Building a Legacy
October 11, 2022
The Story Behind the Growth of Simple Logistics
In celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Simple Logistics, we interviewed Owner and CEO, Steve Spoerl, to learn about the incredible history of his career, both the highlights and the difficult turns it took, and how he grew Simple Logistics into the thriving brokerage it is today.
What is your background and how did you end up working in the logistics industry?
Very few people grow up thinking they are going to own a truck brokerage company. I was born and raised on a farm and fully intended to be a farmer. I earned a degree in agricultural business and then worked for a farm equipment manufacturer, White Farm Equipment. While I was there, the company went bankrupt multiple times, which ended up benefitting me. They offered most of their upper management employees packages to leave, providing major opportunities for young guys like myself, who were lower on the totem pole. At the time of the Company’s 4th bankruptcy, my wife was pregnant with our 4th child and losing my benefits pushed me to find something new… that 30 years later, I would look back on as the first step towards the career I have now.
I went through a lengthy interview process with Penske Truck Leasing and was finally hired to run one of their business units. I learned a lot from Roger Penske’s entrepreneurial spirit and began earning awards and our customers’ favor. This led to an opportunity to go work for my biggest customer, M&M Restaurant Food Supply, one of Keystone Foods’ McDonalds Distribution Centers. A year into this new job my boss decided to leave and I was promoted to fill his role as Sr. VP, responsible for 4 of Keystone Foods’ U.S. distribution centers, shortly thereafter I picked up responsibility for Keystone’s international distribution as well, and found myself traveling all over the world! During this time, I was involved with the McDonald’s Distribution Council and eventually was elected president of the group. My connections on the council provided me with an opportunity to join Martin Brower, a division of Reyes Holdings and the largest provider for McDonald’s Distribution Services, as president of their US Business Unit.
From truck leasing to food distribution, by the early 2000s, I had spent 20 years building my fast-paced career, with 15+ years in the supply chain industry with McDonald’s. The abundance of experience I gained during those incredibly busy years, was remarkable. At 40, my wife and I had our 6th child and I decided to dedicate more time to my family.
The years I spent working for and learning from the entrepreneurs in my life–My Father, Roger Penske, Herb Lotman at Keystone Foods, and Chris and Jude Reyes of Reyes Holdings–sparked an entrepreneurial desire in me, and I decided to set my sights on a local business venture. I spent a brief time running an electrical contractor company, until the financial crisis of 2008 took its toll on that business. But I have always had a strong faith and I was confident that things were working out the way they were supposed to. During this difficult time, I attended a retreat at my church where I was introduced to the owner of Burry Foods, I happened to share with the group about my career in food distribution and was offered a job with them. Little did I know that it would lead me to buy the company eventually. I had the opportunity to redefine and restructure the business while I was there. Burry Foods had just started Simple Logistics to handle their brokerage, and when I eventually sold Burry back to the previous owners, I maintained ownership of this small brokerage company.
Tell us about the beginning years of Simple Logistics?
My objective with Simple was to build significant brokerage with a great culture. What I saw in that small starter brokerage, built on the transportation of refrigerated goods, was an opportunity to grow it into something great. My entrepreneurial spirit was not broken in my first business venture but strengthened. Looking back now, I can see that every single experience of my career, both the good and the difficult, have been a gift, either a lesson learned or an opportunity for growth.
In the beginning, Simple Logistics was a small team, and we worked hard, everyone wearing many hats. I seized an opportunity to get involved with the TIA and later was elected to the TIA board, where I am still serving today. My background allowed me to be very comfortable in the logistics industry, and it also gave me an edge, an ability to see the industry from the customer’s perspective. This has significantly influenced our focus on 24/7 live support services, something that I believed was absolutely necessary to offer.
Currently, we still serve a large portion of food customers, but we have also diversified our business to be broader than just that niche. We bring the same expertise and service to other industry customers as well.
How has your background influenced you in growing the company?
I have learned to never label anything as “bad” because when I look back on my life, I see the most difficult times as the greatest opportunity for learning. My biggest challenges prepared me for my future and gave me all the tools I needed to make this business what it is today and what it will be in the future.
We have a family orientated culture that transcends the whole business. It is who I am – a product of my faith, my upbringing, and the entrepreneurs I worked for; seeing how they treated people and how it influenced performance. This approach impacts people who work for you. It allows you to connect with people and help give them the guidance and confidence they need to do their best. It is part of how we can attract and retain great employees. We have employees who have referred their friends and family to come work with us because of the environment we have created. The culture makes people want to stay and grow with the company.
You have gone through so much over the past ten years! What is next for Simple?
What I’m creating here is a legacy. I have a lot of family involved in the business, and I also consider the employees to be part of our family. I’m interested in building a successful business, a family-centered lifestyle, and letting it transcend me and carry on with the people involved.
We continue to grow our company through technology, relationships, and our employees so that we can continue to excel. We have numbers and goals for the company and a strategic plan to grow but, I am also focused on what I leave behind for future generations.
Simple Logistics is dedicated to simplifying our customers’ and carriers’ transportation challenges with extensive technology, clear communication, and relentless support. Not only do we provide a single point of contact with 24/7 availability, we are known as being helpful and friendly in our interactions. Our industry expertise paired with our caring team’s relentless support is how we have answers before our customers even have to ask.
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