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There’s a reason why UPS has taken the old song “That’s Amore” and transformed it into an advertising jingle with the words “that’s logistics.” Logistics is becoming increasingly important in the complex, $440 billion shipping industry in the United States as shippers navigate such components as comparing pricing, choosing a carrier, scheduling an order, and tracking their shipment.
Realizing this, Bobby Harris, CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, started his own company in 2007 to focus on the technology to handle shipping logistics smoothly and efficiently, especially in small- and medium-sized markets. BlueGrace offers full-service, third-party transportation, technology, freight, and logistics services and in 2011 launched a program to sell franchises in all 50 states, taking on the industry heavyweight, C.H. Robinson.
“They’re by far the dominant player in what we do, so we would consider them the big boy in this business,” Harris says of his main competitor. “Although we’re large enough to have the same resources, we’re far more nimble.”
And that nimbleness has attracted a growing number of clients since the company was founded. Inc. magazine reports that BlueGrace Logistics revenues grew from $849,956 to $63.6 million in just three years, from 2008 to 2011.
Since beginning franchising in early 2011, BlueGrace has grown to more than 30 established franchises across the nation, and its corporate headquarters near Tampa, Fla., has grown from 20 employees to 130.
A Market for the Best
“There’s always a market for the best,” Harris said, quoting a line from Chick-fil-A founder Samuel Truett Cathy. “For us, if we do what everyone else is doing a little bit better and try a little bit harder, we’ll get more business than we know what to do with. And it’s worked out that way.”
Becoming CEO of his own logistics company seemed predestined for Harris. He grew up in the business taking a job as a dock worker for Southeastern Freight Lines right out of high school and working his way up the ladder in operations, sales, and various forms of management. He also worked for a Fortune 500 company, Yellow Transportation, now known as YRC Freight, working mostly in sales before branching off with a couple of partners to go into business for himself.