When the global financial crisis took hold in 2008, the client relationships that TPS Logistics in Troy had spent years cultivating and nurturing didn’t just wane — they disappeared. With a majority of its sales tied to the auto industry, the company had to adapt or run the real risk of shutting down.
“We quickly found out the way we used to do things didn’t work anymore,” says Brandon Stallard, co-founder and CEO of TPS Logistics. “The business lesson is obviously not to put all of your eggs in one basket, but there are so many more lessons that came from the recession, like being willing to change course and sacrifice the present to build for the future.”
To wit: In October 2008, TPS employees, including management, were asked to take a 15 percent pay cut. And by the beginning of 2010, the firm reversed its fortunes and every employee was paid back, with interest.
How? “It took eight months to find new business opportunities, and while the automotive market was down we got into oil and gas, along with other markets,” Stallard says. “It was like getting the band back together after a long break. In this case, around 75 percent of our automotive clients were in Chapter 11 (bankruptcy). Then heavy industry began to come back, along with oil and gas, retail, and health and beauty.”
Riding the new wave of business, the company — which provides transportation solutions and efficiencies by leveraging its volume to drive down shipping and related costs — began to invest in smarter software programs. It also stayed true to one of its founding principles, which was to manage transportation rather than acquire a fleet of trucks.
“We don’t compete with our clients; rather, we work with them to improve their transportation needs, which is why we don’t have physical assets like trucks,” Stallard says. “We’re subject-matter experts in transportation, right down to bar-coding. Companies want to know where every SKU (stock keeping unit) is, so we have to understand our clients, what their needs are, and what their pain points are.”
Today, with offices throughout the United States and Mexico, the company has 160 employees (75 in Troy). To drive value, TPS acquired several software firms in recent years and brought the enterprises in-house. As a result, the company took what was a rigid logistics system and added flexibility to better track shipments and carbon credit opportunities.
To better pinpoint the location of cargo, the company worked with Detroit Labs and others to develop Badger Application, an app-based freight tracking solution that enables logistics firms, shippers, and carriers to update and track shipments more accurately via a smartphone. Rather than calling eight people to figure out exactly where a particular delivery is, the app sends out real-time location alerts.
“If the final delivery point knows there’s a delay due to traffic, mechanical problems, or weather, they can shift to another job while they wait for the delivery,” says Parker Stallard, president of Badger Application, which is a separate company. “The app boosts efficiency across the board.”
The app, which costs $99 a month, has a large potential customer base, including thousands of shipping companies and 3.2 million truck drivers. “Badger is more efficient than setting up a logistics tech system (for individual clients),” Parker says. “It puts everything at your fingertips.” db