Description: Unishippers has grown into the largest reseller of complete shipping services in the country, with a long history of helping entrepreneurs build their dreams in an industry that never goes out of style. Opportunities: Franchises available throughout the United States. Business Type: Franchise. Minimum Cash Required: $75,000. Training Provided: Yes. Home-based: Yes. SBA-Approved: Yes.
Interview with Chip Baranowski of Unishippers
It's All In The Family For The Siebers
Bill and Wanda Sieber have six children, all of whom have worked in their shipping business at one time or another. For the Siebers, Unishippers is the quintessential family affair, right down to the building where their office is located - Wanda’s family, who had a strong merchant background in the area dating back to 1900, owned it. “Our office is in what was the family flat above my grandpa’s hardware store,” says Wanda. Bill says that one of his children in particular is enthusiastic about carrying on the franchise and has expressed an interest in taking it over some day. “I told him we’ll talk more about it after college,” says Bill.
This year the Siebers are celebrating their 15th anniversary as owners of the Green Bay franchise. Bill’s inspiration to become a franchisee came when a friend shared a magazine featuring Unishippers founder Ken Draper on the cover, pictured next to his Ferrari. “My friend had money and no equity, and I had equity and no money" recalls Bill. “So we bought the franchise as a partnership,” he explains. Bill and Wanda bought out that partner in 1993 and underwent an expansion in 2006, including the hiring of additional sales people.
The family that keeps the business running smoothly and growing each year consists of Christian, 23; Betsy, 21; Luke, 19; Sam, 17; Louisa, 15; and Eleanor, 12.The two oldest children attend Brigham Young University and did telemarketing from school and from home during their breaks. Luke works the freight desk, but will leave on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in October. Sam is the IT guy, putting together rate comparison proposals and fixing anything related to technology. Louisa handles proof of delivery and last, but not least, Eleanor, 12, does invoicing folding and cleans the office with Louisa. The Siebers also employ two full-time sales people and an additional freight person.
Bill and Wanda both grew up in the Green Bay area. Bill worked in the computer sales industry and music business, which is where he met Wanda. He earned a degree in classical guitar performance from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Wanda works as a composer and producer of religious-based musicals for community theatre. She has also created DVD and audio recordings of the productions.
“I met Wanda in a hotel lounge,” recalls Bill. “She was the lead vocalist and keyboardist for a band that was playing and I was a classical guitarist out of work. Her band needed a lead guitar player - and the rest is history.” Bill joined the band on December 10, 1980, and he and Wanda went on their first date on New Year’s Eve.
“He asked me to marry him so fast and so often that I finally told him to stop,” says Wanda. After two years she finally said “Yes.” What made her change her mind? “If he saw a better way of doing things, then he was willing to change,” says Wanda. “I saw that as a sign he would only continue to improve.”
In addition to their partnership in life and in Unishippers, Bill and Wanda share a faith-based relationship. Their membership in the LDS Church is “a way of life, not just going to church,” says Bill. Bill was born and raised LDS, but became inactive for a while. He became active again around the time he was dating Wanda and she decided to join the church.
Bill and Wanda attribute their franchise success to the Unishippers business model. “It’s a fool-proof plan and a great recipe for success,” says Wanda. “The clout that comes from working with a nationwide entity rather than existing as an independent broker is phenomenal. If you work the plan, the plan works.” Bill adds that there has never been a better time to be a Unishippers franchisee. “The company offers so many shipping services — there’s something in our suite of services for everyone.”
For the Siebers, working the plan means purchasing leads from Unishippers lead generation service, MarketSmart. Those leads are put in a UONE campaign from which the sales reps make initial calls, screening out those who are not RCAs. Then they make face-to-face visits with the best prospects.
As a married couple working together, how do Bill and Wanda succeed at not stepping on each other’s toes? Bill handles operations and Wanda manages sales. They like working together and wouldn’t have it any other way. “Bill does a very good job of meeting my needs and is very responsive and supportive,” says Wanda. “We handle challenges at work the same way we handle them at home,” says Bill. “Unishippers engulfs us…it’s the very fabric of what we do.” The Siebers, however, have agreed to not talk about business on Sundays.
Bill says he’s motivated to be successful by the prospect of being able to turn the franchise over to a family member in six or seven years, and take regular distributions. The pursuit of excellence motivates Wanda.
“Our goal is to become indispensable to our customers,” says Bill. “By providing superior customer service, we will be successful in dealing with people who are our current customers.” Wanda needs more than money to be motivated and looks to help people solve their shipping problems. “If I can improve someone’s life by helping them solve a problem, then I’m satisfied. Being of service is a great feeling. You can’t put a price on goodwill.”
Bill and Wanda agree that this time in their life is the right time to be focused on Unishippers. “When we turn on our energies and work the plan the franchise responds beautifully,” Wanda concludes.
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