FedEx Ground Celebrates Entrepreneurs
Did you know that FedEx Ground partners with more than 8,500 small businesses throughout North America to pick up and deliver our packages?
These businesses are owned and operated by independent entrepreneurs who manage every aspect of the business, including hiring employees, owning their trucks, and organizing their routes. We are proud to partner with these entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses alongside FedEx Ground and helping us ensure that every experience is a positive one. This is why we take a step back every year, pausing to celebrate all we have accomplished together.
Since 2007, FedEx Ground has annually bestowed its Entrepreneur of the Year award – one of our company’s highest honors – to three outstanding business owners in our network, recognizing them for business growth and development, customer service, safety, community involvement, and business ethics.
Any business owner or FedEx Ground management team member can nominate an entrepreneur. From all of the nominations, we select 17 regional winners to honor during our annual Entrepreneur of the Year banquet in Pittsburgh, Pa. This year’s banquet is held on Oct. 10, 2013. There, we will also name our top three winners.
The regional winners know a thing or two about business, and no two stories are the same. Do you want to know more about how they achieved success and their advice for anyone looking to start their own business?
Check out the interactive map below to see where our regional winners operate. (Note – best viewed in Firefox or Chrome). Also, read more about this on the FedEx Newsroom.
Brian Birmingham – Mid-America Region Ground winner
Chris Newman – Southern Region Home Delivery winner
Jarrod Gerber – Central Region Ground winner
Jeff Kemmerling – Central Region Linehaul winner
Jon Willis – Mid-America Region Linehaul winner
Larry Meadows – Southern Region Linehaul winner
Satgur Athwal – Western Region Home Delivery winner
Ron Harkins – Western Region Ground winner
Peter Pearson – Canada Region Linehaul winner
Josh Beck – Eastern Region Home Delivery winner
Jeff Johnson – Eastern Region Linehaul winner
Vincent Giuliano – Eastern Region Ground winner
Mike Starnes – Southern Region Ground winner
Brad Teeter – Western Region Linehaul winner
Starting small, Brian Birmingham began his transportation business with a single truck. He named his business Sailor Saint, Inc., providing service to FedEx Ground. Over the course of the past 13 years, he has grown Sailor Saint, Inc. to 10 trucks and 14 employees. He credits his success on treating his employees with respect and integrity. As a result of treating his team well, Brian hasn’t had any employee turnover in three years and as a result has a company that boasts over 100 years of combined truck-driving experience.
In addition to keeping his employees happy, Brian is also passionate about keeping them safe. He values safety among his top tenets of running a successful business and makes sure his team is provided with the knowledge and necessary tools before hitting the highways. Each week for Sailor Saint begins with a mandatory safety meeting, where team members talk about safety and share best practices. The team openly discusses the importance of safety, not just for themselves and their families, but those they share the highway with, as well.
His business success doesn’t stop with Sailor Saint, Inc. Brian also owns a successful mobile auto service called Service 658, which employs a full-time mechanic. This second business reiterates Brian’s overall focus on safety, as all trucks are proactively maintained and routinely washed. Service 658 services Brian’s entire fleet of trucks, as well as all of the vehicles that run out of the FedEx Ground station in Springfield, Mo.
“The best fertilizer is a farmer’s footprint, meaning you have to really know your team to know their needs.”
Awards from FedEx Ground:
Mid-America Region Ground EOY winner – FY13
Best in Business Plains – Q2 – FY13
Having grown up on a farm, Chris understood from day one the importance of safety to the success of his business. Chris equates operating large machinery on a farm to driving a delivery vehicle every day: the goal is to be 100 percent injury- and accident-free. By outlining a safety plan in his employee handbook that each employee reads and signs and offering safety bonuses to his drivers, Chris believes in proactively encouraging safety. This proactive approach has paid off—Chris Newman Delivery Inc. has been accident-free for over a year. Having vehicles properly maintained enhances the safety of his enterprise, and Chris employs the philosophy that if he wouldn’t drive it, then he wouldn’t expect his employees to, either.
