Kevin Lathrop has served as President of Unishippers Global Logistics, LLC since January of 2011. Lathrop began his Unishippers career as a franchise owner, initially purchasing the Unishippers of Orange County North franchise in 1992. In September of 1999, he joined the Unishippers corporate office, serving as Executive Vice President and CIO.
Prior to joining Unishippers, he worked for Hughes Aircraft Company in a variety of engineering and management positions including Section Head of the Advanced Technology Section where he was responsible for all aspects of the Surface Acoustic Wave Product Line.
Franchise Chatter (FC): For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with your company, can you describe the Unishippers Global Logistics business model? How do your franchisees make money?
Kevin Lathrop (KL): Founded in 1987, Unishippers Global Logistics, LLC is the nation’s first and one of the largest small package and freight third party logistics (3PL) companies in the nation with more than 290 franchise locations.
Unishippers works with major carriers including UPS®, Saia®, Estes®, YRC Freight™ and UPS Freight® to handle the pickup, transport and delivery of customers’ shipments while they provide personalized service and reduced rates to over 50,000 small to mid-sized business customers.
By leveraging the combined shipping volume of all its customers, Unishippers gets deeply discounted rates from its carriers, resulting in lower shipping costs. Through both the original geographic model and the newer National model, franchisees make money by selling and servicing b2b customers anywhere in the country.
Whether a franchisee owns a geographic territory or a National franchise, all franchisees have the opportunity to sell and service accounts anywhere in the country. Franchisees with territories also benefit by receiving a share of the profits for accounts sold by other franchisees that are located in their franchise area.
FC: What sets Unishippers apart from your competitors in the industry?
KL: Unishippers places a strong emphasis on building lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with both our carrier partners and our customers. While saving our customers’ money is priority number one, we believe that it is equally important to add value to the customer experience and feel the same towards the carriers we work with, which has been a large factor in attracting both customer and carriers’ business over competitors.
We offer Platinum Service to our customers which consists of advanced technology and shipping tools, a dedicated account service team, one consolidated invoice for all their shipping needs, advocacy with the carrier and an array of products and services specifically aimed at the small to medium sized business customer.
One of the largest distinguishing factors between Unishippers and competitors is that Unishippers is only one of two 3PLs nationwide to offer both small package (UPS) and freight shipments services from one company.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for Unishippers?
KL: An ideal Unishippers franchisee is someone with a background in and passion for sales or has transportation industry experience. We look for prospects that have demonstrated success in their previous occupations and ideally, have managed a business before in some capacity.
It’s also important that candidates consider the accompanying lifestyle of a Unishippers franchisee, i.e. not working on weekends, not being tied to a specific location, having flexibility with hours, etc.
FC: Please tell us about your recently concluded Veterans Franchise Giveaway contest. Who were eligible to enter, what was the selection process like and what was the grand prize?
KL: The Veterans Franchise Giveaway contest aimed to award a deserving, qualified military veteran a free Unishippers National Franchise and was in collaboration with USA Cares, a charity that provides financial and advocacy assistance to post 9/11 active duty US military service personnel, veterans and their families.
The contest entry period concluded on September 3, 2013 with over 50 entries. After careful evaluation and consideration, the Unishippers team selected U.S. Air Force veteran Terrance Turner from Niceville, FL as the winner.
To qualify for the contest, veterans had to submit an entry explaining why they were interested in owning a Unishippers franchise and how their military experience would help them be a successful Unishippers franchisee. After the top five semifinalists were selected, the Unishippers corporate office flew them out to Salt Lake City for a special Discovery Day event where they met Unishippers executives, department leaders and the panel of judges face-to-face.
Due to the high quality of the other four semifinalists, Unishippers is now working to assist them with additional financing options, including partnering them with larger franchise groups in the organization who have expressed interest in helping veterans start businesses of their own.
FC: What made you choose Terrence Turner, U.S. Air Force veteran from Niceville, FL, as the winner?
KL: During his time with the military, Turner served as a Logistics Superintendent for the U.S. Air Force, a Master Scheduler/Planner for the Crestview Aerospace Corp and as a Logistics Manager for the Department of Defense regarding foreign military sales.
Outside of the military, Turner also worked as a Logistics Manager for COLSA Corporation, a technology services and solutions company.
Turner was the best choice for winning the free franchise because of his over 30 years of experience in logistics, lifelong passion for the field and the strong work qualities he acquired during his years of military service that translate well as a franchisee.
Owning a Unishippers franchise was something Turner wanted to do regardless of any contest so this served as the perfect platform for him to achieve his dream of opening his own business in the industry.
FC: What are some common characteristics of veterans that make them good franchisees?
KL: Working as part of a franchise network, it’s extremely important for franchisees to be able to follow an outlined plan in terms of operations and growth, and veterans have abundant experience with sticking to a plan of action and seeing it through. We’ve found from veterans already working in our franchise network that they have the determination and dedication to be successful and strong representations of the national, growing brand.
FC: How do you plan to grow the franchise in the coming year?
KL: Over the next year, we plan to continue our aggressive growth by continuing to expand upon our core UPS and freight products and by taking advantage of our newest product offerings for both prospective franchisees and customers.
For prospects, we plan to promote our National franchise program that presents unrestricted sales opportunities and low cost of entry. For small to midsized businesses, we now offer competitive freight insurance, cost-effective full truckload (FTL) services and top notch air freight services from UPS freight forwarding.
Founded in 1987, Unishippers has grown to the largest reseller of shipping services in the nation with more than 290 franchise locations. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, UT, the Unishippers concept is simple – work with major carriers including UPS®, Saia®, Estes®, YRC Freight™ and UPS Freight® to handle the pickup, transport, and delivery of customers’ shipments. All the while, local franchisees work to provide customers with service and support.
By leveraging the combined shipping volume of all its customers, Unishippers gets deeply discounted rates from its carriers, resulting in lower shipping costs.
Unishippers serves more than 50,000 small to mid-sized businesses, and has been recognized as a top freight broker by Transport Topics and a top franchise by Entrepreneur, Franchise Times and the Inc. 5000.
For information on Unishippers, including information on franchising opportunities and price quotes, visit www.unishippers.com.