In the philosophy of John Locke, “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.” For a Colorado-based franchise that exceeds in packaging & shipping expertise and understanding, the knowledge imparted in overcoming logistical challenges is not only leading to increased customer interactions internationally, but is also enabling delivery of an attractive package of potential for entrepreneurs.
On a global scale, the packaging industry packs a punch of some $800 billion in annual economic activity, earnings which include that generated from retail operations as well as the range of manufacturers and distributers supplying such materials as corrugated boxes, Styrofoam or the ever popular, pop-able, bubble wrap. As for the shipping industry, (according to a study conducted in 2011) annual revenues exceed more than one trillion dollars. While much of that is enveloped by the triumphant triumvirate of UPS, FedEx and DHL (not to mention the U.S. Post Office), there are smaller niche enterprises that also capture a significant share of those annual earnings. These are businesses which are part of an industry that basically started in California during the 1980s when mail consolidators ingenuously recognized an opportunity to capitalize on disparities between single unit and bulk mail shipping fees. The more work they could fulfill in preparing mail for delivery, eliminating that work from the post office, the less it actually cost to send that mail. The market opportunities of that era, combined with market demand for increased convenience and customer-centric service, helped spur the development of new firms solely focusing on packaging and shipping services. It was in this very environment, in 1984, that one enterprise emerged, and today, it is not only recognized for outstanding expertise in its field, but is also one of the most successful franchise systems in a niche that has comparatively little competition as to other endeavors of industry.
With more than 400 locations worldwide, Pak Mail specializes in packaging and shipping – by air, sea or land, by next day or next week, no matter the size, shape or weight, whatever a customer needs to securely ship from Point A to Point Z (and all points in between), Pak Mail can expertly accommodate and has been doing so for the last 30 years. Pak Mail has prospered by complementing their logistical expertise with a fullness of intent to deliver enhanced customer experiences, which largely cater to a localized market base, effectively providing a highly capable, yet enticingly convenient alternative to other service providers in other spaces. The interaction at Pak Mail is much different, and there’s no packaging or shipping challenge too complex for their capacity to fulfill. Over the years, Pak Mail has not only handled basic mail shipping, but also the shipping of fortunes in fine artworks, industrial equipment and an amazing assortment of inordinate items which include WWII era swords, heirlooms of prized China collections, the rarest of rare dinosaur bones and you-name-it in the way of other weird and wonderful goods.
Beyond the packaging, crating and shipping services, Pak Mail provides consumer and business support services that allow for private mailboxes with defined street addresses, mail forwarding and electronic mail notification. Pak Mail additionally provides copy, print and fax services, notary public and document shredding services. It packs a lot of service under one roof, but its core function continues to fundamentally focus on safely packaging and shipping goods. Pak Mail works with the plethora of international carriers and transporters, with no direct allegiance to any one enterprise, enabling it to focus solely on fulfilling the needs of each customer it serves. That translates to options in pricing and delivery schedules which no other single-minded service provider can compete with. As CEO Alex Zai affirms, “When a customer walks into Pak Mail, it is like having the capabilities of UPS, the Post Office, DHL and FedEx all rolled into one, with air, road freight or ocean freight services … it doesn’t matter what kind of items are being shipped, customers get a lot of choices. Our stores have the capability to use the right carrier, which corresponds best for the customer’s logistical problem, whether it’s a shipment that needs to be really fast, or slow, or really secure, whatever the customer requires we can handle.”
Alex Zai, atypical of some CEOs in other franchise systems, fully understands what it takes to grow a customer base and create a successful business, in fact, he has hands-on experience. Zai became one of the earliest franchisees of Pak Mail in 1987, and over a seven-year period of leading Pak Mail (No. 69) in Bloomington, Indiana, his location garnered distinction as one of the top five revenue generating units in the franchise system. In 1994, Zai was recruited to join Pak Mail’s corporate management team in Colorado where he ultimately ascended to the position of President and CEO. Zai says though it has been years since he stood behind a counter, he still fondly recalls dealing with customers and what it was like to facilitate the shipping of some oddball item from Bloomington, Indiana, to some far corner of the world. “I still remember what that was like and maybe it gives me a different kind of perspective. We were helping customers safely package materials and solving logistical problems to get their package where it needed to be, in the condition it needed to be, and those processes have changed since I was behind the counter.”
