We started thinking about Reveel just one year into working for DHL. The idea came to life at a training in Dallas in 2006.
We were hired in Orange County at the same time and in the same training class, which meant we got to know one another well. After a long day of training, we sat down in our hotel room.
“Man,” one of us said. “All they talk about is, ‘This is how we’re going to charge our clients. This is how we’re going to sell them. Just give them as little as possible so that we can still protect our margin.’”
It was all about us, us, us, and most importantly, us making a lot of money off of our clients. Right away, that didn’t sit well with us. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create a business model that aligned with the customer?
In the traditional model, a carrier representative earns a commission based on the margin of the accounts that they manage. That means that the carrier rep and their client’s interests are inherently in conflict. The more that the rep can charge the shipper, the more money that they can make. Carrier reps might say that they advocate for their clients, but at the end of the day, compensation drives everyone’s behavior. We all tend to act in our own best interest.
We started spitballing. We imagined a business model that only existed in a very niche group of companies at the time — so niche that we thought that we were inventing it for the first time.
We would stand beside our clients to the point that our profits would depend on it: We wouldn’t make money if they didn’t save money.
That’s who Reveel is today.
Setting out to Transform the Industry
The most obvious problem that we identified in the shipping industry was that there was absolutely no pricing transparency. Carriers may publish rates, but they don’t use standardized pricing models. Every agreement is individually negotiated.
You would think that a shipper who spends $1 million per year ought to have better discounts than an account that spends $500,000 per year, but as we learned while working for the carriers, that wasn’t the case. The best rates went to the accounts that knew what concessions to ask for and how to negotiate them.
We believe business owners should actually know what discounts that they were eligible for — and have the confidence to ask for those discounts. So we leveraged our knowledge and began networking to see who would be interested in working with us.
When we started Reveel, we both had to wear dozens of hats. Looking back, we think most of our success was predicated on the fact that we worked harder than anyone else. Whether it was knocking on doors or making phone calls or sending cold emails, we were willing to do 10 times more than anyone else. We both took on debt.
It turned out, we were willing to work harder than a lot of our competitors — because we’re still here today, and we’re one of the more prominent brands in our space.
Reveel’s Early Challenges
In Reveel’s early years, we actually worked directly with our clients’ carrier reps. They were apprehensive about working with us, to say the least. There were only a handful of people doing what we were doing, so it took awhile for them to understand our business — and once they did, they realized that we were trying to drive down the margins on their accounts, effectively reducing their pay.
With that said, we were able to open some doors for carrier reps. When our clients switched from DHL to FedEx or from FedEx to UPS, we were able to connect them with clients with whom we had strong relationships.
There was another kind of apprehension, too: Carrier representatives doubted that they could go back to their pricing departments and request the discounts that we were asking for. They’d never seen discounts like these approved, so they assumed that they couldn’t be approved.
Carrier pricing isn’t even transparent to their own teams. Reps have knowledge of the accounts that they manage, which is maybe a few dozen. They have no access to broader data about what their pricing departments might be approving for other clients across the nation. So when we had requests approved, the carrier reps were shocked — and impressed. That’s actually how several of our current employees ended up on our team.
Around 2009, the carriers decided en masse that they would no longer work with third-party consultants like us. Chad actually learned this during a meeting with FedEx when his client’s carrier rep asked him to leave the room. We thought that was going to sink our business. It certainly felt like a shot aimed right at us, or at least at employees thinking about leaving carriers to start their own consulting businesses.
Reveel was able to pivot. Since we could no longer be in the room with our clients, we started prepping them extensively for contract negotiations. We also added invoice auditing and other complimentary services. We expanded out of Orange County to San Diego,Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. We will continue to expand into other new markets as we find great people who share our core values.
Where we are Today — and What Comes Next
We’re deeply proud of the company culture that we’ve built at Reveel. Keith, our first employee, is celebrating his 10-year anniversary in September. Nick, our second, just finished his ninth year. We care about our people. That’s the natural progression of a business founded on caring about our customers.
Reveel has made the difference for thousands of those customers over the last decade. At one point we had a San Diego-based manufacturer of hats — think wide-brimmed, Kentucky Derby-style hats — for whom the adoption of dimensional pricing was a huge threat. We secured enough savings for them to stay in business. And a client in Los Angeles, whose commodity product is threatened by Amazon, used the money that we helped them save to invest in online specials. They saw a 30% increase in top-line revenue year over year as a result.
Today, we’re actively seeking to grow. We want to serve every major market in the U.S. in the next five years. We want people on the ground at each of those cities so that we can establish trust with local clients. Clients who trust us will keep coming back to us, as well as refer us to their friends and business partners.
As we court new team members, our most important question is whether they share our core values. Our name is all about transparency, and the foundation of transparency is integrity.
We can train someone in sales or the ins and outs of the shipping industry — but we look for employees who are, at their core, people of integrity who share our vision and values.
From an innovation perspective, our focus is on incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into our business in a way that our competitors can’t imitate. Shipping generates a huge amount of data about end-to-end supply chains. Currently, our customers can track that data in real-time using our software products or our app, which is hugely powerful in itself.
Cutting-edge machine learning technology can harness that information in increasingly powerful ways. But the substance of the result is the same: A shipper can’t identify an issue in their supply chain if they don’t have information about what it might be. We find those issues. And we’re proud to solve them alongside our customers.
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