Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Steve Setka and my father Tom and I bought an InXpress franchise in Mid 2017. InXpress is a parcel software platform that re-sells international and domestic small parcels that can be integrated manually or to an e-commerce store. The brand also specializes in LTL less-than-truckload services as well, with a minor capacity in Full Truckload and Ocean freight.
At the time of purchase, I had been living in Australia for 2 years intending to return to Canada. I had zero experience in freight, professional selling, or business ownership. My father believed in me and that’s all I needed to go through the grind for the first 1-2 years.
Our flagship product is our parcel platform that is user-friendly offering the service of DHL, Purolator, and Canpar. In year one, we hardly made any money, whereas coming up to the end of year four, we are projected to hit 1M$ CAD in revenue.
None of it would have been possible without the significant challenges, growing pains, and difficulties experienced over the first two years and the following two years where COVID was a major world disruptor.
We pounded the pavement and figuratively speaking got our teeth kicked in over and over again for an eternity before the wheels started spinning.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Tom, my father was in his mid 50’s at the time and always wanted to be entrepreneurial. Me, on the other hand, never had business intentions or that mentality. For me, it was more of the uncertainty of what I would do next after traveling for 3 years out of university. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in Kinesiology of which I’ve never professionally practiced. The assumption is that I’d love going into business for myself, although the brutal truth is that you will not love a lot of it to start.
The assumption is you go into business for yourself because you love it. The truth is that you will not love a lot of it to start.
One day, Tom calls me in Australia and narrates his entire year of “business searching” into one magical idea that was very attractive. What I remember about the interaction was the statement that he found a business that met all 4 of his required criteria to start:
- No staff requirements to start.
- Limited and manageable start-up franchise costs.
- Very limited overhead. Especially not a building or space. At-home would be preferable.
- No required inventory
With this in mind, The idea of signing with the InXpress team was born.
At this point, I was very professionally inexperienced and had nothing to my name, but as in many successful journeys in my life, jumping into the deep end was the inevitable next step.
Take us through the process of opening a franchise business in a new market.
The products/services we provide have been mostly standardized from the start. At the basic level, we are a re-seller or broker of freight and parcel services. The main services I excel at and sell the most include LTL freight with Day and Ross, Kindersley, and TMS Based Cross Border Canada and US. On the parcel side, we’ve been with Canpar and DHL since the start and have recently added Purolator to the mix.
The hardest part about starting this business was the lack of brand awareness in Canada. No one knew of InXpress, the tools we were provided with were limited, and the customer base was zero. We had to build a customer base… by finding Small and Medium shipping businesses, training them on our brand, and utilizing the wonderful University style system of learning that the Franchisor had provided to us.
More specifically, what we had to build and advise on was the parcel platform migration system between years 1 and 3. This created headaches, delays, issues, and many challenges along the way. For those who have gone through a software migration, you will be able to relate.
On the whole, the most difficult part of building the service provision was and continues to be maintaining a superb relationship with our carrier partners. There is a mutual and reciprocal beneficial relationship between InXpress and the carriers that must be maintained at the top level!
Describe the process of launching the business.
Specifically, from my point of view, launching the business consisted of consistency in prospecting and sales strategies which included door knocking (pounding the pavement), email marketing, building the CRM and sales tools, and providing excellent service to early customers who took a significant chance on us in our infant stages.
Frankly, the most significant building of our business came over the phone. The phone is the best tool to build rapport in the freight industry, which is a more traditional and “old-school method” per-say in the relationships that are built. Email marketing was not, and still is not our main marketing tool. The phone is!
The most tremendous lesson I learned from starting a business, and this one specifically, is that the world will keep beating you up, and kicking you down; therefore you must find your outlet and your why in which it is so important for you to keep going. My outlet for stress was pushing weights around at the gym and maintaining my highly active and sporting lifestyle. My why wasn’t very strong at the time, therefore the outlet must have been!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Attracting and retaining customers is the absolute nucleus of any business, in my opinion as a salesperson and sales leader. Depending on who you ask, that answer might change.
