Leaders in Logistics Solutions
For over 30 years, Pak Mail has been specializing in packaging, shipping and freight services for its worldwide customer base. From priceless antiques and heirlooms to heavy machinery, the franchise owned and operated business model continues to grow and evolve into one of North America’s most trusted names in the industry.
In 1987, Alex Zai would become an accidental pioneer in the packaging and shipping industry. One of the company’s earliest franchisees, Zai would, over a seven-year period, lead his Bloomington, Indiana-based location to a distinction as one of the top five revenue generating units in the franchise system. In 1994, Pak Mail’s corporate office realized Zai’s commitment to the industry and recruited him to join their corporate management ranks, ultimately leading him to his current role as president and CEO.
“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,” Zai said in a 2013 interview with Business World Magazine.
With over 400 locations around the world, the company continues to emphasize and focus on its core business which is packaging, becoming more adept and expanding its capabilities compared to a few years ago. With age comes responsible, and for Zai and Pak Mail, their responsibility is not just to grow their services, but also to overcome challenges brought on by changes in the marketplace.
“We continue to work on the freight side of our business,” he said. “Again, this has been a huge emphasis for us. We continue to see great growth on the freight side, the stores are beginning to become more and more comfortable with it and our customer base is growing both commercially and residentially in that area. So we’re very excited about that piece.”
“The first challenge is getting our customers to know what our capabilities are and building that side of the business,” Zai continued. “While our customers know that we can pack small packages for UPS, FedEx, the post office or DHL or any of the other carriers that we use, most of our customers are not familiar with the fact that we build crates, we will do packaging for very unusual or high valuable items.”
Remaining upbeat, optimistic and in touch with his creative side, Zai welcomes the opportunity to finding innovative and intricate solutions to his customers’ packaging problems.
“When we get to the large freight items – we’re talking about packing industrial equipment, those always have great challenges for us because they’re always interesting,” he said. “You have to be creative in packaging something that is from an electronics standpoint. We have to be creative in finding the right fit for customers so that those types of things are well-protected, while they’re still being handled with forklifts or conveyor belts.”
“The packaging is the fun part of it – it really tests your creativity.”
Providing integrated global freight forwarding, Pak Mail has increased its volume, having improved the pricing for their customers as well as their overall shipment service. A good problem to have – offering the discounts has led to new carriers becoming anxious to join the queue and get on board Pak Mail’s ascension thanks to the volumes that the company creates and sends out.
“From a freight standpoint, it’s yet another challenge of letting our customers know that we do that,” Zai said. “Our challenge is getting our customers to know that If you’ve got a 20,000lb molding machine that you need to get from end of the country to the other or one side of the world to the other, we have the capability to do that, even though when you deal with us face to face, we’re in a 1,200 square foot strip centre in the shopping centre where you do your grocery shopping.”
Dealing with a myriad of competitors in the market who occupy the same share inevitably puts Pak Mail into the same category, but Zai is blessed with an abundance of aplomb, which makes for a one-of-a-kind unique selling and service point.
“The freight part is also fun because we end up with not only the packaging challenge, but then how do you figure out how to get 5,000 concrete light poles to some destination that doesn’t have a port that’s big enough to take a ship that’s that size? It always makes it fun to find a solution,” he said.
“The thing that’s really great about the services our stores provide is that we’re not limited by what we’re capable of doing,” Zai continued. “Not only are we able to move that 20,000lb molding machine, but we also use a wide range of carriers, so we can be really particular to the needs of a customer.”
WAREHOUSE & FULFILLMENT
Always looking to expand their operations in new and novel ways, Pak Mail has begun expanding into the warehouse and fulfillment side of the packaging and shipping industry. A leader in his own way, Zai has capitalized on his futuristic instincts and the business will soon illustrate his vision and make it a reality.
“As our stores develop and grow, a majority of our stores have a small warehouse that they operate out of in the background,” he said. “We continue to build and expand on that side of the business. We see a great future in being able to provide warehouse and fulfillment services for customers.”
“On the fulfillment side, we’re also looking at staying to the small or mid-range area of services because we’re not going to have 100,000 square feet where we’re warehousing for 100 different customers,” Zai continued. “We’re going to be providing this kind of service on a niche kind of basis, where someone has a specific need for our type of service and is not looking for 10,000 square feet. They have a palate load of things that they need to have warehoused and the fulfillment work done on a regular and steady basis.”
Part of branching out – and being successful at it – is listening and learning from the needs and feedback of your customer base. In the world of franchise business, continuity, consistency and care are the number one foundations to successful brand recognition and customer loyalty – characteristics not lost on Zai.
“Customer care is a really important factor for us, and we put a lot of emphasis on it,” he said. “We work very hard to create a customer experience. We have a business model that we work by, which is: the best product and the best service at a reasonable price. The product we provide is the customer experience.”
“We put a lot of emphasis on the customer experience and paying attention to a lot of those details, not only from the standpoint of what the store looks like, but what the store smells like,” he continued. “One of the sayings we use internally is that: we’re the leader in logistics solutions; finding solutions to problems be it small or large. We work on building those relationships by being problem solvers for our customers.”
FUTURE OF THE FRANCHISE
Shipping and packaging is never going to go away. But while the industry has changed significantly over the last five to 10 years, Zai and Pak Mail have gracefully dealt with the obstacles and challenges and continue to remain a strong force throughout. As store capabilities and the company’s freight services continue to increase, Pak Mail is leading the way in logistical solutions for their customers.
“We’re very excited about what we see coming up in the near future for Pak Mail and the shipping world,” he said. “Every day is a new challenge and we love taking it on.”
A forward thinker in his own right, Zai understands and acknowledges that Pak Mail is a unique player in a field full of competitors.
“As our industry changes, we think we’re going to separate ourselves from our competitors; they’re going in a different direction than we are,” he said. “We firmly believe that the success rate for the systems and the stores is in the direction that we’re heading.”