Joining Forces

These two entrepreneurs teamed up to build a trucking firm

When Ashley Grant and Ricky Warren first contemplated opening their own trucking company, they already knew the ups and downs of the business. For one thing, startup costs are expensive and competition stiff. Notwithstanding, the two friends decided to start their own business.

The result of their joint venture is Artco Systems Inc., an Atlanta-based provider of transportation services specializing in import/export cargo delivery. Launched in 1999, the firm has 10 employees and 2002 revenues of $2.8 million.

When the two met, they were sales route drivers for an Atlanta-based trucking company. “We both wanted the convenience of working the hours that we wanted to work, whenever we wanted to work,” Warren says.

Fortunately, the duo knew that jumping into a business with a co-worker requires a lot of time and effort. Both took the time to assess each other’s skills, and with a 12-year age difference between them, Warren, 42, said he carefully eyed Grant, 30, as a potential business partner. Grant made his own assessment: “I knew that he saved money, and when he came to work he actually worked. He looked and appeared responsible to me,” Grant says.

Gradually, the two men moved toward their quest. Grant took his savings and bought a 1994 International truck for $21,000, while Warren bought a 1990 Volvo for $12,000. Each truck could transport up to 80,000 pounds of cargo. “We were both independent carriers for about six months, and we had to sign contracts which would detail the amount of money the company we worked for was being paid. I calculated that we were getting 67% of whatever the company was paid. At that point we said, ‘We are just as smart as they are and why should we get 67% when we can get 100%,’” Grant says.

With a clearer picture of their earning potential, the two began their business, but their startup costs were high. A surety bond, which allowed their trucks access to the three main railroads in Atlanta, cost $30,000. Also, the two trucks had to be insured for $2,500, with payments of about $1,000 a month, and monthly fuel costs were $6,000.

In the meantime, Artco was beginning to pick up clients. Their first was St. George Warehouse, a holding company that heard of Artco through a mutual friend that works at St. George. Since then, the company has expanded its customer base to include FedEx Trade Networks, a branch of Federal Express, and Hyundai America, a freight forwarder.

The partners wax optimistic about their future prospects. “In the next five years we hope to double or triple our business,” Warren says. The businessmen plan to scout out new areas of opportunity and open offices in other states. “We are looking forward to being a $6 million company by the end of the decade, and that’s a dream that we believe is possible,” Warren adds.

Artco Systems, Inc., 1810 Forrest Parkway, Lake City, GA., 30260; 404-635-9001; www.artcosystems.com

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