Ted Alling admitted to more than 300 students at the 18th Annual Clarence E. Harris Entrepreneurial Forum that he and the co-founders of Access America Transport never created a business plan and “none of us are smart people.” What he and his two best friends from college did have were complimentary skills and two goals: to create the best place in America to work and a company that would make $100 million dollars.
Alling, Barry Large and Allan Davis have long surpassed their goals with their first Chattanooga business, which has recorded more than $350 million dollars in annual sales. With more than 400 team members, 8,000 customers and 33,000 carriers, Access America Transport is one of the fastest growing third-party logistics companies in the country.
For three years in a row the company has been named one of the best employers in the state by Business Tennessee magazine.
In recent years, the company has branched into domestic freight and now owns 40 trucks. In 2009, an insurance company was created.
Alling also co-founded Lamp Post Group, a business incubator. It encourages entrepreneurs with an idea “from the planning stages to reality through financial investment and business guidance.” Alling said 80 percent of his time is now spent helping create new businesses.
Here are Alling’s insights, as he explained to College of Business students:
- Goal setting—put it on paper. As a 7th grader, Alling’s dad encouraged him to write his goals on a yellow pad. “In college, I wrote down what I wanted to do in one year, four years, ten years. I still have that sheet of paper. …I also have a list of a hundred things I want to do with my life. I’ve done over half of them. And I have a list of 50 people I want to meet.”
- Everything starts with a positive attitude. “Positive people are productive people.” Alling said he appreciates the wisdom of Zig Ziglar, an author and motivational speaker.
- Tech skills—“If you are not learning programming, you need to go to the computer science department and make friends with people who are programmers, because they are the future.”
- Persistence and determination. “I’m putting out a lot of successes here, but we have had hundreds of failures—we’ve lost so much money on crazy stuff, but it takes years of dedication and drive and waking up and hustling all day long.
- Risk taking—“In your life, this is the time to start a company, move to New Zealand, do things… because once you get a mortgage and kids, you can’t do stuff like that. Your parents probably don’t want to hear this, but you guys need to take risks right now.”
Panelists at the Clarence E. Harris Entrepreneurial Forum included Michael Bradshaw of CO.LAB, Ryan Cox of HATponics, Nathan Derrick of SupplyHog, Josh Kapellusch of Mach Fuels, Russell Looper of Manufacturing Repair and Overstock, Inc., Kristina Montague, lead partner at The Jump Fund, Shelley Prevost of Lamp Post Group and Allison Reedy of CO.LAB.