Being a key player in the world of freight logistics is no easy task. Manufacturers striving to get their product to market require an efficient, reliable, and trustworthy logistics service provider that can comprehend and readily act upon the ever-changing demands of both shippers and consumers.
At least ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies in the United States rely on one or more 3PLs, according to Armstrong and Associates, a supply chain consultancy and market research group based in Wisconsin. So it is a great time to be a 3PL service provider, and demand is growing. It is a mutually beneficial scenario for all involved.
To accommodate such demands, many companies outsource logistics and have developed strong partnerships with third-party logistics providers (3PLs) with proven track records with the expertise to meet all essential order fulfillment needs cost-effectively while gaining complete customer satisfaction.
One such company, LYNC Logistics, a woman-owned company, provides full-service 3PL services from its headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cindy Lee, the Founder and President of LYNC, has guided the company from a small operation that was only started to serve her former trucking company to a top competitor on the Inc. 5000 list.
The company was started in 2014 with the assistance of Lee’s daughters, as they saw the “brokerage becoming a huge part of what we were doing with the trucking company.” As time went on Cindy saw that pouring her focus into growing LYNC made sense. From her experience in the trucking world, Cindy felt that brokers had a bad reputation in the marketplace so the company prefers to think of itself as being composed, not of brokers, but rather ‘fixers.’ The company is meeting demand with an experienced team of close to forty employees who know how to do their jobs proficiently and competently.
Chattanooga has over fifty logistics companies, and LYNC Logistics has the advantage of being located in this ‘freight alley,’ with access to the I-75 and I-24, allowing it to provide logistic services across the nation. “We are right at the junction of everything,” says Cindy. “We have two of the largest trucking companies in the nation: U.S. Express and Covenant Transport. We just have an absolute wealth of transportation knowledge in Chattanooga.”
It is interesting to note that of the thirteen fastest-growing industries in the city, eight are in logistics. Cindy adds that being in the freight alley has afforded the company a great deal of “good talent, and that’s what sets this area apart from anywhere else.”
The company has “done exceptionally well,” in terms of growth. The company was ranked 366th for 2019 and 415th for 2018’s Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies. Mathew Soloff, Vice President of Sales, explains that this ranking is, “a three-year running revenue growth total based on the last three years.”
He states that LYNC Logistics provides services that include any type of full truckload, less than truckload, intermodal refrigerated, and over-dimensional loads. “Everything you’re typical brokerage offers… We do move a lot of van and refrigerated freight for food and beverage customers. That’s probably our biggest industry that we move for.” Local, regional and national carriers are used to provide such services.
Flatbed freight is also a focus for LYNC, and Mathew explains that to increase profit margins, the company tries to “move as much flatbed freight as we can,” adding that dry vans and refrigerated freight keep the company active throughout the off-season in the late fall and winter.
Cindy expresses that the company has a well-established customer base and will do “whatever it takes” to keep customers satisfied and efficient. She notes that it operates after-hours, on weekends, and can assist customers with immediate shipping needs. “We are extremely proficient at doing emergency freight… We have been very fortunate in having great contacts with trucking companies that will help us help the client.”
LYNC Logistics currently has twenty-nine floor “fixers” and is hoping to double that number by next year, says Mathew.
“We have a different philosophy for hiring,” Cindy adds. She explains that many brokers will bring in twenty to thirty people at a time and train them for a month or two. In three months, a decision is made as to those that are doing well versus those that are not.
“I feel that’s an extreme waste of everyone’s time,” she says. Rather than do that, LYNC Logistics hires one or two people at a time to “really invest in those people.” Those being considered for hire are given the opportunity for a working interview, working alongside one of the company’s fixers for a day or two or whatever time is required, and the company then determines “if they are going to make it in this business,” continues Cindy. “It’s very stressful. It’s daily calling, so we’re much more careful in who we hire. I think that’s one of the reasons that we’ve grown so well. We’re focused on what we need to get done.”
