Richard Martel is the CEO of AP International, freight broker, since 2012. At that time, they offered trucking services on a local scale. Mr. Martel’s vision was to maintain a superior quality of service while implementing a growth strategy: acquiring new clients and carriers, broadening the logistic services offered… Six years later, AP International is a freight broker that keeps on growing. Today, the business connects many continents and offers not only trucking services, but also rail freight, air freight, ocean shipping, intermodal and specialized solutions.
Overview of an entrepreneur who thinks big:
Good morning, Mr. Martel. First and foremost, I want to thank you for giving us some of your time today.
It’s my pleasure!
Great! Let’s get into it. First, I’d like to know what made you purchase a freight broker business, AP International, and what you did beforehand.
Before AP International, I worked in IT and was a consultant. It’s the search for new opportunities that put AP International in my path. I was seeking to better understand this line of business and to get even more involved in the field to create a company that would really take its place in the logistics field.
Clearly, you succeeded. You had a great vision for AP International and you were able to implement it. Before 2012, the business focused solely on local road freight transport. Nowadays, it connects multiple continents and offers a wide array of services.
First of all, we must never say we succeeded because we are always searching for something more. In my opinion, saying we succeeded shows a lack of humility, which doesn’t suit me. We are always evolving. We have a great business with, I think, a clear vision, but there is always so much to be done to keep growing and stay on course. So, all in all, the word “succeed”, I never use it.
Wow! That’s an interesting perspective.
The only time we can say we succeeded is on our death bed, when we look back and say… well, that wasn’t so bad! (laughter)
And how did you initiate the growth process of your freight broker business? Did you face any challenges?
The secret for me, without going into too many details, is to focus on human capital and to know how to surround yourself well. Once again, it’s not me as an individual who succeeds, but the whole team. You have to make sure you have people who are capable of working together, which is a challenge in itself! An important element is to have a team and not individuals. You win as a team, you lose as a team.
In 2016 and 2017 respectively, you acquired Vennex and Tomkem Transports, two freight brokers. Do you have any similar big plans for the future?
Yes, always. The bigger we become, the importance of growth and acquisition increases exponentially. For example, a company with 100 million in revenue that wants to have a turnover of 30% needs to increase their revenue by 30 million dollars in a year! Organic growth is very difficult, so acquisition remains extremely important. The international component has also been fundamental for us, and we can’t forget good recruitment.
You focus a lot on recruitment.
Recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult because times are changing. Younger employees are hard to hold on to, so it’s essential to be an attractive business. It’s important to us to ensure a certain loyalty, and of course for that, we must ourselves be loyal!
Speaking of change… You have been using for a few years now Actif’s Intermédiaires en transport PRO add-on module for freight brokers, which has recently become available in the cloud, meaning accessible anywhere, anytime. Bookings, reports, accounting… You have instant access to it. Has this been a positive experience for you?
Actif Software is invaluable to us, especially considering the environment in which we work. Because it’s web-based, it’s completely flexible. It allows us to think of new ways to grow.
Did this tool change the way you work, now that you’re not restricted to your desk?
Yes, absolutely! I’ll give you an example… sort of breaking news! We are announcing the opening of a new AP International office in Quebec City. It would have been very difficult, impossible even, for us to open an office outside of Blainville without access to Actif Software’s new online platform.
To conclude, do you have any advice for entrepreneurs who dream of one day having their own business, or for those who wish to see their business grow?
We often meet people who say they wish to see their business grow who, in reality, don’t. We have to understand that there are costs associated with growth! Working 25 hours a week and growing quickly doesn’t work. For those who really want it, you have to be motivated and inspire the people around you. Alone, you go faster, but together, you go further. That’s a saying I really love.
Wise words! Thank you for giving us this interview, Mr. Martel.