The Week's Features
Towman hit on I-41 in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, Jan. 11.
Homemade wrecker promotes pride of ownership
Dual operating box, other features standout on new carrier
Author of book on towman highway memorials up for Viola Award
Tractor-trailer with an 80,000-lbs. concrete beam rolled-over
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Defensive Pessimism

handshake Mgmt 19bacBy Don Archer

In an article entitled "How to Instantly Increase Your Bargaining Power In Any Negotiation," author Al Pittampalli writes about developing his personal negotiating skills, including a story about car hunting with his father when he was 16 and his unreasonable desire for a 1994 Buick Skylark.

Pittampalli loved everything about the car, but didn't have enough money to buy it. So he started out by asking the seller to come down on the price. Seeing how bad the young man wanted it, the seller quickly refused. The teenager was devastated, and asked his dad to loan him the money. His dad didn't, but helped him in another way.

His dad told him to go back to the seller of the Buick, but focus on the worst-case scenario: Not being able to buy the Buick.

"Picture yourself driving the Honda and listening to that sound system," his father said.

With this picture in mind, Pittampalli went back to the seller and confidently asked him to lower the price. Seeing a difference in the young man, the seller gave in as he realized he could sell the car today or lose a willing buyer. He got the car for 20-percent less than the asking price.

Pittampalli explains he was able to do this by using what's called defensive pessimism. Defensive pessimism is embracing the worst-case scenario and mentally rehearsing how it is you would cope if it were to happen. It gives you the power to walk away from any negotiation.

Let's take a look at how it could be used when dealing with employees.

Picture two people sitting at a negotiating table going over a written agreement. On the one side you have the employer, and what he wants is fairly simple. He wants someone who knows what they're doing to do the work.

On the other side of the table sits the hopeful employee. He looks over the agreement and thinks about what he wants from the relationship. His needs are simple as well. He wants to know exactly what will be expected of him and to know that he'll be paid, per the agreed rates.

Sometimes, however, the relationship breaks down and an employee fails to follow through on certain aspects of the agreement. In the process of deciding how to respond, many possible scenarios run through the employer's head.

He starts asking questions like:
"Is the employee's failure in this one area acceptable?"
"Will correcting the employee bring about the desired result?"
"Do I have the manpower necessary to continue providing seamless service should a separation occur?"

The problem starts when the employer questions whether or not this bad behavior is something that can be lived with. In doing so, he begins the descent into accepting less than what he's negotiated for.

How could defensive pessimism be used to resolve the matter?

1. Take care of your business first.
Your business must come first; everything else is ancillary. When a situation occurs where an employee correction is needed, you must be able to walk away from the negotiating table and start over. Everyone involved in the business is either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. You must practice tough love.

2. You must keep a clear picture in your mind of your ideal employee.
Although perfection may seem illusory, your ideal employee is out there. Your job is to find them or create them, and fill your business with these high-quality people. Create a beautiful picture in your mind of your perfect employee and hold it there throughout the conversation. If you must, try picturing yourself going back to the negotiation table with someone new if nothing is resolved.

3. Don't trash the existing relationship if it's good.
The point of the story of Pittampalli and the Buick was that he was able to get what he wanted: the car at his price. Unless the relationship is beyond repair, your goal is to use defensive pessimism to help get the employee back on track by keeping your bargaining power.

4. Do it early.
The longer an employee is allowed to continue doing the unacceptable behavior, the more he'll believe that the behavior is acceptable. If left unchecked, it will snowball, making corrections much more difficult.

To many, defensive pessimism may seem like the "my way or the highway" approach. But rather than causing you to concentrate on what you can't get, it forces you to look at what's really great about the alternatives and it keeps you focused on the bigger picture.

Don G. Archer and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, MO. Don is also multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Want to learn more email him direct at

Event Data Recorders

event-data-recorder edr-03 174aaBy Brian J. Riker

Event data recorders are becoming standard equipment in many large fleets, yet they should have a place in every fleet. It isn't that we can't trust our drivers—we can—but we need to be able to defend their actions. Good drivers are valuable assets; as progressive employers, we must do everything we can to mentor, support and keep these folks employed.

Video image is impartial. Video data with reliable GPS location, speed and acceleration data can paint a clear picture of responsibility—a picture that can save you thousands in false liability claims.

How did your driver react? Were they paying attention? Did they do everything they could to avoid the collision? These are all questions that will be raised during an accident investigation. It is better to have concrete evidence on your side to support your position.

What if your driver's performance is not up to par? Event data recorders are excellent coaching devices when paired with a competent, respectful and compassionate mentor.

It costs several thousand dollars to hire and train a new employee, so why wouldn't you want to spend some of that money on retention and coaching? It is far less costly to coach an existing employee than to hire a new one ... who may have the same or even worse behaviors.

Drivers, this technology is not for your boss to spy on you or babysit you. You are a professional; they know that. This technology is intended to make you even better—more professional—and to defend you from wrongful claims. It's "game-day footage:" the professional athletes review film of their actions looking for ways to improve, so should you. I have had a chance to use some of this technology to monitor my own behaviors. It was eye opening and has caused me to make several improvements in my own driving style.

Wouldn't you rather have an employer that has your back rather than one that will fire you on the spot to appease their insurance company or some lawyer that is threatening legal action?

Investing in training and mentoring of your team is a must-do. You will never have the best of the best if you do not coach your team to bring out their strengths. Savings also result from better driving behaviors: fuel use, out-of-route miles and wear items.

Event data recorders and telematic devices can help you recover a stolen truck quickly. A recent news story told a tale of a thief that had all his actions captured on a dash camera as he went from stop to stop selling off tools from a stolen truck. This gave police the evidence they needed to prosecute him and the people that bought the stolen equipment.

How about that customer that falsely accuses you of being rude or worse? What about being pulled over for speeding when you know you were going under the speed limit? A simple review of the video or check of the GPS data can put a stop to those allegations before they even get off the ground.

Technology, when used properly, can save us all money and improve our performance. As we fall into a routine we tend to get sloppy. Event data recorders do not get tired or have a bad day, they are ever vigilant and will quickly remind us to be safe. Many systems have instant coaching capabilities, meaning they will sound an alert in the cab for following distance, cornering, braking or other safety critical events. Often these simple audible cues are all a driver needs to bring them back around to their best driving performance.

Not every driver will be a fit for every company. This technology can help you make that determination long before a crash or series of citations makes the decision for you.

I use this technology in my personal vehicles, both forward facing (out the windshield) and driver facing, complete with audio.

Event data recorders and active driver coaching will give you an advantage over others that chose to keep doing things the old-fashioned way. If you deploy the technology, monitor the results and take action.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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