Tell us a little about yourself, your background and your management style.

David R. Kiger: I graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree. My first job was with Baxter Healthcare, a Fortune 100 company based in Chicago. Then I went to work at Trammell Crow Company in Houston. I was working at Crow when I started Worldwide Express.

My management style involves sticking to what the company is good at. If a company can focus on what it does well – and do it really well – it will succeed. Another part of my style is sticking to the basic business model but still being willing to change as situational dynamics dictate. I think that this was one of the biggest reasons UPS® took us on as a partner.

In choosing to have a franchise model, I wanted these franchise owners to have a strong backbone and structure in place for them to lean back on, but I let them be autonomous. I don’t dictate to them how they run their daily business. I trust them with responsibility.

I also aim to foster a business environment or confidence with competition, but I reward people for excellence. I want to make this a fun work environment and give people opportunity. If I see that people have been working hard, I want to give them the chance to improve.

You’ve pointed to positive attitude being one of the most important ingredients of success at Worldwide Express. Can you talk about that?

David R. Kiger: Sure. I do believe in the spirit of positivity. It’s something I’ve tried to make a very important tenet of the company from day one. We’ve had challenges all the way through, from forming the company to surviving the initial startup phases to DHL leaving the United States, and so on.

During that entire period, any one of those would have been enough to put a company out. But we’ve always believed in the business model. We knew, from day one, that small to medium-sized businesses need a company like ours out there offering them these advantages that are typically reserved for large companies. The engine behind American business is the small to medium-sized business itself and the growth of that sector. I guess it’s just the belief that our business model was always a very good one, and that comes through with anyone who comes to work at the company. They believe in the market, they believe in the product and they believe in how we go to market. Again, we’re probably the only group you see out there in a suit and tie, knocking on doors and meeting with owners. It just doesn’t happen anymore. There’s a belief in the market we’re going after and the way we go after it.

How does positive energy transform the Worldwide Express sales force?

David R. Kiger: Cold calling everyday takes a special kind of person, and I think that kind of person tends to be optimistic by nature. Competitive by nature. Those are the things we look for. I think the culture is the way it is because of the people we are a hiring. The people who do well here tend to think that way.

Can you recount for us how the company started?

David R. Kiger: I came up with the concept that became Worldwide Express when I was working for Trammell Crow. They’d asked me to look at our overhead allocation to see where we could save money, and what I ended up noticing was a substantial line item. I think we had 230 offices around the world. We were spending around $5 million a year, and FedEx was our carrier. I called FedEx and said, ‘We’re spending a lot with you, and we’re paying list price in almost all cases.’ So they came in and quickly I learned that while they agreed that it made sense for us to get a discount based on the collective volume of our locations, they wouldn’t change the pricing. And I said, ‘Okay, well that’s interesting. Even though you’re agreeing with my analysis, you’re saying that it is what it is?’

That was the light-bulb moment. I immediately thought, there have got to be lots of other companies out there that have multiple locations, or just small- to medium-sized businesses that are getting this treatment. So I called Airborne, UPS and DHL, and Airborne came in and said we agree with your analysis and we will give you a discount based on your aggregate volume, and they cut our spending in half. So I entered into conversations with Airborne Express very quickly about my idea, I resigned from Trammel Crow and Airborne agreed to do a deal with me. So that’s how it started. I had $5,000 and a smart business plan.

But, as you note, there were some bumps in the road. Can you tell us about the biggest?

David R. Kiger: When DHL [DHL had acquired Airborne, WWE’s initial partner] withdrew from the national market, we were in trouble. Franchise owners were calling me at home. One guy called from the coastal Carolinas and said, ‘You know, I have a daughter in college; I have a mortgage and two cars. I don’t have a plan B. My wife and I are praying every night that you will come up with answer.’ And I said, ‘OK, keep praying. I’m sure we will have one soon.’ That’s what I said; we would have an answer soon.

Getting UPS to sign – which they did not have to do – was the answer. No one had to play ball with us. They could have just let us fade into oblivion. But the business model, that was where it helped again. UPS believed and they knew it was the best way, the lowest-cost way, for them to go after small and medium-sized businesses. That value prop that existed the first day I went out and set up the first customer was still there. That was when it was just, wow, thank God for the business model. As big as UPS is, they believed we were the way to go after it, and they still do.

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