Radu: Hello everybody and welcome to our second episode of leaders in supply chain and logistics podcast. We’re delighted to have together with us today Charles Charles, Global CEO of DHL E-Commerce. Charles is a proven expert in supply chain international shipping and e-commerce with over 33 years of industry experience across Europe, Asia Pacific, Americas and Africa. Charles, welcome and thank you for joining us.
Charles: Thank you.
[01:00] Part 1: Opportunities and Challenges in e-commerce
Radu: (01:13) – For today, we’ll have a series of questions coming from our audience and followers. Broadly, we’ll split it into three categories – industry and e-commerce-related questions, talent and career development questions, and lastly questions regarding personal advice that you might want to share with our audience Charles. Let’s first start with a bit of an introduction about yourself, more importantly about DHL E-Commerce and e-commerce in general and where the industry is today.
Charles: Sure. Thanks and thank you to your listeners for listening to this podcast. I hope it’s informational and I hope they get a lot out of it. But to the question, so yeah as you mentioned thirty-three years with DHL. I’ve worked in some fantastic places around the world. I went to I think thirty-seven out of fifty-two countries in Africa, which is a beautiful place. For those who have never been to Africa, I highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic place. I worked in America which is incredibly exciting – very energetic, huge organization, huge business over there. I started life in Europe. I’m UK by birth, English by birth, an Arsenal fan for those football followers out there. I’m married, two lovely children, three dogs, two hamsters and a couple of cats. (chuckles) It’s a large family.
I’ve been running DHL E-Commerce now for about a year now and three or four months, which is fantastic. It’s great. I obviously love DHL. I’ve been with DHL for a very long time. It’s a great company, one of the world’s largest employers geographically. I was told a great story once by a National Geographic photographer in Africa actually who told me that wherever he was in Africa – it could be in a desert, up a mountain, in a forest or wherever he was, there are always two things he could find – DHL and a coke. I think that’s a great sort of example of how big DHL is geographically.
Radu: Brand recognition.
Charles: Yeah, it’s great, it’s really fantastic. I love e-commerce. I’ve been involved in e-commerce as subject for the last three, four, five years. I think most people know it’s hugely exciting – forecasted to be 3.4 trillion by 2020, about a third of that cross-border and two-thirds domestic – growing everywhere. The CEO for DP DHL Frank Appel asked me where next Charles and I said take your pick in a map. It’s huge – many markets, hugely embryonic. Although it’s been around five to ten years, it’s still incredibly nascent and huge upsides. We’re right at the beginning of the product curve which makes life and everyday very exciting but also a fair few challenges which I’m sure we’re going to talk about but that keeps me sane and sensible. Good stuff.
Radu: (03:48) – Thanks for the intro. We’ll deep-dive into the industry or e-commerce-focus questions. We have a couple of very good questions from our audience. “How do you see DHL e-commerce in the next five years? And also if you want to give more specifics into Southeast Asia particularly.”
Charles: Thanks for the question. We started our e-commerce journey back in 2014 in fact in Barcelona, beautiful city as well by the way, where we sort of launched our 2020 strategy. Included in our 2020 strategy [were] three pillars which [are] focus, connect, and grow. Those are three things we focus on – focus, connect & grow. And under our growth pillar, like most mail operators, postal operators around the world, we recognize that e-commerce – the possible e-commerce business is huge, so we set about developing our strategy towards aiming to be the leading logistics provider for the e-commerce sector. It started in 2014 and we’ve been at it now for like two or three years and developing our footprints in Europe and the rest of the world.
To the question at hand, I think first and foremost we continue that journey. We want to position DHL as the provider of choice for the e-commerce sector particularly around three main activities:
(1) Domestic deliveries – that’s pick-up in the country, deliver in the country. All those who would order online get their products when we say they should when they want them.
(2) Second one is cross border. We focus a lot on cross border by our DHL express and also thru our e-commerce business units. That’s growing really fast – growing at 27% with forecast of growth between now and 2020. So huge opportunity are on cross border.
(3) And the third one is fulfillment. Because I work for DHL, I have a slightly luxurious position that we have a great business unit called DHL Supply Chain as the largest footprint of warehouses in the world and so we access that footprint to provide pick and pack and a few other things besides that have to do with fulfillment. I think fulfillment is becoming increasingly more interesting as we go forward.
The way that people order both domestically and cross-border is changing almost daily. But one of the sort of key trends is this trend of sort of on-demand. When I order my shirt, I want it the next day minimally, maybe even the same day or in the next hour in some cases. Allowing customers to put products as close to their consumers as they possibly can is becoming increasingly important both in large markets like the US where we’re seeing single warehouses going now to multi-warehouse or globally where you’re doing forward fulfillment or destination fulfillment where you place products and then you’re able to pull from that product inventory and deliver fast is growing really quickly. Simplistically, three key areas for us – domestic delivery, cross-border, and fulfillment and connecting those three to provide an end to end solution, I think is one thing.
