CLDA Hall of Famer Ronnie Burns
Standing on the Shoulder of Those Who’ve Gone Before
“We all stand on somebody’s shoulders.” With those words, the newest member of the CLDA Hall of Fame humbly accepted his award at the association’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
Ronald V. Burns, Sr. (“Ronnie” to most of the world) was honored by his peers with an award that recognizes one person’s significant contributions to our industry. It’s presented annually to a CLDA member who is known and respected in the industry. It seeks to pay tribute to those who have made noteworthy contributions to the customized logistics and delivery industry.
The morning of his induction was an emotional one for Ronnie, who was cheered on by 12 members of his family ranging from his 87 year old mother to his twin four-year old grandchildren.
A slightly stunned Ronnie took the stage after an emotional introduction by his son, Jason, a CLDA board member and president of the company Ronnie and his wife, Sheila, founded in 1984. Today, that company is called QCS Logistics. “I come here today as president of QCS and Sheila and Ronnie’s second son,” Jason began. “I’ve been asked to tell you what this man is all about. He is driven. He believes in betting on yourself. He grew up in a family with a lot of love but not a lot of money. He realized early on that he had to hustle to put change in his pocket. He bet on himself. He left Liberty Bank and Trust at a time when he was in line to be its next president. He went against his parents’ advice and started his own business. He is a caring and thoughtful man who, every holiday morning, spends hours sending personal text messages to those he wants to thank. He is a dedicated father. I’m trying not to get emotional on this part but, not many sons get the opportunity to introduce their father for an honor like this. I am proud to introduce my father and my hero, Ronnie Burns, as the 2018 CLDA Hall of Fame Inductee!”
Then, Ronnie Burns took the stage to a standing ovation and thunderous applause from members of an association in recognition of his life-long commitment to the industry. “It is so great to be in a class with the legends who preceded me,” he told the crowd. “Whatever success our company has gained over the years is a direct result of being a part of this organization. It’s all about the relationships we’ve built; the mentorship we’ve receive. When I think of about this organization, I think of the founders. These were people who are willing to share and give good positive advice. They took a chance to start this organization and today, I get to experience this wonderful honor from the association they started. I appreciate it. It’s quite an honor to be in their company.”
From Banker to Business Leader
Today, Ronnie Burns has two primary businesses. He is the CEO & Chairman of QCS Logistics and Founder/President/CEO of Global Parking Systems. Burns got his start in business, not as an entrepreneur, but as an employee. “I worked in a small minority bank that was started a year before I joined it,” he recalls. “My title was VP, Auditor and Accounting. That’s a grand title, but, in truth I did a bit of everything because the bank was so new and so small. Among my duties was to oversee the retired gentlemen who were our couriers. They’d do pickups and deliveries of paychecks. I enjoyed the position, but after a while I wanted to go out on my own. When I left to start my first business, a payroll processing company, the bank asked me to continue to manage its couriers. In my own business I was providing payroll services for 50 to 100 accounts. I hired two of the guys who used to work for me at the bank to pick up timesheets and re-delivery payroll checks. We started doing other bank schedule work and then another credit union asked if we could do their courier work. I had a courier business, but didn’t know I had one!”
Ronnie’s big break in the courier business came in a supermarket line. “I ran into a guy that was my classmate in grammar school,” he recalls. “I hadn’t seen him in over 25 years. He told me he was a manager at Radio Shack and asked what I was doing. When he found out I’d been doing courier work he said, ‘I am getting ready to replace our current courier service firm. They aren’t doing a good job. Would you be interested,” said the manager.’ “I called him the next day and he explained how to do business with Radio Shack. It was a lot of paperwork to become a vendor and that first month we did all of $50 worth of business working for them! Admittedly I was disappointed but eventually we grew that account to $50,000 worth of business a month.”