Chris hasn’t only made his mark on the local Arkansas economy in the transportation industry, but in the food industry, too. He owns a mobile BBQ business where Chris serves as the grill master, and his company participates in national cook-off competitions. His team came in third place in the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in 2011, effectively cooking the world’s third-best rack of ribs.
“No success comes overnight—it is built over time with a lot of ups and downs, wins and losses. I ask every employee to commit to being safe, honest and loyal. I’ve never asked anyone to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself.”
Advice to someone starting a business: “My best advice for someone starting a business is to be a realist and understand that you only get out of it what you put in it. That can be many things: money, sweat, tears and a whole lot of time, for a few examples. Owning a business is not for the faint of heart—it is a huge commitment if you are going to do it to be successful.”
Business philosophy: “To guide myself, my business and my employees to do the very best job of delivering our commitment to our customers every single day as safely and efficiently as possible. We pride ourselves on a ‘safety first’ mantra and everything we do comes second to that.”
Awards from FedEx Ground: Southern Region Ground EOY winner – FY13
It is a question that we all struggle with, small-business owners included: how do we give back to our community? Jarrod Gerber, owner of Lija Inc., has found a way. Jarrod established a trust so that his employees can contribute to make a positive impact on the Central Indiana communities in which they work. His dedication to his community extends beyond financial giving; Jarrod and his employees adopt families through Head Start, regularly volunteer at homeless shelters, assist with children’s literacy programs and provide resources to battered women shelters.
Jarrod is also a prolific business owner, owning a transportation business that provides service to FedEx Ground. In just six years, Jarrod has grown Lija Inc. to 13 employees and more than a dozen trucks. Inspired by his success, Jarrod’s mother, wife and father-in-law also started businesses that partner with FedEx Ground to pick up and deliver packages throughout Central Indiana. In total, Jarrod and his family have 46 full- and part-time employees.
“I’ve been given a lot in my life and I’m very thankful.”
Advice to someone starting a business: “First and foremost, have a solid business plan. Seek good financial advice from others in a similar field. Make sure you have a good support system, financial advisor, banker, accountant, etc. Associate yourself with others in the field who have been successful.”
The best business advice you’ve ever received: “You’re only as good as the people who work for you. I believe this to be very true, and I have worked hard to recruit and retain the best employees possible for each position.”
Business philosophy: “We are committed to providing first-class service through the employment of safety-minded, dedicated, professional, and customer-oriented drivers and through the use of well-maintained equipment.”
Awards from FedEx Ground:
Central Region Ground EOY winner – FY13
Humanitarian of the Year – FY11
Jeff Kemmerling knows business. The son of a former small-business owner, he learned first-hand what it takes to succeed. He knows what works and what doesn’t work and is quick to point to his most important business lessons: start small, stay focused, have thick skin, stand proud of your accomplishments and push past the hard times.
It’s those pillars that have helped Jeff run not one, but two successful businesses. As the owner of Cash Transport, Inc. – which provides services for FedEx Ground – he grew a business that started 21 years ago with one tractor to a fleet of 16, employing 15 people. Falling in line with his truck-driving business, Jeff also runs a safety company, Cash Safety Services, LLC, which provides safety information and best practices to his team of drivers as well as others in the transportation industry.
His good business sense is backed up by his generous heart. Jeff lives by the principle that as long as he can help, he will. There’s no question about his commitment to his community. He and his team are actively engaged with The Buckeye Ranch, a Grove City, Ohio, facility that assists families dealing with mental illness, health, emotional, behavioral and substance abuse issues. As a company, Jeff and his team “adopt” a family during the holiday season, providing not only gifts, but gift cards that allow the family to personalize gifts. The team has even gone as far as providing groceries and every day essentials to sponsored families.
“Without safety, there is no service.”
Awards from FedEx Ground:
Central Region Ground EOY winner – FY13
Best in Business – Central – Q1 – FY12
With his drivers traveling approximately 30,000 miles a week, Jon Willis, owner of Stout Trucking, knows first-hand how fuel costs can impact a business. As the owner of multiple trucks, Jon wanted to be a part of something that could help increase his profits, while enhancing the safety of his operations. His vision helps not only Stout Trucking but also others facing a similar plight through his partnership in Masterquip, Inc., a research company that finds and implements fuel-saving strategies and devices for the transportation industry.
