How Quick Became a Leader in Global Priority Shipping and Logistics With Loyalty and Long-Term Thinking
by Eric Bischoff
I began my career in the music industry, where I was on the road with bands for more than a decade. That time is where I first used technology and learned not to be afraid of it. There was a lot of technology in the touring business, and making sure all the gear worked was a 24/7 job. After all, the show must go on.
But when I needed a change from the music industry, I started doing local deliveries for courier companies in Los Angeles. My sister Dominique was working on the East Coast in this industry and she gave me most of my leads.
Quick was one of these leads and they soon became my biggest customer, so they eventually asked me to open an LA office. My 35 years with Quick started off in operations, then I switched to sales—which I hated. Back then, I was the only guy who used a computer. I had a Mac and a laser printer, which was unusual in 1985. But this was also the time when businesses started to go digital. Being the most technologically savvy guy at the office, they asked me if I wanted to help lead the charge to drive technological change at our company. Looking for a change, I accepted and moved to NY.
In the 80s, we were mostly a courier company. Did you need to get something somewhere fast? We’d get it on the next flight out. When the banks were refinancing and they had to print out documents and get them to everybody around the world, we’d put all the paper onto passenger airplanes. If needed we used On Board Couriers.
From Paper to Plasma
Since then, we’ve built new markets. We’re more of a transportation logistics company now.
We ship airplane parts to the various passenger airlines, and freight carriers, too. When an aircraft breaks down and they need a part, they call us to move it.
We also do a lot of medical work. We ship plasma for the Red Cross in emergencies, and organs for transplant.
Then there’s our QuickSTAT division. Our skills for moving rush priority packages and our ability to quickly customize IT solutions and integrate with our customers and vendors was a natural fit for big pharma. We were the first in our industry to develop QuickOnlineRX, a sophisticated online system for managing global clinical trials and their demanding packaging and temperature controls needs. We are still the leaders in that area.
But none of this existed when I moved to New York City to work for Quick. They had already hired a programmer to build an enterprise system, but it took too much time and nothing worked right when we tested it. So, I brought in another programmer and asked what it would take to fix what we had. It was all spaghetti code, and he said it would take him 90 days to rewrite it from scratch.
Once we were done, the whole company moved faster, and we could even generate financial reports at the push of a button. We’re in the business of saving other people time, so we had to streamline our operations to better serve our customers.
From Loyalty to Legacy
Looking back on my tenure at Quick, one of the great characteristics that stands out most is our loyalty. I’ve had the same IT team for twenty-plus years. When I look at other companies and I see their IT people all leave after one or two years, I wonder how they get work done. We don’t have to do that here. We don’t have to constantly recruit and train new people.
If your IT staff is constantly leaving, you’ll spend more time hiring and training than getting work done.
This is the same group that wrote the Quick Track Database and QuickOnline eCommerce portal. The whole company runs on it. We wrote it back in 1989, and we’re still using it. We always plan for the future. We try to find and use the best tools. That’s why we need to work with vendors who get us, and who is also with us for the long haul. I’ve been using the same vendor for twenty-five years for the small stuff—desktops, printers, and personal firewalls for people’s homes.
I like stability. I don’t want to have to second-guess every decision I make. This is the same reason I kept my team together for so long, and why I also like to work with a single vendor for our high-level IT needs.
A Little Help
But our drive into the 21st century wasn’t all smooth. There was a time when the hardware was bad and it kept us up at night. One big project stands out in my mind, where we’d tried everything: IBM, Motorola, even some stuff from HP. But we needed a serious upgrade, so we decided to put our Universe system on Sun Microsystems servers running Solaris.
As I said, I taught myself a lot of things. I like to read, and I try to keep up with technology. I’m good at research, and I know how to follow directions. But I don’t know about every technology option out there, and some projects are just too difficult and time-consuming to do internally.
Embrace new technology. Do research. Teach yourself. If you can’t find answers, find the people who can.
Then there’s the issue of time. It would have taken way too long for my team to determine every best practice and get up and running when we switched to Solaris. This is what led me to Agilant. We clearly needed a partner who could help us with major IT projects we’d have over the decades to come. We chose Agilant because we needed a vendor who could not only help us figure out what we needed to buy, but who could also help us configure and install it.
The Agilant team has the expertise that ours lacks at the beginning with new products. But we also have a great dynamic with them. They understand our business and sometimes they recommend vendors, whereas other times we tell them what we need, or we’ve found someone we’d like to use. We sit down, present our problem to Agilant, and together we brainstorm a solution.
From Vulnerability to Virtual Machines
Take the recent upgrade of our disaster recovery setup. We knew what we wanted, but we didn’t know how to get there. We rent space at a Sunguard co-location facility, which is our data center. We used to keep some of our other equipment at our other facilities, in case we ever had a massive failure. But it would have taken us days to get up and running again with our previous setup, and that was unacceptable.
The obvious solution was a second Sunguard data center, but thanks to our legacy software, we couldn’t just run our database from the cloud. It doesn’t work that way. We can’t just host it remotely on someone else’s equipment.
Agilant came up with the perfect solution. We switched to a unified storage platform using an HPE 3PAR server array at our primary data center, then we moved our older equipment into the disaster recovery data center. To add a further layer of protection and to speed up the recovery process, Agilant added a second HPE 3PAR array at the recovery site.
We also virtualized all our servers which would make the DR process more manageable. Since we needed the expertise to do this right, Agilant helped us put it together and make it work.
We’re just about to test this new setup, and I’m confident our new disaster recovery rig will pass with flying colors.
One Vendor, One Call
By going with just one trusted vendor like Agilant—whom I’ve used for the last twelve years—I don’t have to shop around for a solution. I don’t have to second-guess myself, or the various vendors who might be bidding on a project. Agilant knows exactly how we operate, and there’s peace of mind in that.
Agilant helps me keep my customers happy. And just like I don’t want my customers leaving us, we don’t leave vendors who are doing a great job. And besides, Agilant is a vendor and now a customer as well.
Think way ahead when choosing a vendor. A long partnership means success on both sides.
Quick has always been about finding the right people and sticking with them. But we’re also about finding solutions before anything becomes a problem. Project management and forward-thinking are the secrets to our success. That’s why we were able to expand our courier services into a logistics business and meet the demands of high-end customers like aviation and the pharmaceutical industry.
On a personal level, I know my curiosity and my willingness to learn have helped me throughout my career. But the secret of my own success has also been recognizing my own limitations and having a great team. Understanding you need help, and knowing who to ask, and when, will help you make the right decisions.