Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ben Elizer, and I am the Founder and President of Velocity International Group, a full-scale logistics company, offering SameDay delivery, Expediting, Distribution, Fulfillment, andmany Warehousing Services. We offer to consult and some other services as well to help our customers succeed in an ultra-competitive environment. Velocity started with 2 vans and many faces to face conversations. We now have 10+ vehicles, including trucks, and have grown to 25k+ square feet of warehouse space as well to best serve our customers.
Over the past 2 years, our revenue has grown over 300%, which has completely contributed to the great people and culture we have at Velocity. After having to move out of my apartment (because I put everything financially I had into this company), and move back into my mom’s house in my mid 20’s, it was difficult, but just 6 months later we had our first small office and warehouse space. I’m fortunate I had a support system to move back into, or else Velocity might not be here today. The business has grown ever since because of hard work, trust, and relationships. We focus on what is important.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Velocity was born back in 2015 after months and months of research. I have a degree in logistics from the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, and a Masters’s degree in Business Management from Tennessee Tech University. I worked at a logistics company as a Manager in Training in Nashville, directly after college. After almost 5 years at the business and earning my MBA while working, I wanted more responsibility, but they didn’t want to expand the business or take on those new jobs to help me grow as an individual personally or professionally.
If you want to attract customers, show them how you can save them money, save them time, reduce a level of stress, and overall make their lives easier.
After interviewing for a few jobs, and applying for many more without much success, I decided to take the knowledge I had acquired over the past 4 to 5 years and put it to work. I left my previous employer, with a colleague, and started Velocity International Group. Validation of the company came from my previous experience in business and building trust in our customers by going above and beyond with great service.
At the time of starting Velocity, I had been saving up some money to try and buy a home, or even move out of Nashville. When I decided to start a company, I gave up on a house or moving for the next 5-7 years and put everything I had into Velocity. I didn’t pay myself for the first 3 years of the business, which is incredibly difficult financially, but business is about long term sustained success.
I have always loved the idea of logistics because I really enjoy efficiency. It’s important to realize that almost every business in the world needs logistics services. This helps us work with many different industries, and in many different ways. I have always wanted to work on product companies as well, but owning a logistics company can really help get any future products to market much faster, and much more efficiently. At the end of the day, Velocity is about helping each other to save time and uncomplicated business to go live a more full life.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Considering we operate services, not products, there wasn’t much prototyping or manufacturing. Our logo has changed once in 5 years, to help give a more modern and clean-cut feel for our employees and customers. The correct ingredients for our business rely on people, trust, and customer service.
Start-up costs for a logistics company are relatively cheap, depending on what you’re trying to do. For example, you can buy a van (be a contractor), and drive for other companies. Your costs are very low in that situation. That being said, once Velocity decided to enter the distribution and warehousing world, along with changing all of our drivers to employees (Adding taxes), costs increased. This was important to us because we are attempting to build a full-scale logistics company, that our customers and partners can rely on for almost everything.
The service offerings Velocity has been designed to fulfill customer’s needs and add value to their supply chain. We operate mostly in a SameDay delivery world, therefore we are flexible and built to get things done efficiently. People call us when they need us, which is why we work so hard on being the most dependable and reliable company you could ever reach out to for help.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Although I incorporated Velocity in September of 2015, it took until January of 2016 to really start the business. I took the rest of the year to set up a proper website, evaluate the competition and the market, and also target who I wanted to potentially work with.
It really took 3-6 months of walking in and calling businesses every day non-stop to start seeing some customers show up. You have to earn their trust, and that takes time, there is no way around it. Business is about relationships at the end of the day. When starting the business, I was fortunate to have my amazing mother, Karen Elizer, co-sign on a Line of Credit which gave me the resources to start the business. Beyond that, she helped and support me in multiple ways that I couldn’t ever payback, and I’m more grateful for that than she can ever know. When having to purchase multiple vehicles, software, insurance, and fuel, a logistics company is not cheap.
