Often, people will make comments about how critical their work is to a company. Well, theyre right! Everyone within a firm is a critical component of keeping and main-taining clients. Shipping and distribution is no exception. How-ever, in many cases, shipping managers function in a tactical role instead of a strategic one, shortchanging the firm and its customers.

Shipping and distribution are just as important as sales and marketing or accounting and finance. Sales can sell all day long, but if a firm delivers damaged merchandise, clients dont return. To make yourself and your company as strong and as successful as possible, your role is to move yourself high enough up the company structure mentally to make the shift to thinking about things strategically. By doing so, you will make yourself an integral part of your companys success.

The shipping department can make all the difference in the long-term success of a business from sales to client retention. Yes, the product thats being delivered is important. However, so is the strategic selection of vendors, the type of packaging materials used, the size of the containers, and the colors and imprint on the boxes. If youre not part of these types of decisions and processes, youre not strategic.

Heres what you can do to become more strategic in your everyday job:

1. Ask to be invited to product-selection meetings or strategy sessions that involve, at any point in the process, the use of shipping or distribution assets.

2. Consider more than your internal process; look at the specific NEEDS of the client. Literally ask yourself what would the ultimate product shipping and distribution act like moving from your firm to theirs. (You should have a few ideas already.)

3. Re-evaluate your current process by shipping something to yourself and then watching it go through the steps. Remember, you might deal with 20,000 boxes per month, yet your clients might only get three.

4. Ask your clients what are you doing right? What do they want you to modify or stop doing altogether? What is your competition doing that they would like to see you doing? This is where youll find some great answers. (Be sure you heed the advice! Denial makes an exercise like this a futile one.) Besides, they will be surprised hearing from you versus the salesperson for a change.

David and Lorrie Goldsmith are managing partners of MetaMatrix Consulting Group, LLC. Their firm offers strategic consulting and speaking services, as well as conducts seminars on management. They can be reached at 315-682-3157.