2014 Ground Entrepreneurs of the Year
At FedEx Ground, small businesses are at the heart of everything we do. Since our company’s founding nearly 30 years ago, we have proudly and exclusively contracted with thousands of independent businesses for transportation, pickup and delivery services.
Owned and operated by independent entrepreneurs, these businesses have grown alongside FedEx Ground and have helped us ensure that every delivery arrives in the safest, most reliable and professional manner. These entrepreneurs manage every aspect of their businesses, from hiring and training their employees, acquiring and maintaining their vehicles, orchestrating daily operations and investing in growth.
Since 2007, FedEx Ground has honored the most outstanding of these business owners through our Entrepreneur of the Year program. One of our company’s highest honors, this award recognizes business owners who demonstrate exceptional business growth and development, customer service, safety, community involvement, and business ethics. This year, we will honor 16 regional winners at the Entrepreneur of the Year banquet in Pittsburgh on October 16, where we will also name the overall winners.
Check out the interactive map below (Note: best viewed in Firefox or Chrome) to learn about our regional winners. Each story is unique and provides a lesson on what it takes to grow a successful independent business.
Regional Winners FedEx Ground Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY):
John Smith, Jr.
Barbara Brant describes her company, Ronald Leiphart Trucking, Inc., as “a customer- and service-driven business.” Under Barbara’s leadership, eight employees operate a fleet of six vehicles that average more than 2,000 safe linehaul miles per day and, as importantly, project an image of professionalism.
Communication is the cornerstone of Leiphart Trucking’s success. Barbara is not only visible and engaging to her employees and FedEx Ground managers, but also to employees of other service providers. To ensure the smooth operation of its fleet, Leiphart Trucking employs two mechanics who keep vehicles in excellent condition, as well as a safety director who is charged with helping drivers understand the benefits of driving accident free, both personally and from a profitability standpoint. As an example to others, Barbara voluntarily participates in the hub’s Safety Committee and attends every forum.
In addition, Barbara belongs to the York County Garagemen’s Association, an organization that encourages members to adopt high standards in the automotive business.
S & M Delivery, Inc., one of the newest service providers in Orange County, Calif., is also one of the fastest growing. Under the direction of Shane Brock and May Brock, the company has tripled its FedEx Home Delivery business in less than four years, employing 12 people, including a full-time manager, and maintaining a fleet of 10 vehicles.
In 2012, S & M Delivery voluntarily created the Anaheim contractor safety committee to encourage other service providers to become more involved with safety. In the first year alone, Anaheim reduced accident frequency significantly. In 2014, Shane and May were invited to present their safety committee model at neighboring stations.
Contingency planning is also a high priority. An on-call driver covers vacation days, sick days and volume spikes, and assists other service providers when needed. “Everyone works as a team. Based on our experience, this keeps our drivers safe and stress free. It also ensures every driver stays well within DOT HOS requirements,” explains Shane.
Shane is also active in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, donating $36,000 to a club in Santa Ana, Calif., via a second business he owns which developed a donation recycling service to help businesses reduce e-waste.
Brooksy, Inc.’s Jason Brooks believes his company’s success begins with a solid training program. A new driver spends three days behind the wheel with business contact James Arnold. After that, the person is teamed with a regular driver for more hands-on coaching. Notes Jason, “James is careful and deliberate in explaining and illustrating our service culture and safety expectations. This includes how we service customers, interact with each other and FedEx Ground managers, and conduct ourselves on the road.”
To build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork — and ensure high service performance — Jason pairs drivers who are in close proximity to one another. “When one driver is finished, he calls the others nearby to offer help,” Jason explains. This sense of teamwork is extended to other service providers’ employees who often turn to Brooksy to make deliveries in extenuating circumstances, such as inclement weather. Other businesses also call upon Jason for advice, including how to navigate the MyGroundBiz website.
A member of the station’s safety committee, Jason comes up with creative ways to keep safety fresh for his drivers and others, including safety contests and pop quizzes that create a buzz about the benefits of operating accident free. All of Brooksy’s vehicles feature devices that monitor speed and driving techniques and alert Jason and James for follow-up.
An active presence in the community, Brooksy employees contribute to a local park and recreation facility, as well as a high school. The company is currently championing a project to build a children’s fishing wharf and create an annual family fishing derby. Individually, Jason serves as a coach for senior league baseball and children’s recreational basketball.
