How 3PL business keeps husband & wife on their toes … and has lured in next generation

Husband-wife business duo Jack and Ashley Sandbach have found it hard to clock out in a family enterprise. Even in the midst of having fun on ski trips, they’ve found themselves discussing business.

On the ski lift, that is — not in the middle of a run. They do have their boundaries.

“The point is, you never have actual separation,” Ashley Sandbach said. “I don’t think either of us have ever put an out-of-office note up on our email. … And a lot of people out on the (warehouse) floor have our personal phone numbers or email.”

Ashley and Jack Sandbach run Packaging & Distribution Resources.

The work they do from inside the 10-by-12 office they share tends to spill out into their lives. When you run a company that’s swelling to more than a half-million square feet in size, with 250 full-time employees and 800 seasonal team members, it’s hard for them to imagine it wouldn’t.

They’re more than 20 years into establishing themselves in the in-demand packaging, distribution and logistics industry. Their business, Packaging & Distribution Resources, or PDR, is aiming to come out on top both regionally and globally in that sector.

The Edison business has involvement in the supply chain of a range of consumer packaged goods, but the beauty industry is where they started — and still a stabilizer in rocky economic times.

“I don’t want to jinx it by saying we’re recession-proof,” Ashley Sandbach said, “but we are in a good, resilient sector that doesn’t seem to dip based on the economy. Lipsticks, body lotions and other cosmetic and skin care products are always something people buy.”

It’s a competitive market, Jack Sandbach admits.

“(But) we have a reputation for getting the job done no matter what or how,” he said. “Somehow, we figure it out. We were on the customer side of the warehouse when we first bought in, so we have a good understanding of what customers need from us, too.”

The business started off as a firm selling cosmetic products, one that wasn’t satisfied with its third-party logistics provider at the time. In short, they decided to buy that logistics business and do it themselves.

Running a third-party logistics company wasn’t Jack Sandbach’s goal in life. As he says, “It just happened.”

It’s the same story for Sandbach’s son, Joe Sandbach, a 24-year-old who often expressed that he appreciated his family’s business, but didn’t want to get too involved. But, after helping the business get a client established with a West Coast expansion, he’s now helping run PDR’s Los Angeles footprint with Jack’s brother, Sandy Sandbach.

“I was hoping he’d just stay for a while, two or three months, so that I could go home … as we had a 5-year-old at the time,” Jack Sandbach said. “Eventually, he told me he’d been thinking about it, and really was enjoying what he did. He wanted to stay.”

It might not have been what he — or his parents — would’ve expected for themselves in a professional pursuit.

But, they enjoy it … enough even to talk shop on vacation.

“There’s always something else going on, always something new on the horizon,” Ashley Sandbach said.

Resources for businesses

New Jersey has no shortage of resources for family-owned businesses.

One of those is New Jersey’s Business Action Center. Donald Newman, manager of small business advocacy for the state organization, explained its services run the gamut from assistance finding financial resources to help picking the right location in the Garden State.

But, he said the most popular option for small, family-owned businesses is its training programs, which might teach a family business about setting prices, utilizing social media, taking advantage of e-commerce or managing employees.

“Those questions are important for a lot of small, family-owned businesses, which are often doing it by the seat of their pants and could sometimes do a better job of it,” he said. “Through classes, consultants, seminars and webinars — a majority of which are taxpayer-supported — they can learn a lot of that.”

There’s just one nonprofit in the state completely focusing on women entering into the business world. That’s the Women’s Business Center run by the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides more than 200 business webinars to more than 1,000 clients annually.

“(The) recurring challenges we hear include: difficulty accessing startup capital, isolation from business experts and other entrepreneurs, challenges identifying how to market online effectively, difficulty designing and implementing an efficient growth plan to scale up (and the) struggle in hiring affordable professionals,” said Rana Shanawani, the group’s executive director.

Part of the Chatham-based group’s stated goal is helping women entrepreneurs overcome the challenges of starting, managing and growing a business while balancing a family life.

The coaching sessions it hosts are marketed as either low-cost or free.

“Most of our clients are grateful that (our) team is able to help with these challenges either from our webinars or our one-on-one business counseling with staff and our subject matter experts,” she said.