The company has hired those with varied experience or some experience, but for the most part, LYNC is hiring, “people who have no experience in the actual logistics field,” says Cindy. The company likes to hire those from call centers, for example. “We can teach logistics. We cannot teach that innate sales ability on the phone. You either have it, or you don’t have it.”
Mathew says that recruits from the restaurant or bar industry would also do well. “Generally, those people are relationship people. They have to get a read on their customers when they come in… We find that translates very well over the customer relationships within our industry.”
Talent Marketer Hannah Soloff, adds: “One reason we don’t necessarily go after just experience is that we like to get [people] fresh out of college or out of other jobs so that we can train them our way. They haven’t developed bad habits yet or are set in their ways from a previous broker of how they do things.”
Company fixers generally are required to make at least sixty calls a day, which can be “extremely difficult if you’re not comfortable with that,” says Cindy.
“Some of the technology has changed to where you don’t have to call as many truckers to cover your freight anymore. You can more focused solely on sales calls,” Mathew says. “There are so many brokerages in the county… There’s so many people calling these same big customers every single day, that consistency and persistence is the only thing that wins out. We have better people. That’s where we try to sell ourselves. But at the end of the day, we’re all offering a similar service,” he says.
“The one thing we sell ourselves on is our model. It’s a cradle-to-grave model. Our fixers are going to be the first person that calls you to sell you on LYNC,” he continues. If awarded the contract for the services, the same person will book the truck and track and trace that truck through to delivery. “You have one point of contact from start to finish,” he explains. “We feel like that’s the easy way to earn trust,” even with technology and automation. “People still like dealing with a real person more than anything else. It always wins out.”
LYNC Logistics has developed a distinctive culture that employees have come to appreciate. “It’s important that when we’re hiring and recruiting people, that they do understand our culture on the front end,” says Cindy. The company incorporates a laid back atmosphere with no specific dress code.
A game room is available for those needing to de-stress and relax. Employees may bring in their children because of a school closure or otherwise. They may also work remotely from home if the need arises. The company is “very family-oriented,” seeking those that want to “get on board with that culture,” continues Cindy. “For the most part, people are. They get really excited about it, and honestly, it’s a great recruiting tool for us.”
She notes that most shippers “are technology-driven,” but that at least eighty to ninety percent of trucks on the road today are trucking companies with between one and ten trucks. This means that “their margins are so small that they do not have the money to invest in massive amounts of technology… They want a face and a voice to answer the phone when they have an issue with their truck or getting a load.”
She believes in the benefits technology may offer the industry but feels that not all those in the trucking side of the marketplace are willing to accept the new brokerage models. “I just don’t see that that’s going to affect what we do. Too many people still have to have that personal relationship on their product or on their truck.” The company does employ the latest software every year, and such software “always makes great changes within that platform that allow us to be more efficient here.”
Cindy says that LYNC becoming one of the fastest-growing, woman-owned companies in the nation, is attributable to “hiring very good people and letting them do their job.” She wants her employees to make their decisions in everyday operations and view the company as their own. To her, this is empowerment. “You get great results. I’m grateful to be able to have the opportunity to compete in the trucking market as a woman-owned company and delighted that it has worked out so well.”
In the past, Cindy was not accepted as someone who would operate a trucking firm, simply because she is a woman. Even today, when attending meetings, she is “one of very few women in the industry. I think I bring a different perspective… We have a lot of good female brokers at LYNC,” she says. “We have a family atmosphere here that I don’t think men who are owners of companies place as much value on… I think that side of it, as a female, changes the whole workplace environment.”
LYNC Logistics does not want to be part of the last mile in freight logistics, a service distinct to e-commerce. “We want to be, and what we’re still doing, is taking product to and from the manufacturers to the distribution side,” says Cindy. “No matter how the world changes, that’s still going to require large trucks to get it there… That’s where we can bring the most value to our customers.”
As for the future of her company, Cindy would like to maintain sustainable, profitable, organic growth while having LYNC Logistics “owned by people who care … I strongly believe in giving people jobs where they can make money; they can grow, and they can take ownership. As long as we can continue to do that, I’m extremely happy.”