In addition to cutting fuel costs, Jon credits the success of his business with having excellent customer service and employee relations. Maintaining a core of superior employees is something Jon boils down to a strategy of success with four tenets: quality drivers, quality equipment, a professional culture and always having a solid contingency plan.
Safety is also a strong part of the culture for Stout Trucking. His safety bonus program, “Have a Grand Year,” promotes safety through rewarding his employee-drivers with up to $1,000 annually for earning a safe year of driving.
Business isn’t the only passion for Jon; he stays active in his community, mentoring children through the Big Hope program, volunteering for the local food bank and taking a volunteer role at the local Fort Worth YMCA.
“I believe in the importance of a positive attitude and try to share that with those around me.”
Awards from FedEx Ground:
Mid-America Region Ground EOY winner – FY13
Best in Business Plains – Q2 – FY13
Larry Meadows, owner of Roanoke-based LM Meadows Trucking Inc., has been in the trucking business for 46 years. It hasn’t taken him that long, however, to discover that his employees need to be champions of safety. His 15 employee-drivers and 13 tractors log hundreds of thousands of miles each year. Aside from partnering with FedEx Ground to transport packages from Greensboro, N.C., up through the Blue Ridge Valley, Larry also owns a flatbed trucking company that hauls, in particular, bridge parts for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
One of Larry’s drivers, Bobby Dinwiddie, has proven that he is a champion of safety by making it to the National Truck Driving Championship (NTDC) finals—also known as “the super bowl of safety”—in Salt Lake City August 24. Bobby’s passion for safety and enthusiasm for the event is on full display in this Roanoke FOX affiliate’s “On the Job with Bob” video: http://www.fox2127.com/category/231859/on-the-job-with-bob.
Larry Meadows also has a passion for giving back to the community, as evidenced by his efforts to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Larry helped organize three delivery runs, totaling 94,000 pounds of relief supplies, to New Jersey, as chronicled by The Roanoke Times in March: http://www.roanoke.com/news/1795850-12/fedex-ground-driver-leads-nj-hurricane-relief-effort.html.
“We enjoy helping people. It comes back to you.” “You work for yourself, so it reflects on you.”
Awards from FedEx Ground:
Southern Region Linehaul EOY winner – FY13
Best-in-Business winner – FY12, Q4
No one embodies the “American dream” quite like Satgur Athwal. His family immigrated to the United States when he was only 13 years old, and as an adult, he started his own business. In only eight years, he has grown Athwal FDS Corporation’s daily activity by more than 1,000 percent and now employs 18 people. Satgur himself is a trained mechanic, ensuring his trucks are in tip-top shape each day.
FedEx Ground knows Athwal runs a strong business and has recognized his efforts by presenting the Regional Entrepreneur of the Year award three years running.
His business secret? “Focus on taking care of the business.” Satgur makes sure he has an extra employee available each day to protect against disruptions. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” he says, reporting that having a spare truck and driver available each day has more than once saved the business from a potential service failure. “Without good service and preparation, growth would be impossible.”
“If you don’t have a future vision, you’re going to lose everything and not even know you lost it.”
“Don’t focus on how much money you’re going to make … focus on taking care of the business.”
In only eight years and with an eye on promoting growth, Ron Harkins has more than quadrupled his business. “Customer satisfaction is a high priority – we stress the Golden Rule and encourage [our employees] to be friendly with all customers.” That adage has worked for HDS Inc. – the business has received no complaints this year.
Recently, FedEx Ground named Ron a Regional Entrepreneur of the Year. Of the eligible 8,500+ small businesses that work with FedEx Ground, the company selected only 19 for the honor.
Ron is looking for his business to grow even more in the near future. “Growing [the] business this quickly has taken most energies, but we’re looking forward to joining the California Trucking Association and the American Trucking Association in the future.”