For the entire 19 years it has been in business, Fowler Logistics, Inc., has focused on providing its customers with superior service while operating safely in business districts and neighborhoods. Danny Fowler started his association with FedEx Ground as a package handler in 1988 before establishing his own business. “I watched other service provider managers and developed a feel for what works and what doesn’t,” Danny states. “I take good care of my employees, so they take good care of customers — and me.”
The company’s eight drivers, who operate five vehicles averaging 360 stops per day, are well trained in safety and customer service principles. “The business has grown slowly and steadily because we like to focus on doing our absolute best,” Danny notes. “I train my company’s drivers initially about everything from avoiding backing to paying attention to their surroundings to interacting with customers in a way that builds relationships. Then I have them ride with my part-time driver who reinforces those principles.” Daily safety messages and mandatory attendance at two weekly safety meetings help the company maintain its three-year-and-counting accident-free status.
Danny also emphasizes the importance of offering drivers a competitive wage. “I pay them well because I expect a lot from them,” he says. “I also want to attract the best people, including individuals with a positive attitude and neat appearance that reflects well on Fowler Logistics and FedEx Ground.”
When he is not managing his business, Danny volunteers as a coach for little league baseball and football and serves as a “Watchdog” at his children’s elementary school.
Responsibility is the name of the game at Lerma Transport, Inc. Whether it’s taking ownership of safety and the customer experience, or supporting other service providers and organizations within the community, the company is focused on people. Saul Lerma provides leadership to nine employees and a fleet of seven vehicles averaging 350 stops per day.
Lerma Transport’s focus on safety is multi-faceted and all encompassing. Drivers are eligible to receive safety bonuses based on performance and must attend weekly safety meetings where active participation is encouraged. For the past two years, the company has maintained zero preventable accidents. At the station level, Lerma Transport has created a voluntary safety program for all service provider employees that focuses on the CSA program, safe-driving basics, vehicle inspections, DOT regulations, injury prevention and drug and alcohol testing. This year, the company sponsored its first annual Yuma Safety Day, including awards, raffles and the presence and expertise of four California Highway Patrol members. Lerma Transport is also an active and visible participant in the Arizona TDC.
In the community, Lerma Transport is a charitable leader supporting, among other organizations, the Harley Owners Group Association, a non-profit for which Saul is the assistant director, as well as the Yuma Community Food Bank, United Way and March of Dimes.
Martin Welch Transportation, Inc., was founded in 1993 when a night run became available that no other service provider wanted. “In the early days, we took the least popular runs,” reports Tim Livingston. “That’s how we knew we’d always have work.” Today, Martin Welch Transportation’s 20 employees drive 13 vehicles and log about 8,000 miles daily. Since it was founded, the company has earned a reputation for safety and integrity.
Safety expectations, including a zero-tolerance policy, are outlined in a company handbook and begin with driver training that emphasizes the safety of each driver and the public. It continues with excellent pay; mandatory driver meetings; safety bonuses; participation in industry events; regular, thorough maintenance and upgrades to state-of-the-art vehicles; as well as frequent conversations about the company’s safety plans and goals. The idea, according to Tim, is for Martin Welch Transportation’s drivers to stay focused on accident-free driving by treating them as valuable members of the team.
Since day one, Martin Welch Transportation has taken an innovative approach to business. When other service providers shied away from employing team drivers, Martin Welch Transportation actively recruited them. Tim explains, “We knew there were a lot of good people who were laid off and looking for new careers. Our idea was to find them and use our safe-driving experience to help them become a great, safe team driver.” The idea has worked well as Martin Welch Transportation has achieved more than four years without a preventable accident.
Gunsmoke, Inc., has earned a reputation for accommodation. The company, which consists of four vehicles and 20 employees who average 115 stops per day, takes a proactive approach to every aspect of the business – most importantly its relationships with internal and external customers.
Gunsmoke, which is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Amy Mansberger and Bob Mansberger, takes pride in its meticulous recruiting. “Bob reviewed more than 30 candidates prior to Peak,” notes Craig Ball, Ft. Wayne’s P&D manager. “In addition to selecting drivers for Gunsmoke, Bob helped other service providers with hiring. It’s one of many examples of Gunsmoke’s team-player attitude.”
Once hired, Gunsmoke’s drivers are well trained in safe-driving techniques and customer service processes, thanks to a detailed company handbook. Special attention is paid to accommodating customer requests. Opportunities for bonuses encourage good work habits and a positive attitude. Gunsmoke also ensures its vehicles run well and look sharp. Daily planning, including the use of supplemental vehicles when volume spikes, helps drivers maintain a calm, professional attitude on the road and with customers.
In the community, Gunsmoke employees have donated their time serving meals at a men’s homeless shelter. Food and clothing donations, too, occur throughout the year.
