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Small Business Week: Pinnacle (Edison) finding big success by doing little things that make a difference

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Pinnacle Freight owner Michael Ravallo: “We're a mom-and-pop-type shop and we like it that way.
Pinnacle Freight owner Michael Ravallo: “We're a mom-and-pop-type shop and we like it that way. - ()

Freight companies always need to be prepared for the unexpected. While apps and other services have simplified the process for getting things from point A to point B, but there’s no way to predict issues such as hazardous weather and treacherous road conditions.

That’s a problem — especially when you are a small business.

That’s why Mike Ravallo, the president and CEO of Pinnacle Freight Systems in Edison, was delighted to reach an agreement with the well-established Penske Corporation, long a leader in the industry.

The agreement gives Ravallo’s team of drivers an excellent support system to rely on when they are on the road.

“Imagine you own a truck and it breaks down in Oklahoma — you’re at the mercy of any mechanic in the surrounding area,” Ravallo said.

It could take a few days for a local mechanic to inspect a broken-down vehicle and order new parts.

If a situation like this occurs for a Pinnacle driver now, Penske will handle any of the maintenance issues for the original vehicle while giving the driver a replacement truck to ensure the delivery makes it to its intended destination.

Ravallo said the arrangement will give Pinnacle a competitive edge.

“Customers will have a real feel of confidence when they ship with us now because we’ll be much more reliable,” he said. “Breakdowns happen. They are part of the business. Now we’ll be able to handle them better.”

His drivers won’t have to worry about being stranded in a strange area, and in turn, customers will be thrilled that their request is completed on time.

It’s a win-win, said Ravallo, who has had a number of such triumphs in the freight business.

Since graduating from Glassboro State in 1980, Ravallo has worked in various sales and marketing roles.

He began by working in transportation sales for IML Freight Lines.

A majority of his career was then spent at Gemini Traffic Sales, where he served as the vice president of sales and marketing.

He was a partner in the business — helping it grow from one truck to a company with $70 million in revenue, before he sold it in 2007.

In 2009, Ravallo took the reins at Pinnacle. It has been on a roll ever since.

The company, which has about two dozen full-time employees, was ranked No. 25 on the NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s 50 Fastest Growing Companies in 2013.

“We’ve had a couple of good years and we think we’re headed for another one,” he said.

Ravallo is projecting revenues to hit $35 million this year.

And that’s just the start.

Pinnacle opened an office in St. Louis last year, added a location in Carrollton, Texas, earlier this year and hopes to have an office in the Atlanta area by the end of the summer.

The locations will give Ravallo a spot in key markets in half of the country.

It’s just one of the ways a small business in New Jersey can play on the national scene.

“We’re combining three things,” he said. “We own our own trucks, we’re contracting to outside firms for other trucks and I’m hiring top sales people around the country.”

But don’t be fooled.

Pinnacle, which has 32 full-time employees, is a small business. And Ravallo likes it that way.

“We don’t have any visions about conquering the world,” he said with a laugh. “We’re a mom-and-pop-type-shop and we like it that way.

“We like the fact that drivers all know us. We like the fact that when they come home from trips they can come into our offices and tell us stories about all their crazy challenges.”

Ravallo says that not only builds the relationship he has with his employees, but it builds his business.

“That’s why they come work for us,” he said. “And we actually listen. And if they have good ideas, good ways to improve things, we act on them.”

It leads, he said, to the type of deals he just made with Penske.

“If I had to put one single reason for our success, I’d say it’s because we’re all builders,” he said. “The people on the management team, the people I’m bringing in are people who like to build and grow things.

“We’re all excited by the success we’re having and it’s only making us want more.”

BIZ IN BRIEF

NAME: Pinnacle Freight

LOCATION: Edison

LEADER: Mike Ravallo

EMPLOYEES: 32 full-time plus part-time contractors

REVENUE: $35 million (2014 estimate)

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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