Many businesses have been slow to hire in this still-fragile economy, but Cincinnati-based Total Quality Logistics has dramatically expanded its Lexington sales office since it opened in 2011.
Specializing in tractor-trailer freight brokerage, TQL is "the middleman between shippers and carriers," said Rob Poulos, vice president of sales. "We connect shippers with good quality carriers and negotiate the process between pickup and delivery, including the rates."
Founded in 1997, the privately held company, which employs more than 2,000, focused its early years on the transportation of produce. Poulos said 35 percent of the load volume managed by the company remains on refrigerated tractor-trailers.
The company recently completed its move into larger offices along Fortune Drive for its more than 60 Lexington employees, who spend their days on the phone looking to make deals and close them. They far outnumber the six who started in the company office here when it opened in 2011.
"If you look at this room, everything ships on a truck, from drywall to trucks to signage to our clothes" Poulos said. "Everything ships on a truck.
"Really what we sell is communication. Our customers like our service because we over-communicate from the time of pickup on. It seems pretty easy to pick up from point A and deliver to point B, but a lot can happen in between."
The company's new Lexington office is far larger than before. It went from 3,000 square feet of space in Hamburg to about 10,000 square feet, with room for 16,000 square feet if needed.
That's the goal, too. The company hopes to add an additional 50 salespeople to the office this year and looks to have more than 200 employees in Lexington within three years, said spokeswoman Kristine Glenn. (Go to TQLjobs.com for information on applying.)
In August, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $800,000 in tax incentives for the company's growth plans. In general, when a company accepts a tax incentive, it can keep that amount of money, which it otherwise would pay in state taxes, assuming it fulfills the terms of the deal.
The deal requires the company to add 75 jobs that pay an average hourly wage of at least $20, including benefits.
The pay at TQL is driven by results. All salespeople receive a base salary, but the financial opportunity comes with the unlimited commissions that are offered.
The top 20 percent of salespeople who have been with the company at least two years make $104,231 on average, Glenn said.
"It's an extremely hard job," Poulos said. "It demands a great deal of work ethic, but we've had very good luck finding talent in this area."
Among those in the office is group sales manager Lincoln Hendricks.
He started with the firm in Cincinnati, but he and five other salespeople all had ties to the Lexington area and persuaded their leaders to open an office here. The move came as part of a national expansion that has seen TQL grow to 16 satellite offices beyond its headquarters.
"It's been crazy," said Hendricks, who started in an entry-level job more than five years ago. "To be able to climb through the ranks as quickly as I have has been a great opportunity.
"And the ability to move back to what's home for me shows the office here has not only been great for the organization, but it's been nice to get back close to family and friends."
TQL's growth has not gone unnoticed in the industry. The company "recognizes that they have two customers in every transaction — the shipper and the carrier — and they take care of both of those," said Robert Voltmann, CEO of trade group Transportation Intermediaries Association. "They just make it happen."
Voltmann said there's no limit on how much the company and industry can grow.
"We are growing as a country every year in the United States ... and the amount of freight we're moving is increasing and will continue to increase," he said. "Shippers and manufacturers continue to outsource their logistics functions to companies like TQL where that's all they do."
Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.