Happy Holidays to all, from the Prime Group family

It has been said that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. With 2019 coming to a close in just a few short weeks, all of us here at Prime Group hope that this holiday season, and the year ahead, hold great things for you and your entire family of friends and loved ones.

The holiday season is a time to spend with the most important people in your life. It is my wish that in the midst of your celebrations, you find a few moments of peace and embrace the spirit of what this time of year is truly about.

There are no hard and fast rules in holiday reflection. The end of one year and the start of another, along with the holiday time off and gatherings, just seems to naturally inspire us to reflect and express gratitude at every turn!

From a business standpoint, the same rings true. ‘This also the season to reflect, be thankful, and eagerly anticipate. Joined by my business partner Omar Zambrano and the entire Prime Group management team, that’s exactly what we’re doing right now. As the year comes to an end, we’re thinking about what was and what will be.

First and foremost, we thank our employees who are the finest group of professionals ever found at one company. They work hard and long – and strive to be better every day. They understand and live our values at work and most likely at home, by espousing “Honesty; Responsibility; Commitment and Integrity.”

We also wish to thank our customers, without whom, everything is irrelevant. We thank them for their loyalty, appreciation, and their receptiveness to our ideas and solutions.

Prime Group had a very good 2019. We grew the business at an astounding rate compared with our peers. And we made tremendous new staff additions and adjustments – all positive moves geared to support our 2019 goal of realigning the business on the commercial side.

In addition, we increased the scope of products and services for our customers, which also allowed us to work with others we previously had not served. In particular, we focused on growing customers in Los Angeles, New York, and Amsterdam, and succeeded in doing so.

We dedicated much of 2019 to the reinforcement of our corporate values, which is what will guide us into the New Year. We know adherence to our values makes us better. They define what we want to be, how we want to act, and how we want to be perceived.

Therefore, for 2020, we pledge to continue to be an organization that provides quality services, that is recognized for its honesty and professionalism, and that has a keen eye on constant innovation and adaptation.

Having just finished our budgeting and forecasts for 2020, I am confident I’ll have more good news to share in the months ahead. The plan is to continue building upon our successes, create new possibilities and customers in all-new service areas, all the while maintaining our historic high levels of service.

So, whatever your plans are for the New Year, Prime Group wishes you the best in reaching your goals, and striving for a brighter future.

Prime Group is off the bench and on top of its game

Last month while attending the big flower show in Bogota, Proflora, I got to spend quality time with some industry friends and customers who have worked with Prime Group over the years – people I have known since my business partner Omar Zambrano and I starting this company 20 years ago.

So naturally there was a lot of talk of “back in the day,” mixed in with a bunch of “I remember when” stories.

Reminiscing like this gives us a greater appreciation of just how far we’ve come in the shipping business in the past two decades. It also opens our eyes to the new realities of global logistics — changes that are happening at break-neck speed.

And I truly believe they are changes for the better. I mean, of course, there has since been major consolidation among air carriers and freight forwarders, and a lot of small farms across Ecuador and Colombia have been bought up by big-farm interests.

But I’m mostly referring to the way emerging technologies are now allowing us to build in such significant operational efficiencies, processes that we could never have imagined back in the day.

Ok, before I go any further, I’ve got to just share just one I-remember-when story, about how freight forwarders would come by to see what you’ve got to ship, with a typewriter under one arm and calculator in the other hand. They’d count up all our boxes and kilos, work some numbers, and then hand over an airway bill. I would then pull out my own handy calculator to double check whether they did it all correctly. Sometimes it was right, sometimes it was way wrong. You really had to be on your game.

That part certainly hasn’t changed. We still have to be on top of our game in logistics, but nowadays, we’ve got some amazingly sophisticated new tools that not only boost efficiencies but our competitiveness, too.

Today, it’s all about technology and automation.

Business Intelligence
Take for instance a major new tool that the Prime Group companies just launched. It’s called Power BI, a business analytics service – with the BI standing for Business Intelligence – and it really is a smart way to go.

It’s a platform that provides nontechnical business users with tools for aggregating, analyzing, visualizing and sharing data. The Power BI user interface is really quite intuitive for anyone familiar with Excel, and because it integrates with other Microsoft products, it’s a very versatile self-service tool that requires little upfront training.

