#5: freightquote.com

Having the right technology, the ability to solve cash flow issues, and a self-sufficient staff prove to be the secrets of this company's success.

Company:freightquote.com, an Overland Park, Kansas, online freight comparison and booking service
Founder: Timothy Barton
Began: August 1998
2002 Sales: $46.2 million

When did you know you'd made it?
Timothy Barton: When we grew out of our office space for the third time.

When did you think you'd blown it?
Barton: Many of our early hires were high-level salespeople from my prior company. Due to the typical delays in launching a Web site, they were on the payroll for four to six weeks with nothing to sell and [were] probably questioning the whole endeavor.

freightquote.comWhat's been your biggest challenge?
Barton: Early on, technology was an obstacle and proved challenging. The original hardware/software platform of WindowsNT, Oracle 8.0, DECAlpha servers and Cisco routers and firewalls was highly unstable when linked together. A migrations to Microsoft SQL on Dell Enterprise Servers, running NT/2000 proved significantly more stable and scaleable.

Managing cash flow was another challenge. Freight companies typically don't assess finance/late charges and thus don't collect their money very quickly. This had trained the shipping community to pay for their services at leisure. In response to this, freightquote.com initiated an electronic billing option that allowed customers to pay online via a secure transfer of funds.

What's your business advice for others?
Barton: Hire self-sustaining people so that as you expand, you can hire creative managers who can focus on growth and opportunities instead of hiring "babysitters" to manage people.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
Barton: We didn't even exist six years ago, so a 10-year plan is difficult to envision. With the growth we're experiencing, it's very challenging to create a forecast for just one year. As an entrepreneur, freightquote.com may outgrow me. But with or without me, the company will be self-sufficient.

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