3PL Feature - AP Express Logistics

Written by:
Fulfill Team

Published:

July 9, 2024

Updated:

June 28, 2024

This article covers the transformation AP Express Logistics' founder from a career in law enforcement to a leading figure in logistics.
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Explore the founding and growth of AP Express Logistics, a company that began with a single truck and a passion for exceptional service. This article covers the transformation of its founder from a career in law enforcement to a leading figure in logistics, highlighting key milestones and innovative strategies that have shaped the company's success.

Background and Company Origin 

Can you provide a brief overview of your background and what inspired you to start your 3PL company? 

I’ve been in the logistics industry for close to 35 years, but it didn’t start out that way. I started my career in Law Enforcement and as a high school football coach...then I broke my back. This ended my career as I knew it.

I’ve always been entrepreneurial and started thinking of business ideas. I landed on a transportation business as there was such a great need in Southern California with all the shipments coming in through the port and commercial printing back when I first started. I leased a truck, started with $50 worth of gas money and started knocking on the doors of warehouses in the area. I won my first customer, and they entrusted me with doing all their local deliveries. Through this customer, I was able to grow the business up to about seven trucks. 

My inspiration was really all about providing my customers with exceptional service and finding a way to say “yes” to their needs. It’s all about relationships, providing great service and value for customers. 

What was the vision or mission that drove you to establish your own 3PL business? 

I started AP Express by providing freight and trucking services and had many customers who were disappointed with the visibility they were getting from their 3PL...so I set out to do it better. 

My goal was to use technology to provide more tracking, visibility, and critical metrics to our internal teams to ensure we were providing the best possible service to our customers...and even more importantly, providing this data to our customers for transparency and visibility into what was happening with their products. Our transportation customers signed on to be 3PL customers and referred us to other companies. We grew quickly by focusing on performance metrics and great customer service. 

How did you come up with the name for your company, and is there a story behind it? 

There is a story. My business partner and I used our initials – The “P” stands for my last name, Pont.  We now say AP Express stands for “Anything is Possible” - it fits our company ethos. Solve problems, add value, and find a way to say yes.

Company Growth and Milestones 

Since the inception of your 3PL company, what significant milestones have you achieved in terms of growth and expansion? Can you describe a defining moment or strategy that played a crucial role in scaling your business? 

Growing in a niche. My first customer referred me to others and within a year I was doing transportation for over 90% of the commercial printing industry in Southern California. We really catered to this space and their specific needs. 

Expanding from transportation to 3PL. Several of my transportation customers asked if I could help with smaller shipments, so I added a fleet of 50 little Toyota trucks running small packages for my customers. This was the point that I stopped driving and focused on managing and growing the team. I leased a 1,000 sq ft office and dispatch center.  Shortly after, one of my customers then asked if I could get them 500 sq ft of warehousing space.... I moved into the new location and continued to grow from there.

Listening to our customers and finding a way to say yes. We had a customer who was shipping to Walmart and their product really took off. They went from needing 100,000 sq ft to 500,000 sq ft warehouse overnight...so it was time to expand. We doubled our space and within 6 months of doubling our space, we partnered with a company who needed 1 million sq ft of space. Of course, we didn't make these expansion decisions lightly - but we knew we could be profitable and expanding would ensure that we would be there to meet our customers' needs today and into the future as they scaled. It takes hustle, hard work, believing in yourself and your team.

How have you managed to adapt and stay competitive in the ever-evolving logistics and supply chain industry? 

Investing in our people. I have some employees who have been with me since we started in 1992. We have a skilled, loyal and experienced team of logistics experts. They’ve seen it all, done it all, and this experience lends itself to a problem-solving mindset resulting in shipments that are always accurate and on time. We have great benefits, competitive pay and a collaborative team environment, so we are able to attract and keep talent.

Prime locations. We are near the ports in LA for low-cost transportation to our facilities and we are in Las Vegas, Nevada for those who want to be by the port but also want the business-friendly benefits of storing product in Nevada.

Speed. With the evolution of ecommerce and the Amazon effect, leveraging technology to work faster and smarter has been critical. People want their products delivered in a day. We can do this by staying on top of technological trends.

What sets your company apart from other 3PL providers, and how have you maintained a competitive edge? 

As an owner-operator, I know all of my customers and I am on the floor every day ensuring we are exceeding our customers’ expectations. I care - a lot. I want to be the first number my customer’s call in any logistical emergency. We will act fast and help. We want to help our customers grow. I’ve instilled these same values in my team. To stay competitive, you need to stay involved.

We focus on value for money. AP Express is big enough to get the job done but small enough to give personalized attention to every customer. We’re nimble, action oriented, problem solvers without red tape and bureaucracy. These qualities make us faster and more economical than the big guys.

Industry Insights and Advice 

What are some trends and challenges you've observed in the logistics and 3PL sector over the years? 

The first challenge a lot of 3PLs struggle with is finding the right people for their business. The right executives, the right employees, the right equipment to do multiple things that you want to do for your customers. The people make all the difference in your metrics, customer satisfaction, ability to get new customers...

