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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Talking "white glove" services with WT100

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk about Pilot's white glove delivery services with a writer from WT100 magazine (formerly World Trade). The article came out in the October issue and talks about why white glove services are thriving, even in the down economy. As the article points out, e-commerce is one of the major drivers behind white glove services, as more and more consumers are purchasing large appliances, flat screen televisions and other large items online.

For Pilot, Special Services (which includes white glove services) has been a major growth area, with revenue rising more than 29 percent in the third quarter. We credit that growth to a couple of factors. First of all, we have an extremely advanced online scheduling tool called COMPASS, which allows customers to go online and choose not only the day, but even the time of their delivery. No more waiting around from 8am to 5pm for a delivery person to show up.

We've also seen from experience that the faster a delivery is made to a consumer, the lower the chance of that product being returned. Which, of course, is a big selling point for our customers. In the end, the key for us is listening to our customers and customizing our Special Services options to best fit them and their customers.

While this article focuses largely on home deliveries to consumers, it's important to note that white glove services go far beyond that narrow focus. In the commercial sector, white glove includes delivering medical equipment to hospitals and clinics, and really large screen televisions to board rooms and stadiums.

Check out the full article, Work Glove or White Glove?, for more of my thoughts, as well as insight from others in the industry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another record-breaking quarter comes to a close

When I spoke with Joe DiStefano from the Philadelphia Inquirer for a story about Pilot over the summer, the topic of the recession was a major theme. I explained to Joe that while our competitors were cutting jobs, facilities and services to stay afloat in 2009, Pilot saw the recession as an opportunity to grow stronger. We remained committed to maintaining our personnel and services during that difficult time. In fact, we continued to develop new service offerings, like our automotive and logistics services. We took the opportunity to add talent. And we stayed committed to taking market share. We continue to see the results of that commitment.

My interview with Joe came on the heels of an extremely strong Q2, including the largest volume month in Pilot’s history. Then Q3 started, and we blew away all of our old records. We announced today that the third quarter of 2010 was the largest quarter in company history, with $114.5 million in revenue. This number represents an incredible 36 percent growth over the same period in 2009.

In addition to our largest ever quarterly revenue, we had two record-breaking months in the third quarter. In August, we blew away all of the old records by posting $39.9 million. August represented 40 percent growth over the prior year. It was also an astonishing 13 percent higher than the previous record for any month in Pilot history. We had set a new bar. Then in September, we turned around and blew that record away, posting $41.2 million in revenue.

There’s no question that our ongoing success as a company can be credited largely to our continued focus on customer service. However, the explosive growth that we’re seeing now is really due to how we dealt with the economic slowdown last year. As a result of that strategy, as well as the continued hard work put in by our employees, 2010 will be the largest year Pilot has ever had. And more importantly, we’re positioned for continued growth and expansion of our services over the coming year. It’s an exciting time, and while the economy is certainly not out of the woods yet, I feel confident that I’ll be continuing to announce new broken records in the months to come.

To see the full press release, read more here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

High praise for Pilot

More than anything else, Pilot’s success depends on our ability to provide our customers excellent value, and unmatched customer service. When you think about it, those two things are not only the core of our business, they determine the future of our company.

That is why I could not be happier to tell you that Pilot has been awarded a Quest for Quality Award from Logistics Management for the 21st time! For the first time this year, we were recognized not only in the Freight Forwarders category, but also as a Third Party Logistics provider. More importantly, among the freight forwarders we ranked number one in the nation in both the Value and Customer Service categories. This is great news for Pilot and a wonderful testament to our employees, who make the customer experience a great one.

In other good news, for the first time since adding third-party logistics services to our list of offerings, we were included in Inbound Logistics' Top 100 3PL Providers list. For a company that is relatively new to this sector of the industry, being recognized as a top provider nationally is remarkable. Our team has worked extremely hard over the past few years to build our 3PL services, and their success so far is only a hint of what is to come. Great work, everyone!

Thanks to the editors and readers for recognizing our hard work! And thanks to all of the Pilot employees who work hard for our customers every day.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Pilot station opening in Texas

This morning, we announced that Pilot has opened a new station in Harlingen, Texas, along the Texas/Mexico border. I was able to sit down with Scott Lychwick, the owner of this new station, as well as the stations in El Paso and Laredo. Scott shared his thoughts on the new station opening, the industries that they'll be serving, some of the challenges of working with freight into and out of Mexico, and what he sees for the future.

Listen in to hear the full conversation!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Pilot logo gets a makeover

Some people have been asking why we changed the Pilot logo. I want to be clear that we didn’t change it just because it turned 40 – there is nothing wrong with being 40! But it is true that most of the known corporate logos that were created around the same time ours was were updated a long time ago.

For instance, let’s take Starbucks. They opened a few months after Pilot, and their logo featured a bare breasted mermaid. Their reasoning was that she was supposed to be just as seductive as the coffee. She was updated in the eighties with a new hairdo that made her a bit more modest. A few years later, when Apple Computers opened, they had a logo that featured Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. This was almost immediately changed to the graphic apple with a bite taken out it that we all know so well. But back then, if you remember, it was a rainbow colored apple – very reminiscent of the popular at the time rainbow socks that had separate colored toes. I don’t know why they got rid of the rainbow, but my guess is they figured some of the IBM clients they were pursuing might hesitate at buying their computers from some Northern California hippies.