Giving back to the local community is also an important part of the business. Ron’s wife is a breast cancer survivor, and his company regularly supports breast cancer research, as well as Hangar 24 Charities and the American Heart Association.
“Vigilant monitoring ensures compliance.”
Peter Pearson’s secret to success? “Steady and consistent growth.”
In 2004, after gaining 13 years of industry experience, Peter decided to start his own business and purchased his first truck. Then, just two years later, he purchased a second truck and hired his first employee. Today, he has nine employees and operates his business out of multiple locations, including Ottawa, Montreal, and London.
And he wants to keep growing his business! This past year Peter developed a company policy manual, which he says helps his employees work has a team, as well as establish benchmarks upon which P&N Trucking Services can improve.
FedEx Ground recently named Peter a Regional Entrepreneur of the Year winner. In 2012, his businesses were involved in zero accidents and had zero violations, earning him a nomination to FedEx Ground Road Ambassador.
“What do you like to do? Where do you want to be? If you don’t do something you like, you’re not going to succeed.”
Josh Beck, owner of Beck Services Inc., runs a small business that provides transportation and delivery services for FedEx Ground. He was attracted to the opportunity because it combined entrepreneurial freedom along with a well-respected and recognized brand name. In business for eight years, the company’s 24 employees make more than 2,000 stops a day in the Philadelphia area including the Maryland suburbs.
Before starting the business, Josh was a manager for a tour company in central Philadelphia where he honed his customer interaction skills that now drive everything he does in his business. As proof that he has been successful, he was recently selected as a regional winner for FedEx Ground’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizing his company’s success, growth and commitment to safety and customer service. Beck is one of 17 regional winners selected across the country, selected from a pool of more than 8,500 small businesses. Three national winners will be announced on October, 10, 2013, at FedEx Ground’s annual Entrepreneur of the Year ceremony in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Josh treats safety as a top priority, which has helped his business – and his employees – succeed. He holds weekly safety meetings that often include drivers from other companies because it is imperative that all drivers on the road are safe. One recent meeting featured Delaware and Maryland state troopers discussing roadside inspections. Josh and his managers also perform ride-alongs with drivers to provide feedback aimed at strengthening their safe-driving practices. To ensure all company equipment is in top shape, Josh even operates his own maintenance garage with certified mechanics. As a final demonstration of how important safety is, drivers can qualify for weekly and annual bonus pay based on safety achievements. He proudly points out that all of his employees received the annual bonus last year for operating accident free all year.
In addition to his efforts to expand his business, Josh and his company have been involved in his community as primary supporter of Preston’s March for Energy Foundation in Wilmington, an organization that provides adaptive bicycles to children with special needs.
“Safety is everything.”
Jeff Johnson, owner of Beachnut Transport Co., runs a small business that provides transportation and delivery services for FedEx Ground. In business for 22 years, the company’s five employees drive five linehaul (the 18-wheelers) routes and rack up more than 1,800 miles a night.
Jeff attributes his longevity and success to the simple philosophy of treating everyone equally and fairly, while providing his employees with the best tools and information to be successful in their jobs. He makes sure that he provides his drivers with safe, up-to-date equipment and replenishes new uniforms regularly to promote a professional appearance.
Safety is a priority for Jeff to manage a successful business. To communicate about safe driving habits, Jeff includes a weekly safety message in each Beachnut Transit employee’s paycheck. He drives home these messages and good habits when he conducts regular observation rides with each employee.
Jeff’s transportation expertise also extends into hauling cars that are sold at auction via a separate company he owns.
Jeff is a true entrepreneur and devoted to his community. In addition to running these businesses, he volunteers his time and equipment to help support the New Hope Ministry and hauls food for the York Area Food Bank.
Vincent Giuliano, owner of Giuliano Transport, runs a small business that provides transportation and delivery services for FedEx Ground. Since starting the business in 1999 as one driver on a single route, Vincent has grown the company to now include 17 employees and routes that stretch over three states.
The company’s employees are responsible for delivering more than one million packages in a year.
