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A year on, Speed Commerce looks forward

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 1:14 pm

(submitted photo)
Bouncing back: Speed Commerce employees participate in a ping-pong tournament, one of the events marking the first anniversary of their new ownership. From left: Alissa Horton, Derek Ingram, Johnnie Taylor, Shelly Hill, Laura Martin, Dale Jordan, Michael Alexander and Helen Junge.

The prospects for Speed Commerce a year and a half ago were grim.

“In November of [2017], we were basically told we were closing the doors in January. We didn’t have a future. And there was no appetite and no inclination to try to change that,” Speed Commerce Director of Fulfillment Center Operations Tim Avant said.

The logistics company and major Louisiana employer marked its first year under new ownership last week — a year company executives said gave them a chance to rebuild and move forward with new confidence

Even under new ownership, the company still had to navigate rough waters, reducing staff and doing their best to reassure clients spooked by apparent uncertainty.

“We’ve used the analogy of being up against the ropes, getting punched, like in rope-a-dope. Just kind of holding on. And we’ve come out of this first year, now we’re punching back,” Avant said.

According to company president Cary Samourkian, employment at Speed Commerce has grown 20 percent in the call center and 21 percent in the distribution center from those initial reductions. According to company executives, the call center in Louisiana is now as large as it’s ever been, with the warehouse side of the business moving in that direction.

“The company is healthy, and the management team is fully committed to continued growth and success,” Samourkian wrote in a prepared statement. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to have been able to breathe new life into SpeedCommerce. We’ve been associated with the people and the town of Louisiana, for over 20 years and we value and respect the people we’ve come to know so well. We’re in this for the long haul, so we invite all of you to join us on the ride.”

The company offers several advantages to its clients, guy said: experienced and knowledgeable staff, a central location ideal for shipping, the combination of a call center and warehouse under one roof and flexibility in terms of combining and packaging items to fit the needs of the customer

“The big movement in a lot of places is robotics. That is really cookie-cutter stuff where you pick one piece and drop it in a box, and it will work fine. But in a customization-type demand it doesn’t work very well,” Avant said.

The opening of the new Champ Clark bridge, Tim added, should further allow the company to capitalize on its location.

In the new year the company hopes to emphasize investment in its employees — from a new lounge area to new training and leadership opportunities.

“I think that’s great for the town of Louisiana…., because we’re investing in our people here with training and courses and things like that, because as we grow we want our people to grow right along with us,” Perkins said.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Director of Contact Center Operations Derek Ingram, who grew up in Bowling Green said. “I didn’t expect that in college, to be honest. To get the type of job I have now [I thought] I’d probably have to be in St. Louis or Kansas City or maybe Springfield or Columbia, if I wanted to stay in Missouri.”

The one-year anniversary celebration included a week of events: bingo over the intercom, a scavenger hunt and tournaments in foozball, cornhole and ping-pong.

“And the best thing about all of it, we’ve had perfect service all week while this has been going on. They’ve been able to get their work done and play,” Avant said.

At the close of the interview, Avant stressed the company’s continuing commitment to Louisiana.

“We’re not going away. I think the fact that we’ve got that ‘we’re hiring’ sign out there is important, its important to the community and its important to us, and we have a viable path forward. That’s the whole key: 18 months ago we weren’t so sure, and know we are,” Avant said.