Secondly, in terms of Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia is fantastic. It’s a great example of what I’m saying earlier about how embryonic this industry is. You got a huge population – 630 plus million people, rapidly massively changing markets. When I was here ten years ago or so fifteen years ago, Southeast Asia changed hugely in that time and now the infrastructure is pretty good despite what people say. You got a very young population with more disposable income, very tech-savvy, internet-savvy. They don’t seat in their desktop to order. They do it from their phones. We know that between 30 and 60 percent of orders or at least inquiries come from mobile commerce. Southeast Asia is really exciting, countries like Indonesia with more than 250 million people, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, or Vietnam – fantastic market. We just opened up there just recently. Southeast Asia is really exciting. So we’ve started our journey in Southeast Asia. A year or so ago, we opened in Thailand. More recently we opened in Malaysia and Vietnam and there’s a couple more to come yet.
Radu: (08:17) – Yeah, look forward to it. To add on your sharing, I was reading just the other day. I think it was the economic development board in Singapore but there’s a few statistics that are just mind-blowing in terms of the growth of Southeast Asia particularly Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines. I think that coupled with the growth of e-commerce as well as another statistics which is very interesting is that China will probably be the first nation worldwide to go cashless. It’s incredible – the way the trajectory goes and that goes very well with the e-commerce trends as well and people being more and more online-savvy, tech savvy. They just grow with it. So I think it’s fantastic market for you guys.
Charles: Yeah. It’s exciting because it’s already huge. But it’s so embryonic, between 3 and 4 percent, maybe just over 4 percent of what’s bought in shops is bought online or bought in retails bought online. It’s 96 percent upside, which is enormous. It’s going to grow at 25 percent between now and 2020 the e-commerce sector – huge growth numbers. A few challenges here and there but generally speaking, massive upside.
I think Southeast Asia is a great example for me of where e-commerce as subject sits today. Everybody wants to do it. So the question is ‘Why?’ Why is e-commerce so exciting in the first place? Why are people buying online? Just to give you one or two examples, the Philippines has something like 2,700 islands, Indonesia with 250 million people, the biggest archipelago but they just don’t have access to stalls and shops in the same way as if you are in London. It’s a very different environment where you just have to walk out your door and you can buy those trainers or laptop or phone anywhere. A lot of consumers don’t have immediate access to the products that they want to have access to. That’s what’s driving this growth. Again going back to the point of it still being embryonic, but if you look at the US and the shattering of retail stores, which is huge, absolutely enormous. Somebody else the other day (asked me), “Is it too late?” I said, I don’t think the train has left the station. So huge growth in Southeast Asia, huge growth opportunity, lots of people, a lot of orders dropping online, it’s good fun.
Radu: (10:54) – Exactly. (Here’s) a very good question also from Krishna, thank you Krishna. She was asking, “How do you see e-commerce and retail in the future? Will they compete? Co-exist? Will you be seeing synergies? It’s a question on a lot of people’s minds.
Charles: This is what sort of how I ended the last question. I was asked this recently in Australia – I was down there on a business review with the team and looking at that market which is also very exciting. I was asked during an interview on why do people shop online. I was explaining that I’d been away for a couple of weeks and I was going home that weekend. If my wife said to me look we need to buy some toothbrush and toothpaste, do I want to do that? Or do I want to spend the morning on my two days at home with my children and the answer is I want to spend my two days at home with my children. I think there a number of factors that are driving people away from retail. One is, it’s relatively inconvenient for people to want to do with their lives.
Secondly, now you choices. You can have things delivered to your house. You can things delivered to the back of your car. You can have things delivered by drone or whatever method. So it’s much more convenient to shop online. There’s much more choices online. If you look statistically, again as I mentioned, the US is seeing this huge shuttering of retail sales, the biggest in the last ten years or so. The evidence empirically points towards a pretty tough environment for the retail segment. That said, I think some of the stories that are written around that retail is dead I think is far too premature.
To answer the question, I think there is a space and a reason why both would co-exist. I think it’s important for the retail sector, as some already have started to do, to understand how do you remain relevant in today’s world. If you accept, and a lot of retail owners don’t want to accept it, that I don’t want to drive down on a Saturday morning to buy a toothbrush, then it has to be a different reason as to why I go to the shop in the first place. We’re starting to see some evidence around big retail malls shifting and changing how they remain relevant and becoming far much more around family entertainment centers with ice-skating, cinemas, restaurants, etc. In fact, the fastest growth in any mall is restaurant food.
I think recognizing how you remain relevant, number one. Number two, in the e-commerce sector and the consumer in particular, they want convenience and choice. That’s really important for the consumer. And again historically, 94 percent of all deliveries were made to the doorstep, but the consumer doesn’t want that. That’s just how it was. They didn’t have any other choice. Now there [are] other choices. And they are starting to say we want more choices. Again, I retain myself as an example, the same example, the toothbrush and toothpaste, the Saturday morning that I’m going to spend with my children would probably be in the park or at a water park, wherever it may be.
Therefore, I’m not at home to receive the delivery. Therefore I would much rather pick it up from somewhere on the way back. And just drive through and pick it up, or whatever it may be. The whole click and click opportunity for retail is significant. In summary, I absolutely believe they can co-exist, although I do believe that e-commerce is growing much faster than what retail will. To carry on doing what retail does I think is wrong. You got to shift and pivot your proposition.
