Niles Builds Armada
It's not my philosophy to find new or better customers," business owner Henry Niles said. "The trick is to pick the right customers."
Those loyal customers have been working with Niles' shipping business, Callaway Carriers, since it opened in 1993. At that time, he was working with only 10 trucks out of Mexico. Niles said he had previously owned and leased two trucks to a company in Nebraska, but felt he didn't have enough day-to-day control.
"So, I called up a lawyer and filed in December of 1992 with the interstate commerce division," he said.
While the interstate commerce division no longer exists, Niles's company sure does. Starting with those 10 trucks, two years later the fleet was a considerable 45-50 trucks. By the late 90s, Niles commanded an armada 75 trucks strong.
The most amazing thing about Callaway Carriers astounding growth is that it was financed entirely through profit.
"I was apprehensive when I first started; I thought a business needed a backer, so I applied for a loan," Niles said. "But, the bank denied me a loan. So the company doesn't depend on a bank. Instead we use the cash-flow from the business."
That tenacious, independent spirit has won Niles not only customer loyalty but employee loyalty as well. A positive work environment is number one on his list of highlights.
"When we started, we got some good drivers," he said. "A couple still work for me. It's important that this is a good place to work, it says a lot about what we do."
Niles work has not gone unrewarded. His company has received numerous awards in the past, including Carrier of the Year, as well as Gold or Platinum Awards from his insurance company due to their safety record.
"That's our key to success," Niles said. "It's a safe operation, and customer recognize that."
Niles also has reasonable expectations for his drivers during inclement weather.
"Our drivers know that no load is so important that you have to brave snow or ice," he said.
During the Fulton Rotary meeting on Wednesday where Niles was speaking, he also took the time to discuss the future of his industry.
"I know the future of the industry," Niles said. "I have seen a few stories about self-driving cars, but it's that one about the Budweiser truck in Colorado that shows you where we are headed."
In October, Anheuser-Busch and Uber teamed up for a demonstration of the future of autonomous vehicles. A tractor trailer full of beer traveled 120 miles down Colorado's Interstate 25 with nobody behind the wheel, the first delivery of its kind.
Niles is personally weary of the idea.
"I wouldn't be comfortable, sitting in the passenger seat and just letting it drive itself," Niles said. "But, they are working on the technology right now."
All in all, Niles feels accomplished in his work as a business owner.
"I'm having a ball doing what I'm doing," he said. "There's lots to be said for doing your own thing and making your own decisions."