'Customising services – the only way forward'

By: Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi


Amanda OBrien Xtreme Freight CEO Amanda O’Brien Amanda OBrien
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From being under liquidation less than a decade ago, Xtreme Freight has had a challenging road to success

 

Amanda O’Brien has had her fair share of challenges since taking over the privately-run business established in 1988.

Having spent the first 18 months on turning business around, the global company continues to grow, servicing the transport, logistics and warehousing sector.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for O’Brien has been breaking down unconscious biases, proving to the male-dominated industry that women too can do the job, if not better.

The company was under liquidation when O’Brien stepped in but she had no doubt she could turn it around having worked for big corporate companies for 20 years in project management and statistical analysis.

"It was becoming non-profitable, the challenges with turning the business around as well as getting it back on track were huge," O’Brien says.

"It was very small, probably only turning around over $700,000 and was going backwards."

Fast forward eight years and the company has 84 customers and 20 employees across its three depots in Melbourne.

With 80 subcontractors on its books, its owned fleet consists of four trucks – down from 10 due to maintenance costs.

Xtreme Freight grew into 3PL services when O’Brien took on smaller contracts, staying true to the company’s motto of "We never say no to our customers", big or small.

Its warehouses facilitate bulk storage, racked freight, pick and pack and container deconsolidation.

The last leg

Xtreme Freight is the last piece of the logistics puzzle and can handle most demanding jobs thanks to its experienced staff.

It stays innovative by looking at overseas trends and jobs in the most uncommon places such as moving high-end fashion for Melbourne’s shopping complex Emporium.

"I think I approach transport very differently because I know it touches every area," O’Brien says.

"I don’t necessarily look for transport in the common places or go to freight forwarders… because I know that freight touches everyone so it’s a case of looking for ways to improve people’s lives like going to people that deliver bathrooms or lights.

"You can have your big global forwarders that we do lots of business with but you also have to have a good mix of that pie to have a very good split in business."

That’s why she believes the industry is big enough for everyone.

What sets Xtreme Freight apart is its ability to customise solutions to each client’s needs.

O’Brien incorporates clients’ branding to its consignments as most customers want to be known as the complete end-to-end provider.

"It’s the way I see freight moving; it has to be transparent but it also has to be about the customer," O’Brien says.

"The reason we have survived is because people are very ego-driven, they’re about themselves, it’s the nature of the beast and organisations are about their image and themselves.

"From a personal point of view, I think profitability in a business is more important than any of the glamour of perception.

"We don’t necessarily advertise our brand as much as the other players in the market do because we want to blend in with our consumer and client," she adds.

"We are like a chameleon; we infiltrate the market in many different areas but we also stay hidden because we become seamless as everybody has their own set of processes, their own culture.

"Every driver is not going to fit in to David Jones or Myer, so you need to fit a certain type and I think that’s where our innovation comes from."

Even though the company is big, it is often perceived to be small because of its limited branding, she adds.

 "I’m very guarded and confidential when it comes to my clients and their needs, so I’m always out there but you may not perceive us to be those people and that’s why I’ve survived and thrived in this very difficult industry."

A competitive market

The transport industry has seen its fair share of acquisitions over the last two years, creating an even more competitive market.

As a result, Xtreme Freight has learned to become flexible.

"We have to be more transparent in business transactions and deliveries, everything is seen now," O’Brien says.

"I think it’s because of security; it’s one of the big issues in the world we face and freight is a very important part of that.

"People want to be able to measure it, and I always say if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.

"There’s such an impetus for transport to take on all these costs with the way the world is changing, however, transport costs haven’t risen very much and we have to absorb those costs and move with the regulation and compliance required," she adds.

"Acquisitions have become second nature in the logistics industry because it’s about survival.

"Customers and consumers are fickle these days and everybody will turn on a dime because everybody is so cost-conscious.

"Loyalty is slowly becoming more tied up with profit gain which unfortunately sometimes drops service levels."

The company provides online tracking of its vehicles and real-time event information, including sign-on glass and instant proof of delivery (POD) retrieval.

 

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