The last point is, leverage what you have as a strength and the strength you have is placement. If you got ten stores, then that’s ten stores that can be used as collection points for costumers. If you got one, it’s one store. If you got one store omni-channel, look at how you create an environment in you store where… It’s statistically proven today a lot of people do a lot of research online and then go to the store. So make sure your store operates in the same fashion that they shop online. There are a lot of examples out there using technology and digital to make sure that the store experience is as good as shopping online if not better. It should be better. In summary, they absolutely can co-exist. You just need to rethink how you remain relevant.
Radu: (15:19) – Yeah. Absolutely. It’s not black and white. E-commerce will not kill tradition and the other way around. It’s just that we struggle as humans to adopt fast enough sometimes and that’s the only thing. Another good question “Do you see the growth of e-commerce as a threat to the traditional freight industry? Does it mean that more orders coming from e-commerce means less freight move by traditional sea freight – air freight? Any figures, evidence to prove it?
Charles: It’s a very interesting question. I think singly and without sitting on the fence too much, it’s an opportunity and a threat. The threat here is that obviously that if you ordering B2C, if the consumer is ordering a single phone from the supplier as opposed to the shop ordering multiple phones, then there is some threat towards large shipping of goods.
The opportunity is that if you look at how the retailers and the market places want to operate, they’re looking to lower the cost of distribution as best as they possibly can. We have some really good evidence and working on a lot of projects around how do we move low value B to C e-commerce goods, particularly out of China into other regions, but without necessarily flying it as an example.
As an example, we’re working very hard on developing a road-freight solution into Southeast Asia out of China. Today, for the most part, it is flown and the products are flown but there’s a great opportunity to road-freight to Vietnam out of Southern China. It’s very easy to get product from there into Vietnam. There are some governance and legislative issues around how you do that and we’re working very hard to overcome this with the government and various other stakeholders. I think that’s another great example of how the freight forwarding industry can see e-commerce as a great opportunity for developing road freight solution, similarly with the air freight. Again, most e-tailors are working on how, if and when they do have to fly it, how can they fly it at a lower cost and air freight is a great solution.
It’s just how you connect that air freight solution into a last mile provider. I must suppose that many of your listeners are in the air freight sector. We have plenty of last mile solutions and they can connect into us anywhere you like. We’ve already developed a good solution using our freight forwarding sister company DHL Global Forwarding where we air freight out of China, inject into Southeast Asia, clear locally and then inject into our last mile solution which I think is – from the consumers’ perspective, it goes something between super-fast and super-slow and at a more cost-effective price for the shipper. There are some threats to it but I think like everything in life, we just have to look at what’s the opportunity. And there’s plenty of opportunities for the freight forwarding sector too.
Radu: (18:20) – Absolutely. I mean being relatively close to the industry myself, just like with the traditional brick and mortar shops, the question to the 3pls – are they fast enough to move, to adopt, to become e-commerce-savvy or not. That’s again back to the point of being adoptable, right?
Charles: It’s an interesting thing in life that you see it so often unfortunately in business that sort of an ostrich mentality to opportunities or threats which is if I stay close, my ears close enough, it won’t affect me. The reality is e-commerce is going to affect everybody. The trick is to sit back in a darkened room and think about how do I plane that space, not how do I fight that space. The train has left the station. You can’t stop it. It’s now about how do you successfully create a sustainable product and business in a very fast-growing environment. I don’t think in our lifetime, we won’t see such a massive impact on the logistics sector that e-commerce will present. You better be on the right way.
Radu: (19:35) – Don’t stand in front of the train, right? Alexander Maxwell which is a good friend asks, “What are some of the e-commerce trends other than e-commerce delivery lead times, move it closer to get it now solutions? What are the big trends do you see coming up for the e-commerce specifically?
Charles: I mentioned fulfillment already and I think that’s really important as it’s going to grow in importance because as I mentioned the sort of whole consumer-on-demand culture is growing really rapidly. The example I always give when I’m on stage is my wife who is an international shopper, a professional e-commerce shopper, much to my disgust. When she first started shopping online, we were living in America that time, I can remember she would say to me just shopping domestically is going to take three to six days to get delivered and she thought it was fantastic. She thought it was amazing.
In fact when we moved to New York, the food delivery was sort of same day late in the evening. She thought it was even more amazing. But if you said to her today that it’s going to be three to six days, she would look at you like you’re a Martian. The expectation of the consumers change significantly. I think fulfillment is going to play a huge part in satisfying that change, in particular destination fulfillment, that’s number one.
And link to that number two, you know historically cross-border was called cross-border. I think it isn’t anymore. I think people just shop. If you’re an SME in Malaysia who makes great batik shirts, the world is your oyster. People from all over the world will buy them. If you’re in Africa garments there, same thing. Despite recent political noises from various countries are now sort of becoming parochial. The world is getting much smaller. The borders are becoming much simple. And the ability for people to buy from one country to another country is becoming easy. I think we’re going to see this rise of people shopping from anywhere, buying anything from anywhere in the world. And they’ll get faster as well. We’re seeing speeds coming down. I think on that point the third trend would be speeds.
