20 years ago, Ayal Latz was selling his heart out.
The young entrepreneur was walking the exhibit halls of trade shows handing out business cards, buying ad space and cold calling every lead he could get his hands on. “To this day, I still know just about every area code in the U.S.,” jokes Latz, as he reflects on his selling days. “It’s almost a game when I see a phone number pop up on the caller id to guess the location of the caller.”
It should come as no surprise that Latz has an affinity for games. After all, the product he sold was one – a dinosaur game, titled “Survival or Extinction.” It was the signature item of a small line of educational products that his family business, Latz Chance Games had invented. “We still have a few of the games left here at the office,” says Latz. “We consider them vintage and have enough lying around to keep them from going extinct.”
Though it isn’t moving off the shelves much these days, the game did garner 11 awards within the toy industry in the early ’90s. Latz was charged with selling the product into retail stores, but he also took ownership in running the company’s small warehouse. It wasn’t long after managing the warehouse operations that Latz realized several inefficiencies. “We tried a few third parties to outsource the shipments and other processes, but we just couldn’t land on an outstanding partner,” he says.
Even though Latz kept calling on retailers, something in the back of his mind kept telling him it was time for a change. “The challenges on the operations side really piqued my interest,” he says. “I started to realize then where my passion actually fell.” Soon after that realization, Latz decided to apply his sales tactics to use by dialing up a few fellow toy company leaders. After some discussions and a handful of meetings, Latz had cobbled together enough clients to officially start a business and in 2001, a2b Fulfillment was officially born.
The company was off to a terrific start with several new clients. With most of its clientele being retail focused, a2b’s services revolved around business-to-business. However, in a few short years, everything changed.
About ten-to-fifteen years ago, Latz had a chance encounter with a marketer selling “As Seen on TV” products. “They wanted a local direct response fulfillment partner, so we jumped on it. It was high energy and very complex, but we absolutely loved it,” he says. “Plus, it was the perfect opportunity to expand our offerings into new areas. Rather than just serving B2B and retail, we were now multi-dimensional.”
Since taking the dive into the direct-to-consumer space, a2b has been on an aggressive growth track. The company now operates over 680,000 square feet of warehouse space in Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Canada (with plans to add a northeast location – stay tuned!). In 2011, a contact center was added within its corporate headquarters to complement the fulfillment offering with consumer customer care services, creating a holistic, consistent, and exceptional customer experience.
“We align with clients that are a good fit and that share the same business philosophies that we do. This creates a lot of mutual value and is a great recipe for success for both parties.” – Ayal Latz
So, what does Latz attribute to the business growth? “We built this business on the concept of same-day shipping,” Latz says. “Years ago, this was unique and we were pioneers. Today we really just focus on being a great partner. We align with clients that are a good fit and that share the same business philosophies that we do. This creates a lot of mutual value and is a great recipe for success for both parties.”
Now in its 20th year in operation, the future certainly looks bright for the toy salesman turned fulfillment pro. “You read every day about the changes that are affecting this industry,” Latz says. “We maintain our vibrant culture and constantly work to improve and stay ahead of the curve.”
As for his future in sales? Latz will always be involved, but he now has a team that helps prospective clients through the process. “Thankfully we have some very talented people on that,” laughs Latz. “But being in the trenches and seeing what it takes to market a business is something I will always cherish. Every time I talk with a new business, I can personally relate to the difficulties they are experiencing in trying to balance sales and operations. As I tell so many people, ‘You will be hard pressed to find anyone that got into sales and fell in love with the logistics process.’ But, it’s been an incredible ride and I’m grateful that I can now be that resource marketers are seeking to make their jobs a lot easier.”