Festive banners fill the UST satellite space in the NEXT building as co-workers bounce from office to office. A wireless speaker playing Ed Sheeran sits on the floor against a wall labeled “98 Ventures.” The large graphic just went up, representing the nascent management services company that will now run and support UST and two newly formed sister companies: UST Select and Equip Fulfillment.
“It’s pretty amazing,” says former UST President, now 98 Ventures President Scott Moore. “Our year-to-date growth is 48% over last year. So, it required us to take a step back and look at infrastructure and figure out how we’re going to support all of these different operating models and entities.”
The answer was restructuring and birthing three new companies. UST Select will mimic UST’s logistical solutions business but serve clients who require a different framework for home deliveries. Equip Fulfillment will provide supplies to 450 trucking teams for UST and UST Select, as well as competitors. Meanwhile, UST’s C-suite has transitioned to 98 Ventures, where staff will provide executive oversight to all with legal, accounting, risk management, and human resources support.
Ambitious. Efficient. Booming. Not bad for a 21-year-old company that’s outgrown its initial, single-city beginning in Asheville, North Carolina, to work with clients across the United States. “We’ve expanded to more than 22 states and 70 locations,” Moore reveals. “This year, we’ve hired 54 new employees coast to coast. We have a heavy presence in the Southeast but locations as far west as California, and lots of locations in Texas.”
Backroom to the Boardroom
Moore’s childhood buddy, Scott Ramsey, founded UST to deliver big and bulky goods from furniture stores to customers’ homes. Back in Madison High days, the two started out together at Pearlman’s Furniture in Asheville, where they cleaned toilets and replaced light bulbs. After college, Moore, a fifth-generation lawman, was working as a sheriff’s deputy in southern Greenville County. He loved law enforcement, but Ramsey needed “someone he could trust” and convinced Moore’s wife to convince the deputy to come on board with UST.
“The company was expanding to a second location, and he needed a regional manager. So, we relocated to Charlotte,” the 42-year-old recalls. “We had about 12 employees then. Now we’ve got more than 1,000 employees and contract teams during peak parts of the year. It’s quite emotional because a lot of the team members who are here have been with me for years.”
As the company grew, so did Moore’s many roles. He eventually served UST as a vice president, chief administrative officer, and president before the creation of 98 Ventures at the end of July. At every step, he’s relied upon relationship skills he honed early on, carrying boxes and then a badge.
“My focus is on people,” he says. “The team I lead, I don’t specialize in any of those things. I don’t have a law degree, or accounting degree, or IT. But I’ve spent my career learning how to build a team. I’m intentional with that. I study it and try to read everything I can to understand how to do it better.”
Logistics Meets Innovation
Thousands of companies operate in the last-mile logistics industry, delivering appliances, furniture, and large electronics. UST is a middle-market player, servicing about 250 stores daily, with more than 1 million annual deliveries. Several years ago, managers cast a plan to grow beyond their longtime clients that include Ashley Furniture, American Signature Furniture, and Value City Furniture.
“The industry is constantly changing,” Moore explains. “For us to stay ahead of the curve, we knew we had to make some radical changes and radical initiatives.”
Initiatives included investing in technology. UST hired a team of developers and pumped $4.1 million into creating UST’s own logistics software platform. “Efficiency is key in every industry, but in ours, it’s critical,” Moore says. “We engineered all the integrations of mapping, dispatch, and more. Our software allows us to take all those data points in other areas of the business that typically went into a black hole, and do some predictive analytics and make better business decisions.”
The technology boost enabled UST to scale with big-box retailers and even engage e-commerce companies. Moore provides insight on this summer’s recent growth. “A lot of things we’d been working on for a number of years came in at the same time. We had major growth with an existing client, signed two new, very large clients, and it all happened within 60 days of each other.”
While the new clients wish to remain anonymous, it’s no secret 98 Ventures and its companies will need more office space. UST Select is currently listing more than 100 job openings, with 15-20 of those based in Greenville. Staff is already split between NEXT and 103 N. Main St. No matter where they move, Moore insists the company’s headquarters and heart remain in Greenville, where they are trending toward $100 million in revenue for 2019. Moore predicts even more growth utilizing the new operating structure.
“We want to grow,” he says. “But we want to do it at the right pace and the right way to sustain the business. This year’s 48% is breakneck speed, but Greenville is a great pool of talent, and we’ve onboarded the type of talent we need. I feel pretty optimistic.”