To give you a good example, going back about four or five years ago, in the US the average delivery time was five to six days. Now it’s two to three. The speeds both domestically and cross-border are coming down because people’s tolerance for time is less. People want things faster. And then the last one I think we’re going to see is the rise and rise of alternate delivery approach. In Singapore, the government work really hard and think about a lot on how we ensure that the roads and the city keeps moving. If you think about where we are in terms of the product development, the example I always give is Indonesia. Indonesia is something like less than one percent of what’s bought is bought online. But that less than one percent of what’s bought represents 850,000 parcels a day. We imagine when it gets to five or ten or twenty percent.
And the same is true for Singapore, same is true for Malaysia. You can’t keep pushing the peak through the python. The roads are going to clog and cities are going to slow down. That’s not where we going to get to. We work hard on innovations around how do we get the order delivered to a costumer without necessarily being in a car or a bike for that matter. I think we’re going to see that alternate delivery solutions coming both on the logistics providers who have to for lots of reasons – cost being one of them. We’re going to see that change to alternate deliveries because a city is going to demand it and major metros in the world, the Jakartas of the world, the Nairobis, the Legoses, all the big cities in the world are going to demand that logistics players find alternate solutions. I think the consumers too. The consumer, to my point early on, it’s a win-win for everybody because I don’t think the consumers really want it delivered to the door. They still have that choice but I think actually they want the flexibility to have their order wherever and whenever they want it. That’s probably the fourth trend we’re going to see coming, and it’s already come, but changing pretty soon.
Radu: (24:17) – Yeah, absolutely. Follow-up question sort of, Alexander is also asking about technology transfer. He mentions internet of things. Everybody is talking about it. Block chain is another key. Buzz word is spoken a lot. He specifically asks about the IoT. He is asking, “In your view, what does IoT deliver in practical terms for the e-commerce of DHL? Are we ahead or behind the development curve?
Charles: The Internet of Things is obviously a nice trending subject and lots of people are working on it. But in terms of reality – the reality of how do we see that play in the business today is that it’s probably not developed just as yet. But I suppose like DHL, many e-commerce are working on how can they use it. From our perspective, I think they are probably two key areas of where we’re working very hard in terms of how do we use data in particular to improve life. One is, we capture a lot of data about consumer behavior, when they order, where they order, how they have it delivered, do they have a dog. We have a lot of data that is incredibly useful for a lot of people including us but also for the market places, e-tailor and retailers. There’s an opportunity for us to potentially commercialize that data and use that data obviously for the market places but also for improving our operations.
Radu: And customizing your delivery.
Charles: That’s number one. Number two is, predicted data. The more data you have and the more you use that data, the more we can actually predict when you’re going to order. We would know that you order a pizza on a Tuesday at 6pm typically. If we know that, we can stage and plan our organization accordingly. I think it’s really about using the data in the form of data lakes or commercializing that data or using the data to either make the costumer experience much better or make our operation more efficient. That’s probably the biggest areas we’re going to see change over the next few months.
And the last point is, for logistics organization to be successful in this space and to capitalize on the massive growth but also deliver sustainable product, technology underpins everything, absolutely everything. As an organization, we’ve realize that if we didn’t realize it already, realized that over the last couple of years, so we are investing very heavily on making sure that we have the very best technology that allows us to really orchestrate routes that are the most efficient while providing a great costumer experience. That all comes from technology and great people. We have fantastic people. But the key in the e-commerce space, especially when you’re dealing with pretty low margin, is technology.
Radu: (27:15) – Now coming back to the part about the challenges of e-commerce, there’s a good question from Jonathan Tan and Bryan Heng. They’re more or less asking, “How can you actually make money in e-commerce?” but I’ll give you some context to it. For example Bryan is saying that many e-commerce players are so flooded with shareholders’ money, they seem that they have no issues in building in-house fulfillment, last delivery capabilities. We’ve seen Lazada acquiring Redmart in Singapore. Redmart is an e-commerce supermarket. Small niche players locally like Reborns – they’re building their warehouses. Brick Mortar Lux Asia is another example going into e-commerce. But I guess the bottom line underpinning/underlining question is, “Can you actually, on the long term, make this as a successful and profitable?” because it seems like a lot of people are throwing in. Amazon, I’ve read the statistics that they lost 8 billion on delivery last year. Of course, they’re making it up in other ways but what [are] your thoughts on that.
Charles: I’ll give you three thoughts. One is that the playbook hasn’t been written. There’s not many off-the-shelf example that you can take and say that’s the model that guarantees that answer that you can make money and have a sustainable product. All of us who are playing in this space recognize a huge opportunity; recognize a growth opportunity and now are working out, innovating and trying different methods to see which one is a sustainable product. That’s number one.
Number two, from our perspective, we know that technology is definitely the platform that gives you the best chance to create a sustainable solution from a physical perspective. We’re investing very heavily in the technology side. And aligned to that, we are testing different models. I think here we’re talking more about the last mile of fulfillment and cross-border.
