“Create a company culture in which people love to come to work. Rewarding the daily accomplishments of your team with pride and gratitude will help your company thrive. Recognize that you are nothing without your team so hire great people who love to help. I rely heavily on the strength, dedication, professionalism and savviness of my team to maintain our success. This has helped us achieve impressive results. Our team is relentless!”
I had the pleasure to interview Lori A. Torres. Lori is the founder and CEO of Parcel Pending, the nation’s leading provider of innovative package management solutions with 100% Always-On Customer Service®. She is a dynamic and successful entrepreneur with more than 25 years of real estate experience. Additionally, she has been recognized on multiple occasions for her leadership, including being named 2017 “Innovator of the Year” by the Orange County Business Journal and chosen as one of 13 entrepreneurs admitted into the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ 2017 North America class.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I worked for 13-years at The Irvine Company, a leading real-estate investment company and master planner, serving in various senior positions, including SVP of property operations. At The Irvine Company, I was responsible for the operational oversight of the company’s entire multifamily portfolio, consisting of 1,200 property management associates operating over 44,000 apartment homes.
While at The Irvine Company, I regularly walked-through many of their multifamily communities. Initially, package delivery was not a major issue. It used to be that Property Managers (PMs) only took a few minutes out of their day to manage a small amount of deliveries for residents. However, as time went on and online shopping became increasingly popular, I noticed that PMs were struggling to devote enough space, time and money to properly manage the influx in deliveries. At the same time, residents were becoming overwhelmingly frustrated with having to pick-up their packages during office hours, disappearing packages, and tracking packages that never arrived. I knew there had to be a better way and set out to find a solution.
That’s why I founded Parcel Pending in 2013 to provide seamless package management solutions to multifamily communities. Today, Parcel Pending is the package management industry leader in not only the multifamily space but also retail, corporate campuses and universities. We have 150+ employees and thousands of customers across North America and continue to grow each day!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
What I have found to be most interesting about starting a company and scaling it quickly is around execution. I’ve learned that you can have a great idea but at the end of the day, it’s all about execution. Execution both internally and externally play such a critical role in growing a company. Coming from corporate America, I thought I had it all figured out and could run a large organization but starting a company with just one person, (me) and growing it to a team of over 150 talented individuals is a completely different animal. And as the company doubles in size and revenue each year, the challenges become different and need to shift based on need.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I remember my office manager approached me one day to discuss what kind of carpet I would like for our new office space. Since I was running a mile a minute trying to get the company off of the ground, I dismissed the conversation and said she could handle it without my input. At the time, I didn’t think carpet was a big deal but oh boy was I wrong! I walked into the office a few days later and was shocked and dismayed at the awful blue carpet that was installed. Since I spent the majority of my time at the office, I knew deep down that I needed to change the carpet to something that I would love. So, we ripped out the blue carpet and installed a modern grey carpet. It was a costly mistake but also an important business lesson to slow down, ask questions and pay attention to every business detail and step. To this day, I have a framed sample of that blue carpet in my desk drawer to serve as a reminder to myself to take the time to ask thoughtful questions and slow down. You’d be surprised at how your business decisions can change when you take the time to think things through.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What sets us apart is our best-in-class customer service. Parcel Pending stands out amongst its competitors due to our unmatched 24/7 service teams that are dedicated to explaining how the lockers work, trouble-shooting quick turn-around times, and making sure the end result is above satisfactory to all parties. Our specialized departments focus their time and efforts by going above and beyond reaching out to their contacts and ensuring everything is running smoothly all day, every day. We pride ourselves on making everyone’s lives easier, one package at a time. For example, we have sent flowers to celebrate a birthday and have even tracked down a dress for a very special occasion (and followed up after to hear about the event!).
One example in particular really stands out to me. We had a customer call to let us know that someone had passed away. Our service rep assisted the customer with their request and then went out and bought a condolence card and mailed it to the customer in mourning. The customer was so thankful that she emailed me directly to let me know that our team was the most caring and compassionate customer service that she has ever encountered. We really go the extra step to make our customers feel special!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re always innovating new ways to help people solve their package management issues. We aim to help make everyone’s life easier by getting their stuff to them quickly, easily and efficiently. That is why we have expanded our locker solutions to include retailers, corporate campuses and universities.
For example, our new BOPIL™ (Buy Online Pick-up in Locker™) solution is designed to help retailers drive in-store customer engagement, improve the customer experience and increase revenue opportunities with their BOPIS solution.
The way it works is simple. Once an online retail order is fulfilled — be it groceries, clothing, electronics, cosmetics and more — the items are placed into one of the Parcel Pending lockers located at the retail store. Recipients are then instantly notified by text or email and provided with a unique numerical code. They can then quickly and easily pick up their order at their convenience by going to the retail store and simply entering their personal code into the locker.
We also offer locker solutions for multifamily communities, corporate campuses and universities.
