DRIV­ING FOR­WARD

Avenger Lo­gis­tics is Chat­tanooga’s fastest grow­ing lo­gis­tics firm

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - BUSINESS - BY DAVE FLESSNER STAFF WRITER

When Inc. mag­a­zine re­leased its list in Au­gust of the 5,000 fastest grow­ing busi­nesses since 2014, a ma­jor­ity of the Chat­tanooga com­pa­nies on the list were in or serv­ing the truck­ing in­dus­try. Five of the nine lo­cal com­pa­nies Inc. ed­i­tors said had the most rapid rev­enue growth from 2014 to 2017 were ei­ther freight bro­kers, in­sur­ers or transportation ser­vice com­pa­nies.

But Chat­tanooga’s fastest grow­ing freight bro­ker wasn’t on the Inc. list this year be­cause it is still too new.

Avenger Lo­gis­tics, a freight bro­ker­age and lo­gis­tics com­pany cre­ated in 2015 by for­mer Gold Bond Inc. owner Don God­sey, is likely to be a top lo­cal con-

ten­der on the 2019 Inc. list af­ter grow­ing from $9 mil­lion in sales in 2016 to more than $60 mil­lion this year. The com­pany ex­pects to top $100 mil­lion in sales next year.

“What has re­ally made a dif­fer­ence for us is our own­er­ship, lead­er­ship and the cul­ture here,” said Bruce Cle­ments, pres­i­dent of Avenger Lo­gis­tics. “We’ve build a great team; we re­cruit and train good peo­ple, and we’re com­mit­ted to do­ing what we need to do to serve our cus­tomers.”

Those are lessons many of Avenger’s man­agers learned at Ac­cess Amer­ica, the freight bro­ker­age startup founded in Chat­tanooga in 2002 that grew to more than $500 mil­lion in rev­enues by the time it was sold and merged with Coy­ote Lo­gis­tics (later sold to UPS) in 2014.

So far, Avenger is grow­ing even faster than Ac­cess Amer­ica did in its first three years.

Avenger, which in­cludes many for­mer Ac­cess Amer­ica man­agers, started as a flatbed spe­cialty trans­porter and re­mains a ma­jor heavy hauler. But Avenger is rapidly ex­pand­ing across all types of in­dus­try and freight move­ments, in­clud­ing flatbed, heavy haul, over di­men­sional, van, LTL (less than truck­load) in­ter­modal, air or ocean ship­ments.

“If you move it on a truck, or a plane or a boat, we want to help,” said Ja­son Roberts, Avenger Lo­gis­tics’ di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. “Whether it is one pal­let weigh­ing 100 pounds or one piece weigh­ing 200,000 pounds, we can move it for you.”

Chat­tanooga is home to two of Amer­ica’s top 10 long-haul truck­ing firms — U.S. Xpress En­ter­prises and Covenant Trans­port — and has a ma­jor Ama­zon ful­fill­ment cen­ter. But for all the giants in town and in the in­dus­try, more than 80 per­cent of all truck­ing com­pa­nies still have fewer than five trucks and there are still tens of thou­sands of busi­nesses across North Amer­ica need­ing to ship their prod­ucts via truck, Roberts said.

Con­nect­ing ship­pers with truck­ers able to de­liver that freight is the daily chal­lenge for work­ers at Avenger Lo­gis­tics. A list of prospec­tive clients is put on the board above Cle­ments desk ev­ery day.

“We re­ally think we have just be­gun to scratch the sur­face for our growth,” Roberts said. “We are adding about three or four em­ploy­ees a month and our busi­ness plan is to grow to about 100 em­ploy­ees or more next year.”

In the com­pany’s Shal­low­ford Road of­fice, dozens of Avenger work­ers make the con­nec­tions to ship goods all across North Amer­ica. Sev­eral times a day, the gong sounds — and staff cheers go up — when sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives achieve an­other sales tar­get or mile­stone. Bells ring when em­ploy­ees make new sales and Avenger has reg­u­lar con­tests, em­ployee lun­cheons and other events to make their jobs, which can of­ten by quite stress­ful, as much fun and re­ward­ing as pos­si­ble.

Each Avenger em­ployee, who the com­pany calls a “team mem­ber,” han­dles both the sales and ser­vice for each client, rather than split­ting the func­tions like many other freight bro­kers. Lo­cal staff are em­pow­ered to make the con­tract, ar­range the ship­ment and hire the truck­ing ser­vice to meet each cus­tomer’s need.

“We give our team mem­bers to train­ing and tools to do their job and try to em­power them for suc­cess in meet­ing cus­tomer needs,” Roberts said.

Avenger’s 11,000-square-foot of­fice in­cludes an on-site work­out room with a variety of ex­er­cise equip­ment and, sim­i­lar to God­sey’s other busi­nesses, a chapel for those want to pray, med­i­tate or take time for re­flec­tion.

Within the next six months, the com­pany ex­pects to move to a new of­fice more than twice as big as its lo­cal staff grows to more than 100. Cur­rently, Avenger has one other of­fice in Min­neapo­lis, but oth­ers are planned as the busi­ness grows, Roberts said.

God­sey, who jokes that he re­tired “for a cou­ple of weeks” af­ter sell­ing Gold Bond to his son and briefly run­ning an out­door sign com­pany, said he was at­tracted to the truck­ing busi­ness while trav­el­ing to Florida and see­ing the num­ber and variety of trucks on the road. But in ex­plor­ing the in­dus­try, God­sey dis­cov­ered that freight bro­kers that ar­range ship­ments but don’t ac­tu­ally own the trucks or equip­ment are of­ten more prof­itable and less risky.

“We are more than sim­ply a transportation re­source for our cus­tomers – we are truly strate­gic part­ners, serv­ing a key role in the suc­cess of their sup­ply chains,” God­sey says on the com­pany’s web site. “We’re here to listen and re­spond to your ever chang­ing needs.”

Con­tact Dave Flessner at df­less­ner@times­freep­ress.com or at 423-7576340.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY TIM BAR­BER

Freight bro­kers dis­play their on­go­ing achieve­ments with record al­bums above their desks at Avenger Lo­gis­tics.

Ja­son Roberts is di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Avenger Lo­gis­tics.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY TIM BAR­BER

Avenger Lo­gis­tics freight bro­ker Chris Mayes stands at his desk in front of a Bingo board where em­ployee achieve­ments are dis­played.

Bruce Cle­ments is pres­i­dent of Avenger Lo­gis­tics in the Chat­tanooga head­quar­ters on Shal­low­ford Road.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.