|Perception is Reality|
When Jeff Owen was considering leaving his job at a major less-than-truckload carrier to establish his own business in the freight scheduling industry, he realized early on that it would be a challenge to ink contracts with major shippers if his company appeared to be a small fry swimming alone in a big pond.
"I didn't want to start a business out of my house," Owen says. "That's not the image I wanted to project." He began to contemplate another approach. Owen, a former baseball player at the University of Tennessee and a veteran of more than a decade at Averitt Express, had heard that executives from AIMS Logistics, a well-established firm specializing in freight bill auditing and payment, were weighing how to find a company that could become a strategic ally.
The leaders at AIMS wanted to be able to partner with company that could offer freight scheduling and transportation services to its already established base of auditing customers. Owen says that although he had never met AIMS' founders, brothers Ned and Dave Nelson, he put together his materials and secured a meeting with the two men to pitch them on the idea of a strategic alliance with his start up firm.
The Nelsons were intrigued by his ideas, but they encouraged Owen to take some time to better develop a business plan for his company that would define his vision in black and white. "They are a huge company and they weren't just going to jump into a relationship with a guy who didn't share their same ideas," Owen says.
Eight months later, Owen presented them with a business plan that impressed the AIMS leaders enough to take a partial equity stake in his venture, and LBS was up and running in Sept. 2000. The idea was to tap AIMS, with which LBS shares office space, as a partner and provider of expertise regarding issue of taxes, finances, accounting and technology. Probably most important of all the things that AIMS could offer Owen was the guidance of two seasoned entrepreneurs. By aligning his company with a known commodity in the logistics industry that had an established client list of Fortune 500 companies, Owen was able to instantly gain the kind of credibility for his venture that would have taken years to develop under normal circumstances. Through the first year, Owen worked to develop his firm's list of clients that were not already AIMS customers.
The strategy seems to have paid off. LBS has quickly grown its operations to include it main office in Collierville as well as offices Charleston, S.C., and Fayetteville, N.C. Another company location in Lake City, Fla., operates a small fleet of dedicated trucks under the name LBS Dedicated Transportation. The leaders of AIMS saw that LBS would indeed be capable of providing their customers with services that would compliment their business, and the two firms have begun to cross-sell LBS to AIMS clients. "It was even more fitting to leverage the synergy between AIMS and LBS to offer our clients a broader scope of logistics functions," says Dave Nelson, president and co-founder of AIMS. Through those efforts, LBS has landed its first significant piece of business from a large client that has done business for some time with AIMS.
Soon, LBS will begin its first contract with a mutual customer of AIMS that will see the young company open 14 cross-docking operations across the nation in support of a well-known Fortune 100 company. Although he can't yet disclose the name of the company, Owen expects the contract to be worth about $9 million in annual revenues for LBS. Last year, the company posted about $5 million in revenue, but Owen expects that number to jump to about $13 million in the current fiscal year based on projections from the new contract and other business that is developing for LBS.
Without the relationship with AIMS to open the door to such a promising account, LBS would have never been able to come so far so fast, Owen says. "For me to be in business just over a year, to be sitting in an office selling my services to a Fortune 100 company, I would never be able to have done that without the support of a company like AIMS," he says.