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Carving Out a Business Niche
FOCUS helps agencies and owner-operators thrive
All agents and capacity providers operating their businesses within the Landstar network are independent business owners. These entrepreneurs have the freedom to run their businesses their way, with the support of a reputable leader in the industry. For Landstar agent
Thomas Osco and Landstar business capacity owners (BCOs) Jeff Thompson and Mike Keinz, focus is helping their businesses thrive.
Focused on the details
For Thomas Osco of TGOCO Enterprises, business as usual resulted in significant revenue growth during 2021.
In his fourth year as an independent Landstar agent, he continued to provide a consistent, high level of
service to his select set of customers and remained committed to getting better at what he does every day.
This business-as-usual approach resulted in a 90.5% year-over-year revenue increase.
“I had a great year last year and I am fortunate to be focused on a niche that is fairly consistent,” says Osco who works with customers in the medical supplies and equipment industry. He gained experience servicing customers with high-value and time-sensitive freight while working at FedEx Custom Critical and decided to continue targeting this niche when he became a Landstar agent.
“I did have some customers who scaled down a bit in 2020, but I knew the business would bounce back, so I focused on potential opportunities within medical supplies and identifying additional services for my existing customers.” As a result, Osco was able to expand his business, add new customers and increase the volume of business with existing customers in 2021.
Osco says his agency’s focus fits well with his detail-orientated personality and love of a fast-paced environment. “When moving medical supplies, time is of the essence. Shipments often have to be picked up and delivered within a narrow timeframe. I have to pay attention to the little things and be able to make quick decisions.”
According to Osco, the benefit of having a business niche or focus is that he can use his success with a particular customer to help secure similar customers. Showing a new customer that he understands their language and requirements, knows how to handle their shipments, and can provide written testimonials from satisfied customers goes a long way in earning their trust.
“My success has mostly to do with the level of service I provide and the trust my customers have in me. I don’t
cut corners because I’m in this for the long run with them, and they know that,” says Osco. “I’ve also been
in business long enough to know there will be problems or issues. In these situations, I am always proactive by calling the customer, telling them the truth and having a solution ready.”
Osco also uses Landstar’s tools and technology to help provide his high level of service to customers. He says he constantly works to tighten up rates. He uses Landstar’s Pricing Tools daily to help him determine an accurate rate, while also speeding up the pricing process. Osco also relies on Landstar’s new Transportation Management System (TMS), particularly for his repetitive lane customers, to streamline the shipping and freight management process. “These technologies are time-savers, which is especially helpful for our small staff.”
Currently, Osco’s staff includes himself and his future son-in-law, Miles Bunsey. While he is open to bringing on other employees, he wants to maintain a balance between staff and customers. “You have to grow prudently so you don’t lose the level of service,” he says. “It’s important to find and train the right person before bringing on another large customer.”
Osco offered some advice for anyone who might be thinking of starting an independent freight agency, saying, “You are responsible for finding your own customers, so your focus or niche must be a good fit for you. And rather than going after multiple types of business, work on building up your experience and your level of service for a focused set of customers.”
Focused on an opportunity
Years of experience and many loads have contributed to the success Landstar business capacity owners (BCOs) Jeff Thompson and Mike Keinz have found carving out their business niche. After years of hauling platform freight, these independent owner-operators who are leased to Landstar identified an opportunity to target a certain type of load – “high and light” loads – and went after the niche by designing and purchasing their own trailers specially engineered to fit this type of freight.
The two met and became friends in 2019 while moving loads for Google that were oversized but lightweight. “High doesn’t always mean heavy. Air conditioning ductwork, sheet-metal framing for construction, stainless steel tanks and even aerospace parts can be very tall, but not weigh a lot,” says Thompson. “Most platform trailers are built to accommodate high and heavy loads. They have an unloaded deck height of 18 to 22 inches with an arch built in that keeps the trailer from bowing too low when a heavy load is placed on it.”
When placing a light load on this type of trailer, there is typically not enough weight to bring down the trailer’s arch, which causes the overall height of the load to be taller. “Having an extra 3 inches of height on a load because of a trailer arch can add costs for a customer,” says Keinz. “Inches equal miles – loads that are under 15 feet can often reduce the total miles driven because taller loads may require longer routes to avoid height obstacles like signs, utility lines or low hanging tree branches.”
According to Thompson, “A shorter route is also better for the customer because it means a faster delivery time, lessening the chance for issues we might encounter along the way while moving their freight. And, the need for pilot or pole cars, bucket trucks and police escorts, which add to the customer’s costs, often are not necessary or required for loads under 15 feet tall.”
After seeing a trailer with a 12-inch deck height, Thompson reached out to Mike about the potential it could have for their niche. The two decided to contact the trailer’s manufacturer, TransMaster Trailers, to see if an even lower deck was possible. “We wanted trailers with almost no arch to keep the height down on the lighter loads. Our goal was a 10-inch deck height with only a 1-inch arch, making the deck about 9 inches high when loaded. That way, we could run loads that were 14 feet 2.5 inches tall without exceeding 15 feet of total height while still adhering to all safety requirements,” says Keinz.
To accomplish this, Thompson and Keinz worked with engineers at TransMaster Trailers, who used 3D drawing software and mathematical simulations to custom design the trailers to ensure they met safety requirements. They each purchased their own trailer, but were able to split the design and engineering cost. “At first, the engineers had a hard time understanding why we were concerned about half of an inch in height and why it was important,” says Thompson. “But once we explained the reasoning behind it, they were on board and made it happen.”
A year after taking delivery, both Thompson and Keinz agree that investing in their trailers has paid off. “We are both very happy with the trailers and the load opportunities they have presented,” Thompson says. “We have developed a reputation within Landstar for moving these types of loads and now have several repeat customers for our niche business.”