Many an entrepreneur hopes to one day pass the business to their children. But to survive, and thrive, in the face of the many challenges that small companies inevitably encounter, those entrepreneurs must be prepared to quickly adapt to market changes and to adopt new technologies that provide a competitive edge.
One such family-owned business is Explorer Freight Corp., a full-service logistics company and one of the fastest growing businesses in the Philippines. Founded by Guido Cuerda in 1986, Explorer Freight has been on a steady growth curve for 30 years. For the past several years, the Cuerda children -- Jean, Harold and Kristine -- have also been involved in managing the operations, as has Guido’s wife Erminda. To make it so far, the Cuerdas needed to seize new opportunities and be open to new technologies to help them succeed.
It's been a satisfying journey for Guido Cuerda, who started life as a child laborer in the dangerous reef fishing industry. After being laid off from his job and using his severance money, he opened his first business, a small trucking and customs brokerage firm, at age 43 with only a single truck and one client. But he quickly added new services --such as door-to-door deliveries, tariff consulting and international forwarding--and also developed a reputation for quality service. The customer roster and size of his fleet have steadily grown.
Today, Cuerda's company has the same reputation for quality service, but has changed significantly in other ways. Explorer Freight has a fleet of 50 trucks, a 2,000-square-foot warehouse, and a long roster of clients ranging from midsized to large companies.
Seeing Opportunities for Growth
Two key components of that success has been the Cuerda family’s skill at identifying new opportunities for growth and his willingness to embrace new technologies to improve operations. That meant migrating the company's operations to a completely new business software platform. In October 2014, it implemented NetSuite's end-to-end enterprise software, a cloud-based suite of integrated applications that includes finance, supply chain, BI, warehousing, and other core modules. The new software has enabled a number of market expansion opportunities as well improvements in services to its existing clients.
Before NetSuite, Explorer Freight had only two standalone applications, for logistics management and accounting. They worked well for a while, but eventually couldn’t keep pace with the company's rapid growth. Because Explorer Freight provided such a wide menu of services for international and domestic customers, it needed a better, more integrated and unified software platform capable of handling the increasingly complex orders as well as producing detailed information on the status of orders.
The NetSuite cloud-based platform fulfilled those needs. Thanks to the end-to-end workflow that NetSuite provides across core processes like financials, CRM, warehousing and supply chain, Explorer Freight has reduced the time needed for many processes and has made them more efficient as well.
The centralization of data and processes also means that managers have much greater visibility into its operations, and customers can get information on their shipments faster. That faster access to data also enabled it to expand its third-party logistics (3PL) services for customers in fast-paced industries such as retail and utilities.
Another feature -- multi-site management -- will let the Cuerdas more easily open new locations and manage them from the same NetSuite interface. But the most meaningful benefit has been a rise in customer satisfaction.
The company is well positioned for continued expansion, both geographically and in new services. While Guido, now at age 72, remains actively involved in the business, he's also enjoying the participation of his adult children. All three of them have taken on management duties -- as COO, VP of operations, and comptroller. With the hard work of both first and second generations of Cuerdas, and the capabilities of NetSuite's next generation cloud-based software, Explorer Freight will undoubtedly continue to prosper for many more years.