The BlueGrace Story
Business grew out of deep roots in transportation industry
Emerging Business Category by Ernst & Young, and the company he founded has been named one of the fastest-growing private businesses in America.
So how did he get started?
He started as a dock worker at the Port of Tampa, working for a freight company that quickly recognized his talent and hard work and moved him into operations management — he was running the company’s outbound facility by age 20. Success kept coming, and by 28, he was running specialized sales operations throughout Florida and Puerto Rico for another transportation company. At age 30, he bought a shipping franchise. By age 32, he owned 23 locations and was in talks to buy out his franchisor. After those talks fell apart, he decided to cash out his investments and use the money and his transportation industry insights to start his own business — BlueGrace Logistics.
Providing transparency in a complicated industry
When Bobby was a multi-unit franchisee for a shipping franchise, one of his most successful moves was making his network more accessible to his clients. Bobby procured a license from MercuryGate in 2007 to utilize its transportation management system solutions. He realized that the cost of shipping was not always the core issue. Cost is important, but often, especially in larger businesses, integration with company technology and flexibility are more important.
Large, institutional carriers are often not flexible. If a carrier has trucks in one region, chances are that’s the region they can serve. The days of hiring large numbers of highly paid salespeople to drive around territories in Ford Tauruses are largely gone — big carriers can’t easily get to the customers they need, and customers often want more than a carrier can provide. The costs are simply too high and a salesperson occasionally visiting an area isn’t as visible to potential customers.
Bobby realized that a third party could leverage technology to better match what a customer needed with what a wide variety of carriers had to offer. It was a win-win; customers could get much better solutions, and carriers could get the exact business they wanted. Best of all, there was a wide-open entrepreneurial opportunity for the person who could match the two and provide local, personal service.
Digging into his 401(k) savings, brokerage accounts, and real estate and financial investments, Bobby founded BlueGrace in 2009 with 18 employees in a 2,000-square-foot office in Apollo Beach, Florida. Months later, Bobby and his growing team of 35 staffers moved to their current 12,000-square-foot facility in Riverview, Florida. In 2009, our first year, we did $8 million in business. In 2012, we made the Inc. 500 | 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in America, ranking 20th overall and taking the top spot for the Logistics and Transportation industry. In 2014, our revenue reached $146.5 million, and we employed 160 people.
A close-knit culture
The story behind the company’s name is simple. Bobby took the middle names of his two daughters, Blue and Grace, and then set about building a culture worthy of their names.
The BlueGrace home office supports its franchisees indirectly when the employees support each other. That’s why it’s been named one of the best places to work by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. One of our core values is to be happy and have fun. Employees never have a dull moment as their superiors encourage Facebook and Twitter use to exchange ideas, interact with clients, and promote the company. Bobby pushes for the water-cooler effect by providing a Free Beer Friday at the end of each workweek. Awards are handed down often from Bobby to his employees, or from employee to employee. This all creates a relaxed atmosphere that helps grow a vibrant community happily assisting BlueGrace franchisees. BlueGrace is a product of Bobby’s successful franchising, and a fun, spirited office is something our franchisees can create as well.
BlueGrace is a major supporter of the Tampa Bay Humane Society; in 2014, BlueGrace collected 44,000 pounds of dog and cat food. BlueGrace also sponsors UFC mixed martial arts fighters.
A rapidly growing franchise system
Bobby founded BlueGrace to be a franchise system from the start. He knew from his experience as a multi-unit owner of shipping franchises that a franchise owner has skin in the game and is driven to provide a high level of local customer service. Franchise owners can handle local sales more effectively, and the cost for hiring and retaining salespeople is often a lot lower for a franchise owner than it would be for a large, national carrier.
BlueGrace began attracting franchise owners who also saw the rapid rise of the third-party logistics industry, and they began posting some attractive sales numbers. With the size of the 3PL industry predicted to double, now is a great time to consider franchise ownership.