“Keep on truckin’, baby,” sang seminal bluesman Blind Boy Fuller in the 1930s. And that’s just what Bethel-based trucking and distribution company NEHDS Logistics has been doing.
Although its 10-years-and-counting existence may pale next to the age of Fuller’s enduring tune, NEHDS is well on its way to achieving the kind of success that fills competitors with envy. The firm’s projected revenue for 2016 is $30.1 million, a 55 percent increase over 2015. The company has a goal of reaching $50 million by 2020.
In addition, it has amassed a fleet of 225 trucks and recently added four locations, bringing it to a total of seven warehouses spread around the Northeast, including Windsor; Colonie, N.Y.; Cranbury, N.J.; Dedham, Mass; and two in New Hampshire. Another is expected to open in Washington, D.C., by early 2018.
Having more than 500 contractors and employees, including 100 at its 65,000-square-foot headquarters at 6B Research Drive in Bethel, NEHDS hired President/Chief Operating Officer Charles Johnson and Chief Marketing Officer Peter Katz in 2016, reflecting its quick rate of growth.
“For the first five or six years, we sort of plodded along,” said co-founder/CEO Gerry Burdo at his Bethel office. “But over the last 18 months or so our growth has really accelerated.”
NEHDS is also something of a family affair: In addition to Burdo, its ranks include his brother-in-law Fred DiMaria as CFO and DiMaria’s wife – and Burdo’s sister – Lisa as billing analyst.
“I probably spent about 30 years around the furniture industry, ending up in charge of (Danbury-based) Ethan Allen’s financial group,” Burdo said. Exiting there for a two-year stint as CEO/CFO at ill-fated Kozmo.com, which promised free one-hour delivery of a variety of consumer goods, Burdo found himself out of work when that company was liquidated in 2001.
Combining his experiences in the furniture and logistics trades seemed to make the most sense, he said, and so NEHDS – the name was originally New England Home Delivery, then North East Home Delivery once it expanded into New Jersey – was born. Adding his brother-in-law – whose past included financial roles at Warner-Lambert and Ernst & Young – as CFO was an easy decision, he said.
“His analytical ability and background helped legitimize us in the early going,” Burdo said. “He helped give us a steady hand.”
One of NEHDS’ first clients – and still a key customer – is Bob’s Discount Furniture. Home to 76 stores and omnipresent ads, the Manchester-headquartered Bob’s Discount Furniture takes advantage of NEHDS’ fulfillment and delivery service, where customized logos are put on delivery trucks driven by NEHDS employees – making for what Burdo maintains is greater personalized service and extended marketing opportunities.
The relationship appears to be solid, and is certainly growing, according to Burdo. Several Bob’s awards cover the Bethel office, and the company has also received kudos from such customers as La-Z-Boy, Williams-Sonoma, Bassett Furniture and Country Willow.
Delivery drivers are required to go through an extensive screening process, including drug testing and criminal background checks, as well as extensive in-house training to become the kind of “ambassadors” that the company has built its reputation upon, he said.
For all that, “We have a very low turnover, which says a lot,” Burdo said. “Our offices were largely empty 18 months ago, and today parking is at a premium.”
In addition, NEHDS utilizes several technologies to track inventory, delivery and safety. DispatchTrack software optimizes truck routing by using digital maps and measuring current traffic conditions; Telogis software collects location-based data from embedded and installed hardware in vehicles and mobile devices to monitor drivers’ behavior in real time (“We’ve had to contact a few and tell them to slow down,” Burdo said); and iTracker is a cloud-based warehouse inventory/management system.
NEHDS owns the majority of its new and late-model Hino 26-foot straight trucks, which make up 97 percent of its fleet; all vehicles acquired after 2013 have Telogis installed.
“Even though it’s kind of a pick-and-shovel business – we do one delivery at a time – we’ve got 40 trucks coming in and out of here every day and 225 total on the road most of the time,” Burdo said. “We started out with six, with a goal of having a hundred, which we hit two years ago. I can see us having 500 before long, which I never thought would happen.”