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September 12, 2018 1:15 PM, EDT

Brokerage Firm Tallgrass Pursues Growth Through Sales Agents

Damon Anderson and David Barnes Damon Anderson (left) and David Barnes during a photo shoot after receiving the Major Employer of the Year Award from the Shawnee Economic Development Council. (Tallgrass Freight Co.)

Damon Anderson quit his job as a freight broker because he was burned out.

After moving to a farmhouse outside of Leavenworth, Kan., and starting his own brokerage business, Anderson is now using his company, Tallgrass Freight Co., to help other freight brokers and sales agents go out on their own by providing technical support, plus insurance and fringe benefits that are usually available only from larger corporate entities.

Tallgrass Freight Co. logo

“I was a freight broker from 2005 to 2012 and worked my way up,” Anderson said in an interview with Transport Topics. “But I became disillusioned with the workload and the back office. If there was a problem with a load or a billing discrepancy, it was difficult to get those things taken care of.”

In growing his own business, Anderson soon realized that having a technology platform to handle transactions would be a key to supporting sales. He teamed up with David Barnes, an independent freight consultant, to develop a proprietary decision engine that, among other things, aggregates freight rates from a list of carrier partners and helps agents select providers based on price, service times and other factors.

In a company blog announcing the release of the decision engine, Barnes, who now serves as chief operating officer at Tallgrass, describes the significance of the venture.

“One of our early goals with Tallgrass was to transition from a freight broker to a technology company that brokers freight,” he said, “and the launch of our new decision engine is a big step toward fulfilling that goal.”

Another step is to bring on more sales agents, which can be achieved, in part, through acquisitions of independent freight agents.

The company completed its first acquisition in August with the purchase of Westport Business Group, a company started in 2010 by Jeremy Hill and Scott Ragan. Both Hill and Ragan will join the staff at Tallgrass as directors of truckload operations.

Two more acquisitions are being pursued with one expected to close by the end of the year, company officials said.

“Our organic growth has been tremendous,” Barnes said in a statement announcing the acquisition of Westport. “We’re projected to finish 2018 with 700% growth over our 2016 revenue and this gives us significant momentum going into 2019 during which we expect to again double our revenue.”

Gross revenue for Tallgrass has climbed from $4 million in 2016 to a projected $30 million in 2018 and, according to Barnes, could reach $100 million by 2021 through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth.

The company employs more than 60 people now in its home office in Shawnee, Kan., and has affiliations with 56 independent sales agents.