The History of Fleetfoot Messenger Service
Fleetfoot was founded in 1980 as an independent locally owned company to fill a void in the downtown delivery market. At the time, messenger services were not commonly used. Federal Express was only 6 years old and companies were just coming to grips with the reality that time REALLY WAS money! Fleetfoot started out with two couriers on mopeds delivering documents in downtown Seattle. On its first day of operations, the new company handled a total of three deliveries.
By 1984, demand for service had grown and Fleetfoot added a few cars to its fleet and increased the courier staff to over 20 people. The geographic area of service increased to all of King County and a satellite office was opened in Bellevue. Fleetfoot persevered through new competition, fax machines, rising gas prices and labor shortages. By 1994, the company had switched to using bicycles, moved twice to larger offices and had over 80 employees. Daily package delivery count rose to over 1,000. The fleet grew to over 50 vehicles and service to all points in Washington State was initiated. Still, Fleetfoot found itself only marginally profitable and struggling to grow further.
In the Fourth Quarter of ’94, Fleetfoot made a dramatic choice. A new company culture took hold as Fleetfoot embraced a new dispatch software, a commission structure for couriers and a radically different dispatch style. In the new environment, Fleetfoot dispatchers employed what is known as “Free Call Dispatch”. In Free Call, the decision making process is pushed down to the front line personnel. Drivers are empowered to claim the deliveries as the dispatcher announces them (This has alternately been described as “organized chaos” or “the inmates running the asylum”). Although counter-intuitive, the process actually improves the quality of customer service, increases on-time delivery percentages and enhances productivity. Earning power shot up over 300% for most couriers! Customers were served better and the company enjoyed three years of sustained growth.
During the next few years the industry experienced a great deal of consolidation. Large Corporations bought hundreds of small independent courier companies nationwide and created single-entity networks. When it appeared that being “gobbled up” was inevitable, Fleetfoot’s owner decided to align the company with Dispatch Management Services, a public company based in New York. After a promising start, the company sputtered and fell into financial troubles. By 2001, it was essentially bankrupt and had agreed to sell off its assets.
Gary Brose, the original Fleetfoot owner, had run the business for 17 years before selling it and then had managed it for three years as part of DMS. When the opportunity came to buy it back, he stepped up again. Gary formed a new company, US Dispatch Corp., to be the parent of Fleetfoot. He bought Fleetfoot back in May 2001 and is busy now rebuilding relationships with the local business community. One lesson learned from this experience is that the messenger industry truly is a local business and needs to be autonomous and independent. His experience with working with a public company was chronicled in the June edition of Marketing Newspaper and is available online at “You can go home again”.
Fleetfoot’s goal is to serve the business community by providing consistent on-time delivery. We specialize in keeping our promise and delivering the kind of service our customers deserve and expect. We are proud to be a part of the Great Northwest.
“Miles to go. Promises to keep.”
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