Fulfillment and cross-border already demonstrate they can make money. This is more specifically related to the courier driving the van or the bike to deliver products. For those that are unfamiliar with the question or context or the reason why it’s a relevant question is that unlike international shipping where the selling price could be between 30 and 60 dollars for a half kilo of package going around the world. In the e-commerce space you take Singapore it’s about 3 to 5 dollars for a next day delivery. In Indonesia, it’s less than 2 dollars.
The selling price in many of the markets for domestic delivery is pretty low and you have a similar cost space. It means the margins are much smaller and much more difficult to make money. To answer that, technology underpins it. The better your technology, the more orchestration you do and dynamic orchestration you do to ensure that your courier routes are built the most efficient way possibly the better.
31 years ago when I started my life in DHL, we would hand-sort packages, looking at manuals where addresses were and stuff like that. If you come at this in a manual way, you’re going to die pretty quickly. There’ll be a bit of a bloodbath in terms of the financial results. So you have to use technology to really orchestrate the most efficient routes you possibly can. As we go to our Thailand operation or to Malaysia or Vietnam, we don’t see supervisors or managers standing around looking at packages. It’s all done the day before. It’s all done through technology with live algorithms that are constantly taking in feeds. It’s really incredible. The system we use which we partner with a great company takes in feeds from weather, traffic, road closures, police escorts, whatever’s happening on the streets of Singapore or Malaysia or Vietnam or Thailand or Chile or in the US or India wherever it is we operate, it take in real live feeds and orchestrate that courier route to make it the most efficient. Again as an example for those who may not be so acutely aware of it, if a courier goes out in the morning with 80 parcels and he heads off down a road and that road is closed because there’s a government minister going through, that’s pretty much a day done.
Radu: (31:40) – A lot of clients or costumers that are disgruntled.
Charles: Yeah, a lot of costumers are unhappy, so you lose costumers and they’ll go back in the shopping platform, your cost go through the roof and you don’t make money. You can’t a static view of the street or environment you operate in. You have to be agile and nimble.
We use a lot of technology to really orchestrate those routes in an agile way so that we’re constantly updating and making it as efficient as it possibly can be which gives great costumers satisfaction but it also means our couriers and operators are best possible efficiency going forward. So that’s number one. Number two is, there are two ends of the spectrum – there is asset heavy and asset light and there a lot of bits in between.
But if you take the two extremes, in Thailand for example, we operate fully asset heavy yellow platform. The van is yellow, the building is yellow, and the courier is DHL. So it’s very much a yellow solution. That comes with a cost but you also get great service quality, great brand ownership, etc. In the other extreme, we’re testing this as well, is a light asset model, a crowd-sourced elastic delivery model which is more like a model which Alibaba operates where you own the technology and then you plug in the delivery providers. A delivery provider could be a mother going home from a sports event or through you after interviewing me or whoever else. You just use your available capacity to go and do a delivery. We’re trying that in America, in Chicago and Los Angeles. And so we’re trying both with the intent of trying to find what provides the best consumer experience, what provides the best costumer/shipper experience and also what provides the best cost experience. When we get to the right answer, I’ll tell you and let you know how we do it. But again I’ll go back to the original point I made which is, take Indonesia – there’s 850,000 parcel there a day. If we can work out the right mouse trap, we can make money, sure.
Radu: (33:38) – Perfect. The final question, if we were to ask you, “Can you simplify in a few sentences the most striking challenges you had to overcome when you set up DHL E-Commerce?”
Charles: We’re very lucky we don’t experience probably some of the challenges that start-ups face. If you got a new country to start-up, you have regulatory and legal aspects to set-up a new organization. Some countries can be really painful. Thankfully, DHL has been around for a long time and so we have great relationships, and great history and great experience in most of these markets. We don’t face those. Our challenges typically come to your trend and your trade which is people. E-commerce is still, as I said a number of times, very embryonic.
Trying to find people with the experience in this space is quite tough. It’s not like traditional logistics where you can find a lot of people that have worked in logistics for a long time. Not many people have worked in the e-commerce sector for a very long time. That’s probably one of the challenges; it’s finding great people to fit our culture, fit our organization, fit the experience we’re looking for and fit in the market that we work in. that’s number one.
Second one is, the infrastructure can be occasionally interesting. I think we’re lucky because we have years of experience of working in an environment that’s sometimes very challenging. But if you’re new to it and you go to some of the cities and some of the countries we operate in and you got floods or situations is not easy.
Infrastructure can certainly be a challenge. From the e-commerce perspective, the challenges we face from a delivery perspective is the same as every other e-commerce logistics company that’s operating in this space. It’s all about trying to keep the shipper, the seller as happy as you possibly can and their happiness derives out of how happy you keep the consumer and also the price you charge. That can be a challenge. Secondly, as I’ve said earlier, 94% of all deliveries are still to door and that can be challenging. Actually, addresses are more of a negative experience than I expected. I know that the Middle East has challenges with their addresses. I know that some countries in Africa are challenging.
I didn’t expect that in Southeast Asia but Thailand is still challenging in terms of finding location of addresses and so is Vietnam actually. Address identification can be a bit challenging and going up to my point earlier around orchestrating, that adds cents in cost, dollars in cost. So that can be a bit of an experience as well. But yet getting the delivery off to the consumer first time is an on-going challenge for the e-commerce logistics provider. But I tend to see these things more as opportunities than real challenges. That’s what keeps us happy during day. We got to work out the answers.
