Picking up where I left off on my last post, the real challenge in making USPS happen for us wasn’t technical, operational, or financial, it was political.
I don’t know the history behind exactly how or why a place doesn’t receive mail delivery & pickup like our industrial park, but early on we learned just how hard of a thing that is to get changed. Once we had decided that USPS would be hugely beneficial for us and for our customers, we realized that we might have to go to extreme measures to make it happen. Among the things we considered: threatening to break our lease and leave, paying a transportation service to pick up our packages and bring them to the Post Office, purchasing our own truck to do the same, and pretty much any other wild scenario you can think of.
We knew it would take a lot to make it happen because we had tried previously. A few years ago we used a contact we had locally to find a rep to at least come to visit our park. In his own words, he just kept “running in to brick walls” every time he tried to get the USPS into the park. Ugh. Our plan was by early 2015 to start doing anything and everything we could to make it happen.
Until…the solution just fell right into our lap.
One day in October Mike sent me a Skype IM alerting me to the fact that our park had just emailed us all about the possibility of bringing the USPS to the park for both mail delivery and package pickup. Within minutes I wrote back. Within a few days I was in touch with the USPS rep who had decided it was her personal mission in life to break in to our industrial park(!). And within a few weeks she had come out to visit and assess the park, our business, and discuss all of the hurdles. With her persistence and the cooperation of a few key people locally, I became pretty confident it would happen, I just didn’t know when. When you’re dealing with several large bureaucratic organizations at the same time, particularly a governmental agency like the USPS, you don’t exactly expect things to move quickly. Our thought was maybe by mid-to-late 2015 we’d get our first pickup.
My plan after wrapping up Guest Checkouts just before Thanksgiving was to start slowly working on the USPS integration in December while also spending considerable time politicking for the pickup. I wasn’t planning on rushing because I thought that there was no way the USPS would move faster than I would. I figured I’d be on to other projects and then come back to this whenever they got their act together. Here’s a list of everything that needed to go happen:
- Rate integration with the USPS API
- Integration with our checkout process
- Updates to all of our policies and site copy
- Endicia integration at our shipping workstation to print postage
- New warehouse processes & training
- A daily pickup from the USPS
To our surprise, everything came together much sooner than anticipated and in December we were notified that we could start pickups in 2015. All of a sudden it went from relaxed work to trying to do a few months of work in one month. Unfortunately it just so happens that all of those things are primarily my responsibility, so while I had lots of support from the team the bulk of the work was on my plate. I came up with an aggressive schedule to make it happen, and we met our deadlines.
I certainly worked my tail off, but we also had a lot of help from Endicia and the team at USPS. There were almost no hiccups or issues that stalled our rapid rollout. It sounds unbelievable but it’s true. Some luck was involved, however I really think it was a byproduct of a lot of people wanting to make it happen – us, the USPS, Endicia, and the park. Everyone had a vested interest in our success because it would mean more business for everyone else if we worked out. And, so far, it’s been a smashing success. Not just logistically, but it’s really spurred some unplanned January growth. And growth in our slowest season sets up for some potentially monster growth later in the year.