With it we are finding insights within our organization’s data, by helping connect a wide range of data sets and then transforming them into easy-to-understand charts and graphs that provide a real-time “story” about what’s going on system wide. Best part is, all of this is being shared with other Power BI users within the organization.
No longer do we spend long hours at month’s end, gathering up our sales, shipping, and performance data, in order to package it in a report that presents stale data on key performance indicators.

Today, we pop out a cell phone, open the Power BI app, and get a real-time snapshot that allows us to answer questions in real-time and help with forecasting to make sure the different departments and division are meeting business metrics. The charts and data visualizations can even examine “what if” scenarios.

Tools like Power BI – and all the advances to come with artificial intelligence are clearly revolutionizing our industry. Only those companies that are able to use the new tech to their advantage will survive, grow, and thrive.

I am happy to report that Prime Group is off the bench and already on the playing field, stepping up our game. With a winning combination of best-in-industry customer service and advanced technology, we’ve got what it takes to win.

I’m glad you’re along with us for this exciting ride into the future.

Trade Shows are Excellent Forums for Learning, Networking, and Promoting

Being part of the never-ending trade show circuit comes with flying around the globe multiple times a year, racking up millions of miles, jet lag.

Moscow, Berlin, Singapore … It might sound glamorous, but it’s a lot of hard work. Yet important work, because we understand the value of networking at these shows and conferences. They are a powerful and necessary part of doing business in international logistics.

Face-to-face exposure is essential to ensuring that the key decision makers in our industry continue to have a firm grasp of our products, services, and expertise in “carrying the weight of the world,” if you will.

And sometimes we mean that quite literally, as in our recent success in shipping bodybuilding weights all the way to a Pakistani gym. Now there’s an interesting story to share.

But it goes well beyond just show-and-tell. There’s relationship building, brand exposure, and great leads to be had at these events. So allow me to share with you the nine boxes we like to check in claiming success at an industry trade show or conference:

First and foremost, trade shows provide you with an organized stage to advertise your brand to thousands of vendors, prospective customers, and industry leaders.

Keep an eye on your competitors. Prospering in this increasingly competitive environment requires you to know your competitors’ business practices and sales tactics so that you can stay one step ahead of them.

Display your latest products and services. By showcasing your best selling items, such as our new and improved Tostones, you can grow your base of purchasers and give prospective customers the chance to touch and feel your best sellers.

Meet new and existing clients face to face. Trade shows and conferences provide a welcome forum for you to put faces with the names of the customers who you normally only deal with over the phone or via email.

Generate high quality leads. Because many attendees participate in trade shows for the sole purpose of purchasing products or services, you can enjoy a robust collection of high-quality leads.

Evaluate new products. Trade shows are full of companies exhibiting their latest and most innovative products. So, don’t be afraid to take it all in – and learn from what you see and experience from your competitors on the trade show floor.

Close sales. Key decision makers comprise a sizable portion of trade show attendees. With nearly half of these decision makers placing orders during a trade show, you should come prepared to close sales and process payments.

Discover the latest industry trends. Trade shows provide the perfect forum for mingling with industry leaders, pioneers, and business big and small that are experimenting with new ways to make logistics products and services better.

Learn about changes in industry regulations. Many trade shows and conferences include seminars and training opportunities that are designed to educate participants about key changes in related laws and regulations.

Clearly, trade shows, and conferences are excellent forums for learning, networking, and promoting the Prime Group companies – and perhaps yours, too. Ramping up your trade show participation is one of the most effective means of expanding your business.

I’m glad we had this opportunity to connect!

Employing the Rules of Weight and Balance in the Workplace

In our line of work, providing ground operations services for our air cargo partners, it is essential to understanding the principles of weight and balance. Without question, we comply with the recommended limits of a particular cargo aircraft – after all, knowing these rules is critical to its structural integrity and flight safety.

What if we had such stringent rules around managing our own “work-life balance.” Well, some of us do. Problem is, many of us don’t. As a result, people in the workplace often find themselves compromising their well-being and performance on the job – without even knowing it.

The idea behind this concept of work-life balance is to achieve an ideal balance between your working life and private life. It is a concept whereby the maximum happiness of an employee acts as the fuel for productive and fulfilling work.

And although there is no rulebook, summer time often presents a prime opportunity to do just that – by unplugging from work. In fact, now that kids are going back to school, we are just coming out of a key period during which we were able to step back and spend quality time with the family, go on a summer vacation, or engage in some form of personal development.

