From a few trucks, Verst Logistics now is 1,200 strong

Verst Group Logistics started in 1966 with a few trucks and a small warehouse operation.

Today the Walton-based company operates 4.2 million sq. ft. of space in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Indiana providing warehousing, transportation and packaging services for industrial and consumer product companies.

For Paul Verst, CEO of the 1,200-employee company, the growth is a point of not only professional, but also family pride. The 35-year veteran of the firm assumed the chief executive spot 21 years ago when his father, founder William Verst, entered semiretirement.

Other family members are involved in the company, too. Paul Verst’s brother-in-law, 30-year-veteran Jim Stadtmiller, serves as chief financial officer. Several nephews and cousins and an uncle work there. And all six of Paul Verst’s siblings have been part of the operation at some point.

Ownership of the company lies with Paul Verst, his parents and his siblings.

Revenue for Verst Group, which counts grocery, beverage, retail and paper firms among its clients, is about $144 million per year, according to Business Courier research.

“My lifelong goal and dream was to take over for Dad and run our incredible family business” Verst said.  “It is with pride and the support of our family members, employees and customers that we have been able to take what Dad started and create the successful family business it is today.”

Question: In a family business, how do you separate personal from business?

It was not always easy for us to do this, as the lines between family, ownership and business sometimes overlap. About 10 years ago we hired a family business counselor who helped us learn when it is appropriate to discuss each of these issues and in what settings. This has helped our communication with each other.

Question: Do you have specific guidelines on when to bring a family member into the company versus when to stick with outside hires?

For any family member who wishes to work in a management position, the family member must have a college degree or equivalent, must work outside of our company for three years, be successful with a job promotion, there must be an opening in our company, the family member must apply and interview like all other candidates. And at the end of the day, if the family member is as qualified as the other final candidate, the family member gets the position. Also, any family member at any time may work for the family business in an hourly position without any of the qualifications listed above.

Question: Do you have a successor in mind to lead the company?  If so, is that person a family member?

We are in the final stages of succession planning for the executive-level positions at our company and have developed both a short- and long-term plan for those positions, including mine. The short-term successor is not a family member but has many years of success within senior leadership position.

Question: What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment has been the ability to build a team of highly engaged and motivated people who love to work in our family business. Also, to take what Dad started, nurture and grow it into the successful family business it is today, providing for 1,200 families, has been a proud moment for me.

Question: What advice would you give to other business owners hoping to achieve long-term success?

Hire people who fit well culturally into your business. You can hire the brightest people in the world but if they do not fit in with the company culture, the company may not achieve the greatness it seeks. Also, share your vision with all employees so they better understand where you want to go, and they will therefore be better able to take you there.

Question: What issues are facing the logistics industry right now?

We see more and more customers who look to logistics companies to provide creative logistics solutions to their challenges.  Those who can will thrive and those who cannot will find it difficult to survive.  Like many industries, new governmental regulations, increased health care costs, high fuel costs and finding qualified workers continue to present challenges as well as opportunities.

Question: What do you see as your company’s biggest opportunity?

We are blessed to have several strategic advantages within our company.  We own our assets such as transportation equipment and state of the art warehouses.  We also have a contract packaging division in a niche business that ranks No. 1 in the country in market share in its specific field of expertise.  Providing flexibility to our customers gives us a great advantage in the marketplace.

Question:  What do you see as the company’s biggest challenge?

As our senior management team has been together leading the company for many years and will probably do so for another five years or so, providing the training and opportunities for our future leaders continue to be our most pressing challenge.

Question:  How do you maintain work-life balance?

Certainly not as well I would hope to.  I am moving up to chair of our national warehouse trade association, the International Warehouse Logistics Association in March so we have gone through a restructuring of the senior management team to allow me more time to devote to the IWLA.  This will also allow members of our team to expand their skill sets and show us who has the abilities to advance within the company.  We have three children who will be spread out in three different states later this year (Florida, Hawaii and Ohio) and we have a house in Northern Michigan.  My wife and I are in the process right now of discussing how we manage to keep in contact with our three kids while maintaining a healthy marriage.