A little while ago I wrote about a startup that has nothing to do with tech with the intention of reminding all of us tech-centric entrepreneurs out there that being a startup or entrepreneur doesn't necessarily include technology as a defining variable. Some of the best entrepreneurs I know are not “tech people”; they are just hardworking individuals with a passion for business.
One non-tech entrepreneur I have great admiration for is my friend Jim Kostro, the Founder and General Manager of A Fast Courier Service, a shipping and logistics company that is just about a year old with 100 people already on the payroll and a projected annual revenue of $1.5 million. I've been following Jim's journey over the years and I've learned a lot from him, but more than anything I've been energized by his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. He's the entrepreneur we all want to be.
Joe Corbett: How did you know that being an entrepreneur was right for you?
Jim Kostro: When I was 10 years old, my friends and I would walk a few miles to a baseball card shop in Midland Park, NJ. They sold 5 cent Red Hot fire balls that I would sell to my classmates for 25 cents a piece. I made friends, while generating 400% in profit. I was instantly hooked!
Corbett: Did you have any idea you'd be running a 100-person, multi-million dollar business by the start of 2015?
Kostro: No way! We formed the logistics business on January 3rd, 2014 with one customer and a handful of workers. The average size courier company in the USA has under 40 drivers. We identified that we had an opportunity within a new emerging market and took advantage of this to get the party started.
Corbett: I've been following your journey for sometime now, and it's obvious that your primary focus is delivering tremendous customer service. Can you tell us about your customer service philosophy and how that has impacted your business?
Kostro: Service is everything! We all have the same access to source products and recruit from limitless pools of workers, so there is no shortage of people or products. There is, however, always a demand for tremendously exceptional service. One of our philosophies is to rapidly respond to existing customer inquiries. Customer inquiries typically are a result from a customers' concerns or a management inquiry. Letting everyone immediately know that we have received the request takes the pressure off them and puts it in our court. We invite and welcome the pressure.
Corbett: On the thread of customer service, what are some tactics you've used to handle a client that is less than satisfied with your service?
Kostro: We do a delivery every 7 seconds in Florida and we are breaking ground in NY, NJ, and CT in one week. With increasing volume and adding new workers each week, we know there will be issues. We understand how mission critical it is to isolate these exceptions while avoiding recurring issues. We utilize top of the line technology, along with a supervisor for every 10 workers. Our team consistently delivers a 99.80% accuracy rate. Ironically, most people who have been victims of a service failure over the years have gone on to be some of my greatest, longest-lasting customers. It's twice as hard to obtain a new customer than it is to keep an existing customer happy. I will take a loss and compensate clients to offset the LTV of an existing client. Plus, it's just the right thing to do.
Corbett: There is a bit of buzz around the tech industry around local shipping and logistics companies and how they're going to continue to be vital to the “on-demand” service industry. How do you see yourself playing a role in that expanding market?
Kostro: I worked directly for the VP of World Courier Ground whose parent company, World Courier Inc, ended up selling to Amerisource Bergen for $500 million and I was a GM directly reporting to the CEO of Diligent Delivery Systems, a national $150 million company headquartered in Houston, TX. These companies are some of the finest in their industry, but we're slower to deploy emerging technologies to the field. However, they have everything UBER and LYFT do not have; my role in this expanding market is to quickly combined our state of the art softwares with our experience and understanding of the industry while concentrating on delivering unmatched service levels.
Corbett: Tech startups seems to be moving away from the digital-only model and more are getting into physical products. Can you give these startups some advice on moving their products rapidly around the country?
Kostro: There is no better time in history for tech startups to embrace a deliverable product and team up with a strategic, flexible open-minded final mile delivery service. If you want to win at delivering an experience, you should focus on densely-populated areas that consume products. Every major player in the marketplace is trying to solve this equation. Amazon, Walmart, Google Express, Starbucks, grocery chains, fast food, auto parts, pharmaceuticals… the list does not end. The world is literally waiting for more tech startups to enter this space.
Corbett: Leave us with some words of wisdom that can help out entrepreneurs attempting to achieve the level of success you already have.
Kostro: I suggest new tech startups stop looking at the competition and how it was done yesterday. Spend more time being excited about the potential of your contributions in the market. Let prospects know you are working to solve their problems; this plants the seed that you care and you are going to help. Turn off the noise, such as phones and TV's. Build something that works and be so insanely confident about it that we will want to buy it even if we do not need it.
If you want to get in touch with Jim you can find him on Twitter @jimthecandleman. Yes that's right, Jim identifies himself as “The Candle Man” because when he's not growing his shipping business, he's in his candle factory making custom candles under the brand of America's Candle — which he's sold 80,000 of to-date.