According to Vincent, the company is successful because employees are equipped with the proper tools to do their jobs. “We hire good people and provide them with safe equipment,” he said. “We train them to drive safely and satisfy customers, including knowing the ins and outs of their service areas and their customers’ schedules. Above all, we emphasize how important it is to act with integrity and dedication.”
The company has a solid safety record, thanks to an on-site mechanic who’s available 24/7 and two spare vehicles that can be called into service when needed. Mandatory weekly safety meetings engage drivers and sharpen their focus on using techniques that will help them remain preventable-accident free.
Vincent also says that dedication and loyalty go both ways. A highlight of the year that everyone looks forward to is a party held as the busiest time of the year, the holiday shipping season, winds down. At the party, employees receive bonuses for meeting and exceeding the goals set for the busy season and Vincent raffles off one large item – a 52-inch TV last year.
In addition to his efforts to expand his business, Vincent is involved in his community. For the last several years, he has partnered with area police departments to promote safe pedestrian crossing at local elementary schools. Giuliano Transport has also served as the sponsoring business for a local girls’ softball team by providing funding for uniforms and equipment.
Advice for other small business owners: Dedication. Hard work. Perseverance. Set quarterly and annual goals. Remember that loyalty goes both ways.
Mike Starnes, owner of Double S Express, Inc., attributes his successes in business as well as life in general to the five Ps of “prior planning prevents poor performance.” The company is based in Hickory, N.C., and provides transportation services to FedEx Ground. Starting as one man driving one van 11 years ago, the company now boasts 14 employees and 14 trucks, running a combination of local pick-up and delivery vans to the longhaul 18-wheelers that can be seen every day on the highways.
Mike focuses on operating safely while providing excellent service. Every morning at 5:30, he is at the FedEx Ground station in Hickory. “I look over and make sure each truck is ready and, more importantly ensure employees are ready to have a safe, productive day.” With the five Ps guiding him, Mike focuses on discussing ideas and sharing information with everyone on his team. He holds employee meetings throughout the year, including breakfasts, cookouts and hayrides at his family’s farm that extends back six generations. Just before the holiday peak shipping season, he hosts an event to thank his employees and get them ready and excited about the opportunity to help deliver the holidays.
He also knows that his actions affect everyone around him. He has initiated training that encourages drivers to make a good impression on customers by paying attention to small things. One of his favorite examples: “When you park in a driveway and you see the recipient’s newspaper, pick it up and place it with the package,” Mike says. “Or hand it directly to the customer. Little things impress people in powerful ways.”
Some not so little things that Mike does benefit our community. His efforts have a lasting impact on children in need both here and abroad. Double S Express has participate in an annual car show that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars used to buy holiday gifts for the patients at Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, S.C. Also, when Mike learned through his church that children in Haiti were attending school without adequate clothing, he helped to organize an event that shipped more than 600 pounds of items. He did not participate in the distribution in Haiti, but was still moved by it.
“The workers who were there told me that the Haitian children were so excited to have a brand new item of clothing that they kept the tags attached to show off that it was brand new,” he said.
“You reach a point, 40s or so, when you realize it is time to give back, help pay back some of what you were given to get where you are. I’m at that point now.”
BAC Enterprises’ owner Brad Teeter’s commitment to safety is proven through his company’s safety record. Even though Brad’s transportation business logs thousands of miles each year, all of his drivers have been accident-free for the past 22 years. Also impressive is that BAC Enterprises has never received a traffic ticket. That’s an accomplishment most of us in the civilian world can’t even claim.
With 13 employees and six trucks, BAC Enterprises does everything possible to make sure its customers don’t suffer a service failure. This includes employing part-time drivers, as well as having spare vehicles ready if a truck breaks down. Brad and his employees regularly compete in the Washington State Truck Driving Championships. They also support several local charities, including Skagit Valley Hospital Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club.
Additionally, even though he owns a successful transportation business, Brad doesn’t consider similar businesses to be his competitors. In fact, four of Brad’s former employees have ventured off to start transportation businesses of their own, also working with FedEx Ground. “We don’t think of them as competitors,” Brad says. “Hauling for FedEx Ground has been a win-win for all of us; it’s great to see those guys prosper.”