Palmer Logistics: A Family-Owned Success Story in Third-Party Warehousing and Logistics

As a successful family owned business, Palmer Logistics has grown by expanding its clients and riding a wave of industry growth in Houston.

President Brett Mears has been at the helm of the third-party warehousing company since 2002. He is the fourth generation of his family to run the company, following his father, William Hermann. Since Mears became president, Palmer Logistics has grown at an annual rate of 15 percent. “We have more than tripled the company in the last 11 years,” he says.

The company serves Fortune 500 companies with three-quarters of its clients in the chemicals business. Palmer Logistics is also growing to serve more customers in the food sector.

One key to the company’s success is its location in the business-friendly Houston and Dallas regions, where the economy is booming. The Port of Houston, in particular, has served as an economic engine benefiting the company and the region, Mears says. Yet, it is not just Palmer Logistics’ location that has allowed for such meteoric growth.

“We are one of the success stories because we have consistently retained our existing customers while adding new ones,” Mears explains. “There is not a lot of turnover among our customers because of the great service we provide. We also consistently bring in new business.”

It is not easy for the company to provide such great service on a consistent basis, but Palmer knows the key. “The key as a service provider is employee retention,” Mears explains. “We are focused on employee retention as a key metric. We strive for 90 percent retention year-over-year. All third parties promise service. We have good processes and great employees that deliver those processes.”

To achieve its retention goals, Palmer Logistics provides strong leadership that emphasizes respect. “It is critical that leadership respect the work effort day in and day out, caring for employees,” Mears says.

Palmer Logistics offers competitive pay and excellent benefits packages, he notes. That includes affordable insurance and a 401(k) retirement plan.

In addition, the company provides a safe workplace, which is key considering its work involves hazardous materials. On the safety front, Palmer Logistics secures a total reportable incident rate that is half the warehouse industry standard. “Pay is important, too, but you don’t have to overpay,” Mears says. “You can retain employees with fair pay. Good leadership is critical.”

Sister Company

In 2005, Mears and his brother William Burnash started Pioneer Freight Co. to provide shipping from customers’ ports and plants. It started with one driver and today the company employs 60 drivers with annual revenues of $10 million.

“When you have a transportation and warehousing company together, issues pop up and we are able to solve those problems with our sister company so there isn’t finger pointing,” Mears says. “What we are looking to do is provide turnkey solutions for our customers.”

Palmer Logistics operates more than 1.8 million square feet of warehouse space. Customers include small distributors as well as the world’s largest manufacturers. Although the majority of its business is from the chemical industry, the number of Palmer Logistics food customers is growing fast.

Mears describes Palmer Logistics as a customer-focused warehouse and third-party logistics business for commodities such as hazardous chemicals, non-hazardous chemicals, food-grade and general commodities. It offers dedicated services such as customized reporting, labeling, repackaging and contract facility management. “Palmer strives to deliver quality service with a personal touch that starts at the top with our president and is evident throughout the company,” the company says.

Warehouse features include:

    +Burglar and fire alarm systems;
    +Daily sanitation and pest control;
    +Truck doors with dock seals;
    +Rail served;
    +Temperature control with advanced temperature and humidity recorders;
    +Sprinkler systems approved for flammable storage; and
    +Diverse chemical storage such as bins, boxes, drums, sacks, tanks and totes.

Benchmarks For Success

Palmer Logistics operates with specific metrics. “You have to have good data to run your business,” Mears says. “You must have defined goals to measure against to be effective in delivering.” The company’s goals include:

    +Implementing and maintaining a total quality process with ISO registration and ongoing training to continuously enhance personal development at all levels;
    +Achieving zero percent annual customer turnover as a result of service failures;
    +Maintaining inventory accuracy of 99 percent;
    +Maintaining annual employee retention of greater than 90 percent;
    +Maintaining an 80 percent overall company average on quality assurance reports;
    +Accomplishing a 100 percent training completion rate annually;
    +Experiencing a maximum of 50 percent of the annual industry average of its total reportable incident rate; and
    +Being injury free every 90 days.

“To ensure we meet our goals, our metrics are reviewed in monthly management review meetings,” Mears explains. “If we happen to miss the target, then we discuss the reason and immediately implement a plan to correct the deficiency.”