Full Speed Ahead

The day Road One Express Inc. delivered its first package in April 2001, Leonard Wright, president and co-founder, had $40 to his name. Within two months, the 42-year-old entrepreneur was heading up a courier service that was pulling in $20,000 a month in revenues. “Six months into it, I had built a million-dollar company,” says Wright.

Fueling some of that growth was Wright’s partner, who invested $75,000 to lease warehouse space, vehicles, computers, and office furniture. Concerned that Wright, who had several years of experience in the courier industry, was growing Road One Express too quickly, his investor closed the checkbook just a few months into the venture. “I told him that we needed some extra money to cover payroll,” recalls Wright, “and he didn’t want to pay for it.” Ready to part ways, the partners were initially going to sell the nascent firm to an outside party for $300,000. After some negotiating, Wright was able to buy his partner’s share in the East Point, Georgia, company and take full control of the firm, which specializes in same-day and next-day deliveries — ranging from single envelopes to full tractor-trailer loads of merchandise.

With 150 employees and $10 million in sales for 2005, Road One relies on a combination of independent contractor-couriers and its own drivers to deliver the goods. Dealing strictly with commercial companies — such as law firms and power companies — and United Parcel Service’s freight division, Road One, a regional courier service nature, is able to ship nationally. In exchange for expedited service, customers pay about 20% more than they would for another carrier, says Wright.

Operating from a 20,000-square-foot warehouse near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport, Road One fills a gap left open by companies like UPS and Federal Express, which specialize in smaller packages and larger freight firms like Yellow or Roadway, which handle a greater number of tractor-trailer loads. “We pick it up at your doorstep and deliver it the same day,” says Wright.

Wright expects Road One’s sales to reach $19 million in 2006, due largely to geographic expansion and his acquisition of existing couriers. And he credits a Georgia Power mentorship program with helping him reach his goals. In 2003, Wright received a scholarship to attend an executive minority development program at Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School in New Hampshire. There, he learned how to create a formal business plan, develop mergers and acquisition strategies, and implement effective hiring policies.

Willie Palmer, manager of supplier diversity and development at Georgia Power (incidentally a Road One customer), speaks with Wright several times a month to discuss his company’s growth plan. “Leonard really understands his business and what he has to do to grow it,” says Palmer. “In him, I see someone who has taken the material that he’s learned from the program and really used it in his operations.”

Expect to see Wright relying on that knowledge even further this year as he seeks out courier companies to purchase in Dallas, Cleveland, and Charlotte — three cities he’s targeted for geographic growth because