[36:40] Part 2: How to attract and keep the best talent
Radu: (36:35) – Exactly. If it wasn’t hard, everybody would do it. You can’t make a lot of money if everybody is doing it. Like everything in life, it takes time. That brings me to the point of the next grouping of questions and it’s about people. It was a nice leeway into the challenge of finding the right people. I do come from the business from executive search from trying to find solutions to the people challenges that organizations face. Truthfully, logistics is not sexy. It’s not banking. I’m not sure how sexy banking is nowadays. Maybe finthech is sexy nowadays. It’s not IT, it’s not technology. Historically, it’s not perceived as a sexy place. Now my question is two-folds. First, challenge me on that part – why you think it’s sexy. Secondly, how can we trick the brightest minds – the guys that finish in the top schools into the industry?
Charles: I think the answer is similar for both actually. And to the point I do think e-commerce is sexy. I tend to agree somewhat. I’ve been in logistics for 32 years. I tend to agree that some of these more traditional logistics are perhaps not as sexy as some of the business units. But I think e-commerce is really sexy. I get to wear jeans. I don’t wear a suit. So we get to wear normal clothes.
We have younger people, much younger than me. One good thing is that most of the younger population that’s coming through and looking for jobs sees the e-commerce sector as pretty exciting.
I’m going to tell from my experience. By default, I get a huge number of applications from young people that just go out from the universities. Younger people who are starting on their careers, who I think are the right type of people that we want to attract into this sector. That’s a by-product of the fact that we call DHL E-Commerce. I take some time to explain that we’re still the logistics arm of e-commerce and we’re not actually doing selling and building market places and so on and so forth.
I think it’s therefore more exciting than perhaps some of the other business units. So that’s number one. Number two, as I said early on, it’s really quite challenging finding [people] especially when we go into a new market and set-up a new organization. When we went to Vietnam, we were really super lucky to hire a great country manager. He in turn has hired a really great team. But I know it hasn’t been easy for the reasons I mentioned early on because we want people with the attitude and the characteristics of star-top, the energy, the drive, the agility, the laissez-faire approach to what I wear to work, whatever else.
We want the characteristics of a star-top. You’re coming to work for DHL which is a top ten employer of the world. We have all the bureaucracies and layers of governance that you expect from a very large organization. So it’s quite challenging to find the right person that fits both that of star-top agilities and characteristics versus working in a very large organization. That’s quite challenging and as I said earlier, if we’re looking for a particular function or roles, there’s not of people out there who’ve got the years of experience in e-commerce. The swimming pool of talent is quite shallow in terms of that experience. But I have to say whenever we start on a market, I always go in there with this approach that there would be another challenging time to go and find the right people. But today we’ve been very successful. We’re starting out new markets virtually every other month and all the markets where we started, the teams to date have really fantastic, really great people. That’s quite interesting in itself because having highly motivated great people is a cornerstone of DHL. Whether it be DHL Express or DHL Global Forwarding or DHL Supply Chain or DHL Freight or DHL E-Commerce or DHL Parcel Europe, we look for people that are going to be great. To date, I have to say that e-commerce has done that pretty well. It is a challenge but the end result seems to be worth it.
Radu: (41:30) – Absolutely. The challenge in itself consists of a great opportunity because there’s also the reality that e-commerce being new, you don’t necessarily need the traditional type of a background. You can also train. You can form and have a good pipeline in leadership development and so on and so forth.
Charles: I think we’re writing the chapter each day. There’s no history here. You don’t come in and say this is how we’ve always done it because we haven’t always done it. We’re pretty new. And that’s really exciting. You go to these countries which are just starting out. I was Malaysia very recently and I asked the country manager Jason Kong, “Look, make sure the office doesn’t feel like a DHL office.
Make sure it feels like a start-up. That’s how we want to operate. We want the culture to be very young, very lively, very agile, very nimble, test and fail, test and succeed, very customer-centric. So I went there and he built this plastic cross pitch with these – I call them love swings. There’s some sort of swing that you seat in. They’re hysterical. Whenever I go there, I seat and it takes me a while to get out of them actually. It’s really exciting because when other DHLers go there, DHLers who’ve been around DHL for a long time, they go there and go, “What on earth is going on?” But that’s kind of what we want to build. We have the luxury, as you say, of being much more towards the start-up side than towards the traditional DHL.
Radu: (42:56) – As you said, to the point also that typically in e-commerce if we look at the age of the people that tend to enter there, the industry and the market, they tend to be young or if not they’re young they’re very young at heart like yourself. It’s a different vibe. It’s a different attitude. It’s a different mentality. They’re very switched-on, very fast-paced. Of course, that also means that not everybody can just put up with it. It’s not for everybody. But if you have the drive, it’s very fulfilling. It can be a very fulfilling environment to be in and it’s very stimulating.
Charles: Almost sexy.