To Zai’s point, today, there are tools of technology which effectively augment Pak Mail’s expertise. For example, the company deploys what Zai refers to as an “awesome” POS system, specific to the industry, created by another Colorado-based company known as ReSource. Items can be placed on a scale that rapidly calculates dimensions and weight, as well as the variety of packaging, shipping and carrier options, enabling the entire transaction to be processed in only a few minutes. On its back end, the same system provides tools for rapid assessment of on-site inventory and accounting functions. Yet, this functionality is part and parcel of a franchise system that also enables franchisees to rapidly launch and maintain a successful business. And more than anything else, Zai says his greatest satisfaction has come from seeing people achieve their dreams in becoming owners of a successful business. Those businesses can currently be found in some 400 locations within America, Mexico, Japan and Canada, but to be sure, Pak Mail is looking to increase its presence nationally and internationally.
In terms of potential franchisees, Zai says the company looks to connect with entrepreneurs who are not only ingenuis and intuitive, but also stick-to-it-tive; those who don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but follow the formula and systems which have helped Pak Mail prosper into all it is today. “The systems we provide help people run a business an independent business, but it’s one that doesn’t have the pitfalls of an independent business operating on its own,” says Zai.
Pak Mail provides a comprehensive training program which helps franchisees understand their respective markets as well international shipping practices. But even before that, the company takes time to get acquainted with candidates and ensure those candidates are acquainted with the business. Zai says the company wants potential franchisees to fully understand the business they’re considering entering. “Our business is not difficult, but there’s a lot to our business… it’s not like they’ll be standing behind a counter selling stamps. This is a complex business that requires working with government agencies, working with carriers, vendors and suppliers, and we want them to understand that before buying into it,” says Zai.
Pak Mail prefers for candidates to be owner/operators. Zai says that it is not an enterprise that can easily be handed-off to someone else to run, and though there have been some exceptions with multiple-unit owners, the company prefers for franchisees to be engaged and involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. Pak Mail allows for either single or multi-unit ownership (single-unit owners comprise the majority in its system) and from a small business standpoint, Pak Mail is not an expensive proposition. The typical investment can range from $130,000 to $180,000, which covers everything.
Franchisees benefit from services from the corporate office in site selection and lease negotiations, typically focusing on density and income-specific community areas. Stores generally accommodate 1,200 square-feet of operating space, yet as the business grows, will usually require additional warehouse space for managing freight. Franchisees complete two weeks of training in Denver, and Zai concedes that there have actually been cases when new franchisees became so enamored with that community, they abandoned whatever aspirations they had in other areas to move to Denver (and those-in-the-know know why).
Following training, franchise developers or field consultants work with the franchisee at their respective location to prepare for opening, and following the opening, will routinely stay-in-touch to address any issues or needs. Pak Mail also has an in-house marketing team dedicated to creating customized marketing strategies and campaigns which further provides support. Franchisees additionally benefit from strategic relationships Pak Mail has formed with other service providers, which in this case includes Veracity Payment Solutions, a Georgia-based firm recognized as of America’s fastest growing acquirers. Veracity processes more than a billion in transactions a year and specializes in implementing payment solutions that uniquely cater to their customers’ business requirements. Yet, Pak Mail’s corporate team is also available for required assistance on a fulltime basis. As Zai says, “We’re very serious about doing everything we can to ensure the success of our franchisees … we provide the best services to them so they can provide the best services to their customers.”
And by delivering the best in services, Pak Mail’s brand has garnered increasing recognition. Zai expresses confidence of the brand’s ability to expand into a network of 1,000 stores, or more. When asked if Pak Mail wants to take over the world, Zai laughs and explains that during his college years, he found, and frequently wore, a button with the words, “Looking for a country to rule.”
To that point, Zai refers to the significant growth Pak Mail has made in Mexico and its increasing presence in Japan and Canada, but says these are only the tip of the iceberg. “We fit into this niche of a business and there’s so much opportunity out there to grow our network, to increase our role as a commercial packaging service provider, to become a big player as an international freight forwarder, we’re excited about what the future holds for our franchise.”
By providing convenient, customized and customer-friendly packaging and shipping solutions, as well as products and services which extend support to businesses large and small, and by delivering on assurances to franchisees with training and focused support, Pak Mail is packed with potential for greater growth and prosperity.
For more information, visit Pak Mail’s website at www.pakmail.com/franchise or phone toll free at 1- 800-833-2821.
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