Last week Mike Meier, a 17-year veteran of C.H. Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW) and financial consultant with experience in third-party logistics industry joined Tampa-based BlueGrace Logistics as its new senior vice president of strategy.
Meier will be working directly with chief executive officer Bobby Harris to build out a team of analytics professionals with a focus on business intelligence, data analytics, and pricing strategy. Broadly conceived, Meier’s mandate is to enable all levels of the organization to make better data-driven decisions.
In 2018, according to Transport Topics, BlueGrace Logistics was the eleventh-largest freight brokerage in the United States with net revenues of $180 million. Harris founded BlueGrace in 2009, and in 2016 took on a $255 million growth equity investment from Warburg Pincus.
Meier said that his relevant experience in the industry began in 2005, when he worked at Robinson in Chicago leading finance and analytics. His team studied the business environment, financial performance, pricing, as well as analyzing systems and processes within the company.
“We built a group that provided insight and information to allow us to make data-based decisions,” Meier said.
After Robinson, Meier worked as a strategic consultant as it related to private equity (PE) entering the 3PL space: he helped guide investment decisions and performed due diligence, working on a number of projects with Warburg Pincus. For nearly the past year, Meier did strategic consulting work with Bobby Harris and BlueGrace, and as he learned more about the company he decided that he wanted to work for a 3PL again.
“In recent years there’s been a lot of PE activity,” Meier said. Those deals were driven not just by the industry’s projected growth rate, but also by the opportunity to combine operations and achieve a scale that leads to even better returns, Meier explained. Over the course of 2019, though, private equity investment in 3PLs seems to have slowed.
“The marketplace has swung; it’s not quite as hot from a supply and demand perspective, a little softer from an investment standpoint,” Meier observed, though he did point out that there was not much evidence for any compression in the EBITDA multiples paid for companies.
Meier is new to BlueGrace and the place where he will make the most impact is perhaps yet to be determined, but he did highlight organizational structure, processes, and focusing on how BlueGrace executes.
“What I’m trying to do is bring in a financial discipline that I’ve learned over the course of my career and apply it internally,” Meier said. Meier will be involved in investment decisions and thinking about how to allocate capital, whether that means in human resources or technology investments.
Fundamentally, Meier explained, the job is being a strategic partner to the CEO, providing guidance for Harris’s vision and taking a long strategic view of where the company needs to go. Meier said that BlueGrace has a very strong foundation in less-than-truckload freight and that it needed to continue to sell into truckload, which is the largest available market and represents an enormous opportunity for BlueGrace going forward.
Meier was not ready to name specific technology-related goals or say how much of pricing or matching BlueGrace would attempt to automate; instead he thinks of his role as laying the groundwork for continuing to add data to the decision-making process. In the near term, he’s working on articulating strategic objectives that the company can measure itself against.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to join BlueGrace after working with them before,” Meier said. “There’s a really good place for BlueGrace in this market.”