Five questions with ... John Kennedy

John Kennedy, Top Dog (according to his business card) of Three Dog Logistics, a postage and freight company.
John Kennedy, Top Dog (according to his business card) of Three Dog Logistics, a postage and freight company. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

Helping companies save money on postage can bring in the big bucks.

Baltimore-based Three Dog Logistics picks up mail from clients with high volumes, "commingles" it with other client mail going to the same ZIP code and delivers it closer to the end destination to qualify for a U.S. Postal Service discount. The company made the Inc. 5000 list of fast-growing private companies last year — again — because revenue grew nearly 150 percent from 2008 to 2011, to about $12 million.


"We've been on the Inc. 5000 for three years in a row," said John Kennedy, the company's CEO. "And we actually might make the Inc. again this year."

Kennedy chatted with The Baltimore Sun about mail trends, postal service changes and the back story on his company's name.


Give us a snapshot of your customer base. What types of companies are using your services? How has that changed over the years?

Our clients are companies who use direct mail to market their products [and] services or to promote their cause. They are nonprofits, service and product companies — anyone who needs to reach other businesses or households with mailers, letters or small packages. …

We're starting to see an uptick in activity from consumer product companies who are sending out testers and samples again. The companies doing this today are becoming much more sophisticated in their marketing. They integrate a mail piece, social media, email and store promotions into one sophisticated campaign. So they need to know exactly when their piece will hit a household, and need to be able to track it. That's what we do for them.

Why "Three Dog"?

In the early 2000s, this industry was really crowded with a lot of players. The service called "mail logistics" was becoming a commodity, and there wasn't much to differentiate one provider from another. At the time, we were called Direct Mail Logistics, and our name closely resembled the name of a competitor in Texas. We needed to do something to stand out. …

I hired a marketing consultant from Chicago who knew our industry, and we spent hours hammering out what differentiated my company from its competitors. It was exhausting. We finally took a break and chatted about the day-to-day work I do. I showed her photos of the three pug dogs who, at the time, had full run of our office. Every desk had a dog bed beneath it! She convinced me to rename the company Three Dog Logistics, and we took a chance and never looked back.

Today, it is one of the most recognized brands in the industry. Probably because we took a boring service called "logistics" and made it fun by using dog mascots and metaphors.

What's been driving your company's growth?

There is so much cost sensitivity out there, not just in my industry, but everywhere. Companies who send a lot of mail can't control the USPS — they are at the mercy of whatever new pricing or policies are being set. We allow customers to take advantage of some of the volume discounts the postal service offers by commingling their mail with others. That gives them a price advantage and a way to control costs they would not otherwise be able to control. So the more companies want to control their postage expense, the more they need a good logistics provider.

How have the challenges facing the U.S. Postal Service affected your business?

There has been so much press and hysteria over office closings and the elimination of Saturday deliveries. But our customers are smart. They invite us in to help them plan for some of these contingencies, and more often than not, we find good, money-saving work-arounds. …

From my own business perspective, there are a lot of steps in the postal service "supply chain" that can be better handled by private logistics providers. The USPS has partnering programs that we have taken advantage of that allow us to perform some of the work and get a better rate that we can pass along to our customers.


You say you're working too much for hobbies, but on the occasions you do get some downtime, how do you spend it?

I think most entrepreneurs today would answer the question the same way — you simply have to give it your all for several years, particularly those of us who have had to crawl out of the recession. My family and I try to get out to the beach as many weekends as possible, where we can relax and I can run the dogs — yes, they all come with us! I also collect off-road vehicles as a hobby, but don't have much opportunity to drive them. Not yet, anyway!


John Kennedy

Title: "Top Dog" — founder and CEO — of Three Dog Logistics

Age: 54

Family: Wife Beth Moore; son Kyle Kennedy, 26; daughter Kellian Kennedy, 28; and two stepsons, David Moore, 17, and Jonathan Moore, 15. Plus four dogs and two cats. (The family acquired a beagle after the company was named after their then-three dogs.)

Hometown: Long Island, N.Y.

Residence: Dundalk

Education: Bachelor's in business administration from New York's SUNY Oneonta

Hobbies: "Before I started my business, I did have hobbies. I used to do triathlons and biking and things like that. … [Now] I get up at 4 o'clock in the morning, I start work and I go to bed at 11."

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