When Keith Byrd and Travis Burt left their 20-year careers at UPS to start Transportation Impact, they knew they'd be spending a lot of time on the road. "If we've got to be on a plane," says Byrd, "we might as well live in paradise."
That would be on the beach at Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The company first operated out of a broom closet in the surf shop Byrd co-owns there. The founders created a three-pronged business plan: negotiate better shipping rates for small parcel shippers; audit invoices to fish for billing-error refunds for shippers; and conduct freight auditing to improve efficiency. The plan seems to be working: Revenue reached $40 million last year.
Paradise has its privileges. Each department stages a quarterly outing, such as deep-sea fishing, a scavenger hunt, or laser tag. Having outgrown the broom closet, the firm moved to its current headquarters, overlooking the Atlantic. Employees have paid afternoons off on summer Fridays and enjoy company bikes to use on nearby trails, onsite car detailing, and discounts at the surf shop and on meals at the seafood restaurant--also owned by the founders--atop the office building.
They are welcome to take time off to attend their kids' ball games. "I know they'll make up the time later," says Byrd. "We usually have to kick people out at the end of the day."
That emphasis on family and well-being spills over into the Emerald Isle community. The company pledges 1 percent of profits, 1 percent of its time, and 1 percent its services to organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Each month, a six-person committee awards grants, such as scholarships, or donates blocks of time to a charity. In addition, employees can take up to 10 hours annually to help a charity of their own choosing.
Living and working on the Outer Banks has risks as well as charms. As Hurricane Florence barreled toward them last September, employees were told to put family first. They got an allotment from the company to deal with evacuation expenses and damage not covered by insurance. When the storm cleared, TI was still standing, but two staffers lost houses and others had significant damage. Though the executive team offered shelter in their own homes, Byrd says the traffic is two-way: "We're good to our people and our people are good to us. Nothing about our company is one-way."