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VOL. 124 | NO. 122 | Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Former FedEx Employee Starts Logistics Business

By Eric Smith

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ON HER OWN: Terica Lamb planned on launching Total Control Logistics even before she was laid off in April from her job at FedEx Express. Two months later, she is poised to get her nascent company up and running. -- PHOTO BY ERIC SMITH

Like it was for hundreds of other Memphians, April 3 proved to be a watershed date for Terica Lamb. She lost her job at FedEx Express that day when the company laid off 1,000 salaried managers and professionals, half of whom came from the Memphis area.

But Lamb saw the layoff perhaps a little differently than most employees affected by the cuts.

“For me, it was a blessing,” she said. “It was good timing.”

It was good timing because during the previous few months Lamb had contemplated starting her own business, a third-party logistics (3PL) firm she planned to call Total Control Logistics. In March, just a month before losing her job, Lamb even obtained a business license for the company in case something happened.

So when Lamb’s FedEx manager was waiting in the lobby to tell her about the layoffs, she eagerly accepted the news, having prayed about it the night before.

“In my mind, I had already made preparations for that day,” Lamb said. “I went home with a smile on my face.”

Blessings in disguise

Lamb felt prepared for this new challenge because of the duties she held in her job at FedEx. For the past few years, she had consulted FedEx customers who had warehouse needs, offering them recommendations on their process flow, productivity and efficiency – anything to help their facilities operate better.

Estimating that she performed about 120 warehouse consultations for small- to mid-sized customers, Lamb realized her advice was helping these businesses prosper.

“I would say that 80 to 90 percent of the customers that I visited, their businesses grew into needing a warehouse,” she said. “A lot of these were businesses that came out of their garages or basements, and they didn’t have the knowledge to run a warehouse. They didn’t have the expertise, so that’s why they called us.”

Total Control Logistics, www.tclogistix.com, is a 3PL firm, but Lamb admits the phrase is a little broad for her startup company. Instead of diving into all aspects of the business, Lamb will begin by focusing on a narrow segment of the 3PL world.

Her services will include warehousing, inventory control and order fulfillment, plus a host of value-added services such as labeling, light assembly and “kitting,” which is a process of packaging related materials together and shipping them as a whole.

She bills her company as a customized solution for clients, offering them as little or as much warehouse space as they need. Total Control Logistics can store anything from one pallet up to the largest industrial space in town. Also, Lamb provides flexibility in terms of season: If a company has more inventory needs prior to the holiday rush, they can scale back on their leased space during the spring and summer.

Reason for inspiration

Because she is a native Memphian, and because she worked at FedEx for years, Lamb understands how this city is the right market for her venture. Not only is Memphis filled with logistics professionals, but it offers a robust transportation network of air, rail, road and river.

“They all converge here, and we’re one of the few cities in the United States that has all of those different modes of transportation,” said Lamb, who was quick to acknowledge the importance her former employer plays in the business. “A huge benefit for Total Control Logistics is that being in FedEx’s backyard will allow me to receive and fulfill orders at least four or five hours later than if I was located somewhere else.”

Lamb has contracted Darrell Cobbins of Universal Commercial LLC to find and obtain warehouse space as her clients need, and Cobbins lauded Lamb’s entrepreneurial ambition.

“It is an incredible benefit to the Memphis economic development and business community when folks like Terica, who have been trained and equipped with skills from some of the best corporations in the city and in the country, … bring their ideas, energy, relationships and ingenuity to the marketplace as a business owner,” Cobbins said. “If we can create a critical mass of that, it will take Memphis to new heights from a business community perspective.”

Lamb has set a goal of landing five clients by the end of 2009 and 10 the following year. And Lamb is targeting small to mid-sized black- and woman-owned businesses, which, like Total Control Logistics, are just getting started. The way she sees it, they can help each other flourish.

“I think it will give them a leg up to focus on what they do, whether that’s building widgets or even marketing on the Internet,” Lamb said. “If that’s what you do best, then I can handle your warehousing and order-fulfillment needs because that’s my expertise. That will allow you to focus on your core competency.”

Achieving those goals is imperative for Lamb, whose job loss two months ago wasn’t the only reason she set forth on this path of entrepreneurship. The other – and perhaps most important – motivation for creating Total Control Logistics arose last November. And it’s what drives her to succeed.

“When Obama got elected,” Lamb said, “that gave me the further motivation to say, ‘OK, if an African-American man can become president of the United States at this time, then surely me, as an African-American female, can get into the white-male dominated field of transportation and logistics in 2009.’”

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