Jeff Thompson, AO for CI Express, describes his job as an opportunity to build up the community where he works and lives.
Prior to owning an FXG operation, Jeff had been the Director of Operations and Business Development for Columbia Industries in Kennewick, Washington, for some time. Columbia Industries started helping people in 1963 as the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Benton and Franklin Counties. As a non-profit agency, their mission was clear - promoting the general welfare of persons with cerebral palsy and other handicaps.
The agency’s board realized early on that for their non-profit to survive, they needed profitable business operations to fuel their mission. Over the years, Columbia Industries has taken on a variety of business ventures to support their long term goals. Twenty years ago, they started a for-profit shredding company with the proceeds going back into the community. Then, in 2013 they acquired a record storage business and launched digital imaging and scanning services that enhanced the shredding business.
The purposes of the business growth and acquisitions are to support facilitating their programs and mission services. With its continuing growth, the non-profit board hired a new Chief Executive Officer.
The new CEO expanded the company’s mission by acquiring a bottled water company. And then further added to the overall revenues by buying four locations of a restaurant franchise called Round Table Pizza.
VENTURING INTO THE FXG TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY
Columbia Industries then acquired a business that owned a contract to do business with FedEx Ground (FXG). They identified a local seller, but the timing of the acquisition could not have been worse for the new owners.
Jeff vividly remembers, “We had nine routes between Idaho and Washington. The operation had converted from IC to ISP fourteen days prior to the acquisition. And we stood up on November 17, 2019, right on the verge of peak.”
Thompson remarks, “We flat out got overrun by peak in 2019. We had no driver bench strength. The trucks were not in good condition. By January, we had lost drivers, our new drivers were untrained, we owned nine beat up trucks, and we were paying for five rental trucks. Plus, our team was dog tired."
By mid-January 2020, Jeff became responsible for finding a better way.
SEEKING A BETTER WAY
“The terminal was two and a half hours away from home, so I stayed there multiple days every week trying to wrap my head around the situation. I received the names of nearby contractors at other terminals. I invited one of them for coffee at Starbucks. I needed advice. I knew that we could not fix this by ourselves. I’m a big believer in leverage - or to put it another way - using the skills of people with more knowledge than I have about a particular situation,” says Thompson.
Dave Bowen, Director of Coaching at eTruckBiz, paid us an on-site visit the following month. Dave worked with their leadership teaching them the Five Pillars of Success program (Strategy, Safety, People, Operations, and Finances) for their transportation business. He also asked lots of questions, for instance:
Thompson asserts, “I signed up not only for eTruckBiz coaching services, but for recruiting, HR assistance and First Advantage processing, too. Outsourcing those tasks was humongous towards our turning the ship around.”
“Together we created a strategy. In fact, I used the Five Pillars in our first Business Review meeting with FedEx Ground management. As contractors, we, too, need to determine acceptable standards.
Then, when I attended the Unboxed event in Fort Lauderdale, all the other contractors were frustrated because they were doing more and getting paid less than in the past,” he reports.
Thompson attributes his positive attitude with bringing a fresh set of eyes to the business. He views FXG as actually empowering contractors by allowing them to run their own businesses.
Contract negotiations for CI Express occurred in October 2020, and they were thankful that eTruckBiz was at their side for that, too.
“We knew absolutely nothing about the negotiation process, and we would’ve had no tools to use without eTruckBiz,” Thompson reveals letting out a sigh of relief.
“I can see us taking on other terminals in the future. This is one of the most scalable businesses I’ve been involved with so far. If we can grow the bottom line, we will ultimately help grow more mission services in the community. If we use the tools available to us, we can be successful. We can’t just cowboy up this business, but with the right people by our side, we can take it far,” he predicts.
The CI Express team had a hugely successful peak in 2020 while exceeding both safety and service levels. They experienced a 60% increase in stops versus last year’s peak.
The company employs over twenty people on staff and are running twenty trucks. Last year, they employed ten people, owned nine trucks and a used too many rentals. 2020's service level was at 99%.