The approach I had used and continue to use is a blended approach of in-person, phone calls, and email/social marketing. I would also continue to suggest that this order is of utmost importance for a service-based business. The old school mentality of the phone is king, is still very much true.
As we have learned through history, methods for success change, and attracting customers is becoming more digitized, and we have consistently been updating our methods to address these needs. Doing the drill, with our unique style, but sticking close to what works (the phone), likely because that model has been tried and tested, and has worked in our market. Re-inventing the wheel usually isn’t necessary.
Do the drill, with your own flavor included, but stick close to what works, likely because that model has been tried and tested.
On the retention side of the business, you must be willing to reward your customers periodically for their loyalty. A famous adage I’ve always remembered is to reward business, do not buy the business. If you win on price, you will also lose on price, that is just the way the world works. Keep true to your morals, you deserve to make money, and you’re also worth what you believe you are. It’s all part of a winners mentality.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
After year four, we are very happy with the progress we have made. Going from zero to 1M$ in revenue in four years was a target we attempted to achieve in year five.
There are many reasons we were able to achieve this goal including: managing our margin potentials, setting minimums, knowing what is good and bad business and turning down unideal opportunities, strategizing in smart marketing tactics, continually learning and implementing, and the importance of weekly updates and objectives meetings.
We have many goals and consistently navigate and plan weekly.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
It’s all about the grind. You legit, just have to keep going and accept a tonne of failure and mistakes. There’s no way around it. Rejection is a part of life and you have to learn to appreciate and seek the “No” and Rejection opportunities.
Another main takeaway that we navigated and learned as we went was a part of the business that most don’t understand when beginning. According to the book The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber, there are 3 components or types of people to any business:
- The Technician
- 2. The administrator
- 3. The business owner
It is very difficult to be all 3. People attempt to be all three, but typically business ownership comes out of a desire for greater outcomes based on 1-2 of these three components of the business. To succeed, you must consider your strengths and weaknesses and fill those voids with members of your power team.
At the most basic level, Tom and I both love to chat with people, although my strength comes in sales, business development, and retention, and Tom’s comes in accounting, finance, administration, and systems. We've added team members to the mix recently.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
InXpress runs a software system called WebShip + (www.cawebship.inxpress.com) that manages parcel shipping for our customers. We also operate a TMS, Transportation management system for all other freight and logistics networks we offer.
Both these systems are client-facing, whereas the main software we run, and the most important back-end software we utilize is our Management Software, which is tremendously supported by our CRM. A CRM in a new business is by far the number one tool I would suggest for lasting success. (Customer Relationship Management Software).
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Steve Setka’s answer to this question would differ from the other 3 members of our team as I am extremely sales and relationship focused. My favorite podcasts specifically related to work are:
These two individuals are who I follow for sales content and sales creation. Create, advance, close… that is the essence of finding and retaining business.
Lastly, a sales coach and mentor is a must when starting your business. Without access to my paid business coach and also franchise-provided mentor, my mind would have exploded by now.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Everything you are told by “those who don’t own businesses is wrong”, teehee.
My list would include:
- Expect it to be very difficult, push through anyway.
- Every possible problem you think you will encounter, you will!
- Conversion rates are low, just keep going, and seek No’s and Rejection.
- The law of averages is real.
- Don’t re-invent the wheel
- The assumption is you go into business for yourself because you love it. The truth is that you will not love a lot of it to start.
- Seek all your opportunities, inbound leads and sales are truly rare.
If you’re still standing, and accept all these possibilities, move forward… If not, then go back to working for someone else.
Self-employment or business ownership is reserved ONLY for those who are willing to accept the risk, always be uncomfortable, manage the non-stop challenges, and want to truly create their own lifestyle.
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Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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