In summers past, because it is a little slower in our industry, I was able to take time out of my busy schedule to spend it with my family. We would alternate between taking the kids to Ecuador to reconnect with their family in Quito; and then over the next summer, we would head north to see their grandparents at a lovely cottage up on Lake Michigan.

One year we drove all the way back from Michigan to Miami, taking offshoots all along the way. We got to see and experience Memphis and New Orleans, and cities people don’t typically visit, like Springfield, Il., Baton Rouge, La., and Tallahassee, Fla. Together, we got a totally new perspective of the American scene.

And in the process, I got to re-energize. Though it wasn’t always easy pulling away from work, it was so important on so many levels.

Because the ability to turn off distractions and enjoy uninterrupted quality time is a great way to relax, rejuvenate, and regenerate. It allows us to get away from the pressures of everyday work life, and come back to the job with a new perspective – and actually be happier and more productive on the job.

That’s important stuff. Having a healthy life-work balance makes us better to work with, better able to serve our customers, and better people in general.

I hope you give some weight to this idea of finding balance in your life.

Celebrating 18 Years of Prime Group Success

While flipping through some old photo albums in preparation for our company’s 18th anniversary this month, a great rush of nostalgia came over me. It was just so satisfying to look back at the myriad milestones we achieved over the years and the amazing growth we’ve experienced.

There we were in dozens of pictures with bright smiling faces accepting corporate awards, rolling out new services in new markets, working major trade shows… Some things never change.

But then again, some things change a lot – and I’m not just referring to how young I looked! As I sat there looking down memory lane, it suddenly hit me that all those faces looking back at me were on glossy color-photo paper pasted into a faux leather-bound book. That’s how we use to do it! Using a “technology” that is now considered totally out of date in today’s digital world.

Who could have foreseen the avalanche of impending advancements that would not only revolutionize how we capture and share images, but in the process, deal a deathblow to major corporate giants like Kodak and Polaroid. I am sure they wish they were better prepared for what was coming.

Lessons Learned
So, lessons learned. But also lessons applied – which is why I can say with great confidence that as we celebrate 18 years in business, I firmly believe Prime Group is extremely well positioned to survive the unknown unknowns. Because we have a strategy in place that keeps our companies open to all possibilities. We are not only nimble, but entirely deliberate in the way we are diversifying our business lines.

Who would have thought 18 years ago we would be here today using cutting-edge communications technology to track and monitor the status of thousands of pounds of fresh fish arriving at LAX and JFK, real-time, for a whole new base of customers. That’s what’s happening right now at Prime Fresh Products.

Who would have thought we’d have created a line of snack-foods, Tostones harvested and packaged in Ecuador for distribution among major retail supermarkets all across the U.S. That’s what is happening now at Prime Fresh Products.

Well Positioned
And all this upon a backdrop of aggressive sales and marketing efforts geared toward boosting awareness of the Prime Group brand in a way that will position us for long-term growth in new and emerging markets around the globe.

They say the only constant in business is change. With that in mind, we are continually monitoring our alignment with defined organizational challenges and objectives. We are also keenly aware that our business can be influenced by:

• Increased diversity and globalization in the workforce, customers, suppliers, and competitors;
• New technologies that have resulted in faster pace and larger scale;
• A more complex communications environment with more channels; and
• Changes in business situations and strategy.

So in 18 years, when I look back at our bright smiling faces, the moments, and milestones – stored on an antiquated USB drive – I will know that right there in the background, there were smart and strategic efforts taking place to ensure the long-term success of our company.

Thank you for being with us on this journey.

More than just another success story

Few things are as important as giving your mother the undivided love and attention she deserves.

That’s why I am so thankful that by the time Mother’s Day actually arrives each year, those of us in the flower industry have pretty much accomplished everything we need to do in advance of this important day, whereby allowing us to be truly present to honor the amazing women in our lives.

As the busiest time of year for PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling, the work we do starts well over a month prior to Mother’s Day – and I must say, the frenetic pace by which our people perform is nothing short of astounding. Night and day, right up to about a week before, they work tirelessly to ensure that your Mother’s Day bouquet makes the journey from farm to florist, fast and fresh, and into mom’s arms by that second Sunday in May.

No complaints though, because we love what we do – and it shows. From a revenue and reliability standpoint, the 2019 season may very well have been our healthiest season ever. Adding up the all the flights from Bogota and Quito we operated on behalf of our air-cargo clients, and the number of kilos we moved across our network, it was a banner year.

