Business Matters: Hawaii Air Cargo carves out perfect niche among heavyweight competitors

Business Matters

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As we all know, there have been fewer planes with fewer passengers arriving in the islands since the global shutdown.

That also means less air cargo coming into the state. It’s the latest challenge for a local company that’s been serving the islands for decades.

For nearly 40 years, pretty much anything you could imagine has come and gone through this warehouse.

From fabric to machine parts, to live plants, Hawaii Air Cargo President Brian Suzuki has seen and adapted through it all.

“38 years ago, I had five people including myself. Two in L.A. and three here. Three years later I had ten,” said Brian Suzuki.

He says in the heyday, he expanded to 35 employees split between the west coast and Hawaii.

Today, he has 26. Eight in Los Angeles and the rest of them are in Hawaii. All of them going head to head with the biggest names in the shipping business.

“We compete with the heavyweights FedEx, UPS, even small parcels companies boutiques. It sends a lot of stuff all over the place. But using us we have a way of bringing down their cost.”

Suzuki says about 98 percent of everything that comes to Hawaii arrives by boat.
That other 2 percent is the space he competes for on a daily basis.

Those businesses, he says, have helped Hawaii Air Cargo carve out a perfect little niche among the big boys.

“We have got a loyal following and I always say one of my mantras, you take care of your employees and because they’re happy here, they take care of the customers.”

Though his business isn’t huge, he has an understanding of how to succeed in an unregulated, buyer beware market. In fact, he teaches importing and exporting.

He promises that if he can’t give you the best rate, he’ll tell you.

“Sometimes it’s better to use post office I tell them if he’s in post office stay with them it’s cheaper by $10 a box.”

He says working in a small market like Hawaii requires you to not only be fair, but honest.

“You know Hawaii, everybody talks story. So you cannot give one guy a good rate and then give a competitor a higher rate. They’re going to tell each other. So that’s why I say we stay loyal to our customers and they stay loyal to us.”

The recent pandemic forced him to adapt, yet again, how he operates. But he says it will never change the way he deals with his employees and customers. It was something he was recently honored for when he was named the state’s Exporter of the Year.

“The award is very fulfilling because you work day by day and everybody works hard here. To get recognized was just something that I wasn’t expecting. It was really nice to be thought of that way.”

Looking forward, he says the formula is simple. Take care of his customers and employees, and always strive to be better.

“Do a common job uncommonly well. All my employees know that and it might be really redundant. But if you do it well, customers will fall in place and say these guys are really trying to help me. That’s what we try to fulfill.”


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