Ask Gary Martin of Gary Martin Trucking, Inc. what he believes makes a business great and he’ll answer “great employees.” In operation since 1982, the company has been a contracted service provider for FedEx Ground for the past 13 years. It employs nine talented people who drive five vehicles logging just over 75,000 miles per month. Gary, who wanted to be a truck driver since he was a kid, has personally posted 3.8 million accident-free miles and has set a leadership example for his company’s drivers.
“I want employees to feel they’re invested in the business and know that their actions count,” says Gary in regard to his team. “Our drivers are trained to be courteous and make good decisions, and to understand we’re sharing the road with some drivers who may have poor driving skills and might make mistakes. We certainly don’t want to be involved in an accident because we didn’t recognize someone else was doing something wrong,” he adds. Gary spends time and talks with his drivers daily in a way he describes as “hands on.”
Early in Gary’s career, he drove for a company with poor maintenance practices. “That’s when I vowed if I ever owned my own trucks, they would never be in bad shape,” he says. As a result, the fleet is pristine inside and out. “A well-maintained fleet has a big impact on the bottom line, and it also instills in employees a sense of pride,” Gary adds. “Mondays are ‘work on the truck’ days. On those days, I personally check out every truck, including lights and tires — and perform my own 90-day inspection.” Gary also addresses and repairs any problem drivers have noted.
A positive presence in the Scarborough station, service provider business 1789946 Ontario, Ltd., owned and managed by Bobby Misreelal, promotes a customer-centric culture that’s held in high esteem. Founded 17 years ago, the company’s fleet has grown to include 10 vehicles and nine employees.
Bobby is a proactive recruiter of drivers he trains to observe his company’s high standards of safety and professionalism. Each day you’ll find Bobby on the belt with his drivers, holding informal safety meetings where he discusses topics that remind them how important it is to do things right the first time without taking shortcuts. Bobby also performs regular ride-alongs with his company’s drivers to reinforce safety techniques. Monthly off-site safety meetings and an occasional weekend safety forum help to build teamwork between the company’s drivers in a relaxed atmosphere. These periodic excursions show drivers that their efforts are valued and create opportunities to test their safe-driving skills against those of other Scarborough service provider employees.
In the past 21 years, Tracy Ross Trucking, Inc., which employs nine people, operating six vehicles and averaging more than 3,000 miles per day, has set the standard for linehaul excellence at the Denver hub, thanks to the diligent management of Tracy Ross.
Tracy Ross Trucking’s success is the result of a three-step process Tracy sums up as recruiting, training and retaining. All drivers participate in a driver orientation program that emphasizes defensive-driving techniques, thorough vehicle inspections and attendance at quarterly safety meetings. The program is so successful other service providers at the hub have mirrored it.
Perhaps the most important component of Tracy Ross Trucking’s success is the manner in which Tracy Ross spends time with his drivers, engaging and encouraging a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. The result is impressive: one preventable accident in 21 years of operation.
Founded in 2004, D.R. Sherry, Inc., employs 18 people, including a management staff, and operates 17 vehicles that account for 1,150 stops per day. Daniel Sherry manages his business with an eye toward constant improvement and an attitude of continuous learning.
In addition to providing its employees with safety training, meetings and daily communication, D.R. Sherry equips its vehicles with monitoring devices that transmit information to the company in real time, including vehicle speed, idling time, braking and accelerating measurements and more. With this input, the company is able to help everyone focus on achieving safety and service goals. “The monitors are the best mechanical tool I’ve invested in so far,” says Daniel. “However, my team has been my best investment overall.”
Daniel is quick to note that while the monitoring technology is great, his company’s employees are better. “We have an outstanding group of drivers and managers who do a great job focusing on customers. Without their hard work every day, this award could not have happened.”
JSJ Trucking, Inc. has been a contracted service provider in Tupelo since 1995. John Smith, Jr. is responsible for the company’s 12 employees and seven vehicles that average 4,200 safe miles per day. The business is known for its strong safety performance and reputation as a great place to work. John explains, “We’re more like family to each other than employees. Many of my guys have been with the company a long time.”
To encourage a positive morale and give employees time with their families, JSJ Trucking ensures drivers are home each day. John interacts with drivers daily, conducting safety meetings and inspecting trucks to ensure each is running smoothly. Regularly, John holds a cookout for employees and invites them to join him during hunting season. He is quick to reward their safe-driving efforts formally via an incentive program, a day off with pay, or a FedEx-logoed jacket or other item. If the company is in the market for a new driver, John relies on word-of-mouth from current drivers and prefers an individual who has at least 15 years of driving experience.
