by Christie Chisholm, New Mexico Business Weekly, January 28, 2011
In the age of e-mail, e-newsletters, e-books and a recession, how does a shipping and receiving company not only survive, but grow?
Ask Charlotte Garcia, owner of Shipping, Receiving, Fulfillment Services (SRFS), an 18-year-old business that’s managed to increase its revenue by 10 to 12 percent annually for the past few years.
Garcia always knew she wanted to own a business. When her employer, Bear & Co. Publishing in Santa Fe, decided to contract out its fulfillment work, she saw her chance. In 30 days, Garcia had laid the groundwork to open SRFS.
She sold her house to finance the venture—she no longer remembers how much the startup funds put her back. She bought equipment, found a location, obtained a business license and took a class about federal business taxes. After a whirlwind month, Garcia opened an office and warehouse in Rio Rancho. She’s still in the same building, and she’s seen the landscape change around her from open fields to a city of 82,000.
She’s also seen the landscape of her industry shift in the nearly two decades she’s been in business, as the rise of technology has brought increasing competition.
But Garcia’s answer to how she’s coped with changing times is simple.
“We remain an option,” she says.
There are still enough customers who want to make a tangible impression on clients to keep SRFS going strong. Garcia says when it comes to marketing, electronic methods don’t rival something you can touch.
With her products, “you can’t just hit a delete button,” she says.
It also helps that SRFS’ list of services is extensive. Along with standard shipping and storing services, SRFS does everything from stuffing envelopes and assembling products to providing marketing consultation and creating targeted mailing lists. Garcia says she and her staff of eight help design marketing materials to include key points that will help generate a response for clients, such as promoting limited-time offers.
Kristie Peterson, president of Ink & Images Inc., a print broker that helps clients find the best prices and service on printing projects, has been a client of SRFS’ for about 15 years. She sends mailing fulfillment projects to the business at least once a month. She has stuck with the small company because it provides the kind of accurate, personalized service she hasn’t found at larger houses. Most of the jobs Peterson sends SRFS require individualized letters being stuffed and sent in individualized envelopes.
“I had used other companies in the past because I didn’t know about [SRFS], and I had problems with jobs being inserted correctly,” she says.
At SRFS, “they do good work, they’re accurate, they’re professional, they understand the projects and they have good pricing.”
SRFS’ prices vary by the job. Garcia says a small project such as sending 200 postcards would cost $67, including postage.
The company has several hundred clients, ranging from large institutions such as Indian Health Services to small print shops. But it got its start with just one client, Bear & Co. The publisher kept Garcia’s business afloat for its first three years, but then the company was sold, and the new owner elected not to use Garcia’s services. At the time, Bear & Co. accounted for 60 percent of SRFS’ revenue.
“That was a teaching point for me,” Garcia says. “You can’t ever get too comfortable or rest on your laurels.”
The company found its lifeline through networking. SRFS joined the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau and the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico. Garcia went to as many events as possible. Gradually, the business recovered.
“I’ve always felt that if the phone rings at least once per day with a customer wanting our services, that’s the inspiration I need to keep going,” she says.
Garcia still relies on word-of-mouth and in-person networking to get the word out. SRFS has a website and takes out ads in the Yellow Pages, but doesn’t have a Facebook page and doesn’t engage in any online social networking.
When the recession hit, business dipped, but things quickly turned around, she says.
“I almost didn’t want to get caught up in it,” she says. “I like to believe it’s a state of mind.”
SRFS’ mission includes providing jobs and training to people from Garcia’s community on Jemez Pueblo.
“[When I was] a kid, my dad said, ‘Try to help your people,’” she says. “The best way I could think of is employing and training people.”
The company has maintained a staff of eight for years, but over the holidays and other busy times of year, the staff grows significantly. Garcia has had as many as 35 people working for her. Many of them are on hand whenever an especially large or demanding project comes in.
Garcia is working to obtain 8(a) certification from the Small Business Administration, which would make it easier for SRFS to land government contracts. She’s also taking seminars and classes to find ways to improve the company’s operations. She recently completed the SBA’s e200 program, which identifies and provides resources for businesses with strong growth potential. It gave her a better understanding of the company’s finances, she says.
Eighteen years in, Garcia is satisfied with what she’s accomplished at SRFS.
“Sometimes you wonder if you should just go work for someone else,” the business owner reflects. “And then you see what you’ve done, and you remind yourself of what’s important.”
1. Network at as many events as you can attend.
2. Diversify your client base so that if you lose some clients, you can survive.
3. Never stop learning — take classes about the business world.
- Company: Shipping, Receiving, Fulfillment Services
- Owner: Charlotte Garcia
- Address: 210-A Enterprise SE, Rio Rancho 87124
- Phone: (505) 891-4294
- Website: yoursrfs.com
- Employees: eight
- 2010 revenue: $650,000