The Shipping News: Kalispell man receives top industry award

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With more than 25 years of work in the transportation industry, Peter Saunders knows a thing or two about shipping.

And as the Unishippers franchise owner for the state of Montana, he recently drew accolades from the company for his work.

Saunders, of Kalispell, earned one of Unishippers’ six gold awards given to franchisees that showed the greatest growth in new customer acquisition, total growth in number of customers and profitability over last year in their respective territory sizes.

It’s the third consecutive year he has won an industry award in the midsized franchise category.

Founded in 1987, Unishippers is the largest reseller of shipping services in the nation, with close to 300 franchise locations.

The company works with more than 30 regional and national shipping carriers such as United Postal Service to handle the pickup, transport and delivery of customers’ shipments. By leveraging the combined shipping volume of all its customers, Unishippers gets significantly discounted rates from its carriers, which results in lower shipping costs, Saunders explained.

Saunders relocated to Kalispell in 2000 from Anchorage, where he worked for barge, steamship and trucking companies in the freight business. He worked in the traffic department of CityService Valcon before buying the Unishippers franchise six years ago.

“At first it was a lot of shoe leather” setting up accounts, he said. “Now I’ve developed a great referral network.”

Saunders said Unishippers can help small and midsized businesses improve the quality of their shipping services while reducing costs.

“With our buying power, we can go to carriers and get lower rates,” he said.

Unishippers acts as a clearing house, allowing customers to get freight quotes and choose the carrier they want, he said.

“It can be as automated and independent as they want, or totally verbal and hands-on,” Saunders said. “Freight can be a pain in the rear. We make it easy. We bring [businesses] a suite of carriers.”

Saunders has the equivalent of eight to nine full-time contracted employees who handle his franchise’s volume of 4,000 to 6,000 shipments a day.

“Someone always answers the phone,” he noted.

Saunders and his employees can sign up customers anywhere in the United States. The franchise also does business in Canada.

Saunders said the gold award “is a testament to our great local office staff as well as the support and customer-facing tools we receive from corporate.”

His franchise did very well throughout the recession because as the economy worsened, businesses began looking for innovative ways to save money.

“Prior to the recession, simplifying rates wasn’t on their minds,” he said. “Now that the economy is picking up, referrals are more frequent than ever.”

 Unishippers serves more than 50,000 small to midsized businesses annually and has been recognized as a top franchise by Entrepreneur, Franchise Times and AllBusiness.

“Happy franchisees translate into satisfied customers and increased sales,” Unishippers President Kevin Lathrop said in a prepared statement.”

For information on Unishippers, visit www.unishippers.com.

 

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by e-mail at lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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