The Rise of Custom Companies, An American Shipping Success Story

The Crazy Story Behind this Chicago Shipping Company

Since its inception, the United States has positioned itself as one of the few places in the world where someone can start out with nothing and, through hard work and effort, build something that is truly amazing. In the world of shipping and logistics, Custom Companies is a prime example of this phenomenon. During the more than 30 years since it was established, Custom Companies has grown from a two-truck operation to a massive organization with operations spanning the globe. It all goes back to the vision of its founder and CEO, Perry Mandera, who continues to lead his company to new heights of success.


Humble Beginnings and Large Goals

When Custom Companies was founded in 1986, Perry Mandera couldn’t have predicted just how successful his little firm would become. Back then, the company, which was originally located in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, boasted just two trucks. Through the years, however, more and more services were added to the company’s repertoire. As additional acquisitions were made over time, Custom Companies’ lineup of services continued to expand. Perhaps without even intending to, Perry Mandera had founded a company that would become a pioneer in the world of full-service transportation services.

Looking back to 1986, when Custom Companies was a simple two-truck operation, it’s incredible to consider how much the company’s reach has expanded through the years. Today, the full-service transportation company boasts an inventory of more than 2,000 pieces of equipment across the United States. It is headquartered in Northlake, Illinois, which is part of the greater Chicago area. The Chicago headquarters include a 500,000-square-foot facility with 400 dock doors. To ensure exceptional shipping and logistics management across the U.S., Custom Companies also operates a 250,000-square-foot facility out of Santa Fe Springs, California. Today, the company clears more than $200 million in sales per year, and it is widely regarded as one of the most reliable full-service transportation firms in the nation.


30 Years of Service

Custom Companies’ roster of services has grown steadily throughout its more than 30 years of operation. Top examples of services that are currently offered by Custom Companies of Chicago include:

  • dedicated contract cartage
  • domestic and international air freight
  • intermodal services
  • direct mail distribution services
  • hot shot services
  • logistics management
  • expedited ground services
  • full and partial truckload services

The company also has more than 2,000 pieces of machinery and equipment across the country. Its inventory includes flat-bed trucks, dry vans and temperature-controlled vans and trucks.


Perry Mandera, The Founder

To say that Custom Companies paved the way for the current full-service transportation industry would be a bit of an understatement. Back when it was founded by Perry Mandera, the idea of a company that handled every aspect of the transportation process was unheard of. Even Mandera didn’t set out to revolutionize the industry, but revolutionize it he did. With distribution centers in 33 major markets across the U.S., a fleet of trucks and other equipment, and massive shipping warehouses in Chicago and California, Custom Companies can guide customers’ products from storage to shipping to delivery. All the while, the customer is continually apprised of the situation and can check on the status of their inventory at any time.

One crucial way in which Custom Companies has expanded its lineup and grown so substantially and continually has been through strategic acquisitions. It all started in the late 90s, when the company acquired CDN Logistics, an over-the-road carrier. With the acquisition of Custom Global Logistics in 2001, Custom Companies expanded its offerings to include air freight. Refrigerated and flatbed service came along with the acquisition of ATS and Circle W—both in 2012. Finally, the 2015 acquisition of Tri Air Transportation allowed Custom Companies to expand and strengthen its air freight offerings.


Advancing the Industry with Technology

Another thing that has really helped Custom Companies to stand out from the competition is its deft use of technology. From its inception, the company has invested considerable time and resources into technologies that improve its operations and that provide in-depth information to its customers. A great example of the kind of technology that Custom Companies relies on is its Cheetah Dispatch software. Using a unique, paperless barcode, the software allows clients to track inventory from storage through shipping to delivery.

Of course, technology alone doesn’t fully explain Custom Companies’ ability to keep its clients in the loop. More importantly, the company has control over the entire logistics chain, and this uniquely positions it to provide more detailed and timely information. This control has also allowed Custom Companies to rank consistently among the fastest logistics and shipping companies in the United States. While other companies have to reach out to third parties for information along the way, Custom Companies enjoys complete control over the process. At any step along the way, a client can quickly and easily determine the status of their inventory or shipment.


Community at Heart

It is also important to note that Custom Companies has an exceptional reputation for customer service. This is largely because of the incredible technologies that it uses to keep clients in the loop. One of the biggest complaints that clients have about full-service transportation companies is being left hanging regarding the status of deliveries and the like. Through innovative online technologies, Custom Companies puts clients in the driver’s seat, allowing them to check the current status of their inventory at any time and from anywhere—they just need an internet connection and a device with internet connectivity.

Custom Companies generates more than $200 million per year in sales, but the company doesn’t hoard its profits. Ever since it was founded in the late 1980s, the Chicago-area company has gone to great lengths to give back to the local community (Bloomberg). In particular, Custom Companies proudly sponsors many local youth sports teams. Its founder and CEO, Perry Mandera, is also a philanthropist, and he and his family give generously to many causes. The company has done exceptionally well, and its founder and employees sincerely enjoy giving back whenever and however they can.

Finally, Custom Companies has a corporate culture that makes everyone on the team feel important. Team spirit is incredibly strong across the company, and people often end up spending their entire careers there. This supportive environment is further enhanced by a “get it done” attitude, which is shared by everyone in the organization—from the top all the way down to entry-level personnel. In its early days, the get it done mentality helped to distinguish the firm from competitors. Today, it continues to foster an environment of continual growth and improvement. There’s no doubt that Custom Companies will continue to revolutionize the full-service transportation industry for a long time to come.

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