Founded in 2015, Avenger Logistics is growing so fast that, according to their estimates at least, they’ll crack Inc. 5000’s 2019 top ten in their first year of eligibility. Venture capitalist and owner Don Godsey made his money with promotions company, Gold Bond, until he was ready for a new challenge.
“He decided he wanted to get into trucking,” says Jason Roberts, director of Business Development. “He spoke to people around town in Chattanooga, and freight hub that it is, there were lots of people to talk to. They said maybe you shouldn’t get trucks and have the overhead. Then you can leverage the power of your relationships around the business.”
“The way we’ve differentiated ourselves is that we are trying to support the little guys,” says Roberts. “Ninety percent of carriers are small anyway. We don’t do a lot of business with the Schneiders and Swifts of the world. Those guys can have their market share. We’ve actually found [the little guys] are more loyal, reliable, and their rates are more competitive.”
Roberts attributes a lot of the company’s success by starting in heavy haul and what is called “overdimensional.” This particular angle came from the knowledge base and the relationships and experience that people brought with them from places like Access America Transport.
Access America was founded in 2002 by Ted Alling and Barry Large as the logistics division of Key-James Brick. The company soon expanded into other commodities and began offering dry van, flatbed, and reefer [refrigerated van] service. By March of 2014, Access America and Coyote Logistics announced a merger. The combination created an estimated $2 billion freight brokerage. Shortly thereafter, UPS acquired Coyote. While many stayed on from the original Access America, the growth opportunities created an environment of experienced brokers looking for new employment opportunities in the area.
“But as we’ve grown it’s all modes now. Expedited, dry van, and the reefer world now. We give guys the autonomy to go out there and do their thing. The approach is cradle-to-grave, but we do have an operations team. It’s not a split model. The operations are there for support. Cradle-to-grave is one point of contact,” explains Roberts.
“At Access [America] we were thrown to the wolves. There’s advantages to that, but also disadvantages,” he says. “One thing is you’re going to end up learning the habits of the person you’re working under. We do a training of 30-60 days depending on someone’s initial success. By the time they get out, they have at least two clients.”
“We have done some business with Fortune 500 companies, and I can see how massive volumes can have their place with the split model, but overall our customers like the single point of contact,” he adds.
The company leverages an “industry-best commission model,” which is what Roberts calls another “big differentiator, and part of how you grow fast.”
As for their company culture, Roberts says, “Don believes in taking care of his people and rewarding them for their hard work. It’s a team atmosphere, it’s not cut-throat. We’re here for the long haul, at least that’s what we hope.”
Avenger is approaching their goal of 100 employees by end of year, and according to their HR department, 30% are women.
“I’m certain our representation of women is way above average,” says Roberts. “It’s no secret that the trucking culture in general can be a ‘bro culture.’ When we talk about culture, we think ‘inclusion.’ We have contests every month, and we make sure they’re different every month. In our industry there are standard KPIs. This month we’re having, for instance, an LTL push. We’ve moved from one person to an entire division always making sure that the support is there. No one ever feels like they’re left on an island. In the industry it’s easy for management to ‘set it and forget it.’ I meet with personnel each and every month and ask about issues and struggles and ask what we can do to support them in real and specific ways, and we want each and every person to succeed here.”
Avenger has an office in Minneapolis as well. That branch struggled with leadership at first, but according to Roberts those issues have been handled and the branch is now set in the right direction. The company’s total operating revenue for their first year of operations was $9 million, followed by $26 million, and this year should be well over $60 million.
“Our business model for next year is looking at $100 million,” says Roberts.
While Avenger doesn’t have plans for mergers or acquisitions any time soon, they do plan on opening offices “in every time zone at the very least.” The Pacific Northwest and some New England are the places where they estimate to have the least penetration so far.
“We’re fully confident we’ll be in the Inc. 5000 top ten next year,” asserts Roberts.
The company is looking also looking at a fourth move. They hire 2-3 employees a month in Chattanooga, and 1-2 a month in Minneapolis. They plan to meet or exceed having a workforce of 100 employees by the end of year.
Roberts says Avenger is a great place to work especially as compared to a big brokerage. “Our commission structure will not change. Why would you change something that’s working?”
“As long as we have the right leadership in place. You’ve got to get down and dirty and involved with the people doing the work on the ground. People quit their bosses, not their jobs,” says Roberts.
For more on Freight Alley, where logistics contributes to more than 40% of the economy, check out our latest coverage here.