Strong Foundations of Success
By focusing on the people delivering the cargo, and forming strong international relationships
Future Forwarding has managed to secure itself healthy growth, and a promising future.
“In August of 2003 I joined Future Forwarding. I was the fifth employee, which was a complete flip for me because I’d been with a company with 6,000 employees and 300 offices, and I came to a company with one small office and four people,” says Colin Smith President of US-based transportation, warehousing and logistics company Future Forwarding. “But the company culture, even then, was based on developing strong relationships with customers and staff, and we’re proud that the very first company employee, and our first clients are still with us.”
Hailing initially from England, Smith fell into the logistics industry by chance early in his career, finding himself in the export department of pharmaceutical manufacturer The Boots Company in the mid-1980s. Having taken a minor detour to try his hand as a professional cricket player, and insurance salesman, Smith returned to the logistics industry in 1992, and within a decade had crossed the Atlantic with his family to live in the US.
What Smith recognized in Future Forwarding early on was a strong dedication to service, and personal service, a focus which enabled Future Forwarding to compete in a highly competitive industry where relationships and trust are crucial.
“We had a huge growth spurt between 2003 and 2005, the amount of business we were doing was increasing 300 – 400 per cent per year. At the same time we were diversifying and continually bolting on new services to what we were doing,” Smith says. “We formed a partnership with a company that gave us links into the Far East market, so not only could we offer competitive rates, but local representation. We also formed solid relationships with the furniture industry, starting with one importer who was able to introduce us to others and so on; he’s still a client of ours today.”
According to Smith, the rapid growth of Future Forwarding through that period was due in a large part to the fact the company’s customers were also growing, thanks in turn to the level of support the company was hoping to provide.
“Our goal is to be an extension of our client’ business, sitting side by side at the meeting table, and understanding their products, supply chain, and production flows,” Smith says. “We also spend a lot of time and resources in establishing relationships with a network of overseas partners that we can trust.”
Growing and expanding its services so rapidly, however, also had its downside. Having launched with a fairly simple enterprise software suite created initially for the UK market, Future Forwarding staff were increasingly finding themselves hampered by technology. As the company expanded its service offering it purchased a range of different software packages which then had to be made to operate together, making it difficult to undertake even the most basic reporting functions. Within a short space of time, the need to pass data in between the patchwork quilt of systems the company had adopted was seriously hampering its capacity to expand.
Facing increased security reporting requirements
following the terrorist attacks in New York and
Washington DC on September 11 2001, Future Forwarding
began investing in a series of different software systems
covering third party logistics, warehousing, and customs
reporting. “We were actually taking longer and longer to process transactions because staff had to log into and out of so many different systems,” says Smith. “We were dealing with seven different software applications so if something went wrong, troubleshooting was often problematic.”
In 2010 Future Forwarding began assessing ediEnterprise from CargoWise, and in February 2011 adopted the software across its US and then later in 2011 its UK offices. The positive results were immediate, as the time it took to process transactions was substantially reduced; the company has been able to increase the number of transactions handled per employee.
“It was the realization that we could work from a single screen, and a single piece of software which really made the difference,” says Smith. “And because it’s enabled our business to grow, we’ve ultimately put on more staff anyway.”
Moreover, the improved reporting, data access, transparency, and availability of the ediEnterprise system has enabled Future Forwarding to maintain its commitment to the high levels of customer service which have underpinned much of the company’s growth over the years.
“I truly believe people buy from people. It is unlikely someone will entrust you with their product, irrespective of value, unless they actually like the person offering the service in the first place. Once that relationship is established, finding solutions, problem solving, and costing exercises are dealt with quickly, efficiently, and with mutual benefit in mind.” Smith says. “That’s why the human element is so important.”