VOL. 9 | NO. 23 | Saturday, June 4, 2016
EMPHASIS: Financial Services
Paying the Freight: A3 Freight Payment 'Re-Creates the Wheel'
By Don Wade
As CEO of A3 Freight Payment, Ross Harris emphasizes transparency. He speaks it, too.
Ross Harris and three other industry veterans joined forces four years ago to form A3 Freight Payment. The company is providing a suite of services that is helping it stand out in a competitive, fragmented industry, Harris says. (Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)
“Our industry is kind of weird,” he said.
Weird like the weather. Ever-changeable. Not really as predictable as one might imagine. And vulnerable to pressurized disturbances in the atmosphere.
Harris, 44, was a founding executive at Collierville’s AIMS Logistics. And for nearly 14 years he had broad responsibilities: global treasury, finance, sales, European operations, global sales, and the company’s consulting group.
But AIMS was bought out by U.S. Bank. Harris stayed on during the transition for a while, as did several other key members from AIMs.
“Eventually we said, `hey, let’s get together,’” Harris said.
And four years ago, A3 Freight Payment was born. Joining Harris at A3 Freight payment: Craig Cameron, vice president of sales and marketing; Brian Geibel, VP of IT operations; and Michael Reighn, VP of IT development.
“We were industry veterans,” Cameron said.
That gave them some advantages. But timing really wasn’t one of them.
During the recession, Harris says, the large corporations that form the “sweet spot” in their client list were hesitant to make a change in outsourcers.
“It was a challenge for this incarnation,” Harris said. “But the last two years especially, we have caught traction.”
The core team had experience with a half dozen different freight payment companies. That varied experience – plus their collective contacts in the industry – set them up to both devise better processes and then sell large corporations on what A3 Freight Payment could do for them.
“We re-created the wheel for freight payment,” Cameron said.
Harris says they needed to show large-volume shippers that they could meet their needs on multiple levels: from providing a high degree of customization and excellent customer service, to reliable processing with a minimal amount of resource involvement in managing solutions.
Key to that, Harris says, was realizing one solution does not fit all. And providing an account manager who serves as the single point of contact for the individual customer.
Thus, solutions are customized for each client, the automated systems are geared toward consistency in processing, and information systems are intuitive and easy to use with little to no training.
“It’s an intensely competitive market and it’s a fragmented market,” said Harris. “There’s no Coke or Pepsi that has 40 percent share of the market. Our largest competitor might have 8 to 10 percent.
“There are always (companies) shedding customers because they can’t deliver on promises. The flip side is, somebody could show up tomorrow with a better mouse trap and create a disturbance in the marketplace.”
And while the A3 Freight Payment team’s aforementioned contacts were crucial to getting the company going, it didn’t guarantee success – short-term or long-term.
Relationships matter, but they only go so far in the bottom-line reality of 2016.
“The days of doing `brother-in-law’ deals with large corporations,” Harris said, “those days are gone.”
The large corporations wanted to see proof that a potential new freight payment outsourcer could do what it says better, faster and cheaper; that’s what makes an enduring business relationship.
To that end, A3 Freight Payment tries to give clients as much information as possible. On the processing end, it’s not just assumed that the billing is correct or that the right system is in place. Harris says invoices across the industry are billed with an error rate ranging from 2 to 6 percent.
Further, Cameron says their specific data tools lead to supply chain optimization.
“Our processes drive the resolution at the root cause,” he said.
Things are going well enough that A3 Freight Payment recently moved into offices at 3150 Lenox Park Blvd., Suite 400, at Kirby and Highway 385. The company has 25 full-time employees and most clients have a presence in the metro area.
“The access to the airport is a major plus,” Harris said. “But the space also just fits us better.”