How to Start a 3PL Company: A Step-by-Step Guide

starting a successful 3PL company is achievable

  • Written by Ellie Kwon
  • Published on December 21, 2023
  • Time to read 9 minutes


Starting a 3PL company can be a lucrative business venture for those interested in logistics and supply chain management. It can also be a daunting task. The industry is highly competitive and requires a lot of expertise. However, with the right strategy and resources in place, starting a successful 3PL company is achievable. This blog post will explore the steps you need to take to start a 3PL company.

1. Conduct Market Research

Before starting any business, it is essential to conduct thorough market research. This will help you understand the industry landscape and identify potential opportunities and challenges. When researching the 3PL industry, consider the following.

– Who are your competitors?

– Which services are they offering?

– What are the market trends?

– How significant is the demand for 3PL services in your area?

You can better understand the market and tailor your business strategy by answering these questions.

2. Develop a Business Plan

Then, once you have completed your research, it’s time to develop a business plan. Your business plan should outline your goals, objectives, and strategies for achieving them. It should include the following.

Executive Summary

  • First, develop a brief overview of your business and its objectives.

Market Analysis

  • Then, create a detailed analysis of the 3PL industry and your competition.

Service Offerings

  • Next, write a description of the services you will offer and how they differentiate from your competitors.

Marketing and Sales Strategy 

  • Then, make a plan for attracting and retaining customers.

Operations Plan

  • After that, consider how you plan to manage the day-to-day operations of your business.

Financial Plan

  • Finally, draw up a projection of your startup costs, revenue, and expenses.

3. Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

Before you can start a 3PL company, you will need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. The requirements will vary depending on your location, so be sure to research the regulations in your area. Some joint permits and licenses required for 3PL companies include the following.

Business License

  • First up is the business license. This general license is required for all businesses operating in a particular area.

Transportation License

  • Then, acquire this. It’s vital if you plan on transporting goods. 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Registration 

  • To transport goods across state lines, you must register with the FMCSA.

International Registration Plan (IRP) Registration

  • Finally, if you plan to transport goods across international borders, you must register with the IRP.

4. Choose a Business Structure

When starting a 3PL company, you must choose a business structure. Further, small businesses’ most common structures are sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. Each structure has advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the one that best fits your needs is essential.

5. Set Up Your Office and Equipment

Once you have obtained the necessary licenses and permits and chosen your business structure, it’s time to set up your office and equipment. Also, depending on the services you plan on offering, you may need to invest in the following.

Office Space

  • First, find a location to conduct day-to-day operations.

Computer and Software

  • Then, purchase computers and software. Further, these allow you to manage orders, inventory, and billing.

Warehouse Space

  • Next, you will need a warehouse space to offer warehousing services.

Trucks and Trailers

  • Finally, if you plan on transporting goods, you will need trucks and trailers.

6. Hire Employees

As your business grows, you may need to hire employees to help you manage day-to-day operations. Here are some common positions in the 3PL industry include.


  • Coordinate shipments and communicate with drivers.

Warehouse Workers

  • To manage inventory and prepare shipments.


  • When hiring employees to transport goods, it’s essential to ensure they have the necessary skills and experience to perform their duties effectively.

7. Develop Relationships with Customers and Suppliers

In the 3PL industry, relationships are key. Thus, developing solid relationships with your customers and suppliers can help you attract and retain customers. Further, this helps to ensure a steady supply of goods. Therefore, communicate regularly with your customers and suppliers and provide excellent customer service.

8. Invest in Technology

Next, let’s talk tech. Investing in technology can help you streamline your operations, reduce costs, and improve customer service. Some standard technologies used in the 3PL industry include the following.

Transportation Management Systems (TMS)

  • To manage shipments and communicate with drivers.

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

  • To manage inventory and prepare shipments.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

  • To exchange data with customers and suppliers.

9. Develop a Marketing Strategy

Finally, you must develop a marketing strategy to attract and retain customers. Further, some common marketing strategies for 3PL companies include the following. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • First, research and execute SEO strategies. Thus, this helps to improve your website’s visibility in search engines.

Content Marketing

  • To educate potential customers about your services.

Social Media Marketing

  • Next, consider creating a social media strategy. Further, this is meant to engage with customers and promote your brand.

Referral Marketing

  • Finally, consider referral marketing. This is meant to encourage satisfied customers to refer new business to you.


In conclusion, starting a 3PL company can be a demanding yet rewarding experience. By following these steps, you can develop a solid basis for your business and increase your chances of success. Good luck!

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