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Ted Alling

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Serial entrepreneur Ted Alling is part of the coalition of enterprising spirits behind Access America Transport and Lamp Post Group, both of which he helped bring to success before age 35. After earning his BSc. in Business Management in 2000, Alling took a position in Outside Sales at CH Robinson. After two years at CH Robinson, Alling found himself increasingly dissatisfied. Tired of watching things be done in ways he could see could stand improvement, Alling made a bold move. In a sales call with James H. Large, the father of a fraternity mate and owner of a building-supply company, Alling opted to pitch his own business idea in lieu of CH Robinson’s services. Large was intrigued, and Access America was born.

In 2002, partnering with college friends Barry Large and Allan Davis, Alling set up shop in the back room of Key-James Brick, the building company owned by Large’s father. Calling on Large’s banking connections, the young co-founders eschewed taking on private investors in favor of standard bank financing. In the early years, the company essentially operated as Key-James’ logistics arm, incubating under the wing of a company that was its customer, lender and landlord. They set up an unusual business model focused on solving a core freight transport problem; standard trucking only makes money on one branch of the trip. Setting up a network of brokers to act as go-betweens for shippers and trucking companies, Access America focused on finding freight for both legs of the trip. Working with both small trucking operations and large transport conglomerates, the third-party logistics company was able to generate money for truckers on return trips while generating commission for themselves.

Four years later, Access America had paid off its debt and moved out from under the Key-James Brick umbrella. Now an entirely independent entity, they continued a trajectory of rapid growth. By 2014, they were working with approximately 8,000 customers throughout North America and employed a staff of around 500 across nine offices in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado. In just twelve years, they had reached over $500 million in revenue.

In 2010, Alling, Large and Davis founded Lamp Post Group, a venture capital firm and tech business incubator. Looking to help foster Chattanooga’s growing start-up community, the company took its name from both C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books and the TV series Lost, both of which feature lampposts as guideposts to the characters. By 2015, the company was fostering over 15 growing companies, including startups that caused buzz at Miller Lite’s Tap the Future event, the Southland Conference, and acclaimed accelerator Y Combinator. The firm also works to foster entrepreneurship amongst youth, sponsoring the Chattanooga Theil Community of visionary under-20s and running Lamp Post University, a summer program that gives high school students the opportunity to simulate founding a startup.

In 2014, the partners sold Access America to Coyote Logistics, forming a $2 billion transportation powerhouse. The deal, which was valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, allowed Alling, Large and Davis to focus their attention on Lamp Post Group. Alling fills the role of “pump up captain,” helping instill faith and confidence in the growing Lamp Post community.

Companies and Investments

Lamp Post Group (Partner, Co-founder), Access America (Co-founder, CEO), CH Robinson (Outside Sales), Price Waiter (Board Member)

Lessons Learned

I have found that the happiest and most successful people I know have followed the same theme in life and used one specific tool. They are following their hearts and have written out specific goals. When I say successful, I am not just talking about money or fame. I’m talking about people who do what they love with excellence You know them: the unbelievable teacher that kids would follow through fire, the waiter at a restaurant that is so passionate about their restaurant’s food, the first generation college graduate nurse that cares more about your health than their own or the startup entrepreneur that would literally work 20 hours a day for their employees and business.

It is no accident that they have are who they are and have become who they have become. They have written out goals and are actively pursuing them. I have been doing this practice yearly for the past 15 years. In college, I set my first yearly goals: five year goals and ten year goals. I humbly tell you, that I was fortunate enough to smash all of them. (Ted Alling on setting and pursuing goals, on his blog.)

Every relationship that you want to maintain requires an investment. You have to pay a price with your time to keep the relationship going. You cannot one-sidedly demand things from your relationships without making a return investment. The relationship has to be nurtured from all sides.

If I continue to demand things from my kids or business partners without “watering” our relationship, it will not bear fruit. If I continue to tell my kids to “take out the trash,” “do your homework,” and “be quiet,” they will, at some point, majorly rebel from me because I am not working on our relationship and am instead acting like a dictator. I need to be taking interest in their Minecraft games, going to every sporting event, and making them feel special.

The same principle goes into business. If I just expect my coworkers to grind it out every day without any investment from me, the relationship will die. They will know by my actions that I do not value them and am not giving the extra effort required for our relationship. (Ted Alling on fostering and investing in relationships, on his blog)

For years, my wife Kelly and I have been committed to having at least one “date night” a week with each other. It is such a great investment with each other away from the kids to reconnect and talk about our following week’s schedule and just “check in” with each other. We believe if our marriage is strong, it is going to have a massively positive effect on our kids.

We believe the same can be said for business partners. If neither Barry, Allan, nor I have lunch plans, we just know we are eating lunch together. We have literally gone to lunch every day together for our entire business careers. We usually don’t plan on a place to eat; we just start walking and I throw out like 5 different places and Barry usually decides. Allan literally doesn’t care where we eat. It is just our little ritual.

At lunch, we tend to laugh a lot, talk about our companies, talk about TV shows, and wish we were Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. I can actually remember specific lunches where we made some of our biggest business decisions. I believe what we are really doing is probably the most important thing in business. We are building our relationships with each other over breaking bread. We are forging our lives together and understanding business isn’t about facts and numbers. It is about understanding people. When tough decisions come—and they come often—we know each others’ hearts and want to make the best decision for the company. Much like Kelly and I investing in each other, investing in your business partners is the most important facet of your company. (Ted Alling on investing in your business partners, on his blog)

It wasn’t easy building Access America, though, even with those early breaks and support from other local businesses. Barry, Allan and I were lucky that our natural strengths and tendencies in business are completely different. Barry is amazing on the finance side, Allan conquered operations, and I was in charge of rocking sales. We were fortunate to have built a foundation of trust at Samford during our Sigma Nu fraternity days. That made it easier when we had to make the tough calls or didn’t see eye to eye as the company grew. It was also a valuable relationship to have when one of our egos was getting too big. When everyone knows where the others came from and the journey you’ve been on, it’s easier to keep each other in check. But when it comes down to it, despite the hard work we’ve put in and the decisions we’ve made, we’re still just three incredibly lucky guys. (Ted Alling on constructive, complementary co-founder relationships, in City Scope Magazine)

Inspiring Quotes

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

Mark Twain

When you focus on being a happy and motivated person, that is who you will be.

Steve Chandler

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isnt being said.

Peter F. Drucker

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Albert Einstein

The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ted Alling's Quotes

Every relationship that you want to maintain requires an investment.

Ted Alling

In the end, even after good days and bad days, you’re still on a team together.

Ted Alling

When things go wrong, the leader should take the blame. When things go right, the credit has to be given to the team.

Ted Alling

All our best friends in the world are at this company. Its a family.

Ted Alling

Compete with yourself. Cooperate with others

Ted Alling

Influential Books