As part of an ongoing blog series, we’ll speak with Distributor’s Terminal clients in an effort to help you understand the value that a partner like Distributor’s Terminal brings to business in need of warehousing and third-party logistics. In these profiles, you might see yourself through that outside perspective that takes you a step or two beyond what our own promotional pieces or website could communicate. In this profile, we spoke with the founder and CEO of Wabash Valley Packaging, Curt Stephens.
Curt Stephens successfully took the leap from working for a Fortune 100 company to owning a business and establishing it as a strong regional player in the corrugated box market. As the CEO of his own firm, Curt has experienced both the highs and lows of doing it all yourself. In addition, he’s experienced the opportunity of building a business network that includes partners who give him peace of mind and the ability to focus on his core business.
Curt’s relationship with Distributor’s Terminal begins with his founding of Wabash Valley Packaging. Sort of. “I didn’t have access to Andy (Hendricks) at the time I started,” says Stephens. In fact, there really wasn’t an accessible resource that handled warehousing and third party logistics the way that Curt needed to do it. Curt had a large customer whose corrugate business demanded that he make significant investments in warehousing and logistics.
Curt had to make the decision early on to do warehousing and logistics himself. This involved a significant investment – “warehouse, tractor-trailers, forklifts…the whole nine yards,” Stephens will recount in a moment of reflection. These investments represented significant fixed costs – costs that didn’t necessarily represent the core business of making and selling boxes. “To be successful, I needed to help people with their packaging problems, that’s the bottom line,” says Stephens.
Although Curt’s team had the warehousing and logistics bit down exceptionally well, they recognized its presence shouldn’t drive their business decisions. “I got to a point, as the needs of our largest client changed, where I was faced with a decision,” says Stephens. “I could build replacement business to fill that pipe we had created…basically growing the business to fit that scaled-up logistics environment. Or, I could pull back on that infrastructure and let someone else handle that part of the business.” By the time he was faced with this decision, Stephens had gotten to know Andy Hendricks of Distributor’s Terminal.
“In the course of running my business, I had gotten to know Distributor’s and recognized they knew and worked for many, if not most, of my clients,” says Stephens. The timing was right for Stephens to walk away from that side of the business. “Andy allowed me to walk away from the ‘machine’ we’d built…and I got to focus on my business, making and selling boxes – building the business the right way, with the needs of our clients and the market always at the forefront.”
It was a big leap. A significant portion of the day-to-day operation of the business he’d built was now in someone else’s hands. From the Wabash Valley Packaging customer’s perspective, there has been “no loss in customer service, no loss in perception of value.” Stephens adds, “to the customer, it was a seamless transition…invisible.” When asked about what it did for him, Stephens responds, “For me, it’s a transformation. I now have ‘a dial’ that I can adjust up and down – Distributor’s Terminal gives me almost infinite space to adjust that dial up and down based upon my needs.”
“Put another way,” he adds, “I can address changes in my business that affect our warehousing and logistics – a sizable new client, for instance – with a phone call. In the past, I had to address that with bricks, mortar and a considerable amount of my time, diverted – away from my core business. And on the other side, if there is a retraction in my business, I’m not faced with eating that brick and mortar – the warehousing and logistics infrastructure.”
At this turn in the conversation, it seems a natural time to get to the brass tacks of, “Well, how do they do in fulfilling the mission after that phone call?” “Rock solid,” says Stephens. “Distributor’s has the systems in place. They’ve done it right. They communicate with daily reports, inventory status right when I need it, always on top of it. Andy has done it right.” Back to his original point, Stephens adds, “They do it better than I could. If someone is sick or missing, the communication is there so someone else can pick it right up. Breakdowns in communications that might occur in a fast-paced business such as ours are avoided.”