The Values Proposition
How Mike Patterson has built King Solutions’ extraordinary success
By Lynn Shelton
Enterprise Minnesota's Vice President of Marketing
(Lynn Shelton, vice president of marketing, Enterprise Minnesota)
If you’ve driven on Highway 94, north of the Twin Cities about midway between Maple Grove and Rogers, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the massive new 150,000-square-foot headquarters of King Solutions, an asset-based 3PL and freight forwarder located in Dayton, Minnesota with its warehouse in Glendale Heights, Illinois. Since founding the company in 1989, founder and owner Mike Patterson has used innovation, a keen sense of market-awareness and a compulsive commitment to customer service to build a company that employs 150 people and this year expects to earn revenues in the neighborhood of $97 million. To date, the company has transported more than 9 million shipments across the United States and is known for its personal service and customized solutions.
The upcoming issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine offers a full feature on how this remarkable entrepreneur has built his operation.
Patterson started the company as a two-person operation in the back of a Minneapolis truck shop.
He began his career in 1971 as a teamster and a truck driver (while also pursuing a degree in art history from the University of Minnesota). After driving a truck for five and a half years, he moved up in the operation. He became a dock foreman, then a city dispatcher; he got into sales, and ran a terminal, where he started an intermodal operation—moving truckloads of product in trailers on the railroad. Intermodal was made possible after President Jimmy Carter de-regulated the transportation industry, defanging the Interstate Commerce Commission’s stranglehold and pricing and style. “Suppliers and services could rock and roll with different kinds of pricing if they so chose,” he recalls.
Patterson ratcheted his operation to more than $20 million within five years, moving almost 15,000 loads. That success triggered an opportunity to develop an intermodal operation from scratch for a local logistics behemoth, but he left after 18 months, with a disdain for the internal politics that sometimes plague large companies.
So, in 1989, he decided to open his own operation, alone, in the back of a Minneapolis truck shop, with only an administrative person at this side. His plan was to have a third-party, non-asset-based company, which means he would have trailers, but not trucks, preferring to rely on creativity and not constrained by the limitations of his own assets. Patterson’s lone initial customer was Palliser Furniture, a Winnipeg-based company.
“I thought if we ever did $1,000,000 in a year, that would be an amazing accomplishment,” he remembers. “I just took it an hour at a time. We were going to be an intermodal company, find customers with truckloads and use the intermodal rail system.”
The United States Postal Service presented Patterson with a big break in 1990 when it decided to subcontract the delivery of marketing-type mail, then called “Third Class Mail.” Patterson pounced on the opportunity. “We went from a struggling, generic, commoditized truckload provider with maybe three staff people and became ‘the mail guy’ here in this market. And that allowed us to build upon the mail.” King Solutions diversified from the mail over the years, he says, “but we still have the mail. We're still ‘the mail guy.’”
The mail contract enabled Patterson to become the “catalog guy” and the “fulfillment guy” as well, to extend the metaphor. “Mail allowed us to be modestly prosperous, so we could take the risk of going after other kinds of freight.”
Today, Patterson says, the dominant element of his business is transportation management, which includes mail, but a growing niche is its fulfillment operation.
How to Develop Your Future Leaders
**Exclusive to Manufacturers**
Thursday, December 6, 2018
8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Best Western Premier Nicollet Inn
14201 Nicollet Ave S
Burnsville, MN 55337
What to Expect
Manufacturers know that the growing skills gap means they can no longer count on hiring applicants who will have the skills they need. Instead, they urgently need to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities of their current employees. Equally important, manufacturers need to focus on the unique competencies that comprise leadership skills.
Please join us to learn insights about the critical components of talent management and the steps necessary to develop a successful leadership development program. Upon completion of the workshop participants will be able to:
- Define talent and talent management
- Identify the talent management lifecycle
- Describe key components to talent management
- Explain the impact leaders have on an organization
- Depict steps to developing a leadership development program
- Create an action plan to implement within their own organization
This event is exclusive to manufacturers and is free of charge. Registration required.
To register please contact firstname.lastname@example.org