Published February 17, 2009
Volume 17, Number 2

With Alliance Transportation, Founder Bret Erickson Shifts into Heavy-Haul Equipment
Move from Home Mortgages to Logistics Uncovers Surprising Similarities Between the Two Businesses

Bret Erickson is transitioning from the mortgage business to logistics.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

At first glance, home mortgages and transporting freight might seem as different as chalk and cheese. But the two actually have much in common. That out-of-the-box connection propelled Bret Erickson to shutter his mortgage brokerage business and leap into the more hospitable world of logistics on April 23, 2008. Now Erickson is CEO of Alliance Transportation Inc., specializing in heavy-haul equipment like tractors, bulldozers, and trucks.

“I had a mortgage company at 5990 Stoneridge Drive for five years, and I saw the defusing of the mortgage market,” Erickson relates. “I knew some people in the freight business, and after research I found that even with a different vocabulary, it was very similar to the mortgage arena.”

How are they alike?  A mortgage broker finds out what the homebuyer’s needs are, then goes to his vendor list and tries to make the best match at the best rate, Erickson explains. A logistics specialist does a similar thing for shippers that need to move a load. “For the mortgage, you need to know the client’s credit score, the property value, if the loan is interest only, etc. In trucking you need to know the item dimensions, weight, and so forth, and the type of trailer, whether flat bed, step deck, or van.”  Special dispatch software helps Alliance Transportation make the most appropriate match between the load and the vehicle, but in-depth attention to a myriad of details—ranging from the item’s shape to whether state regulations require a pilot car as an escort—is also critical.

Prospects have been receptive to cold calls from Alliance’s sales staff, Erickson reports.  “Providing a service like ours can generate repeat business almost instantly,” he remarks. “Clients might start off with a load once a month, trying you out. That business can become heavy volume, with three or four quotes a day.”

Erickson credits his entrepreneurial nature for the ability to discern the parallels between divergent businesses. This is not the first time it’s happened. He started his career as a recruiter, working for the nascent Netscape, Cisco, and other early-stage companies, where he developed “fairly substantial” revenue-generating business models. Then, “when the dot-bomb hit,” he transferred his skills to the mortgage arena, growing Erickson Financial to five branches before the economy shifted.

Scanning the horizon for a patch of blue sky, Erickson became convinced of the long-term opportunity in transportation. As an essential service, “the trucking business will survive,” he affirms. “Fuel price increases might have to be passed on to retail customers, but goods must still get delivered.” His optimism is bolstered by an abiding business philosophy: “If you offer quality, integrity, and service, the money will come.” 

What clinched the birth of Alliance Transportation was Erickson’s ability to establish a partnership with an auction house that sells off large equipment. In addition to a steady stream of customers, the arrangement generates immediate revenue, a big help in balancing cash flow, he points out.

Still two months shy of its first anniversary, Alliance now has a staff of eight employees, all of whom, like Erickson, feel very positive about the prospects of the new business. For more information about Alliance Transportation, visit www.alliancetransinc.com.


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