Home » Front » Family-owned Black business sees employee satisfaction as key to success

Local packaging company rebounds, expands following economic crisis

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Eighth in a series

 

Joseph Wallace last week told the MSR that his business, Independent Packing Services, Inc. (IPSI), is “doing six figures” in annual revenues. Wallace is president of IPSI, one of several local Black-owned businesses that employ many workers, in his case “just under 50 employees.”

He believes it is the only Black-owned packaging and crating firm in the nation, but he quickly points out, “I don’t necessarily look at [it] as being a minority business or a trailblazer. I would look at it as the type of product we deliver in this

Joseph Wallace

Joseph Wallace

region; we’re definitely at the top of the food chain of delivering heavy industrial design and packaging to our clients. I’m very proud of my ethnicity, but that’s not how I think in terms of my business.”

IPSI is a transport packaging firm started by his father in 1976, who according to Wallace “has been in business for himself since the age of 26.

“We design and manufacture transport packaging — customized crating for anything from fine artwork to heavy electronics to heavy industrial equipment” — for major commercial customers in the medical, government, transportation and industrial industry, explains the three-year president. “Almost 100 percent of our business is business-to-business transactions, and we work with companies such as General Mills.”

His involvement in IPSI “just happened,” continues Wallace. “Being a son working [there] in high school, in college, and in summers and breaks, I was very familiar with how the business operated and a lot of the needs and processes. The company was in the position to be able to grow as I was getting out of college. When I graduated from college, I was able to be put in place and be able to use that family work equity — work at a lower rate than someone else coming in off the street.

“We’re tied to manufacturing, so as manufacturing goes down, that of course is going to affect our revenue,” continues Wallace, who recalls some tough times back in 2008 when one client had an 80-percent decrease in sales. “You can imagine how that would impact our revenue — so basically our revenues followed [a similar drop].

“It was difficult times, but our employees all pulled together and came up with a nice strategy on how to build our market share, and we implemented that. I think we’ve rebounded much more quickly than some of our competitors due to the resourcefulness of our employees that banded together and made that happen.

“With the [economic] conditions and the amount of competitors in the market, we feel that we have a very good market share,” says Wallace. “The market share that we [have] is typically at the high end. I think we have more difficult jobs and a good strategic plan in continuing to capture our market share.”

Whether good economic times or bad, “My family and business philosophy is how do we provide more to our employees and give them benefits” such as health insurance, notes Wallace. “Right now our family owns Independent Packing Services, and we have an environmental consulting business that also does radiation and emergency spill response, and a site characterization company that does land surveying to soil testing.”

Wallace suggests a successful business person’s top goal “is making sure that your employees are aware of what that vision and mission is, and that you are moving your organization forward with that in mind.

“Our success really comes from the assistance we’ve received from other organizations and other people that have mentored myself or our entire family in business for us to be able to grow from three individuals to just under 50 [employees]. [These] organizations have tremendously helped our business and our family grow and [become] able to give back to the community.”

Located in Burnsville, Wallace believes “there is tremendous support [from the Black community]” for his firm. “I think the other part of the piece is really getting the word out and making sure that everybody is aware of the resources out there. There are a lot of individuals who are willing to help if you just ask. It’s just making sure that people are aware that it is OK to ask.

“As a community, how do we help and support each other in moving forward? How do we do more business-to-business with each other instead of sending out those revenue dollars somewhere else? We have to bring value and be competitive.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected].

 

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