FLO Cycling – Managing our Time

 
Not even three years ago, Jon and I were standing in our garage holding the very first production model FLO wheels ever made. Today, there are over 8,000 FLO wheels on the road, and this year alone we are on schedule to ship 5,000. Jon and I are still the only two employees at FLO and in all honesty, we were running out of time to get it all done. The two tasks that take up the majority of our time are customer service and shipping. We needed to make a change to help save ourselves some time, and we had a few options.  
 
The first FLO wheel ever made.
 
Option #1: Hire Customer Service Reps
 
Pros
  • Immense time savings not having to answer hundreds of emails and phone calls weekly.  

 

Cons
  • Jon and I aren’t able to speak one-on-one with our customers.
  • Time spent managing customer service reps.
Jon and I just didn’t feel right losing contact with our customers. For the last three years, Jon and I have answered every phone call and email, and we want to keep it that way as long as possible.  

 

 
Option #2: Buy a Warehouse and Hire Employees to Ship Our Products
 
Pros
  • Having employees ship our products would save Jon and I time when processing orders.  

 

Cons
  • We still do not need full time employees. Hiring, training, and managing new temp labor every five to six weeks would be very time-intensive.
  • Buying/leasing a warehouse requires a lot of capital. Paying a mortage/lease is easy when sales are good, but what happens if sales slow down?

 

The cost of the warehouse, coupled with the task of hiring, training, and managing employees just didn’t feel right. While we may save time shipping, it would easily be eaten up by our new responsibilities. 
 
Roughly 700 wheels from a single FLO order on the warehouse floor. For a size comparison, you can see me standing on a four-foot table in the background. There will be a total of eight orders this size this year. We certainly needed help!  
 
What We Did

I’ve always seemed to work well under pressure. Our temporary warehouse, the one with the dirt floor and no air conditioning, was soon to be turned into a medical office building and we needed to get out. We had several real estate agents looking into warehouses, and we even went to look at a few. The whole time, something just didn’t feel right about purchasing our own place. For some reason I thought, “what if there was a company who could ship our wheels for us?”
 
We knew that order fulfillment existed, but our project was different. Most order fulfillment companies like ShipWire or Amazon Fulfillment want to simply put a label on a box and ship it out the door. Our project was much different. All of our wheels are inspected, have custom color stickers applied, have special give aways added to boxes, and are then repackaged and sent out the door. We started calling fulfillment companies and the message was pretty clear: “We don’t do that”. We kept hearing that message over and over again until we called a company called eFulfillment Service.  

When I reached out to eFulfillment Service the message was instantly different. The first thing I heard was, “We have a department set up for special projects”. We began discussing the ins and outs of how FLO wheels are inspected/processed and I kept hearing, “We can definitely do that”. Another benefit was that we would only be charged for the storage space we used. So if sales slowed down, our storage fees would adjust accordingly. This was a big contrast to owning a warehouse and paying a mortgage that is always the same. The best part was eFulfillment Service encouraged us to visit their facility to help the special projects team process the first order. Wow! For two guys who were potentially handing their “baby” over to a company, this was a very welcoming offer. Long story short, after a trip to Michigan for a logistics meeting and a few weeks of emails back and forth, we hired eFulfillment Service to be our shipper.
 
Order #14
Order 14 — our last order — was actually processed out of eFulfillment Services’s shipping facility in Traverse City, Michigan. Jon and I spent the week there, helping the team get everything out the door. In all honesty, they did most of the work, but being there was helpful, and let us rest a little easier. All in all, our time spent there left us with the ability to say that the team at eFulfillment Service is awesome. There’s really no better way to describe them. They are good people treating others how they would like to be treated, and they really made us feel at home. We feel very confident having them as our future shipping partner for FLO orders. With their help, FLO as a company will get orders in the mail quicker, and Jon and I will have more time to do the things we should be doing like, talking with customers, designing new products, and riding bikes ;).
 
I wanted to leave you with a few pictures from our week spent at eFulfillment Service in Traverse City, Michigan.  
 
Jon and I rented a small house for the week.
EFS has a dog-friendly office and cyclists!
Our wheels lined up in storage and ready to go!
Jon giving a wheel inspection/sticker demo
FLO freehub bodies with their new SKUs attached. 
An order picked and ready to be assembled.
The special projects area.
The team hard at work.
Jon and I visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes which was an amazing place.  
Going down was fun. Getting back up was a lot harder than you’d think.
450 vertical feet from Lake Michigan to the top. There is a warning sign at the top stating a rescue helicopter to get you to the top will cost $5,000.  
 
I hope you have enjoyed this blog article. In fact, I had time to write this article because I haven’t had to ship products. It’s working already

We’d love to hear your comments or questions if you have them.

Take care,

Chris