What’s more, not surprisingly, the level of satisfaction among our customers is also at an all-time high, as a result of zero problems with shipments, zero reported claims, and zero delays.

What’s it called when news keeps getting better, year after year? It’s called a successful business!

But this year, it’s more than just another good news story. That’s because even as our corporate footprint has significantly expanded over the past year, we were able to exceed expectations in service delivery and reliability even at our newly expanded facilities in Los Angeles, New York, and Amsterdam.

All across the board, we were well prepared for the high season, fully staffed with experts, and more than ready to manage the shipment of fresh flowers in a smooth, professional, and efficient fashion.

At Prime Group, everything keeps coming up roses!

Prime Group Salutes Quito Airport

I recently came across a quote by Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos that really resonated with me: “You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

With those few words, I realized he was describing the very thing that has forged our own company’s reputation since starting operations in Quito 18 years ago.

Prime Group knows how to do hard things well. Period.

In fact, we’ve mastered the handling of time-sensitive perishables and specialty cargo to such a degree that when someone in logistics thinks “Quito,” they instantly think “Prime Group.”

Our reputation for providing best-in-class service here is also why we’re the go-to GSSA for the biggest names in air cargo, like Atlas Air and Emirates SkyCargo.

And now we’re seeing a clear sign that success breeds success: the combination of top-quality airlines and Prime Group’s unmatched brand of service is playing a significant role in the success of the overall cargo operation at Quito airport.

At this year’s Air Cargo Excellence Awards (ACE), presented by Air Cargo World magazine, Mariscal Sucre International Airport was recognized with the prestigious Diamond Award.

The award considers the performance, facilities, and value delivered – through the eyes of freight forwarders, cargo agents, and third-party logistics providers. In all these areas, Quito has achieved the highest grades for excellence among airports handling under 400,000 tonnes annually.

To me, this affirms the notion that no matter where we operate, Prime Group companies continually excel, improve, and set new standards. Of course there are many factors that play a part in Quito’s excellence, but certainly we have left an indelible and positive mark on the overall operation – and continue to do so every day here.

So on behalf of our dedicated team of flight dispatchers, administrative and accounting agents, operations and traffic supervisors and agents, and sales representatives in Quito, we congratulate Mariscal Sucre International Airport on this well deserved honor.

And we humbly promise to continue to do our part to ensure that together we may celebrate this important honor year after year, long into the future.

Lastly, allow me also to congratulate one of our most important customers, Emirates SkyCargo, for winning the ACE Diamond Award as the top carrier for 2019 in the airline competition.

Well done, team!

Prime Group is on the world stage with WCA membership

As a newly accepted member of the World Cargo Alliance, I am pleased to report Prime Group made its long-awaited debut at the annual WCA Global Conference in Singapore last month, alongside 2,800 other delegates from 100 countries.

With record-breaking attendance, it was our time to be there, to be seen, and to experience first-hand what it means to be a member of this prodigious organization – the most powerful network of independent freight forwarders with over 7,000 members in nearly 200 countries worldwide.

The journey to Singapore has been a long one – and not just because my business partner Omar Zambrano had to endure a 17-hour flight to get there. But because acceptance into this renowned alliance signifies a major step forward in the evolution of Prime Group.

Networking among thousands of contacts under one roof is definitely a big plus. In fact, they say more than 75,000 face-to-face meetings between WCA participants took place at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Center.

But the overarching benefit is the ability for Prime Group to now begin conducting business on behalf of our customers, virtually anywhere in the world on-demand, in partnership with any of the thousands of pre-qualified WCA member companies – and with complete security and peace of mind.

Traditionally, growing a company of our size can be a challenge, due to the difficulty in attracting large-scale customers like Toyota, Mercedes Benz, and Walmart that typically work only with the world’s biggest names in the global logistics.

Being in the WCA, however, immediately enhances our company profile by putting us in a league with these big players in the business. Now we can effectively meet the needs of any major multinational customer with great assurance by tapping into the experience and professional know-how of our fellow WCA members. We are everywhere!

The journey actually started about 18 months ago when we realized that in order to compete for “next-level” customers, we had to get prepared. The big commercial push by PrimeAir and Prime Air & Ocean Cargo in particular, started by conducting a head-to-toe review and realignment of our operations – all geared toward changing the mind-set of the entire company.

