Michael Bilokonsky is the President and CEO of Whitehorse Freight. Bilokonsky founded the company in November 2015, and through his extensive business skills, he has been able to build it into a successful enterprise.
Bilokonsky grew up in Cleveland. After graduating from high school, he attended West Virginia State University where he majored in physical education. Unfortunately, he was not able to realize his childhood dream of becoming a high school football coach and physical education instructor because the job market in education was depressed when he graduated. He was forced to look elsewhere for work and soon found himself working for a major logistics company. He immediately clicked with trucking and logistics and spent a few years learning the ins and outs of the business before opening his own firm in 2015.
Bilokonsky was attracted to the trucking and logistics industry because of its fast-paced nature. He quickly picked up on the information he needed to make Whitehorse Freight a success.
Starting a company enabled Bilokonsky to combine his two passions: coaching and the logistics business. He believes that effective industry leaders can be instrumental in teaching their employees how to handle challenges and how to respond to emergent events. He uses his natural leadership skills and the wisdom won from his education degree to help shape his workforce.
Michael Bilokonsky is a good example of business leaders who come from non-traditional backgrounds. He is able to use his educational and work experience together to create a new business vision. His company, Whitehorse Freight, will continue to meet the world’s challenges despite today’s economic instability.
How did you get started in this business?
Whitehorse Freight, is a leader in trucking and logistics. I started the company in 2015. We have had some speed bumps along the road, including the COVID pandemic, but trucking and logistics are an essential industry so we were able to keep ourselves afloat. I always make sure that my customers can contact me personally. I don’t want anyone to have a comment or complaint about my business that goes unanswered. Good, bad, or ugly, I want to hear about it so I can fix the problem. I think this is an unusual stance because most CEOs try to stay as far out of customer service as possible, but I think it’s really important to stay accessible.
You need to take a careful look at your balance sheet and see where you might be wasting money. In these times you will have to trim back your expenditures to the lowest level possible.
Be sure that everyone in your company is fully trained so that there are no gaps in the knowledge base. Nothing is worse than having to let an employee go and then realizing that they had important information that you needed to stay open. No one wants to come back and train someone for a job they’ve been let go from.
How do you make money?
We never take our customers for granted. A lot of trucking companies have a reputation for poor customer service, but we have been working hard on making sure our customers get what they need from us. There are a lot of competitors in our area, and we want to make sure that our customers know that we take them and their business seriously.
I stay well-informed when it comes to business news and local happenings. I have built a nice network of business contacts, and we share news and information frequently. I also subscribe to some industry publications to stay ahead of the curve. I try not to get bogged down in too much business news; it is good to be informed but bad to waste too much time on it.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
We have fast, accurate service and attention to detail. When our customers call for a pickup or delivery, we want them to know that we will be on our way in a timely fashion and that we will handle their load with care. Many deliveries are time-sensitive, and we try never to be delayed. If we do experience a delay, we try our best to communicate this to the customer to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
My business has had as many setbacks as anyone’s, but we are in a good place. My big advice for undergoing hardship is that people need to look at new ways of getting work done. Maybe you have a process or workflow that is the way it’s “always been done,” but it is inefficient and wastes your time. You have to know when to make cuts and how to streamline your business.
How did you get your first customer?
It’s been a fast-paced five years since we opened Whitehorse Freight. I want to say that it was word of mouth. However, trucking is an essential industry, so I’m sure that the right price was found for my first client, and they chose us.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Many of our customers were involved in retail and in the restaurant business. These businesses were badly hurt by the lockdowns that happened in the spring of 2020. We had to look past the way we used to do business and look for a new customer base. Through word of mouth, we were able to find some new industries where we could market our services. These businesses have been a huge help for us as the pandemic went on. Some sectors of the economy are still humming along, and it’s been great to participate in their success.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
When the pandemic started, we all thought that it would blow over in a few months. The lockdowns started, meaning that restaurants and retail stores weren’t getting the kind of deliveries that they were before. People weren’t able to get out and about and do the things they wanted to do.
Luckily, trucking and logistics is an industry where the pandemic only made us grow. No matter what happens, people need the essentials of life. They started buying more things online, and someone has to handle those packages. Fortunately, the lockdowns ended in our area over the summer, so we have been able to return to normal for the most part.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Sometimes when life seems hard and business is not going as well as it should, it’s hard to get motivated to get up in the morning. My philosophy is that life is only as good as you make it. If you can’t look past your daily problems to see the big picture, you might be missing out on the good things that will happen.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
My most satisfying moment in business was when I was finally able to hire a team. I hire people who are devoted to their jobs. I hire people who want to be part of a team. I don’t like to hire people who are only in it for the money. Admittedly, everyone is to some extent, but I prefer that my employees have some other form of motivation as well.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
My hope is that my company grows and flourishes in the future. What excites me the most is being able to serve and coach others, even during this pandemic. There is a lot to learn and if one has patience and dedication, it can all be accomplished.
What business books have inspired you?
I really recommend The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino and Getting Things Done by David Allen. These books really speak to the dedicated entrepreneur.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” This is a quote from Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn. I think you should surround yourself with positive people and associate with people who have what you want.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Unfortunately, at this moment, I do not have the time to mentor. I do hope that soon I will be able to dedicate more time to young entrepreneurs. My biggest hope is that everyone succeeds in making their dreams come true through hard work and dedication.