Accountability plays a big part in Brian Lendin’s pursuit of entrepreneurial greatness at Unishippers

Brian Lendin has no doubt that his father would have made a great entrepreneur. He just wasn’t willing to put his family at risk to make it happen.

“He always told me, ‘I have too much to risk. I have a family to support, a mortgage to pay and I’ve got to put food on the table,’” Lendin says. “He always felt that his window had passed. That always stuck with me because I knew I wanted to have my own business.”

The difference for Lendin, now a franchise owner with Unishippers, is that he hasn’t started a family yet. It opens the door to take the risks that are part of being an entrepreneur.

“The lesson I learned was you need to do this at a young age when you don’t have as much to lose,” Lendin says.

Unishippers is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, but Lendin works out of his office in San Juan Capistrano.

And if all goes well, Lendin says he’ll continue building his Unishippers franchise and have a great asset to pass onto his children when they do come along. The company works to create individualized shipping solutions for its customers and has more than 285 franchises across the U.S.

“My goal is to purchase territories across the country and build a big sales team,” Lendin says. “I want to be the largest franchisee in the system, do this for 20 years and pass this down to my kids so they can take over the business.”

Finding the right opportunity

Lendin has had a dream of starting a business for a long time, but it wasn’t going to be in the shipping industry. His family made its mark in the mortgage business and that’s where Lendin took his first shot at a career.

“I worked for a company for about a year and a half, then the housing bubble burst and the company went out of business,” Lendin says. “I was faced with a challenge. I had just started my career and I knew I didn’t want to jump from job to job. I thought, what can I do to get involved in an industry that is almost recession-proof, one that is always around where I can really excel and not have to worry if the company is going to be in business?”

Lendin approached a recruiter and was encouraged to look at the shipping industry. He soon went to work at a competitor of Unishippers.

“They had a portfolio of freight carriers and they target small- to medium-sized businesses,” Lendin says. “It was a franchise-based operation as well and I was a top salesperson in the company and making good money.”

But Lendin still had the entrepreneurial itch and it didn’t seem like this company had what he was looking for to make that happen.

“My only option was to buy an existing territory at a very high premium,” Lendin says. “For me, that wasn’t practical. It would be something where I’d have to look for partners and it wasn’t a good fit for me. Simultaneously, looking at the Unishippers opportunity, they didn’t have any new territories either. However, they were talking about a new national program.”

The new program came with no geographical boundaries. Lendin could sell anywhere he wanted to, provided it wasn’t a location one of his fellow franchisees had already scooped up.

“The fact that I could sell anywhere was phenomenal,” Lendin says. “But on the flip side, my concern was how are the different franchisees going to collaborate with each other? My biggest fear was I’m going to be competing against another Unishippers franchise. We’re all supposed to work for the same company.”

Fortunately, Unishippers was developing a technology to ensure that this would not happen. A database would tell a prospective franchisee if the company was doing business in that location.

“I have to move it through the sales cycles and I have a given amount of time to sell that account and activate it as a Unishippers account,” Lendin says. “If I’m able to do that, it stays protected to my franchise.”

Being a franchisee, you need a certain level of both responsibility and accountability to do well. Lendin says it was never a problem when he was working in his parents’ business or in other positions. But it’s been a new world in his current role and he’s tried to take steps to stay on top of his work.

“Write down a list of goals or tasks you need to do,” Lendin says. “Hold yourself accountable and get those things done. Don’t cheat yourself. That’s only going to affect your own success. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of work. But what are my goals? Where do I see myself in five years, 10 years? For me, I write those down because it’s very easy to put those off.”

Learning a valuable lesson

Business has been going well for Lendin. Sales grew by 73 percent last year and Unishippers franchisees on the whole generated a little over $400 million in sales last year.

“I want to start developing a sales team,” Lendin says. “I’m starting to generate the cash flow that I can afford to do that.”

The past year also provided a valuable lesson on trust and when to hold the people who owe you money accountable. It will serve Lendin well going forward, but it cost him $15,000.

“I wanted to trust this person and wanted to help a little too much. I let him continue shipping until finally, he said, ‘Brian, I promise to have everything paid to you by this date,’” Lendin says. “We went to all his payment information and it all declined. I tried to contact him and a receptionist said, ‘If you want to talk to Dan, here’s his attorney. He’s filing for bankruptcy and he has no intention to pay you.’”

The lesson was sometimes, you get burned when you go with your heart.

“I still want to help, but I approach it a little bit different now,” Lendin says. “I’m less lenient.” ●

How to reach: Unishippers, (949) 244-9179 or www.unishippers.com