I have learned so many things over the past years about how to work with people, solve problems, stay positive, and always been progressing/improving. So that being said, I can share a few tough lessons learned along the way.
First, make sure you have the right people in your business, and don’t let the wrong people stay for a long time. They will cause you to become stagnant, which ultimately in business means failure. It is important they care about the company, and are motivated to do a great job. At the end of the day, it’s your business, and for most people other than you, it’s just a paycheck. Give people a trial of 2-3 months and see how they like the job and perform. If you both enjoy each other and everything is going great, extend a longer-term offer.
A second lesson I learned very quickly is to curb my expectations and look long term as well. In business, contracts get held up for months and don’t happen, or people tell you (to your face) that they will give you a chance, but then nothing ever happens. It doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is a “bad” person, rather than business requires many people and much communication which slows down everything. Be patient, stay confident, give a quote, and move on.
My last lesson is this. Be sure to identify what you actually want to do in your business. Yes, you are the owner and founder of the business, but you have to decide what role to take. You won’t be able to do everything forever, and you will have/want to trust and teach others. Therefore, identify what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and focus on that as you grow.
I 100% believe that if you do the right things, treat people fairly, work hard for each other, and are always looking for opportunities, then good luck comes your way.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Velocity is a solutions business in the field of logistics and supply chain. That being said, this industry is 100% about relationships, and most businesses are. In my opinion, the best way I have grown in Velocity is by helping others.
Amber Straw came into the business in the fall of 2018, which greatly helped us with social media, newsletters, and other media opportunities. That being said, we both, just like everyone here at Velocity focus on relationships. And you grow relationships in business by being available, dependable, trustworthy, consistent, and genuine.
As a business, we don’t really spend money on Marketing, other than some promotional materials, such as Koozies, pens, etc. Our margins are relatively tight, so having a large marketing budget just isn’t necessarily a top priority for a logistics company (in my opinion). We focus on software and value-added products that help our customers succeed. If you want to attract customers, show them how you can save them money, save them time, reduce a level of stress, and overall make their lives easier.
As a business owner, whether you are selling to consumers or businesses, you have to identify something that they need, or want, or don’t even know that they want yet. And you have to be genuine in wanting to help them achieve their goals, which will also help you achieve yours. This works because everyone succeeds and progresses, which is what good business is all about.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we are doing well, and yes profitable. We took a big hit in April and May due to Covid (just like everyone else), but have been back in the black from June until the present. It was extremely difficult with Covid, considering we just hit our stride in March with our biggest month ever. Fortunately, we are a very diverse company, with some amazing partners that we have developed great relationships with.
Currently, we just operate out of Nashville but deliver and service customers all around the country. We run expedited freight, dedicated delivery, and white glove delivery for all of our partners, which can extend all over the lower 48 states. As a business, we are looking to expand into a couple of different cities next year based on our growth here in Nashville. I believe that the way we do business here at Velocity will resonate anywhere with anybody. We are here to help other businesses succeed, it’s as simple as that.
My long term goal with Velocity is to operate in 10 cities around the United States and have at least 1 international office in time. My short term goal with Velocity is to open in 2 more markets in 2021 and grow until we can hire for every position we need. Growing a business is EXTREMELY difficult, and until you hit your BEP or a place where you can hire enough people to help, you will always be doing many jobs. This is going to eventually lead to burnout and potentially you quitting, so you have to push yourself and reach that point of success (whatever it may be for you).
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have made many, many mistakes since starting this business. I believe that is one skill that successful business owners have. The ability to fail or make a mistake over and over, remain confident, and push forward. When I started Velocity in 2015, and maybe up until 2018, people would blindside me, to be honest. I would think a deal was happening and it didn’t, which happened quite often. But at this point, I feel as if I “understand” how things work, which helps me make much better decisions while making fewer mistakes. A business ultimately teaches you that you aren’t in control, and to be successful, it’s important to understand others and find a way to work well with people.