Basically, if you have a package problem, we have a solution.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Parcel Pending offers a fun, collaborative and positive work environment. We’re a customer focused company and our employees are central to our success. We work hard to maintain an environment that gives our team members the opportunity to thrive through open communication practices and programs to help them achieve positive results. There are many opportunities for our employees to both learn and grow and this is important to building a solid foundation for the company. Our lunch and learn programs, which are regularly offered, provide department overviews showcasing the ways teams work together to find solutions.
As a leader, I also focus strongly on guiding my employees through their career paths to ensure they are driven to excel in their own goals and professional strengths. To help your employees thrive, you really have to invest in their overall growth and development. You need to look at the different levels of employees and truly understand that professional development is not a one-size-fits-all approach. After all, these are people not numbers we are talking about. Your approach to helping them thrive, needs to be personalized.
At Parcel Pending, we started a new training program to address this. Our manager in training spends two hours each day over a five-month period working in each one of our departments. This helps them to have a comprehensive understanding of each department and roles throughout the organization. For example, they will spend two hours with our accounting department and pay bills or manage invoices. They will make sales calls with the sales team and set appointments. This allows them to get fully emerged with each role and better development their team members.
What advice would you give to other CEOs about the best way to manage a large team?
Two things come to mind. First, create a company culture in which people love to come to work. Rewarding the daily accomplishments of your team with pride and gratitude will help your company thrive. Recognize that you are nothing without your team so hire great people who love to help. I rely heavily on the strength, dedication, professionalism and savviness of my team to maintain our success. This has helped us achieve impressive results. Our team is relentless! For example, Parcel Pending has been named one of the best places to work in Orange County, Calif. by the Orange County Register for two consecutive years (2016 and 2017).
Second, focus on constant communication. It’s not fair to your team if they don’t fully understand a project or the company’s overall goals and objectives. Make sure you are always clearly communicating deliverables to your team to ensure overall success. Check-in with your team via phone, email and in-person. Keep the conversations going so that everyone is on the same page and understands the task at hand. We have a monthly “all-hands” meeting and use this opportunity to communicate what’s happening at the company and allow for Q&A.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been blessed to have a network of advisors that I can reach out to for guidance. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their mentorship. I am never afraid to ask for help so when I am stuck on something I just pick up the phone and reach out. However, I don’t think enough people ask for help because they are afraid of looking weak. This type of stigma needs to change. I have found that most people are willing to help, you just have to ask for it. When I was first starting out, I was stuck on different topics. So, I reached out to the former president of The Irvine Company who directed me to someone who helped solve my problem in a flash! I was so grateful for their guidance and happy that I was able to solve my problem so quickly simply by asking for help.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We help bring goodness to the world by making it quick, easy and convenient for people to safely and securely pick up their packages. We solve package problems! We also give back to charity! For example, we recently partnered with South County Outreach, a non-profit that helps to prevent hunger and homelessness in Orange County, Calif. by providing counseling, transitional housing, and food pantries, to families for the holidays. I’m also passionate about mentoring young professionals and one of the ways I do so is through my involvement with The Global Good Fund Fellowship, a 12-month program that supports the leadership development of young social entrepreneurs across the globe by pairing them with executives who serve as coaches. I love providing valuable leadership insights, business and marketing guidance, encouragement and overall support to my young mentee. And I find that I learn and grow from the experience.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
– You will never sleep again! I wish someone would have told me that I would never sleep again after starting my own company. It really is hard to sleep at night when you are trying to maintain the long-term growth and success of your company.
– This is going to be harder than you thought! Being an entrepreneur and CEO is not for the faint of heart. It’s going to be a tough journey but one that is worth it.
– Cash is king! Yes, you can have a great business idea but no cash means no company.
– Hire smart! You really are nothing without your team so hire great people who love to help.
– You’ll need a road map! The first step towards starting a business is to write a detailed business plan outlining thoughtful business goals and objectives and revenue projections. You need a roadmap for not only yourself as a business owner and entrepreneur but also for your staff because everyone needs a clear direction. It is vital to have systems, processes, data and resources in place to ensure the long-term success of a business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement, it would have to do with solving homelessness. Having spent over 25 years in the real estate industry, homelessness is an issue that is close to my heart. I have witnessed first-hand how homelessness impacts local communities. That is why I recently became a board member of Families Forward, a non-profit that provides homeless families or families at risk of homelessness with tools and education to maintain self-sufficiency. I love to solve-problems and truly think that homelessness can be solved … we just need to find the right solution!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Inspect what you expect.” We all have expectations but we can’t make assumptions. Ask questions and inspect what you expect.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to sit down with Warren Buffett. He’s an amazing and graceful businessman and I feel like I would learn so much from him over a one-hour lunch. Speaking with him would likely change the way I run my business completely! I would be so eager to gain insight from him.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Originally published at medium.com