Eventually, Ronnie decided he liked the courier business more than the payroll service and sold the payroll company to one of his courier customers, a tax preparation firm. It was 1984 and Ronnie Burns and his wife Sheila started Quick Courier Services, Inc. with the one car they shared between the business and the business of being a family.
Ronnie threw himself into building the courier company. He built connections in the business community by getting on non-profit boards and commissions and got active in the local Chamber of Commerce. That community involvement is still a key to Ronnie’s business and personal success. Today, he serves on several prominent city boards and is a Past President of the Sugar Bowl Association. Last year, he was honored with the “Legend of New Orleans” award for his work and leadership in helping to build a new hospital to serve the citizens of the Ninth Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. For his work there, Ronnie was asked to be the new hospital’s first chairman by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. In fact, he had to cut short the CLDA Hall of Fame ceremony short to get to another obligation – a meeting of the board of directors he sits on for a local university.
The company Ronnie founded over 30 years ago today is one of the leading delivery and logistics business in the Southeast. QCS Logistics has been recognized as an INC. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Company and one of the largest customized logistics and delivery businesses in Louisiana. Yet, despite its remarkable growth, the company proudly points to the fact that many of their clients have been customers since QCS’s inception 34 years ago.
QCS Logistics provides on-demand and scheduled delivery services, cold chain delivery, medical courier delivery, freight distribution and custom logistics services; such as cold storage, fulfillment and warehousing. They are the first choice for premier healthcare, pharmaceutical, auto, critical parts, financial and retail customers throughout Southeast Louisiana. They serve customers throughout the Southeast with more than 80 drivers, 75 vehicles and two warehouses.
CLDA, MCAA and QCS
“I had the good fortune of being invited to the first meeting of this organization,” recalls Ronnie. “I got a letter that said they were trying to form a national courier association and invited one courier company per city to come Louisville, KY for the first meeting. Because they were only allowing one company per city they said whoever signed up first could attend. But someone else from New Orleans had already registered. They told me I could attend with his permission. I called him. The company was called Speed Wheels. It was a guy like me who had had just started his business. He said, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing and you probably don’t know what you’re doing. Why don’t we go together?’ So we did! It blew my mind that all these companies were willing to get together and share.”
Over the years, Ronnie made his mark on the association. He became the first African-American on the board of what was then called the Messenger Courier Association of America. He served on a variety of committees and proudly admits to be the driving force who brought the annual convention to New Orleans for the first time (this year’s conference is the third held in the Crescent City). “It was the first one of our meetings that was held in a place that wasn’t a resort,” he recalls. “We had a new Mayor. He was a good friend. He welcomed us to the city and issued a proclamation of it being National Courier Week in our honor!”
In looking back at his 30+ years involved with the association, Ronnie notes that it’s been instrumental in his company’s growth. “The association exposed us to a market place that was a lot bigger than where we do business,” he points out. “Through it I’ve met people from much larger companies. I’ve found vendors such as settlement processing and specialized insurance providers. It’s allowed me to find out what the big boys are doing. We’ve gained business through a lot of networking, and benefitted from referrals from other member companies. This organization gave us our first look at a lot of new information. I’ve always felt the member companies were very helpful. You could bring your problems to them and they would open doors for you. I’ve made good friends over the years and they have set a path of success for us.”
There’s another part of the organization that fills Ronnie with a different sense of pride – the fact that another generation of Burns, his son Jason, is now a board member. “I’m extremely proud that my son is playing such an active role in the organization,” he says. “That’s a proud moment when it happens. I know that those on the board have put their arms around Jason just like they did for me in my day. There are no words to describe what that means to me.
Advice for Those Who Come Next
For the next generation coming up in our business, Ronnie advises they get involved with the CLDA to cultivate their own success. “I would heartily encourage joining this organization,” he says. “There are so many benefits, both tangible and intangible. If you’re going to be serious about moving forward in this industry, you need to join this organization. This organization is helpful, supportive and encouraging. You get access to a lot of successful people who don’t mind lending a helping hand. You can’t pay enough to get that!