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Retrospective: Chairman-CEO Norman Tu Recalls DCL Logistics’ Origins

Norman TuIn the age of Dropbox and Google Drive, it’s easy to forget the personal computer industry is just 35 years old. Norman Tu, Chairman and CEO of DCL Logistics, noticed a shift in the industry along with the personal computing boom. In 1982, he worked for Hewlett-Packard, but was eager to pave his own way in the industry.

“Some of my colleagues were leaving HP to start their own businesses in the industry. A friend came to me and told me he was copying disks for his software business,” Tu said. “He said he didn’t enjoy it and wanted to hire me to do it.”

Norman took the leap, quit his job at Hewlett-Packard, and began DisCopyLabs. Without the budget for brochures and marketing materials, he chose a name that would need no further explanation. The DisCopyLabs name was designed to immediately communicate copying software to a disc. Within the first 10 years, the business grew exponentially, and in 1992 alone the business had copied 50 million floppy discs.

“There was a need in the marketplace and I provided the service,” Norman says. “Today we copy no more than 100,000 floppy for legacy clients. My guess is in the next two to three years that industry will be gone.”

Adapting to Innovation

In 1992, the competitive landscape was fierce for companies like DisCopyLabs. With the turn of the millennium and expansion of broadband, Norman saw the need to pivot and change the business model. DisCopyLabs’ wide array of competitors from 1992 are nonexistent today, with the last competitor going out of business two years ago. DisCopyLabs has repositioned themselves within fulfillment, leaving duplication in the past. The transition from DisCopyLabs to DCL Logistics took 1o years, but was a natural progression since logistics played such a large role in the day-to-day.

“People put you in a box. They know you as a software manufacturer and when you try to step into another industry, they don’t take you seriously. It took a while to shift that perception. Over the last five years, business has really accelerated — we’re legitimized in the 3PL sector.”

Competitive Edge

Given Norman’s background, DCL Logistics places a large focus on technology. The company’s robust IT department is just one of the things that sets them apart from competitors. Using robotic systems and factory automation allows DCL Logistics to streamline their work and make the experience seamless for the end consumer. In addition, DCL has invested heavily in their online visibility portal called eFactory, which Norman believes is in the upper quadrant of similar tools that other 3PL companies offer.

“Fulfillment services are more or less a commodity, so one way to differentiate yourself is by offering customer-facing technology that provides our clients with transparency and the empowerment to work with their products virtually — even though the product is physically sitting in our warehouse.,” he said.

Another aspect that sets the company apart is their dedication to quality. Today, DCL is ISO 9001 and 14001 certified.

“We’ve never been a low price leader,” Norman said. “We’re consistent. We strive to provide the best service of quality. We’ve done customer surveys for the past 25 years — we take the input very seriously. We want to know areas where we can do better, as well as other services we can provide.”

Family Matters

Norman Tu and DCL Logistics have clearly accomplished a lot over the years, but he’s proudest when he thinks about passing down the business.

“Business is doing very well and I want to pass it to the next generation. I would be proud if as I leave this business, I could see the next generation take it to the next level.”

In fact, Norman’s son Dave has already taken over running the company as President. With three children and five grandchildren, Norman is proud of his family members and looks forward to a bright future for both them and the company.

Seasoned Advice

When he left his job at HP to begin DisCopyLabs, Norman took a risk that paid off immensely. His advice to new or aspiring business owners? Quit your day job.

“Without quitting your day job, the chance of being successful is zero to nothing. If you’re not committed or passionate about it, success won’t come. You have to make a commitment — you’re all in.”

Norman believes there are two kinds of people in the world: people who make things happen and people who wait for things to happen. He has carried a crumpled piece of paper in his wallet for 35 years. It says, simply: Make it happen.

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