Patrick Engeleiter Reflects on E-Freight Courier Growing Success

Patrick Engeleiter, founder and owner of E-Freight Courier, LLC, in Milwaukee, Wis., worked like a madman with Jon, his brother, and Julie, his wife, to get his courier company off the ground.

“The first year, my wife answered the phone and I did the deliveries, at times sleeping in the parking lot of the blood center, so when the call came, I could respond within minutes to impress them,” Engeleiter says. Although it took a while to gain steady business success, he knew that his company would provide a service that was needed in Milwaukee. “I started researching the local courier companies in our city and realized there was not a medical courier in the city,” he says. “E-Freight Courier was formed and became the first 100-percent medical courier.”

Courier Magazine recently interviewed Engeleiter and found out how he built up his company and how he has developed a successful courier business over the years.

Courier Magazine: Why did you go into the delivery industry?
Patrick Engeleiter: I graduated from college with a degree in education, but at one time wanted to be a pharmacist. One year during summer break from teaching, one of my friends who was a pharmacist at a local hospital called me to help him deliver some medication to a nursing home. He knew I was off for the summer, soIhadthetimetodoa delivery at 2 a.m. After doing this several times, I asked him why they didn’t have a courier, or what he would do if I was unable to help him, and he told me he would have called a taxi cab if I couldn’t have done the delivery -- the light bulb went off.

My initial plan was to get to work with local blood centers -- that would put me in hospitals. If I could give a white glove service to STAT delivery and impress the lab managers at the local hospitals, they would start giving me work. I did everything that comes with running a business in our first years. I slept with the phone on my chest and when a call came in, I would answer it like I was sitting in front of a computer screen with a high tech dispatch system. They had no idea I also just dispatched the delivery. Our uniform is a blue, button-down shirt with our logo, Khaki pants, picture ID card, belt, and nice shoes. We are trying to give a professional image with the delivery. If we are around lab techs and doctors and walking through hospitals, I want my drivers looking the part. Our vehicles are white vans, cars and trucks; we wash those two times a week. The vehicles became a part of my marketing plan -- they were like having driving billboards.

CM: How has your company survived and thrived over the years?
PE: E-Freight started with one white station wagon we used for all STAT deliveries. By the end of the first year, I brought on Jack Hornak, my father-in- law, and two other retired drivers. We shared three company vehicles. I kept up with all the testing (i.e. OSHA, DOT- Hazmat, and Blood Borne Pathogen) and made sure the hospitals received copies of our testing, exposure control plan and HIPAA procedures.

My father-in-law and I developed an extensive training program for drivers on driving and the procedures of a successful delivery. “Safety first,” was our motto, and we stressed the importance of not speeding and obeying the traffic rules. Over the years, we have developed a progressive driving and training program for our drivers and in time, this was the catalyst to our company surviving in a tough market.

Also: I knew I would have to invest everything into the company. I emulated companies like UPS. They didn’t even have to have their logo on their vehicles and everyone knew who they were. Our approach was to do the same thing -- white vehicles and drivers in blue shirts -- create an image. Our colors became red, white and blue, and our first two vehicles were white Ford Focus station wagons. These vehicles were perfect for medical STAT deliveries. We put our logo all over the vehicles and as we hired more drivers (contactors), we would put our logo on their vehicles. We knew marketing was going to be a big part of our success.

By the time we reached our fourth year in business we won our chamber of commerce award as a Future 50 company in our market. We ended up winning the next year as well.

CM: How has the company grown since its start?
PE: After our first 18 months, we realized we couldn’t limit to whom we delivered for. Our new motto became, “anything, anywhere, anytime.” The initial plan to do the professional services markets, such as law, financial and medical, evolved into E-Freight Courier becoming a full-service expedited courier. We had cargo vans and straight trucks handling freight, as well as sensitive documents, and performing medical logistics. We grew from one vehicle in year one to a fleet of over 30 by end of year three. Now we have upwards of 75 drivers and employees as we start year seven.

CM: How did you know what alternative avenues to travel in the courier business? What are the new ideas your company is using to modernize?
PE: We knew to be successful in this business we would have to be different. Our motto again changed. It became, “yes, we can!” The first glimpse the customer gets of your driver has to be positive. And we could now move anything from an envelope to a truckload. I opened our warehouse to do storage and we became a one-stop shop for our customers. We could store their files, supplies, and equipment, pick their product, and deliver it in under an hour.

I knew we would have to stay on the cutting edge of all technology and be able to offer it to our customers. I developed our name and logo with technology in mind. Our name was developed to show we were different. I knew online ordering, real-time proof of delivery and going electronic with everything was going to be the key to our success. I wanted my name to give the impression we were electronic and that we could keep up with the constantly changing landscape of technology. I knew we had to either be ahead of our local competitors with technology, or be step and step with them.

CM: What is the key to your company’s success?
PE: One key to our success has been great people. If one of my good drivers has a nephew who needs a summer job, we hire the young man. Our company has been founded on this philosophy and referrals are used for everything from staffing the company to finding new customers. We have a
staff that has the “all in” attitude. If we can get everyone to buy into our mission and vision, and follow the plan, we will be successful.

Another key has been my staff and drivers know I have done everything they have done. I would never ask a driver to do something I haven’t already done myself. Our success starts with the people, then all the little things they do, all the intangibles that go into having a successful company. Also: Keeping our technology updated, and lastly, and probably most important, is spending time in the community. We are very involved in our community and we are constantly donating services and sponsoring events.

CM: Customer service -- how important is it?
PE: It is the most important aspect of our company other than the delivery. I want the customer to say, “wow, what a great delivery,” or “what a great courier.” When customers call in to ask a question, they need to know that whoever is on the other end of the phone cares about their problem and will stay with them until the problem is solved.

CM: Talk about importance of your employees, how do they go above and beyond?
PE: We have been very strict with our hiring practices and at times it has kept us understaffed, but we will not just put anyone behind the wheel. The drivers we have care about their deliveries and routes. They take ownership of their work.

We do pharmaceutical deliveries for a local pharmacy and last week {early February}, I had a driver deliver meds to a lady who is very elderly. While at the lady’s house, the woman started complaining her insurance company was not covering her meds and she was paying a lot of money out of pocket. This driver sat at her kitchen table with her, helped her call the insurance company, had them make an adjustment they should have made a long time ago, and now she gets all her meds covered 100 percent by her insurance company. This was a driver who told himself I’ll take 30 minutes out of my day to help this lady and he did. If this attitude is the prevailing attitude at your company, you can’t help but be successful.

About the Author
Abbie Stutzer is the editor of Courier Magazine.