Radu: Exactly. So there you go. You made me change my words. Irene was asking. She brought up the global talent shortage in supply chain. One of the major root causes for this is aging workforce, companies not taking steps to feed their talent pipeline. She’s from the African continent. I think it applies to the other continents. This is broader than just e-commerce but she’s asking the question, “What steps or initiatives is the industry taking in order to rectify this and specifically what is the DHL Group [doing]?
Charles: I particularly love this question because it goes right to something I’m very passionate about which is diversity. If you look at the unemployment rate around the world, in the US, in the UK, in France, Germany, they’re the lowest they’ve ever been for a long time, really low unemployment rates, which means regardless of where you work for DHL E-Commerce or anybody else for that matter, if you’re employing a lot of people which we are, it’s tough. It’s challenging because a lot of our blue collar workers, the lowest of the pay side of life, and that’s a really competitive space.
If you look in the US just recently, Amazon was hiring 50,000 employees in a week, if I remember rightly. And they’re hiring in a sort of metric as we are hiring. What was already competitive is becoming more competitive. That’s true wherever you look in the world. If you’re going to hire in Singapore, you want to hire in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, wherever you’re hiring, it’s more competitive today to hire than it was a few years ago.
What does that mean? It means 3 things. One is you have be an employer choice or try to be employer choice. We work really hard as a group, not just DHL E-Commerce, to position DHL as a great place to work. We won lots of awards for it, though that’s meaningless.
It’s more about creating a culture where people enjoy coming to work. We really want people to come to our environment whether in the warehouse, in the office, wherever they working to actually quite like it. That’s a pretty obvious statement to make but you’ll be surprised at how many people don’t like where they work. A third of the world’s workforce [is] either disengaged or on the fence which means they’re not fully engaged. And if they’re not fully engaged, they’re not giving their best; they’re not really customer-centric; they’re not really focused on providing a great service.
We work really hard to try to move that the third that are super excited and the third that are on the fence, to keep pushing them to be even more super excited and more happy because if you do, they’ll provide an even better service. The third that are completely disengaged, you probably have lost them already and you should just separate and shake hands as quickly as possible. Again Irene, to your question, the first point is work really hard to position yourself to be employer choice. I have to be honest, from a DHL E-Commerce perspective, until about a year ago; I’m not so sure we did that very well. I don’t think we were positioning DHL E-Commerce as a great place to come to work, if you want to come to work in the e-commerce-related logistics sector. You probably want to go to work for one of the market places or somewhere else. We worked really hard to put DHL E-Commerce in the map, externally, so speaking in events, Sheryl spends a lot of time positioning DHL externally in the right format. So we have a place; we have a space; we have a voice. And if you do that, people will say that’s interesting; I like to come and learn more. And we see the number of applications has gone up considerably. That’s number one.
Number two is, when you hire somebody, when you bring somebody into your organization, make sure you create a great experience. From the moment they say yes, or indeed thinking about saying yes, from that first moment you interact with them, the experience better be amazing. In fact I was talking to one of my country managers about this over the weekend about seeing a couple of prospective employees who wrote to me and said hey I haven’t heard and I said that’s just is not acceptable because you’re creating a brand or you’re managing the brand in the market place and those people who don’t hear back will talk to any other people I never heard back. So you’re just going to operate really correctly from moment of interest to hiring and on-boarding on the way to their career. You have to work much harder these days to keep the employees super engaged and motivated. That’s number two.
And number three, I think to point around diversity and this one’s really important for me. As I mentioned earlier, I was in Africa for 5 years. And when I first went there, we had something like 16 percent of our leadership were female and when I left it was 40 percent or more than 40 percent. Everybody said when in Africa you can’t have female leaders and I said rubbish. As organizations, we need to work really hard to recognize there are big populations in diverse categories that we have to be attractive to. It’s not just females by the way. It’s diversity in general.
To your point earlier on about logistics, I’m not sure is always the most attractive for all segments but my thought around it is that you can change that. You can make it more attractive for all categories and for all persons of whatever religion, sex, race, whatever else. Again we started this journey about nine months ago around becoming a much more diverse employer in the DHL E-Commerce. DP DHL has been doing it for a long time. Today the result is trying to show that we really can become an employer of choice for all categories as well. I think that’s really important. Going back to Irene’s questions around there is a shortage of talent, there is a shortage of prospective employees. If you disengage from one’s category or one’s segment, that can be a big part of the population. We want to be a very diverse employer. There’s lots of benefits that come with getting different folks and all the rest of it.
But again just covering that one question, there’s a really good reason to ensure that you’re an equal opportunity employer and you really do try and create a place where people could work regardless of where they come from and who they are.
Radu: (49:55) – Absolutely. Back into your point with making sure the people are well taken cared of all throughout the hiring process; it’s almost like HR nowadays. I’ve had this discussion with several of my clients as well. HR has to function as marketing as well, as branding department as well. It’s a very fine line where it should be together. This is the world we live in. People have choices. People talk. People have social media. If you upset somebody, they will take it to the social media and your brand will be hit and it’s not something that you would want to do.
Charles: You hear in the marketplace. You hear about great companies to work for, people that really love to work for. Here in Singapore I hear certain companies mentioned more than others. I also hear in Singapore companies where people don’t want to work for. We want to be definitely the company that people want to work for. To your point, we work very hard and still need to work harder on making sure we brand correctly.
