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Meet Chris Condon of Trans-Trade in Irving

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Condon.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My younger years were spent in Snohomish, WA, and my late teens were spent in Elmwood, WI – both farming communities. Elmwood is my parents’ hometown and where 90% of my extended family is from. The Hartung name – my mother’s maiden name – is well-known in those parts, but the Condon name not so much. (Although I was a little crazy in high school, so the name could be better known now). Growing up, I really wanted to play basketball, or at least coach the sport and teach.

In fifth and sixth grade, my teacher David Fishman taught me many lessons about leadership and about life, including the important lesson that life is not fair. The sooner you learn that hard truth, the better off you’ll be. These discussions with Mr. Fishman gave me an early appreciation for what it means to be a leader, and it lit a fire in me to become one myself.

I went to a very large high school in Snohomish. When my family moved to Elmwood, WI, the high school I began attending was small – so small, in fact, that there were just 32 students in my graduating class. This transition taught me a lot about people and how it feels to be an outsider.

During school, I spent most of my time playing sports, but summers were spent working on the farm. My parents instilled a strong work ethic in me. Growing up in my household, it was simply expected to be successful. It’s not easy to admit, but I had always had a fear of letting my parents down. The prospect of disappointing them was always in the back of my mind, driving me throughout my career.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Life Happens. After high school, I went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomenie, WI where I played football. A year later, I was married with a baby. I quit football, thinking I could go to school and work full time to support my family. I had to drop out of school and work three jobs just to keep us afloat: roofing, yacht construction/restoration and warehouse work. Working in the warehouse would prove to be invaluable in my supply chain career as it educated me on the ins and outs of warehousing and distribution and gave me experience from the ground up.

Taking a Risk. At 26 years old, my wife was seven months pregnant with our third child. I took a risk and moved my family to El Paso, TX to take a job as a Distribution Manager. It was a great opportunity, but the company lost its top customer within three months of our move. While scary at the time, it was also a blessing as it forced me to learn how to sell, manage profit and loss, and understand business models and supply chains.

Work / Life Balance – My son, Josh, was born at 6 AM, and I was back at work by 1 PM. I was working a lot. After about 18 months, the office was finally gaining momentum and stability. One day I was sitting on the couch next to my son, and my wife asked him where his dad was. My son climbed down from the couch and grabbed a photo of me, though I was sitting right next to him. It was an eye-opening moment I will never forget. From then on, I made a much greater effort to balance work and life. Learning to lean on the great employees around me has helped. It’s important to have a strong work ethic, but it is also important to spend time at home and to take care of yourself. Balance is key.

Making the Move. In 2011, I went out on my own and formed APEX Diversified Solutions with a partner. In 2013, the partnership dissolved. At this time, I had one child in middle school, one in high school and another in college. We had family in Seattle, so we sold the house and moved there with no job prospect and no home of our own to move into. We could make our money stretch 18 months if we had to, but in truth, we didn’t know what we were going to do. Leaving behind the comfortable life and friendships we had established in El Paso made the move extremely difficult for our family. I was up for a position to run a one million sq. ft. facility for one of the world’s largest ecommerce companies, but ultimately was turned down because I didn’t have a degree. However, one week later I had offers from four companies on the table, and Trans-Trade was one of them. I accepted the position of Regional Director at Trans-Trade’s Seattle branch. One of the major appeals to me was that the branch was struggling and the least profitable of the company’s network. Even though the pay would be less than what I had made before, and our future looked shaky, my wife gave me her full support. My decision turned out to be a good one.

Three years later, I was promoted to CEO. (Side note: The Seattle branch is doing very well today. They leased an additional facility in Sumner, WA and recently expanded the facility in Fife, WA 100K square feet to accommodate new business.)

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Trans-Trade – what should we know?
Trans-Trade, Inc. provides supply chain solutions to companies across the country and around the world (international and domestic transportation, warehousing, customs brokerage). We have three offices and four facilities across the U.S., and although we offer the services and IT features that the big players do, we are not the typical supply chain corporation that makes clients fit inside a box. We craft tailored solutions that create savings for our clients and we believe that our smaller size allows us to be more agile and attentive to our customers.

What sets Trans-Trade apart from the many logistics companies in DFW is that we’re EPIC (Empowerment, Professionalism, Integrity and Community) and focused on “Delivering EPIC Results”. Our value proposition says it all:

“Trans-Trade’s EPIC values are what set us apart. They are apparent in the way we interact with and serve every client. Empowerment, Professionalism, Integrity & Community. These values are the guiding principles behind our actions, attitude, communication and work quality.

We design solutions based on what you need; we don’t ask you to fit in our box. Our customers and partners are part of our community – not just another transaction. We work to be competitive with our pricing, but not at the expense of our service. Trans-Trade looks at all the nuances of your supply chain to refine processes, cut costs and provide visibility, helping you manage and grow your business.”

As a smaller logistics company in a hypercompetitive industry, we have encountered our fair share of struggles and setbacks. What I’m most proud of is that our business is growing, thanks to the hard work, innovation and relentless tenacity of our employees.

We’ve been motivated by EPIC. We’ve been infused with new energy and ideas. We continually push ourselves to be greater – to work smarter, to think outside the box, to be empowered. When we achieve a goal, we celebrate and then move onto the next goal.

We’re always pushing for the next level because we believe our potential is infinite.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Three Major Mentors:

Bill Goodgion – My first real boss. He taught me how to motivate and manage projects. He also taught me a lot about politics and perception in the workplace.

Pat Walsh – “Always do right by the customer”. Pat taught me to never be satisfied and always drive for more. He was the person who approved my promotion to Distribution Manager in El Paso, TX.

Greg Olds – Greg was integral in my understanding cost structures and expectations.

When I first moved to El Paso, I had daily conversations with Greg to help ensure I was headed in the right direction.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career was when the Distribution Center (DC) I was running became the most profitable in the company’s network of 331 DCs. This was notable in part because it wasn’t an especially large market, and I had to learn a lot about multiculturalism, profit and loss, how to price, how to sell, etc., in order to be successful. The achievement gave me an epiphany: I was good at this. I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing and I was on the right career path.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I believe the number of small to medium-size companies will rise and there will be fewer large corporations. As companies get smaller, they will also move product faster. Ecommerce will stay on the rise and shipments (package sizes) will continue to shrink.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Chelsea Pavona
Pat Walsh

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