I’ve been spending some time lately with Elias Demangos, founder and president of Fortigo Freight Systems, getting to know him for a profile that will appear in an upcoming issue of Truck News.
Elias grew up in a trucking family and after studying business in university, knew he wanted to start a trucking company of his own. He honed in on the dedicated fleet segment, realizing more manufacturers were shedding their private truck fleets and outsouring to trucking specialists, who had a better grasp on an ever-tightening regulatory environment, costlier technologies – and who the hell wants to deal with the driver shortage, anyway?
This segment poses two main challenges: the sales cycle is years-long, meaning it’ll be a while before you can generate cash flow. And the margins typically are even slimmer than they are in truckload or LTL. For these reasons and others, trucking companies that dabbled in dedicated fleet operations did not always do well, and Elias figured a specialist focusing on this segment could differentiate itself.
The company was launched in 2006 and soon after, just as it was gaining some momentum and had hired its first employee – the bottom fell out of the global economy. Elias remembers what it was like to manage a fledgling trucking company during the Great Recession.
“I would equate it to being in the Atlantic Ocean, in one of the worst storms, and you’re in a rowboat going up and down and you look to your right and to your left and you see these big boys – and they can barely handle the waves,” Elias recalled. “Some of them are breaking and sinking and you’re thinking, how the heck am I going to do this?”
In retrospect, Elias thinks he had it easier than some better established companies, because he didn’t have the legacy costs they did. The flip side of that is that there was no fat to trim from his operation. “I was the fat,” he joked.
Today, Fortigo runs nearly 500 trucks. I know as well as anyone that a truck count is not an accurate barometer of success in this business – it’s just another line on the back of the hockey card. But Fortigo has never lost a customer since its inception and that is a measurement of true success.
“We haven’t lost a customer since day one,” he said, adding that maintaining that record is one of his highest-priority goals.
I don’t want to give too much away now, because I really enjoyed working on this profile. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find it in the January or February issue of Truck News.
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