Jeffrey Simmons didn’t start out wanting to be a lawyer. He envisioned a political career, but after serving as a congressional intern for several years, he decided he could do more good more often as an attorney. In the first few years of his practice at a law firm, Simmons discovered what has been his professional passion for thirty years: transportation law.
Pursuing that passion has not only made him an expert in the field, but it also led him to becoming the first general counsel for GlobalTranz Enterprises Inc., which is among the top freight brokerage and third-party logistics (3PL) companies in the US.
“I fell in love with the work almost immediately,” Simmons recalls. “The transportation industry is dynamic, covers a fascinating range of issues, and has presented me with tremendous opportunities—such as joining GlobalTranz.”
He worked with the company as outside counsel for two years, but its exponential growth required having in-house counsel to keep pace. In addition to organic growth that has exceeded 20 percent annually and a yearly volume of more than 1.5 million shipments, an aggressive acquisition strategy was also taking form.
In one six-month period shortly after he joined as general counsel, Simmons was involved in acquiring three different companies—Global Freight Source, Logistics Planning Services, and Worthington Logistics—that added substantial top-line growth and annual revenue. The transactions provided increased capacity and additional services, such as managed transportation services and expertise in handling oversized and heavy-haul projects.
“The freight brokerage industry is very fragmented, with about 30 percent of the business being handled by the top ten firms,” he says. “The remaining 70 percent presents opportunities for growth. Our goal is to be a $2 billion company within the next two years.”
Aside from his experience and expertise in anticipating problems, spotting sources of potential risk, and recommending practical solutions, Simmons is successful because he was considered a partner and part of senior leadership right from the start. CFO Renee Krug, who recruited him, and CEO Bob Farrell, who joined GlobalTranz at the same time as Simmons, have both supported his initiatives that have helped nurture buy-in throughout the company, Simmons says.
For example, among the more than fifteen thousand carriers that the company utilizes, 10 percent had been in operation for less than a year. Simmons discovered that a significant number of issues could be attributed to that small group. As a result, he implemented a requirement that the operational age for all carriers must be at least one year.
“Our reputation is tied to the performance of the carriers we select for our customers, but there was some pushback that cutting the numbers could limit our capacity,” Simmons says. “Because senior leadership supported my decision, we were able to meet ongoing demand, leverage our more established carriers, and significantly reduce issues.”
Simmons is dedicated to acting as a guardian of the company and aggressively encouraging growth and revenue. He describes it as finding a balance between enabling business objectives and fast-paced growth while also protecting against risk and ensuring that GlobalTranz implements industry best practices.
“I never want to be viewed as an obstructionist lawyer who’s just saying ‘no,’” he says. “To paraphrase our CEO Bob Farrell, my goal is always to find the best way to move the freight.”
One of the ways that GlobalTranz differentiates itself is through its technology, people, and services. It invests millions of dollars to develop proprietary applications that automate functions, increase customers’ ease of use and visibility, and improve overall efficiency throughout customers’ supply chains.
Among the company’s monetized IP is GTZship, which Simmons describes as “Expedia for shippers.” GTZship provides shippers online access to view routes, rates, limitations of liability, and book their own carriers for less-than-truckload shipments. It also shows shipment locations and delivery times.
GTZcommand is a suite of internal systems that manages rates, available carriers, shipping lanes, special instructions, and forecasts capacity, demand, and pricing. GTZdemand is a marketing tool that manages GlobalTranz’s customer base and helps avoid channel conflicts with outside agents that may already be serving a potential customer.
One of Simmons’s most recent priorities has been expanding the company’s international presence, which already includes operations in Canada. He has been working on the formation of GlobalTranz MX, the company’s new Mexican subsidiary. The entity was requested by one of GlobalTranz’s largest clients, which is opening a manufacturing plant in Monterrey, Mexico, and wants to continue relying on the company to move freight to and from the US.
Simmons points out that once GlobalTranz MX is up and running, GlobalTranz anticipates it will help expand its customer base in Mexico and increase the scope of its international operations there and in other countries.
But Simmons is modest about his role in the company’s continued growth and excellent performance. He also emphasizes how important the contributions of his team and the company’s senior leadership have been to the business’ success.
“Getting on board with a company that’s on its way up like this has been a great opportunity,” he says. “It’s been tremendously fun and exciting and feels like I’m getting to ride on the coattails of some very talented people. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Off the Clock with Jeffrey Simmons
Jeffrey Simmons has been a volunteer as long as he has been a lawyer. He has mentored through the State Bar of Arizona Bar, is the current editor of The Transportation Lawyer journal, has participated in tenant/landlord clinics, is a past-chairman of the Conference of Freight Counsel, president-elect (2019–2020) of the Transportation Lawyers Association, and was once honored as the Top Pro Bono Lawyer in Arizona.
He believes it’s important to approach volunteering as seriously, ethically, and enthusiastically as paying clients. He goes by the philosophy: “If you’re too big to do the small things, you’re too small to do the big things.”
Photo: Courtesy of GlobalTranz