The right prices. You need to negotiate competitive pricing on equipment, leases, materials, etc so you can pass these savings on to your customers and provide them with competitive pricing.

The right technology. Give the customer visibility to where their product was in the warehouse, how much inventory they have, key performance metrics... We need to give them the peace of mind that we have their operations covered so they can focus on growing their business.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own 3PL? 

Be prepared to work long hours and get involved. Be on the floor with your team. Lead by example.

Be there for your customers. Don’t be a cost, be a cost savings to them. Be a solutions provider. Their business will grow, shrink, products will change...be there for all of it and help. 

Come up with efficiencies and ideas to help your customers grow. That’s what being a partner is all about.

How do you see the future of 3PL and logistics evolving, and what strategies do you have in place to adapt? 

We have a society that needs everything right away. We must adapt, and we've got to be able to move product in and out quickly.

AP Express is always exploring new technologies and automations to make processes faster and less expensive for our customers. We are excited about AI and the efficiencies we’ve already gained through the technology. One example of how we’ve leveraged AI is for EDI coding of retailer specifications. It still requires technical resources, but the process is way faster. AI is going to become more and more important in our industry.

We need to be able to look forward, not today, not a year, but way down the road and spot trends early so we are ahead of the game when it’s time to act.1

What tech stack and outsourced service providers do you use at your business? 

Tech stack: Cart Rover, Extensiv: great for ecommerce business and pick & pack operations, 

Ramp Logistics: best control and visibility of real-time inventory positions

EDI: SPS Commerce. The market leader and connected to all retailers our customers do business with.

Community groups: Fulfill.com (of course), Clutch reviews, Supply Chain Dive, Inbound Logistics...so many great groups and publications with helpful insights and ideas.

Personal Insights 

In your journey as a 3PL founder, what have been the most rewarding and personally fulfilling moments? 

The most rewarding aspect for me is to provide people with jobs and to provide work environments that make people feel valued.  Our work environment is like a second home. We are at work for so many hours a day, it needs to be a pleasurable experience. Morale is important to me, and my employees are really important to me.

I lead by example; I am on the warehouse floor with the team giving high fives to my employees. I've maintained great relationships with employees that have retired, attending their kids and grandkids' life events. This has been a key factor in our business’ success: it’s about relationships. Relationships with employees, customers, vendors...I'm a relationship guy and these relationships make work fulfilling for me.

Can you share a memorable or inspiring story related to your experiences as a business owner? 

In 2017, I had an off-roading accident that left me paralyzed. I had a lot of medical complications, and I was told I would never be able to walk again. It took me two years to heal. I’m a staunch believer in our motto “Anything is Possible” so after many stem cell injections, I proved the doctors wrong and I’m now in the 1% of walking paraplegics. Since then, I’ve become a helicopter pilot and a certified scuba diver. 

Throughout all of it, the AP Express team really stepped up and had my back. We didn’t skip a beat - they stepped up, ran the business in my absence, and provided great service to our customers. This is what a great team does.

I really do believe anything is possible if you put your mind, heart, and soul into it.

What is your leadership philosophy, and how do you inspire and motivate your team? 

I look at my leadership team as partners. We all have an owner mentality, and we are all responsible for results. We win together, as a team. We all lead by example, work hard, have empathy, and care about the people on our team

Inspiration comes in many forms. Recognizing, appreciating and celebrating your team is important. It’s equally important to put your money where your mouth is. We provide not just average medical, but amazing medical. Health is so important to me. We offer performance-based bonuses. We find a lot of ways to give back to our employees - through benefits, recognition, team building events – we are a family.

I have employees that have been with me over 30 years to this day. Wow. Over 30 years...

How do you balance work and life as an entrepreneur in a demanding industry? 

It hasn’t always been easy. A good friend of mine talked to me about this early on. He said to me “Jeff, you're a hard-working guy, but one thing I've noticed is that you don't have balance in your life. You need to have time with your family, you must have time outside of business, because you're working 24 hours a day, your phone is next to your bed.” While I heard him, I didn’t feel I could do anything about it for a long time.

With the management team that I've had in place for the last 5 years, I've really been able to put that balance into play. I'm able to spend time golfing with friends. I now take vacations with my family and its quality time. I can now walk away from the business (still with my phone in tow just in case) and trust everything will be taken care of.  I have my team that can do pretty much anything I can do.

In summary, it’s about trust and about the people. You need to have people that you can trust to take over when you’re out and you need to know that customer service won’t suffer in your absence.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources? 

I’m currently reading Fire in the Hole by Bob Parsons. He’s a Vietnam vet and owns PDX and the Scottsdale National Golf Club. He’s a self-made man and built something incredible.

I’m also a man of faith and I’m proud to say that I have read the Bible cover to cover. 

Closing Remarks

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your 3PL journey or any exciting developments on the horizon for your company?

We’re poised for growth. We’re financially stable, actively acquiring, and looking to expand. Next on the horizon could be an east coast facility to provide even more options for our customers. I’m excited for what’s to come.

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