Customer Focused Transportation Solutions

SPI International Transportation

A crucial component of SPI’s success is that the company is not tied down to one type of freight or a specific mode of transportation. SPI President Mitch Helten explains that, unlike a carrier, SPI isn’t distracted with managing its own fleet. Instead, the team is able to put its entire efforts into managing each client’s unique transportation needs – and is free to develop a transportation plan that goes beyond the scope of a single carrier. Indeed, the team considers all modes of domestic or international transportation and takes into account the entire supply chain process when creating a solution.

A customer-centric attitude is also key. “It comes down to service,” Mr. Helten remarks. The team works one-on-one with clients to provide the personalized solutions that they need. “We really like to talk to our customers and uncover what their needs are in the transportation market and see how we can enhance their supply chain,” explains Greg Davenport, who oversees SPI sales and operations. “We listen to what our clients’ issues are. We listen to what their problems are, their pains in the industry, whether it be claims, transit times, or price. All of these things impact companies in today’s market because it is such a competitive market.”

And the greater the challenge, the better, Mr. Helten insists. “We love challenges,” he says. “Our whole network does. We love to solve problems. That’s what we do in transportation – we are logistics problem solvers.” The ultimate goal is to provide customers with a solution that goes beyond their expectations. “We try to actually exceed what they are looking for,” says Mr. Davenport.

SPI credits its dedicated team for maintaining the company’s high levels of customer satisfaction. “I think that we differentiate ourselves by the fact that we have very good people in our organization that do a very good job,” Mr. Davenport says. Mr. Helten adds that the team’s integrity is foundational to success. “In this business it is all about trust, and people end up dealing with you because they trust you.”

Mr. Helten believes that SPI’s forward thinking business model has played a key role in maintaining a competent, trustworthy, and committed team. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we are a network of independent businesses,” he says. “It means that our people are really focused on their customers. They probably take care of them better than an employee would, because they have a stake in the business. They really go all the way.”

This independent network also creates an ideal opportunity for entrepreneurs. “I think that it is real success that we have been able to create something that has given over 100 people the ability to earn a living and have a lifestyle that they want,” Mr. Helten points out. He also believes that the independent network model has helped SPI achieve its rapid growth.

Advanced technological capabilities have also played a key role in SPI’s success. “One reason why we can provide really focused service for the customer is that we lean heavily on technology,” says Mr. Helten. This includes web portals that allow customers to easily track shipments in real time, as well as a suite of specialized software. In fact, SPI actually created its own software to specially meet the needs of the industry. “After looking at many other software systems, we ended up coming up with our own, which was much better than anything we could find out there.” This software was so innovative, and so helpful, that the team decided to make it available to other companies through a spinoff company in 2002. “There are over 400 transportation companies that are using that system now,” Mr. Helten says.

SPI has also made it a point to specialize in Heavy Haul, Over-Dimensional, and Project Cargo Transportation Services. These services cover the shipment of everything from massive ship propellers, to hulking tunnelling machines, to entire pulp mills. “Anything that is big and ugly,” Mr. Helten jokes. The team has worked hard to build up this side of the business over the last ten years, and is very active in the sector today as a result. Mr. Davenport says that this move was particularly important because many of the insiders within this field are retiring, “and there aren’t a lot of experts left out there who are doing this kind of business… It has been a tough job but we’ve been successful in expanding the network and growing.”

The team wants to expand its scope even further, and open more offices within its already wide-reaching network. “We’d like to be like the REMAX of the transportation industry,” Mr. Helten summarizes. Specifically, SPI is looking to hit the $150 million mark in annual revenue within the next year or two, and then “keep going from that point.” Mr. Davenport adds that continued expansion will require the company to remain innovative and flexible. “We are open to change,” he points out. “We are open to new technology. We are open to new ideas.”

October 17, 2017, 4:31 PM EDT

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