This family-owned courier service was founded to offer outstanding service to customers and has kept to that mission throughout the growth of the company.
Central Illinois Courier (CIC) began as a “mom-and-pop” business run out of the home of Raymond and Kathleen Arnold. Shortly after they got married 34 years ago, Raymond began driving for Bankers Dispatch Company (BDC) on the weekends to earn some extra money. Soon thereafter, he became a full-time route driver, working his way up into the company’s management. BDC was bought and sold by several courier companies and eventually came to be called Pony Express. The Arnolds were transferred from Michigan to Illinois and became responsible for overseeing the company’s Peoria area operations. “After management retirements,” Kathleen Arnold said, “I began to hear on a daily basis that Pony doesn’t care about the customers anymore. So I told Raymond to give them somewhere else to go.” And that’s exactly what he did.
On July 1, 1997, the Arnolds started Central Illinois Courier out of their home. In the beginning, they used their own vehicles and bought a van to use for deliveries, paid for on their own personal credit cards. That September, in order to fulfill a contract to deliver John Deere parts at night for Lanter Delivery Systems, the Arnolds purchased a second extended van and box truck. In December of 1997, “we entered into negotiations with Lanter Delivery to become their agent and oversee their Peoria operations. We moved our operations from our home into their facilities at the Peoria airport,” Kathleen said.
As CIC continued to grow, they found themselves in desperate need of a dock and larger facility for the safety of both their drivers and customers’ products. To that end, in March of last year, Central Illinois Courier moved into its current location in East Peoria.
A Focus on Service
Because Central Illinois Courier was founded to better serve customers, service has remained the company’s primary focus as they pick up and deliver documents and freight on scheduled service routes throughout central Illinois. According to Kathleen, CIC’s service area reaches east to Danville, west to the Mississippi River and south to Jacksonville, Taylorville and Charleston. “Central Illinois Courier also has the ability to deliver expedited freight up to 8,000 pounds throughout the continental United States,” she noted.
Although not an exhaustive list, the company transports such items as office supplies, cash letters for banks, auto parts for retail businesses, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals for large pharmacy companies and documents for doctors, lawyers and most other businesses. They also deliver parts for John Deere, Ford, Toyota and Kia during the night on which orders are placed.
Because Central Illinois Courier is a family-owned and -operated business, Arnold explained that they are more personable and in touch with customers than their competitors. It is not unusual, she said, for her, Raymond or their son and expediting coordinator, Ben, to hop in a truck to make special pick-ups or deliveries when their customers need them.
Over time, it is CIC’s outstanding customer service that has caused the company to grow. Kathleen said that their customers are very loyal, spreading the word about the great service provided by Central Illinois Courier. “Word of mouth advertising,” she suggested, “can’t be bought.”
As with any growing company, new positions continue to be added. All businesses, including family-owned companies, need a strong core of personnel, and many times those people aren’t all family members. As to what sets Central Illinois Courier apart from others in their field, Arnold said “we pay our drivers better than our competitors, offer benefits and still have the lowest delivery charges.”
CIC has received a lot of business from new clients and has had to add a marketing position to their staff. One of the company’s biggest struggles has been getting over the mindset that the word courier refers only to one who delivers newspapers. Arnold said that, so far, Liz Boudreau, the company’s marketing/sales coordinator, has done a great job of getting the word out about their company. She, as well as all CIC employees, “continually try to educate the community of the process involved in Point A to Point B deliveries.”
Arnold explained that it’s more than just a pick-up here and a drop-off there. A wealth of information must accompany every package: full addresses of pick-up and drop-off points; when it will be ready to be shipped; the time by which it needs to be delivered; business hours and contact names and numbers for both locations; the package’s size, weight and piece count; and the list goes on.
Central Illinois Courier uses word of mouth to recruit new employees. Arnold said, “Our employees will tell their friends when we have an opening,” a testament to how well employees are treated at CIC. Only happy employees will refer friends. Arnold said CIC also utilizes peoriahelpwanted.com, an online job placement site, when looking to hire new employees. With this tool, “we can run a targeted ad listing hours, job requirements, rate of pay and benefits for an entire month for not much more than what a three-sentence ad that only ran for five days [in the newspaper] costs.”
These days, businesses are challenged to find employees committed to their organization and the customers they work for, and Central Illinois Courier is no different. But, Arnold noted, it is very rewarding, after finding those committed people, “to see the business grow from a home-based ‘mom-and-pop’ business to providing 50 people with the means to live fulfilling lives.”
Challenge and Change
As is true for many companies, circumstances outside of CIC’s control have affected their business. Arnold cited several examples of how some of their original services have recently become unnecessary. The Check 21 Act, a law which allows recipients of checks to convert them from physical documents to digital ones, thus, negating the need for the physical documents, has eliminated one part of Central Illinois Courier’s service. Arnold notes that they are no longer needed to “move encoded checks to the Federal Reserve Bank for processing and then back to the banks the next morning.”
Similarly, the technology that has advanced fax machines, specifically, enhancing the quality of printouts and enabling the machines to use regular paper instead of special fax paper, has also taken business away. “Lawyers’ and court documents can be sent by fax, and it is hard to tell which is the copy and which is the original. Now there is no need to deliver them by courier from location to location,” said Arnold.
As society advances, businesses must keep up, making changes to their operations when necessary. CIC plans to cater to the instant gratification our society demands by promoting the expediting part of their business. “More and more businesses are ordering just in time instead of paying for expensive warehousing. We are gearing up to be a key player in smaller just in time deliveries. We do not want to compete with the trucking industry and just move items from Point A to Point B locally. We see our industry becoming more on-demand moves instead of the typical regularly scheduled route structure that delivers to the same businesses daily,” Arnold explained.
When Raymond and Kathleen Arnold envisioned a new delivery company, they had thoughts of a small company that would service central Illinois and could be run and managed out of their home. What they ended up with is a courier company that serves all 48 continental United States. Kathleen said, “We may deliver to a wide area, but our heart is in Peoria." IBI