Loose and serious

Dan Allen couldn't find his desk.

For the head of a logistics company, that could be a bad thing, but it might mean only that his partners are playing a joke on him.

That's what can happen when you work with friends, as Allen, Darryl Bader Jr., and Jeff Lynch do. The three owners of ITS Logistics have known each other for much of their lives. Bader and Lynch met as first graders in a catechism class, Allen and Lynch lived near one another, and Allen and Bader took classes together at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Now the three have helmed ITS for the last 10 years, and the company's success has as much to do with their friendship as their business acumen.

ITS was one of the first to take a three-pronged approach to logistics in this area. The company offers trucking, warehousing and a transportation management and brokerage division.

"That was by design in the beginning. We all sat down and said if we build just one, it won't be as stable. But if we have three profit centers, if one's growing it'll help support the others. It's been a very stabilizing business model," Allen says.

Bader is the logistics guy, Lynch focuses on transportation and Allen is the accounting and administrative functions chief. But they agree it's the sum of their individual strengths that has made ITS profitable from the beginning.

"We (Darryl and I) saw a need in the industry, but we were smart enough to recognize we needed somebody with Dan's competency," Lynch says. "We took Dan's expertise in the accounting side of things to take our service to another level. We have a very deep relationship with our clients and we create solutions and value for them. I think that's the ultimate reason we've been successful."

As important as the client relationship is, all three owners also express great pride in the atmosphere they've created for their employees. From water fights to sneak attacks, good-natured ribbing to Salad Wednesdays, the company thrives on a culture that comes straight from the owners' relationships.

"It's founded on very solid principles, moral values. We respect our people. We tell them their family is more important than their job. We will always make the honest decision, regardless of how hard that is sometimes," Lynch says.

Allen adds: "We didn't write down the culture; it's something that happened. It came by our actions ..."

"... It stems, unintentionally to Dan's point, from the fact we were friends before we started the business. Usually you align yourself in business, and then you try to work together. But there was already a very strong tie. It had the effect of making it a fun work environment," Bader finishes.

Ken Tavener has worked for the trio for the last five years as director of transportation sales, and he can't say enough about his bosses and the company culture.

"We work hard. And we play hard ... did they tell you about the water fights?" he asks. "They are all brilliant, but the best thing they ever did was have three partners. If all three don't agree (on a course of action), they don't make a move.

"They let people run their departments, they work hard every day and they invest their money back into the company," Tavener continues. "They are very innovative. It's just fun to go to work here. I'm here for as long as they'll have me."

That type of loyalty has helped ITS and its owners find the kind of success that brings 30 to 40 percent growth each year. With a staff of about 150, the company sees almost no turnover.

Giving their employees the power to make decisions has given them a freedom, which in turn creates a stronger workforce, Lynch says, and one that takes up the gauntlet of fun the owners carry so easily.

Away from work, things stay focused on fun, but with family at the forefront. Even there, the trio has a unique bond.

"The year we started ITS, we were all 30, all three of us quit our jobs and our wives were all pregnant. We each had a child in 2000," Allen says, laughing, "and we each have three kids."

Allen and his wife Mary have a 16-year-old daughter, 15-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. Lynch and wife Wendee have three boys; 15, 11 and 8. Bader and wife Angie have two daughters 9 and 7, and a 3-year-old son. While they occasionally take in a ballgame or go camping together, each mentions kids' sports and outdoor activities as the center of their home lives. And each man is quick to mention his wife's contribution to the success they've achieved at work.

Allen sums it up: "Without them, there's no way we could have built this business. If they weren't doing all they were doing, well ... there's no way."

That support, along with a strong respect for one another and their differences allows the trio to apply their personal philosophies to the job and life. Bader's credo is "You work hard, and you do it right, no matter how simple it is." Lynch believes putting his faith in God first in his life makes him a better husband, father, boss and employee. And Allen follows his father's tenet of optimism about life.

As they look toward expanding their company yet again, that optimism is palpable. Even looking back, not one can offer a serious regret about they way they've created their business.

"Every time we did something, we learned something," Bader says.

"Is there something I'd do differently...not really. Maybe have Warren Buffett be a partner," Allen says with a smile.

And Lynch? "I'd give a much smaller percentage to Dan and Darryl," he says before busting out laughing.

As for Allen's desk, it was simply a case of the company growing and changing offices. At least that's what his partners are telling him, but with buddies like these, you never know.


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