Logos are constantly changing. Earlier this month, the YMCA formally announced that it is now just the Y, with a very colorful, graphic “Y” logo. It’s not that they are abandoning any of their original principles; they just want to be recognized as a modern organization geared to serving the entire community. After all, everyone called it the Y already, except of course for the Village People. And, a couple of months ago, MTV dropped the “music television” from its logo after 30 years. They had a problem…they don’t really show music anymore. The once 24 hour music video channel is now almost exclusively reality TV, from The Hills to the Jersey Shore, so it was time for an update.  Come to think of it, music is probably about the same percentage of their business as air freight is a part of ours.

So to best have the logo represent who we are today, we lost the plane, because today we are so much more than air freight. We kept the forward tilt because we are definitely moving forward. And we moved from the conservative, calming green to the bold, creative orange. The orange is invigorating, and it says I am not afraid to be noticed.

Oh, and one more thing…it’s Richie’s favorite color.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Philadelphia Inquirer highlights Pilot's Q2 growth

As you know, last week we announced some impressive revenue growth for the second quarter. The news caught the eye of Philadelphia Inquirer business columnist Joe DiStefano, who spoke with Richard Phillips and John Hill for his article, "Despite economy: Pilot Freight is growing."

Richard talked to DiStefano about how Pilot was able to not only survive, but thrive, by hiring throughout the recession and taking the opportunity to add talent and market share. He also noted Pilot's size, which is "big enough to handle heavy equipment but small enough to fill special orders ... and still make money."

DiStefano reports that Pilot's revenue growth was double the increase reported by FedEx's U.S. freight business for the same time period. And in a subsequent post on the PhillyDeals blog, he notes that while Pilot saw a 25 percent increase in the number of shipments in Q2 over the same quarter in 2009, UPS and FedEx only saw 2 percent and 1 percent rises, respectively.

To read more, flip over the full story on The Inquirer's website.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hello, blogosphere.

Welcome to the new Pilot Freight Services blog! The launch of this blog, in conjunction with the totally re-designed Pilot website, marks a new step in the continued innovation and evolution of our company. As you’ll read about in an upcoming post from my sister Stephanie Phillips, Vice Chair and Chief Marketing Officer, we’ve been working very hard behind the scenes on a complete re-branding initiative.

My family has owned and operated Pilot Freight Services since the mid-90s, and we have grown to become the largest privately held U.S. freight forwarder operating today. Traditional business theory likes to portray private family-owned companies as slow to change and innovate, insulating themselves from the new forces shaping the marketplace and the rapidly changing needs of their customers.

I’ve always taken issue with that kind of stereotyping. In many ways a family business can be a better reflection of the values and aspirations of the people who work there. There’s no reason a family business, run by people who care passionately about what they do, should be less connected than public companies. And Pilot’s record of success speaks for itself.

When we talk about family here at Pilot we’re really talking about the hundreds of employees who keep our company running every day. You’ll meet many of them as part of this blog in the months ahead. We’ll also examine the new trends remaking the shipping and logistics industry, and talk about the challenges we all face as we navigate an economy that for now seems stubbornly stuck in neutral.

As a pilot myself, I’ve always thought many of the challenges we face at Pilot are comparable to skills needed to fly safely. Besides constant training, a pilot has to extensively plan every detail, and is always trying to manage multiple sources of new information to guide his or her decision-making.  A pilot must also always be aware of his or her surroundings, and be ready to adjust course to find the smoothest flight. As our customers’ needs become more complex and the deadlines become ever shorter, the employee training, infrastructure and cutting edge technology at Pilot allows us to successfully meet those challenges. And we are constantly looking for smooth air, and new areas for growth. We will be sharing both these challenges and the solutions as they come up, in hopes that others can benefit from this knowledge.

All blogs have space for comment and we hope our readers will leave a lot of them. From my perspective, blogs have gained their popularity because they are a forum for dialogue. Our goal is to make the Pilot Freight Services “Piloting Business” blog the go-to place for discussion of trends, ideas and issues for the freight industry.

So enjoy the blog…and definitely let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New branding rolled out on Pilot trucks

With our new website up, and new branding established, we're starting to replace all signs of the old Pilot look. Check out this truck at our Newark station, which is one of the first to have the new Pilot logo.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Closing out Q2 with a bang

After a tough year industry-wide, I'm very happy to share the fact that Pilot just closed out the second quarter of 2010 with the largest volume month in company history! In June, we handled a larger number of shipments, and larger total weight than ever before. On top of that, it was the second largest revenue month we've ever seen.

This record month closed out a strong quarter for Pilot, with more than 27% growth over Q2 of 2009. I'm especially pleased to report that this growth was not in one particular segment of our business, but spread across the company. Every segment of our business was up in Q2, including automotive services, international shipping, logistics, home delivery and domestic expedited air freight.

Hopefully the new record set in June won't last long, as we're expecting to see continued growth through the remainder of the year.

Keep reading to see the full press release we put out today.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pilot lends a hand to the Best Buddies Challenge

Over the past five years, Pilot has been involved with a charity called Best Buddies, an organization working to establish a global volunteer movement that “creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).”

Best Buddies holds an annual “Best Buddies Challenge”, a fundraiser where participants can select from a 100, 50 or 20-mile bike ride, a 3K walk, or a 5K run. This year, we used our resources to transport bicycles to Boston for the latest event held on June 4th and 5th in Hyannis Port, Mass. In the past, Pilot has helped Best Buddies move equipment as far as Ireland and Qatar. This fall, we’ll be handling the cross-country delivery for fundraisers in California and Washington, D.C.

In addition to the commitment that Pilot has made as a company, CEO Richard Phillips (who has been personally involved with the charity since 2002) participates in the Challenge, coming in at an impressive 7th place in the 100-mile cycling challenge this year! Richard, along with his team, raised $10,000 for the charity this year as well.

Congratulations to everyone involved on a successful event!