The exciting steps we took to get here – expanding our base of operations, increasing warehousing and office facilities, instituting new processes to make us more agile and efficient, and re-addressing staffing levels and responsibilities – are now allowing us to expand our customer base all across the globe.

Improving our corporate fitness has been a massive endeavor to say the least – and now we’re ready to take on the world, so to speak.

Joining WCA is just one outward sign of our long-term commitment to empower Prime Group to better serve our customers today and well into the future.

It’s an exciting time in the evolution of Prime Group. We’re glad to have you with us.

A Prime Approach to Teamwork

Prime Group’s enchantment with flowers continues this month. As our intense focus on Valentine’s Day shifts to meeting the high demand for flowers for International Women’s Day, we stand ready!

Last time, I talked about how the transport of delicate roses from South America – the core of our business since 2001 – has helped to create a hard work ethic among the Prime Group team, one that is unmatched in the industry.

After all, if you can achieve great success in handling precious, time-sensitive flowers year after year, you can pretty much handle anything.

So when I say we have a long enchantment with flowers, I mean our entire team does – from our world headquarters staff in Doral, to our traffic agents in Bogota, to our ramp workers in Quito.

 

Back in the Day

It was on the ramp at Mariscal Sucre International Airport where I saw my first box of fresh-cut flowers, Ecuadorian roses, in fact. That was way back when I got my start in this business, as part of the ground-support crew working flights for Challenge Air Cargo. So I guess you could say, from the very beginning, I was pricked by the rose trade.

It was supposed to be a quick summer job, working as a warehouse guy, building pallets and loading trucks. I had never seen the airport from the air cargo side, let alone right out there next to a plane. It was so exciting. But all the while I’m thinking, “wow, I’m actually doing this!”

Now, all these years later, flowers and aircraft are still such a huge part of my life – a summer job that became a life-long career…

So, today, when I talk with my front-line employees, I get a sense that some of them don’t believe their CEO actually got his start in the industry doing exactly what they are doing.

But it’s all good. Because knowing exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes this busy time of year, working back-to-back flights, week after week, allows us to strike an immediate chord of camaraderie.

In fact, it’s a real sight to see when employees suddenly realize I am not just a corporate “suit,” but a seasoned “jumpsuit, too.”

What I also get to see and understand, first-hand, is that our team has amassed an amazing base of knowledge and expertise over time, to the point where they can expertly avert all kinds of issues on their own – very often before a problem even arises.

What this is about is good old solid teamwork. And it makes me proud to be part of this team.

At Prime Group, we’ve had a long affair with flowers, logistics support, and great customer service. I’m glad we’re working together – for you!

Wishing a wonderful and happy Women’s Day.

Stick to Your Resolutions

It’s hard to believe that the New Year is here. I am thankful for a fulfilling 2018 and a joyous holiday season.

In the year ahead – our 18th anniversary year – we will reinforce the positive changes in 2018 that resulted in favorable growth and prosperity among the four divisions of the parent company, Prime Group.

Going forward, I am also committed to reinforcing those activities that have helped me personally to be my best, so I may continue to enjoy the most meaningful things in life – family, satisfying work, and my health and well-being.

It’s good to have goals, or resolutions as we call them this time of year. One of mine for 2019 is to seek more of a balance between my work life and personal life, something we should all consider in order to be at the top of our game.

Getting fit is another one of those basic resolutions, and it’s certainly no cakewalk! I should know, because it was my top resolution last year. And today I’m happy to report not only did I stick with the plan, but I lost 30 pounds in the process. I have greater energy, dexterity, and more confidence in movement – it even helped with my posture.

So this year, I am going to be resolute in eating smart and healthy, which again is pretty basic, but important at the same time.

This idea of paying strict attention to the basics – be it personally or in business – can yield tangible benefits. If you put in the investment, it pays off.

Again, whether it’s your physical plant or a business, people notice when your operation looks good, when you’re well postured, and when you are on track to meet your goals.

Counting your blessings is also a traditional act we engage in this time of year. But more than an act, gratitude has proven benefits to our overall well-being. I recently learned that giving thanks allows us to feel better rested and have higher self-esteem. So, it turns out that intentional appreciation is more than minding our manners – it’s good for our mental health.

So I’m also using this holiday season to renew my commitment to gratitude. And I am happy to start right now by sharing my appreciation for you, our Prime Group customers.

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season and from all of us at the Prime Group family of companies, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year.