Fabian Contreras recalled that his father, who owned several Mexican companies, told him to go start his own business. Contreras struck out on his own, diving into the U.S. trucking industry and learning its ways. Now, 13 years later, he is the president/CEO of Codysur Group, a trucking and logistics firm consisting of seven companies with 220 employees and revenue of over $40 million in 2014, serving automotive, electronics and related industries.
Contreras preferred to keep a low profile while growing the business. Codysur’s white trucks and trailers display only a simple CT logo. The business has between 200-250 trucks on the road daily and has invested over $250,000 for GPS and real-time tracking of its trailers and trucks. The advanced, integrated software programs verify data for drivers, dispatch and accounting to allow safe and efficient deliveries. In April, Codysur began sharing its success in “bringing North America together” with a large sign at its 30-acre facility in San Benito.
The midst of a recession was not the optimum time to grow a business. “In 2008 we had everything in place to survive. We had gotten out of the things that were not making money and cut expenses. That gave us strength,” Contreras said. Opportunities started coming their way as less stable trucking companies closed down.
“A key component of our success is the way we operate. Everything is do or die: the 20- mile and the 2,000-mile load are all the same,” said COO Victor Mendez, who had extensive experience in Michigan trucking. “We try to stay in operation 100% of the time. We understand the supply chain in Mexico. We do what the customer requests. This company offers door-to-door service from Mexico, communication at night, and we know where our trucks are.”
“Codysur is the most Americanized Mexican company around. When we go to Detroit, they are not expecting a real company,” Mendez added. “We are probably more well-known in Michigan than here.”
On the other hand, Carlos Buentello, CFO, characterizes Codysur as a U.S. company doing business in Mexico. “Fabian sells the product. Victor tells them we can do it all for you. I make sure we are profitable,” he said, well aware of the large fleet of nearly new trucks and the bills that come in monthly, no matter which country is celebrating multiple holidays.
“We manage as a team,” Contreras explained. “Everybody brings something to the table. Transporting freight is not hard.” Finding the right people is the hard part of the equation.
The average age of employees (excluding drivers) is 26, reflecting Codysur’s tendency to hire people one or two years out of college. “I like to hire to see what they want to learn,” Mendez said. “We give them the opportunity. We’re looking for people who have dreams, hopes and long-term commitment. Fabian knows how to develop the people around him. When he brought each of us into the company, he made us work for it,” Mendez said. “Five years later, I understand why. He wanted to make sure they respected us and saw that we were good.”
Buentrello agreed, noting that expectations from the labor force in RGV are low, but Codysur shows its employees how to grow and doesn’t believe in micromanaging them. “They learn from their mistakes and start making better decisions.”
Contreras branched out to open Codysur Logistics in 2008 and kept adding to the group’s services: warehousing, supply chain management, global freight expediting, brokerage and more. They have subcontracted to get a truck to a Midwest customer ready to load within an hour. For a customer needing space to re-work a shipment, perhaps correcting a labeling error, they have arranged work space and equipment. “We don’t stop. We fix their problem. You can always find an excuse to fail.”
“It’s not hard to satisfy customers,” Contreras said. “They want to see that whatever you promised is there. We sell. We deliver.”
“Fabian has pulled all the stops so we rarely have to say we can’t. We look at things in so many different ways, like a Rubik’s cube,” said Mendez. “Different routes, different bridges.” Codysur has gained a reputation for a “no-hassle price” with no hidden costs, said the CFO. The goal is long-term relationships which doesn’t come from having the cheapest service but the most dependability and quality.
The three executives, all between 36 and 40, haven’t let their titles go to their heads.
“Clients know they can call us at 3 a.m. and they do,” said Mendez. “The corporate structure has helped to build up junior management. They get to see behind the curtain and we can mold them to what we want them to be.”
For more information, see codysurgroup.com.
This story by Eileen Mattei appears in the May 2016 print edition of Valley Business Report.