The Silicon Review
Established in 2002, Advantage Media Services, Inc. (AMS) is a full-service order fulfillment company operating as a third-party resource for Order Management, Warehouse Management, and Fulfillment Services.
With decades of experience behind them for guidance, the company sets itself apart through Pro-Active support that strives to make AMS’ clients successful. It supports a variety of businesses and program types, with a core service of providing both Business-to-Consumer (B-2-C) and Business-to-Business (B-2-B) fulfillment for an array of branded consumer products.
Front and center with Jay Catlin, Founder, and CEO of AMS
What led to the inception of the company?
Prior to starting AMS, I spent a decade growing up a smaller fulfillment company from about 4-million to 30-million in sales, serving most of those years as the VP of Sales & Marketing and head of Client Service. In 2002 I had the opportunity to help my father (David) resolve an operational crisis with his DVD business and launched AMS in tandem with my father. This was an exhilarating experience, becoming a business owner and accepting this critical responsibility for my dad’s company.
Once preparations were in place for launching AMS, David closed his east coast operation and moved into a 30,000-square-foot space in Valencia, California. Obviously our first and only priority at AMS was to turn things around for David’s company. Within 6 months, they went from being one of the poorest graded suppliers to Best Buy to Top 5 in his category. Orders taking 5-6 separate shipments to complete went to a 99% fill rate within the first shipment. Together with some very bright people, we developed an innovative solution to their supply chain dilemma, receiving inventory in component parts from DVD replicators, printers and case manufacturers, and assembling finished goods in just-in-time fashion to meet order demand. To this day I am very proud of the work we did to rescue and advance my father’s business, and that effort exemplified the “partner” approach I always believed in for 3rd party fulfillment.
We’d like to know how AMS has expanded over the years. What kind of difficulties did you encounter, and how did these difficulties motivate you to change?
AMS spent its first 12 months focusing on the founding client. With an established operation in place, I began to focus on Sales & Marketing, as we weren’t going to survive with one client, especially in the DVD space that was clearly at risk. I focused on Internet marketing to generate brand awareness and drive leads, developing a website and engaging the expertise of my stepbrother for SEO/PPC marketing. We saw success early on, landing a number of new clients within a short period of time.
Our first break came with us landing the action sports brand C1RCA, specializing in skateboard footwear, apparel, and snowboards. It took some guts saying yes to C1RCA as they chose to outsource their snowboard business, requiring close to zero footprint for half the year, and nearly 50,000 square feet for the other half! We went for it, grabbing incremental space within our building. The season was going well, but we soon learned that this would be our last as they sold their winter brands to Burton. This turned out to be a blessing as C1RCA closed their in-house operation and gave us their year-round business. Burton took the incredibly spiky snowboard business in house and gave us some west coast T-shirt business to manage. This marked the start of strong and steady growth for AMS as we built a name for ourselves in the industry.
For a company to be one of the most ‘innovative,’ its employees must think like innovators and feel they have a decent outlet for sharing their observations and ideas. How is this true with AMS?
At AMS, we engage with employees to the highest degree, and at all levels. Our learning center runs classes that are designed to not only educate our team in a variety of subjects (leadership, lean/six sigma, Excel, safety, WMS training, GED, ESL) but also to look for feedback. In group meetings, we encourage employees to share suggestions for continuous improvements and recognize employees who have inspired positive change. Every year employees participate in surveys, which is a great channel for ideas and feedback.
What are the factors that today make AMS the most ‘innovative’ as a fulfillment company?
Our B-Corp culture has been with us from the beginning, long before we officially became a B-Corp and social enterprise. We make the work experience more than just a paycheck and give meaning that goes well beyond making ends meet. This comes from a genuine commitment to our customers, employees, community, and the environment. Working with challenged workforce groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals looking for a second chance at success, at-risk youth... our people see this and appreciate who we are as a business. AMS educates employees to help meet their life goals… to us, that is a success.
Technology and Innovation is a perfect fusion. How often do you innovate with technology?
AMS has an amazing Technology team, run by our CIO Jason Irwin. Jason is a unique IT leader, having worked in fulfillment for 20+ years. His fulfillment knowledge spans a multitude of industries, including beauty, fashion, general consumer goods, electronics and more. Each client and industry has unique needs, and our Technology team has developed internal IP (WAMS) that manages the complexities of a 60+ client fulfillment operation, with powerful tools deployed through hand-held devices. We innovate constantly, generally based on individual client need, but what we develop is often utilized company wide.
The mastermind behind the masterstroke
Jay Catlin is a 26+ year veteran of the fulfillment industry. Over his first eight years in fulfillment, Jay played a central role in sales, marketing, client services and operations for an entertainment-based fulfillment company, which grew 7-fold during his tenure.
Jay became an entrepreneur within the fulfillment industry in 2002 with the launch of AMS. In 2004, he brought on a seasoned fulfillment executive and business partner, Ken Wiseman, and together along with an amazing team they turned AMS into a true impact player in the world of 3rd Party Fulfillment, building a family-like culture with an emphasis on both client and employee satisfaction, community involvement, and environmental awareness.
In 2019 AMS sold a majority stake of the business to Boston-based Fort Point Capital, a private equity firm with a strong presence in the logistics industry. With the change in ownership, Jay took the position of CEO in order to guide the company’s continued growth.
“What makes us most innovative is our culture, where we look at positive business results as being more than just bottom line profits. There is much more to good business than profitability.”