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The right moves Featured

1:25pm EDT September 29, 2005
During the dot-com craze, companies were swept up in the grow-at-any-cost climate, and Michael Valentine’s transportation management services company was no exception.

“Then about three years ago, my management team and I made a strategic decision that we wanted to focus our growth on managed and controlled growth with profitability,” says Valentine, president and founder of Group Transportation Services (GTS.) “That was probably one of the best strategic moves we’ve made.”

Rather than add 30 to 40 sales reps around the country within a year-and-a-half as previously planned, Valentine decided to open one or two markets at a time.

“That’s working. We pay our bills, and we make some money at the end of the month,” he says. “It’s a good thing.”

Smart Business spoke with Valentine about his vision for GTS’ future and how he plans to get there.

How will GTS’ recent move from Twinsburg to Hudson accommodate future growth?

When we moved to Twinsburg five years ago, we had eight people; today, we have about 45 people. The facility we bought is actually the old call center which used to hold about 200 people, so we can grow quite nicely here. We can double our size.

I don’t get too terribly upset about setting corporate goals. We try to take every year with a target ... versus getting into five- or 10-year type goals. We know we’re in a niche right now, and the market that we provide services to is growing, so we balance both technology and people to service our clients. We have a proprietary operating system that helps facilitate (the services) we provide to our clients.

We go into clients that are currently managing their own transportation, and they outsource it through our company. We primarily are involved in shipments over 150 pounds. Those are larger than UPS and FedEx.

We do have some programs for small package users. Technically, in the transportation world, we’re a third-party logistics firm providing outsourced transportation management.

How did you work with Hudson city officials to find a new location?

We worked with the economic development director.

We have employees who drive from Wadsworth, Alliance, Akron and Canton, and some up in the Cleveland markets. We promised our employees that we would probably stay within the Twinsburg-Streetsboro-Hudson-Macedonia area.

So we went to each of those communities and started the search to see if we could find facilities that would accommodate our current needs and our future needs.

(The Hudson economic development director) informed us of some properties and some things that were going on with properties that they were aware of ... so it’s a win for them and it’s a win for us. This facility had been vacated about one-and-a-half years prior. It was suitable for our needs.

We did our due diligence — our checklist of the facility — and we acquired the facility back in May, renovated it through May and June and then moved in. We’re very pleased. The transition went very smooth, and everybody’s happy.

As you add more employees, how do you expect that to affect your corporate growth plan?

We’ve added 11 positions since the beginning of the year; most of them are in transportation. As we acquire new clients, our formula is based upon the type of transportation and how hands-on we have to be with the clients; we may have to add more people to manage their business.

We have three service offerings for our clients, the full-service Total Solutions Programs (TSP), Integrated Solutions Programs (ISP) and Direct Solutions Programs (DSP.) (With) TSP, we will supply all the services to the clients; they’re pretty much outsourcing everything to us, so that requires a little bit more people-power on our side to make that happen. Then the ISP is not as much, and then DSP is very little direct intervention with them from a people standpoint. So we give a little bit of a menu-type offering but we usually do the analysis for the client and recommend which solution we believe is the best for them. They ultimately choose what they want, and then that affects our staffing needs.

How do you get employees to buy into the breadth of your company’s services?

From a business standpoint and a growth standpoint, we invest quite a bit in our people, and in return, we expect a lot. We communicate to them quite a bit. They have job descriptions that they’re involved in; everybody gets a quarterly review, and they also get quarterly bonuses. We have quarterly company meetings that I run.

Their direct supervisors are involved with them all the time so there should be no excuse for someone to walk out of our facility and not know what’s expected of them —and that they can accomplish it in a reasonable timeframe. If they aren’t, we’re there to support them and to see if we can make that happen.

That’s probably as big of a part of our growth — which is an intangible — but it’s something that we pride ourselves on doing very well.

HOW TO REACH: Group Transportation Services, (330) 342-8700 or http://www.onestopshipping.com