companies seem to understand this concept when it comes to their customers, but not with regard to their drivers.

While visiting a refrigerated trucking company, I made a trip to the drivers' bathroom. Upon entering, I immediately saw that it was no comfort station. It obviously hadn't been cleaned in recent history. Worse still: There was no toilet paper. (I decided I could wait after all.)

Imagine what goes through a driver's mind when he enters such a discomfort station.

Your latest company communication to drivers discussed the importance of professionalism, treating customers with the upmost respect with each and every delivery, and taking care of the equipment. It emphasized that your drivers are valuable contributors to your operation.

A driver returns from a grueling day of deliveries. He heads to the drivers' bathroom to wash up before completing his paperwork. What do you think happens to his perception of your organization when he steps into a dirty, necessities-lacking restroom?

So much for the preaching in that driver communication.

I'm not recommending you start cleaning lavatories. But how difficult is it to make sure restrooms, as well as all driver areas, are kept clean and replenished with toilet paper, hand towels, soap, and other provisions?

I am suggesting that you pay attention to the details, and always look at things — especially the little things — from your drivers' point of view.

Competition being what it is nowadays, it's those little things that make a substantial difference. Consider the effect on your company's bottom line from disgruntled drivers who abuse equipment, are far from fuel-economy conscious, aren't concerned with pickup and delivery schedules, and bad-mouth your company with every chance they get.

One of the biggest differentiators of them all is the driver's perception of things. You can control that.

Help your drivers have the “right” impressions of your organization. That goes a long way to having more committed drivers. Committed drivers are more willing to go beyond what their duties are.

Greater effort produces an increase in individual performance, and that positively impacts the bottom line. An increase in individual performance, in turn, goes a long way to helping companies endure the weak market conditions.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.