A presence in the community, JSJ Trucking employees are involved in charitable organizations and events, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Goodwill Industries, the Humane Society and the Girls Scouts. Bi-weekly, the company provides food for 50-100 needy people through a local outreach organization. “Growing up, I was not always as fortunate, so I feel it’s my obligation to help as many people as I can,” John states.
In business for eight years, Vega H.D., Inc., employs 11 people who operate 11 vehicles. Christopher Vega has created a successful business by forming strong relationships with others that not only help the company achieve its goals, but also make work meaningful and fulfilling.
Vega H.D. pays close attention to safety through voluntary participation in the station’s safety committee and by ensuring its drivers are well trained and mindful of safety expectations outlined in an employee handbook. Regularly scheduled maintenance makes driving more enjoyable and projects a professional image. When Vega H.D. accepts new business, the company adds new vehicles, complementing the positive perception. Spare vehicles ensure less reliance on rentals, and the result is an impressive safety record.
Vega H.D.’s employee handbook also outlines customer service expectations with an emphasis on building relationships and treating everyone with respect. “We’re mindful of customer requests and accommodate them,” says Christopher. Drivers are encouraged to engage customers in a way that builds trust. “It’s not how many packages or stops that are completed in a day. It’s making sure each delivery is done right.” If a mistake is made, employees address it in a way that ultimately strengthens trust.
The company is active in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Red Cross, United Way and food drives for the homeless.
The linehaul business 6748067 Manitoba, Inc., owned by Jack Webster and his son Richard Webster, has been in operation for the past 18 years. In that time, the company has established a reputation of excellence that is founded on a deep appreciation of its 12 employees.
The company, which operates six vehicles accounting for about 3,400 miles per day, has an excellent safety record. Richard oversees recruiting and personally trains new drivers to use defensive-driving techniques and perform pre- and post-trip inspections. Richard takes great care in explaining and reviewing the company’s safety and customer service procedures and expectations, and arrives at the station each day to interact with drivers, including keeping them updated on weather and driving conditions. The goal is to dispatch drivers in a positive frame of mind and give them ample time to complete their runs safely.
A competitive salary and benefits are offered to the company’s employees, while a detailed safety plan includes driver incentives, regular meetings and safety publications filled with engaging information.
According to Jack, the company’s success is a reflection of the good people it employs. He notes, “We recognize that our drivers are the backbone of our operation and believe we employ some of the most professional and dedicated people in the industry.”
Reginald Webster of Web Ex Corporation leads a team of 40 employees and manages a fleet of 22 vehicles. For the past 14 years, Reginald and his wife, Yolanda Phillips, have dedicated themselves to building a business with a quality reputation for safety, service and engagement.
Web Ex employees begin their career with the company through careful screening conducted by Reginald, Yolanda and a swing driver who spends more than two weeks providing training in accident-free operation and customer service. Daily safety messages are reinforced with weekly safety meetings that include driver input, as well as monetary incentives for driving accident free and safety method knowledge.
On the road, Web Ex employees know they’re only a phone call away from help with a customer service issue as Reginald and the company’s managers make themselves available to reinforce correct P&D procedures. Drivers are offered competitive wages, paid vacation and incentives to achieve service goals. Web Ex employees are further rewarded with regular breakfast outings and informal gatherings hosted by Reginald and Yolanda.
The company is active in the local community through charitable donations of school supplies and uniforms, as well as fulfilling food bank requests.
Brent Zink, Incorporated is a business on track for continued success. Whether it’s training and empowering drivers to take ownership of vehicle maintenance, helping everyone understand customer service goals or extending a helping hand to the community, Brent Zink has thought it over and charted a course.
A service provider for 15 years, Brent Zink employs 16 people and maintains the same number of vehicles. The company services the same areas for FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery, which help to maximize productivity. On the FedEx Ground side, employees average 376 stops per day, while FHD accounts for 455 stops per. Last year alone, the company grew a total of 37 percent, adding four additional vehicles.
Drivers are trained about safety and service expectations and encouraged to take ownership of vehicles. This includes performing pre- and post-trip inspections, as well as recognizing maintenance issues, communicating them to Brent and initiating repairs with an on-site vendor. Daily safety messages and participation on station P&D safety committees help everyone stay focused on driving accident free.
Always willing to contribute to community outreach initiatives, Brent Zink volunteered to deliver Toys for Tots gifts to a local toy drive this past Peak, where over 1,500 children participated.