I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Brosious.
Jean: What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
FreightCenter is a spinoff of my father’s packing and shipping retail store. In my twenties, I was a reluctant entrepreneur and perfectly content earning a salary. After serving in the US Military as an Army Ranger, I had a healthy sales career in Seattle. So, when my father called me up one day to ask if I would move back home to Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, you can see why I was reluctant. My father needed me to manage one of his packing and shipping stores. I had zero experience in the matter and quickly grew bored selling stamps and packing supplies to foot traffic.
Around that time, e-Commerce was struggling after the dot-com market crash. There was little to no competition for freight shipping services on the Web. There was also little to no confidence in the Internet as a sales channel. I took the leap and built a website in Frontpage. I launched American Freight Companies, which ultimately became FreightCenter. The name change helped us differentiate as a global company, allowing us to expand into international markets.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We can change on a dime without board meetings. We are privately-held and don’t have to answer to venture capitalists. In the last three years, the third-party logistics segment has changed. We have new competitors. Some old competitors have merged, making them too large to consider working with the small to medium size businesses we work with on a daily basis. FreightCenter services a niche market that is only growing as more and more entrepreneurs come out of the woodwork. Startup companies need our services because they simply can’t get the same level of attention and affordability from carriers.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
The rebuild of the FreightCenter TMS, which will allow us to spin-off apps that further our mission to simplify freight shipping. In our industry, the software you use determines the types of customers or shippers who ascertain the most value from your service. A TMS or transportation management system allows us to calculate shipping costs, store vendor contracts, store customer data, and much more. Once the engine for the new FreightCenter has been reengineered and our sales agents have been trained on it, we will be able to roll it out as a SaaS product sometime in the next year. We’ll be able to leverage new technology to build apps like a point-and-shoot freight calculator. Theoretically, it would allow shippers to take a picture of their shipment with their phones. The app would measure width, length, and height to calculate density, which is how most freight costs are determined.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I’m fond of the One Minute Manager. I encourage the leaders at FreightCenter to read it because it gives actionable insights on how to effectively communicate with teams. We have several leaders at FreightCenter now. Some of them started in lower-level positions and I personally saw them grow up on the job. Within a year of reading this short book, several of those employees were had been promoted to managers and supervisors. They learn how to curtail emotions and quickly tackle management tasks, as to not dwell on everyday occurrences that prevent us from reaching our goals.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Being a DDIY or don’t-do-it-yourself founder is okay. When you start out with an idea, it is easy to protect it by bearing all responsibility for its success. Doing it yourself might be okay for building IKEA furniture, but it’s not the best way to expand a business. To build a successful freight brokerage, I needed to trust experts to help me grow my idea.
- Never stay bored. I could’ve continued to manage my father’s packing and shipping store, but I was bored out of my mind. (No offense, dad.) I went from a fast-paced sales environment in Seattle to a sleepy retail environment. To cure my boredom, I fixated on the most interesting part of the job: helping others ship odd items.
- Realize your value. Never downplay your experience no matter how little you have. If you run a mile, you can call yourself a runner. The same thing goes for a twenty-something founder. Although I didn’t know exactly how to ship everything, I figured it out by doing it.
- Tell everyone you can do it, before you think you’re a master. Although my knowledge of freight shipping was limited at the time, I knew enough to be of service to people with zero experience. No shipment of freight is exactly the same, but that didn’t stop me from printing window posters that said, “We Ship Anything, Anywhere”. It was a bold statement, but it worked.
- Ignore naysayers. I started FreightCenter.com in July of 1998 (we’re coming up on our 20th birthday). If you remember what it was like for dot coms at that time, it wasn’t pretty. I had plenty of buddies and consultants attempt to flag FreightCenter as a bad idea. I’m glad I didn’t listen to them.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I reference Stephen Covey and his son Stephen Covey, Jr. a lot when I talk about business. Although I didn’t mention the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as my favorite book, I share stories from it often. One story in particular captivates me. I wish I had read this story in my twenties. The “Green and Clean” story is about a father and son who go into business together, contracting lawn care and upkeep. The story analogizes agile project management. To achieve the desired outcome — a green and clean lawn — the father reinforced his expectations and let his son figure out how to achieve those results and meet expectations. I wonder if Covey, Jr. recalls this story as often as I do.
— Published on June 27, 2018