IT’S SIMPLE AND CONVENIENT, AS LONG AS YOU WORK AT BUILDING GOOD RELATIONSHIPS
By Julie Bennett – As Published in The Wall Street Journal – Thursday, January 5, 2017 – Special Advertising Feature
Howard Fischer is earning a six-figure income by running a shipping and logistics company from his home office in Berkeley, Calif. For seven years, Mr. Fischer, the former director of a retail advertising department, has been a franchisee of lnXpress of South Jordan, Utah.
Temple, Texas-based Art Coley, the chief development officer of InXpress, says the company’s 70 franchisees are resellers of shipping services to thousands of small and midsized businesses “that get lost in the cracks of shipping logistics.” Large shipping companies typically do not want to deal with small companies that ship a few packages globally each week, Mr. Coley says. But when InXpress combines all these shipments, their volume rivals that of large corporations and gives franchisees access to discounts and other options the shippers reserve for their largest customers.
“For example, InXpress is DHL’s fifth largest customer.” Mr. Coley says. “That allows franchisees to offer rates that are 20% to 40% less than small business owners can negotiate on their own.
“The Dallas-Fort Worth area and the whole Texas region is a hotbed of small businesses that can profit from our shipping and logistics model. In fact, small-business owners in Texas and the surrounding states are posting double-digit growth in their international shipping,” Mr. Coley says. “We are attending the Expo in Dallas to find key franchise partners to represent the InXpress brand in their local areas.
“The great majority of our franchisees come in without shipping, freight or logistics backgrounds,” he adds. “Most are individuals in their 30s to 50s, [have] worked in corporate America and are looking for a business that is not brick-and-mortar that they can operate from a home office.”
“It’s amazing that you don’t need experience in shipping to do this,” says Kody Slade, of Dallas, who has been an InXpress franchisee since early 2011. “I had a career in construction management when one of my good friends became an InXpress franchisee and convinced me to look at the company, too. The model is extremely simple and it’s really about building relationships with local business owners and telling them what we can do for them.”
The investment is under $100,000, Mr. Coley says, and half of that is working capital. “It takes a while to ramp up, as does any small business,” says Cathy Battreall, of Jacksonville, Fla., a pharmacist and former owner of a home medical equipment company, who is the company’s highest volume franchisee. “I started in 2011 and spent the first few months learning the industry,” she says. “I then hired a sales team to help me approach local business owners. Today I have two sales representatives and two customer-service reps who help me service over 2,000 customers. Long term, we could easily double our business.”
Mr. Slade says he’s “making a good living, but the greatest reward is the amount of freedom InXpress gives its franchisees. I work from a home office and, once customers are on our automated system, I don’t have to be involved with them every day and can spend time with our three little girls. And when one of our customers has a problem, InXpress has a support staff to help me solve it quickly. My very first customer told me she’d never leave because of the customer service I can offer her.”
While franchisees may not need shipping experience, “they must be plugged into their communities,” Mr. Coley says. To find small-business customers, they must be part of their local Chamber of Commerce and other networking groups. “We award franchises based on an area’s population and business count,” says Mr. Coley, “and have openings in every major U.S. market.”
Getting any new business-to-business franchise started can be difficult, Mr. Coley warns. “The first year I made $6,000,” says Mr. Fischer. “In the following years, as I got more customers into the pipeline, I grew quite a bit and replaced my previous salary in year four. “But anyone who wants to get rich quick should do something else.”