Timing, luck, and faith do come into play for sure, and believing in your ideas and self. There have been so many times over the past few years where I have been in a difficult place, but the timing of a contract or person reaching out to me coinciding with an event that was tough, but out of my control.
I 100% believe that if you do the right things, treat people fairly, work hard for each other, and are always looking for opportunities, then good luck comes your way. You have to do the work to create opportunities, but then realize when they are in front of you and go capitalize on them. I am naturally an introvert, but starting this business has really helped me get out of my comfort zone, which has really shaped the person I am today. I have had the opportunity in 5 years to meet so many amazing people, and also see the impact we can all have on each other's lives positively. I’m hoping the next 5 can be even better than the previous one.
The best decision I made that has really helped me, is to put myself around good people and give my time. At the end of the day, people have really helped me more than anything get to the place I am in right now. It has been such a group effort from so many people that don’t even know how much they have helped me or how to thank everyone. It’s a very humbling experience to start a business alone, and then over the course of 5 years have a family around you. Certain things will arise and always be frustrating at times, but people and relationships are what have ultimately helped me. It will always be that way.
Lastly, don’t forget to put other good people together. It’s not always about your business winning, it’s about helping your business partners and friends win. This will bring back more to your business than anything I have ever seen.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
At Velocity, technology is important, so we stay up to date on the best software tools to use for our business. Currently, we use 2 different delivery software and 1 inventory management software. Considering we are This allows us to stay flexible with pricing options, and get our customers the data they need to make informed decisions. In terms of internal software, we utilize Hubspot (CRM), Trello (Task Management), Gmail, and Google Drive. This helps all of us stay on task, and keeps all of us on the same page while sharing information. The flow of information within a company as you grow is one of the most important things to master.
The more people you hire, and the more levels you add to your company, the more difficult it gets. We do have Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a website to help drive more traffic to the business as well, although they are less used. We also use a couple of software (OnTheClock) for our employees which allows them to easily clock in/out and take breaks.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I really don’t have too many books that I have read over the past 5-6 years while starting Velocity and helping the business grow. I haven’t had much time to read at all to be honest, especially when you’re out driving for many, many hours. The only one of inspiration I can think of is The E-Myth of Business.
Starting a business is not easy, as it takes time and dedication to your craft, along with building relationships throughout that industry. Listening to people throughout Nashville, and learning what’s new and important to them has been an amazing resource to me as a business owner.
So many great people have turned Velocity into a success story, and this company will also be able to our team and the Velocity family. I do scroll through LinkedIn quite a bit and enjoy following the likes of Richard Branson who promotes positive change and forward-thinking ideas.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Where do you start? I feel as if I could advise for weeks to people wanting to start a business, so here we go.
First, I would suggest being honest with yourself. You have to ask the difficult questions. Why am I starting a business? Can you “fully dedicate” 3-5-7-10 years or more of your life to that idea of becoming the best it ever could be?
Unless you want to start a side business for additional income, it takes time. It took me months of walking into hundreds of businesses to just get the chance to prove I could do a great job. Then it takes many more months or years to gain that trust. Trust is everything in my opinion for young entrepreneurs. RELATIONSHIPS are what drives business, and when you start building your business and trust in the people around you, your business and ideas will flourish.
You have to believe in yourself, your ideas, and that your product/service will actually be successful. Business and profits support many amazing causes, but in the end, most businesses are for-profit and don’t forget that. It’s a really difficult task to start a business from nothing, and that’s why most people fail. That being said, quite a few people succeed as well, go live your dreams and don’t give up.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have been lucky enough to grow our team this year and are always looking for safe, reliable team members to join the Velocity Group. Our company culture supports positivity and high-quality service, and we expect our drivers to deliver that along with whatever cargo they’ve been dispatched.
We are looking for full and part-time employees who are growth-focused and flexible enough to meet the unique demands of our customers. Applicants over the age of 20 with a clean driving record and driving experience are encouraged to apply.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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