After leaving his corporate job as a CFO,Randip Singh learned firsthand that the process of buying an existing small business can often be as gut-wrenching as starting a new one from scratch. He also learned the events that follow when new leadership takes over can be a critical lesson in self-control.
Motivated by the success his wife experienced with the purchase of a cloth baby diaper manufacturing business, Singh decided a few years ago that he was ready to leave the corporate world and give entrepreneurism a try. For nearly a year, he searched for available businesses using the Internet and small business brokers. During one of his Internet searches, he stumbled across a retail global mail business that had started dabbling in mail-forwarding services for expats living abroad. Singh was dazzled by the possibilities for growth.
But after purchasing U.S. Global Mail — which has a retail location, Memorial Postal Center, that had served as the primary business since opening in 1998 — Singh did something that not many new entrepreneurs have the discipline to do: He sat and watched, and waited.
“I was able to rein myself in right away,” he said. “For the first month, I moved my desk onto the work floor and just sat there watching the packaging and shipping. I wanted to first understand exactly how everything works.”
Singh, who has a degree in civil engineering and also holds an MBA, said holding back on making changes was the most difficult part of the entire process, especially since he came to the table with several ideas already floating in his head. Singh even negotiated a deal for the former owner to stay on board for the first 30 days to help him learn the operations.
“When you come in with an MBA and a corporate background, you want to implement changes and do some big things right away,” Singh said. “But it is a bad idea to make any changes at all during the first six to eight months, and I knew that.”
Although he did implement some major adjustments, he did so gradually, eventually transitioning the single-location postal center into a multifaceted company that caters to expats living abroad by offering personalized mail and package forwarding, virtual mailboxes, international shopping and shipping, customized mail management solutions for corporations and relocation companies, and small business warehousing and mailing solutions.
And Singh’s discipline paid off.
Although he has added a few employees since that time, all of the employees with U.S. Global Mail at the time of Singh’s purchase in 2009 are still with the company today, each of them sticking through the transition to an emphasis on mail-forwarding and services for expats, with the neighborhood postal center serving as a supplemental business.
“That mail-forwarding part of the business had been built a little bit, the foundation had been set, but I saw the potential for it to be so much more,” he said. “We just had to do it the right way.”
The employees also were game for the difficult transition from a manual process to a fully automated process for mail intake and forwarding.
When Singh purchased the company, employees were taking in packages for clients — which pay a flat fee for monthly mail intake services, plus additional fees if they want their packages forwarded to them overseas — and manually logging the piece and entering a description of the package and the dimensions to help clients decide if they wanted the parcel forwarded.
Singh eventually moved to an automated process that enables machines, which the company designed and built, to take and upload photos of the packages as well as to log its dimensions and label details.
This shift allowed U.S. Global Mail, which handles thousands of pieces of mail each month, to dive headfirst into growth opportunities without adding a significant number of employees.
“All of the sudden, I wasn’t worried about how we would handle the growth that might come our way,” Singh said. “We now had the technology to handle five times the volume we had been handling.”
This advancement allowed Singh to go out and start marketing the company’s mail-forwarding service to companies and individuals on a larger scale.
In 2010, he opened a warehouse to serve as the centerpiece of the operation, then got to work on marketing. In 2011, Singh’s wife, Tashi Nibber, sold her diaper business and joined U.S. Global Mail to help with marketing and business development.
Singh admits that marketing was a skill he had to learn as he went along, but he jumped in with both feet.
“Coming from the corporate world on the side of finance and operations, I had kind of thought of marketing as fluff, but now I know how central it is to the success of a company,” he said.
U.S. Global Mail has started marketing on expat websites, working with bloggers in that space and taking steps to lock in search engine optimization. The results are already showing — Singh said the company added more clients in the last four months than during all of last year. And the company’s client base has increased by 47 percent since he took over four years ago.
Revenue has followed the same upward trajectory, on track to bring in $2.6 million this year.
The company also acquired more warehouse space this quarter, almost doubling its space in preparation for future growth.
“We are in a position now where we have the capability to process 100,000 parcels per month,” Singh said. “We are ready for the next stage.”