Doorn Is His Own Boss

June 5, 2002
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HOLLAND – After more than 30 years in the business, the timing was finally right for Jim Doorn to work for himself.

Doorn had wanted to start and run a company, but family commitments always forced him to put his dream on the backburner.

Last year, with his children grown, he finally made the move. The 54-year-old Doorn left a secure position last August and co-founded Red Cedar Logistics, a Holland-based logistics, warehousing and transportation management company.

"I had the opportunity to do something for myself," said Doorn, the president of Red Cedar and a father of two adult daughters. "It was a lifelong dream, but I never had the opportunity. You get a guaranteed income, it's tough to just walk away and take that chance."

Doorn co-founded Red Cedar Logistics with Bruce Biby and Steve Silvis, two former co-workers at Foreway Transportation in Coopersville, where he worked as business development director. Biby is Red Cedar's vice president of operations and Silvis is director of supply chain operations.

The three partners combined have more than 50 years of experience in the business.

Doorn got his start a few months after graduating in 1965 from Grand Rapids Christian High School. He took a job that September as a general laborer at Alof's Manufacturing.

The following fall, facing induction in the U.S. Army, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he spent four years in the Caribbean aboard a troop transport. He rejoined Alof's after his discharge from the military and worked his way up to traffic manager before leaving to join Branch Motor Express, where he was "baptized into the industry" and learned about dispatching, scheduling, and managing the loading docks.

Doorn later joined Overnite Transportation, a Richmond, Va., freight hauler that was opening a new terminal in Grand Rapids. Doorn spent 10 years at Overnite before leaving his position as sales manager about seven years ago to join Foreway Transportation.

In forming Red Cedar Logistics, Doorn and his partners set out to create a company that can essentially take over a client's entire distribution and transportation operations and supply chain management. Using independent truckers and freight-hauling firms, Red Cedar coordinates daily transportation schedules and provides warehousing.

Red Cedar was set up as a non-asset company, a status Doorn hopes to maintain as a way to keep the firm focused on the needs of customers.

"If I had 50 or 100 trucks out there, right now I'd be calling to put goods in the trucks," he said. "That doesn't always work out in the best interests of the clients."

The company has about 60 clients so far, ranging in size from $5 million to $500 million in annual sales, and has reached profitability.

After helping past employers grow their companies, Doorn said part of the allure in co-founding and running his own firm is seeing the work he and his partners put into the operation pay off for themselves.

"As the business grows, we see, 'Wow, this is starting to take shape,' and that's exciting. That's something I never experienced before. It's something I was always building for somebody else," Doorn said. "We're really, really growing. The future looks very bright right now."    

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