Interview With Jim Kahmann: One Of The Guys Helping Small Businesses Gain A Competitive Edge Over The Competition
Jim Kahmann, the Director of Marketing and Operations at OneMorePallet opens up about what it’s like to work at and build a company that not only offers a great product, but actually helps give small businesses a competitive edge over their competition when it comes to shipping. Kahmann and startup founder, Bill Cunningham, have developed a service that is almost like a discount travel site… for shipping.
The company’s model is both efficient and environmentally friendly – by consolidating shipments, (clients get to piggyback their shipments onto trucks from certified carriers with unused space), the environment gets less polluted because less gas is being used and the client gets to pay less for shipping. This win-win situation can translate into clients saving 20-50% on their LTL shipping rates and carriers get to make extra cash too. Kahmann talks about lean teams and streamlined business plans.
What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
We lower shipping costs for small businesses. Our software lets small business managers bid for empty truck space in real time. Our partner carriers fill otherwise empty truck space and increase their profitability, and our small business customers save anywhere between 30 and 60% off retail freight rates. It’s a win win.
What’s the greatest thing about your company? Why is it better than the competition?
It’s fast. Competing options like load boards can take days to find a good rate with a good carrier. Shippers who use freight broker networks can book a shipment in a matter of hours, but pricing is less competitive due to high margins. Our software facilitates a best price match, with a quality floor for trucking companies, and it does this in 10 seconds or less. This allows already time-strapped small business managers to get back to their core business.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Bill Cunningham, our founder, was working on software with the owner of a trucking company in Cincinnati. One day this owner thought out loud, “if I could get one or two more pallets on that truck coming back from Indianapolis, it would double my profit.” In Bill’s mind, the idea that would become OneMorePallet was born.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
I was 7 years old when I first accessed the web through AOL. We had a Dell desktop computer for our whole family to share at the time. I primarily used my AOL For Kids account, which my parents had set up.
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
I start work around 8am, on a normal day. I’ll work until 6 or 7 in the office, and then go for a run or do something outdoors. By around 8 or 9 through midnight, I’m back at home either finishing work from that day, or planning my schedule for the next day. Total, including some work on weekends, it comes out to around 11 hours per day.
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
Bill and I spent a day visiting prospective customers, partner trucking companies, and prospective investors in Pittsburgh. We’re a work hard, play hard company. If a vacation doesn’t include at least a couple work meetings, I wouldn’t know what to call it.
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
Check on orders and scheduled pickups from the previous day. I want to start every day with the previous day’s work behind me. I’m able to focus better when I know the machine is running smoothly.
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
On long road trips, or in the shower.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
Bill Cunningham started the company, and quickly assembled a small core team to make the idea a reality. Committed to running lean, we still have 3 employees.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
Solving a real business problem for hundreds of thousands of small businesses!
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
The typical startup woes; no working software but still the pressure to sell. No brand, but the need to be more trustworthy than existing competition. No prior industry technical knowledge, but the expectation that we were experts in our “field.” No processes at all.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
In the moment, I usually bottle frustration deep down inside until I can find some alone time. That time usually comes in the form of a long run, preferably in a heavy rainstorm. Rain is good. It washed things away.
What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?
We don’t have the stereotypical startup office. No video games or movies playing. Except for the occasional extended joke or philosophical conversation, we’re pretty hunkered down and attentive to our work. “Fun” happens outside the office – we’re all just as close outside the office as we are inside.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
We’ll still have a very lean team; call it 25 employees. If we’re on our own, we’ll probably have a few offices in the US to maintain touch with our customer base. Our customer base will include almost every small business in the United States that ships. The same way you or I are now used to using Expedia and Priceline to book flights, the business community will use our software to book empty space on trucks.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
Inspiration comes from all corners. I try to surround myself with inspirational colleagues and friends. I really enjoy reading philosophy, and I can find a reason to quote Aristotle at least once every day. Running, or doing something physical is always empowering and freeing. The human body is pretty amazing, and the mind and body are closely tied. I feel my mind is more fit if my body is more fit. They kind of build on one another.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?
Initially, we were funded by a Northern Kentucky accelerator program called UpTech. The rest has been all angel funding and customer revenue.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
First, be ingenious in your search for opportunities. Always be hacking the system. For example, even in New York City, you can find free work space with most of the necessary amenities for at least a few months (hint: one option is called Starbucks). Second, get out of your work space. There is no substitute for live customer conversation and feedback.
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Find a good co-worker and/or co-founder. Minds sharpen each other. If you have sharp minds, the rest will follow.
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
Ask lots of hypothetical questions. No, I’m just kidding. I’d learn to sail, and take a few close friends sailing from port to port all around the world.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
Yes. With my team, we’ve created something from what seemed to be nothing. The technology and processes we’ve created has already benefited numerous small businesses around the U.S. Whether what we’ve now created lives or dies, we’ve had a positive impact on a lot of businesses and a lot of people. This impact has been recognized, because we’ve been paid for it. This impact is timeless.
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?
Ironically, as a manager at a web company, I think I could live comfortably without any website… maybe even the Internet entirely. I don’t even have a facebook or any personal social media accounts.
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?
For business creativity, I really like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki. Sometimes it’s also fun to read through tweets of musicians and artists I’m into, for something a little different. So right now, I’d have to also include Lorde in there.
Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
This August (of 2013) our order volume was 1000% higher than in August 2012. Basically starting in August, our order volume and revenue graphs have actually begun to resemble the much coveted “hockey stick” curve. In July, hockey stick growth seemed kind of like a pipe dream, so actualizing this trajectory now is surreal.
If you’re in the Detroit area this week, the guys at OneMorePallet are having their official launch event this Wednesday, October 9, 2013. Startup folks, small business owners, and average Joes interested in what they’re doing are invited. You can RSVP on the event page here.