HANDS DOWN, WE’RE ABLE TO DO MORE WITH LESS
“I wish I could have recorded what my boss said once we had it for a little while. He outright says he doesn’t see how you can run a trucking company without Axon. It was pretty neat, because I think we’d been using Axon for six months, a year tops, and that’s when he said that. Around here, we would never go back.”
A & K Enns Trucking Ltd. of Carrot River, SK, hauls grain, fertilizer, and other bulk commodities, as well as operating a fleet of dry vans moving freight throughout much of the US and Canada. General Manager Henry Doerksen spoke with us recently about their Axon Software experience.
I’m Henry Doerksen, General Manager of A & K Enns Trucking Ltd., located in Carrot River, SK.
Were you part of the decision-making process for investing in Axon Software?
Yes I was. I tried for four years to purchase this program—it took me about four years of pestering my boss to buy it.
What was the deciding factor?
I don’t know; maybe they wanted me to go away! [laughter]
But I wish I could have recorded what my boss said once we had it for a little while. He outright says he doesn’t see how you can run a trucking company without Axon. It was pretty neat, because I think we’d been using Axon for six months, a year tops, and that’s when he said that. Around here, we would never go back. If we could go back four years [and do it again], hands down we’d buy it right away.
The problem is that everybody’s a sales guy, right? You cannot necessarily see the value or experience the value until you buy it, but how do you come up with that kind of money and what if a guy’s wrong?
What if it doesn’t make that difference, right? And I mean there’s a pile of products out there that don’t make that difference. So, of course, what happens? People get burned by one or two of them, and when a legitimate one comes along.
I got some demo software from other companies and we tried them all out, had a couple other reps. in and at first, financially, they made more sense, maybe, than Axon.
But when you took what I wanted it to do – because of my accounting background, I was so anal about some of the things I need to know, and I think everybody needs to know – like what the trucks are operating at, the cost per mile.
That’s where Axon did exactly what I had wanted. I wasn’t as worried about what happened on the dispatch side. That was kind of an added bonus and ended up, I think, being what sold the program.
Axon was a lot easier to work with because there weren’t as many steps to get stuff done as some of those programs.
So then you got to see the profitability of each of your trucks?
It was amazing because we’d looked at some of the [unprofitable] lanes we were running, and the question was, ‘Why are we doing this?’ and yet we’d been doing it for two or three years without knowing. You take a look at it, and you’re saying, ‘It’s just no sense us doing this.’
Did Axon Software start saving you money?
Oh yeah. I bet you a return on an investment like this, I would say, is less than a year.
Because it’s so integrated, it doesn’t need the people to sit there [doing data input] so you have better data. Because there’s a chance of a mistake every time anybody’s repeatedly keying stuff in. That really made a difference.
A & K Enns Trucking Ltd. bought out another trucking company, plus we’ve added trucks here since the time we got Axon, but we only have one more staff member. In ’07 we’d have been running 14 to 15 trucks altogether, and we run 40 now.
Yeah, hands down, we’re able to do more with less.
As far as profitability goes, to me, you cannot NOT have Axon.
And I will grant Axon – their support – there’s no other like it. I mean, we call in or email in, and it’s anywhere from two to 10 minutes tops, and at least somebody contacts you. And if they need to hang up and get a little more info, they call you back. We’ve never had to wait. The support there is good.
Out of all the features that Axon Software has, what’s your favorite?
For me, because I do so much on the accounting side, I would say it’s the reporting features – whether it’s the financials, receivables, payables, or the rate per mile on the different trucks, or the equipment statements, you know, that kind of stuff. If I can’t find it, I’ll call in, and they’ll find it for me. I don’t know if there’s a limit to the amount of reports, to what you can do. You go into the reporter, and you start building.
Was it a big change, going to a fully-integrated system, where information only needs to be entered once instead of several times in different programs?
Yes, because we used Simply Accounting, and then I would export my financial data into Excel, and then I would import my miles from IFTA, which was done on Excel – that way I at least got my gross cost per mile. I could never do anything per unit because, in Simply, when you bill your customer, they’re all one lump sum, your trucking income.
You couldn’t do per truck, and that’s what I harped on about for years because I wanted to know cost per truck. So you can just see how cumbersome this all was.
And when you start massaging Excel files you can come up with some pretty odd data because you did it wrong, so then you’ve got to start again.
That’s why I say, my favorite thing is still reporting. The more I think about it, it’s just the number of reports, and the value of those reports, and knowing that they’re accurate.
Moving to a new system can be difficult. How was your experience?
I wouldn’t call it easy. If it hadn’t been for Axon’s training and the support, I don’t know if a guy would make it because the transition is so huge.
But it is something that can easily be done just because of the training and support and how Axon helps during this transition. If they just sold us a product and walked away, there’s no way you could make it.
The key things, that I still think that for me come to mind if somebody asks about using Axon, are that the program is second to none, and the technical support is second to none.
What are the biggest issues that your company is faced with today in your business?
The biggest thing, I’m sure, would be rates. We’re local. The recession had its impact. We had to cut our drivers and fleet. Because of the Axon Software, we could see which lanes made money and which lanes we should close. Axon made it easier to make those decisions. Otherwise we wouldn’t have survived.
In the trucking industry we’re our own worst enemy – once somebody doesn’t have work, it seems like they just figure, ‘Well, I’ll get some work, I’ll just run. At least if I can make the payments and stuff, I’ll be working.’ Then all of a sudden everybody’s cutting rates and competing against each other.
So if you have the software, you actually know where you lose money.
It seems like the rates are always quick to fall and very slow to rise, and you gotta have a very good management team, in this industry, to be able to survive the ups and downs. And that’s where this software comes in. You have to know your numbers.