A former Marine shares how he started and franchised his own Amazon delivery company
- José Mercado runs his own Amazon DSP company in Camden, NJ.
- He recruited a group of loyal and reliable drivers through referrals and community partnerships.
- He talked about how he found the right franchise partner and grew his business to 40 vehicles and 60 employees.
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In less than two years, Marine Corps veteran and Amazon Delivery Service Provider José Mercado established multiple delivery routes in Camden, New Jersey.
Through Amazon DSP, entrepreneurs have a chance to own their own business through delivery routes. Mercado launched his company with just five vans and 10 employees — today, he operates 40 vehicles and employs 60 people.
After leaving the Marine Corps in 2004, Mercado worked in freight forwarding, organizing shipments that moved goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer, or final point of distribution. But he missed the defense industry, so that same year he pursued a job at Lockheed Martin as a logistics manager tasked with distributing tires to the Navy.
In 2018, having always wanted to eventually own his own business, Mercado partnered with Andrew Winkler, founder and CEO of Thunderbolt Software, LLC, a software development and drone technology company. By applying for the Amazon DSP, Winkler and Mercado hoped to develop the logistics portion of the business.
In June 2020, Mercado signed on as a franchisee for global shipping and logistics franchise InXpress, which services 14 countries and helps small to medium-size businesses ship 4.6 million packages a year.
"I looked at a few others, but the way this landed in my lap it was hard to look elsewhere," he said. "The answers I was looking for were right in front of me."
The US logistics industry was worth nearly $2 trillion in 2019 and is expected to grow by 17.6% in 2021. The former Marine shared his tips on launching and scaling a successful logistics company.
Recruit where your routes are
Mercado decided his best chance of success as an Amazon DSP was recruiting drivers from the city. The Naval Academy graduate, who said he was once ranked the No. 1 recruiter for placing and retaining officer candidates in the Marine Corps, knew that building a talent pipeline was as critical as quality service.
"I look for previous commitment," he said about how he found the right drivers. "I would accept basic skills and loyalty over advanced skills and frequent job changes."
Posting driver openings on job boards is an important part of recruitment, but for Mercado referrals always work out best. He built a relationship with the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey, and the organization flooded Mercado with applicants. He also reached out to the local military base, relying on his previous experience to find employees.
"If you focus on taking care of your workforce, they will take care of you by referring their contacts," he said.
Know your values when choosing a franchise
In early 2020, Mercado began researching franchise options in the logistics industry.
He said he was looking for a franchise that prioritized flexibility and the opportunity to offer feedback that can impact the entire company, and found this was easy to bring up in his interview with InXpress. Having only worked with the company for six months, he said he's been able to communicate at an operational and executive level at InXpress, including with the CEO.
Some franchises have strict guidelines and little room for input. That "wash, rinse, repeat" model is ideal for some business owners, while others prefer knowing they have an opportunity to contribute to the company's development. Asking as many questions as they ask you in the interview is the first step in learning if it's a fit, Mercado said.
He added that it's also important to lean into the specific skills a franchise agreement offers. For example, he relies on the expertise of InXpress accounting staff within his location. For other new franchisee owners, it may be a need for marketing or recruitment.
Take the risk
For Mercado, knowing that he has the opportunity to help others grow and develop their careers through his Amazon DSP and InXpress businesses is what's most rewarding.
"If you don't take that chance, nothing is going to change," he said. "To me, it was a natural progression to go from the Marine Corps to a corporate setting and then working for myself. It hasn't been without side steps and backward steps, but that's when I roll up my sleeves and work a little harder."
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