A native of Germany, Goetz Steinmetz had worked at one of the top international freight forwarders. Having worked in Mexico and Germany, he opened their office in Charlotte. He enjoyed the work, and was successful, but felt that he could create a better corporate culture in his own firm. So with nearly two decades of shipping experience behind him, Goetz Steinmetz opened Cargo Brokers International, Inc. for customs brokerage and SMG Forwarding for freight forwarding with a partner in March of 1982. He was 39.
In those days, the freight and customs had to be separate for licensing reasons, but clients appreciated that they were being handled by the same people.
Goetz Steinmetz started his business on a good reputation. He likes to say, “I have some dollars but only one good reputation. You can lose some of my dollars but not my reputation.”
The first office was in Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina. A few months later they opened in Atlanta, Georgia.
Why open his own forwarding company? “I wanted to be the one that called the shots, to have the freedom and the possibility to offer from the beginning health insurance for all of our employees. I liked the way I could deal with my colleagues,” explained Goetz Steinmetz.
He continued, “I used to say that they worked with me, not for me. I don’t have employees, I have colleagues.” Focusing on colleagues has led to a very low turnover at Cargo Brokers, even in a high turnover industry. And in 30 years, Cargo Brokers has never had a layoff.
He told a story of when a branch manager, then a new employee, covered for a sick colleague in Miami. “After the predicament was over, I sent her for a week to Cancun. She said, ‘I don’t even have vacation, yet.’ I said, That’s your thank-you.’” She’s was with the company over 20 years.
Goetz bought out his Swiss partner in 1989, when he needed to return to Switzerland for an ailing parent.
Goetz understood prioritizing family. He and his wife Doris were raising two small children and building a business. He said, “The family is also important for me. I worked during the day, but we sat together for dinner. Once they went to bed, I continued to communicate with partners overseas.”
Cargo Brokers was a true family business. Doris Steinmetz did the accounting for years, and still stops in the office each week for checks and balances.
Goetz limited the growth of Cargo Brokers, so that he would be home for dinner. “What I never wanted was to go beyond the borders of the Southeast. We wanted to be a regional player, not a national player. I valued my family life too much. I knew that I could make decent money, but I valued that time.”
“Three or four times a year I was in Europe. That was when the kids were a little older. It’s an international business. I believed and still believe in a handshake and looking people in the eye. I could do that when going overseas,” said Goetz.
Part of the continued success of Cargo Brokers Goetz attributes to keeping current with new technology. He shared, “We had the first electronic communication; it was called a Whisper Writer. It was still based on the Telex. We were embracing new technology. When we had the first computer, it was a huge machine. My wife said we needed one and I followed her advice.”
Goetz Steinmetz’ children both worked summers in the business. His son Carsten got his masters in international business. He had an apprenticeship in Germany.
Goetz felt Cargo Brokers was in good hands. So he gradually acceded leadership into Carsten’s capable hands, until 2009, when Carsten became CEO, and Goetz retired.
1982 Cargo Brokers started in Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina, expands to Atlanta a few months later.
1984 Charlotte office opens.
1988 Miami office opens.
Cargo Brokers operates on Automated Broker Interface
1993 Cargo Brokers joins HTFN (Hi-Tech Forwarder Network)
1998 Remote Location Filing means Greenville-Spartanburg office closes.
2003 Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) Certified, voluntary program to secure shipments
2006 Miami warehouse opens
2009 Carsten Steinmetz appointed as CEO.
2010 Charleston office opens.
2011 Miami receives pharmaceutical license
2012 Atlanta becomes Container Freight Station, able to move freight from port of Savannah.