Matthew Brosious still won’t ship a grandfather’s clock.
“The vibrations destroy it,” he said.
But the 36-year-old former Army Ranger said he can find a way to move almost any other item — from floor tiles to car engines — within the United States and Canada. And he vows to do it cheaper than anyone else because of his large customer base, high volumes and extensive relationships with trucking companies.
Brosious is president of FreightCenter, an online third-party logistics company that has doubled its annual revenue and tripled is work force since the recession began in 2007. The company projects revenue of $30 million this year.
It was just named a Florida Company to Watch, an awards program presented by GrowFL and the Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida that celebrates second-stage companies.
FreightCenter operates like Expedia or Priceline. With FreightCenter shipping companies bid for business instead of airlines and hotels.
Brosious started the company in 1998 from the back of his father’s chain of shipping stores in Pinellas County. Jim Brosious specialized in packaging and mailing small parcels for non-business customers.
Matt Brosious noticed that wasn’t much they could do for individuals who wanted to send something too large for regular mail and too small for moving companies. People came to their store with recliners, dressers and large pieces of art.
“There was no middle ground for shipping,” Brosious said. “Many objects ended up in the Dumpster or at the Salvation Army.”
So he began looking for solutions.
That involved contacting freight companies and negotiating for room on their trucks. He developed a liability release form since the big shippers were wary of handling household goods and personal items instead of bulk factory merchandise from regular business customers.
“I started to establish relationships with these people and with the carriers,” Brosious said. “Then I started looking for more repeatable relationships with businesses. We opened an environment for small business to utilize any transportation company out there.”
Putting the idea in motion
FreightCenter used profits from the sale of Jim Brosious’ business to get started. Matt Brosious said he has continued to reinvest profits to fuel growth and has no significant debt on the business.
Today, about 80 percent of FreightCenter’s volume is business-to-business traffic. Many of those customers are smaller start-up businesses that ship less than $20,000 a month.
“That’s who we specialize in. They’ve really become our niche,” he said.
The logistics industry has grown dramatically over the past decade, according to the International Warehouse Logistics Association. In 2002, the industry accounted for nearly 9 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product with the 3PL element accounting for more than $78 billion. The association estimates growth of 15-20 percent per year.
FreightCenter has moved or expanded eight times, moving from offices in Clearwater, Largo, Indian Rocks and Trinity. Brosious said FreightCenter has more than 500,000 registered customers, including companies such as Warner Brothers, Mercedes, Dell and Disney.
Establishing the next phase
FreightCenter no longer touches the items it’s shipping, using its volume to rely on third-party packagers that wouldn’t be available to regular consumers. “We’ve become nothing more than a software company that focuses on transportation,” Brosious said.
The eight-member IT staff continues to refine and develop new proprietary software for the company. Brosious said 90 percent of other shipping companies use the same out-of-the-box software program, which isn’t as fast or detailed as what he’s developed.
But just to keep his competitive edge Brosious frequently checks other online shipping sites, entering ZIP codes for difficult to reach locations, such as the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.
The bulk of FreightCenter’s employees work in a massive call center checking details of computer orders. People try sneaking a grandfather clock or other prohibited items on the truck, Brosious said.
Last year FreightCenter entered a relationship with the GoDaddy.com. The Internet domain registrar and web-hosting company links its customers to FreightCenter.com for shipping services.
“We can get integrated with any online retailer,” Brosious said.
Part of his strategy is being viewed as a marketing partner with the companies that use his service.
FreightCenter is developing new service to Europe with pick up from anywhere in the United States and delivery to major ports or airports overseas.
Brosious also wants to add service to Mexico, which he sees as “a big market” but one with many security issues.
“There’s been a lot of good luck,” Brosious said. “We were in the right place at the right time.”