Radu: (51:00) – Good question from Max Sullivan. He’s actually asking how could we better train our staff to be outside-of-the-box thinkers who are constantly looking to optimize our costumers supply chain rather than just be a piece in the mechanism wheeling in the chain.
Charles: I think it’s really important to make sure you explain what part of the cog they are. In my business, people that encode packages in the warehouses, to the delivery, to whoever, we’re really making sure that they understand what part in the process they play. That’s number one. Number two, celebrate them.
Traditionally, I’ve seen certain functions get more celebration than others. I think that’s wrong. I think you really going to celebrate everybody’s contribution to the organization especially as you possibly can. Thirdly, we have a really fantastic training and development program which called PEP Export. Every single person from the CEO down to the ops agent in the warehouse goes through the same program, my self included. So we’re all on the same page. It’s not fair for me to comment just purely on DHL as I know lots of your listeners are working for big companies and some are small but we’re fairly lucky the culture of DHL is very much a family.
We don’t tend to be too hierarchical in the first place. If I’m in the warehouse, I’ll have lunch with the couriers. It’s just the way we operate. That’s the way we work. I think that’s real positive. People do feel very inclusive in the organization in the first place.
Radu: (52: 45) – What do you see as talent gaps in the industry of e-commerce right now? What skills is the industry lacking badly at the moment in the e-commerce?
Charles: It’s really that e-commerce logistics experience. If you are a sales person, selling e-commerce logistics or express or freight is fairly similar, so it’s very transferrable but operating e-commerce logistics experiences, you have to learn.
Working on orchestrating routes and the technology side of e-commerce operations are probably the tougher part. The rest is not so much. It’s the front-end piece that I think is somewhat slimmer in terms of depth of available talent. But it’s changing. Then again, what are we doing about it? We’re working really hard to create sort of universities within the e-commerce.
Today if one of our country managers left, I hope it doesn’t happen by the way, we would probably have to replace externally because we haven’t developed our people through yet, having been going for a year and a half, two years. But in the next 2 or 3 years, that’ll change. The normal DHL way is very much the folks and crew grow in talent internally. Aside from the many other things we’re doing around the world, we’re also working really hard on talent management and getting a high performance through so they’re ready to take up the next level.
Radu: (54:20) – Super. Actually there was a question in terms of how you develop the future of e-commerce. Is there some particular program you’re applying in e-commerce?
Charles: We follow the very normal DHL way which is the 70-20-10, which is 70% is on the job. We really work hard to keep people experienced in our front line. Sheryl, as I mentioned early on, who heads our marketing, is very keen for some very bizarre reason to go and learn about sales and sales management. So we’re going to dispatch her off to a country to experience being a sales manager for a period of time and then she learns that and she comes back and if she stays whatever else.
From my 33 years in DHL, I learn the most from doing not from listening. I can remember the very first budget I was given which in those days is all paper-based. And I looked at the person who gave it to me and said, “What to do you want me to do with this?” and he said, “Learn.”
On my very first budget, I had no experience. I made loads of mistakes but that’s how you learn. That culture is still very strong. In DHL [there’s] a lot of entrepreneurial type of activities where we give people the opportunity to go and do new things, learn and fail or succeed. But all of our projects are run by existing DHL people that sort of position do that for six months or nine months or whatever else. So 70% on the job and then the rest we supplement that. We don’t get a fair share, we share a loss. But I use Sheryl as an example. She’s also doing an external ditch for a cause right now. Sheryl is in the room with us by the way, so just in case. So the 20% and 10% are external training is a good example and it’s what Sheryl is doing. Digital social training externally as well. So we balance that 70-20-10 but 70% on the job.
[56:30] Part 3: Becoming a leader – success habits and attitude
Radu: (56:12) – Yeah, fantastic. We learn best when we are involved. And kind of leeway question to our next segment is if somebody in their 20’s, maybe somebody starting up in DHL E-Commerce, just fresh off the oven. If they were to ask you how to become the CEO of DHL E-Commerce in a few years, what kind of advice would you share?
Charles: Well, they may not wait a few years, that’s the first advice I’d give them. I’m often asked what advice would you give younger DHLers. My advice is always very constant which is it’s all about attitude. I really believe that. DHL is not a proxy for every company or every industry but certainly in DHL we care far more about someone’s attitude and not necessarily their educational experience or what color [they are] or what university degree they got.
We really care about how they apply themselves in the workplace. When we’re having talent discussions, we talk a lot about EQ. of course we talk about IQ as well, but we talk a lot about EQ, their ability to learn, their ability to take risks, their ability to create a trusting environment, their ability to deliver results. We focus a lot on their leadership attributes and behavior as opposed to necessarily the quantifiable hard facts by what school they went to or wherever else.
My advice to a younger person if they want to be the CEO of DHL E-Commerce is first of all – think twice. And secondly, you have to push me out of the way. And thirdly, go for it. It’s all about attitude. Just really give it a hundred percent hard foot on the accelerator as hard as you can go, as fast as you can go and I’m sure you’d be great.
Radu: (57:58) – Super. Finally, our third segment is personal habits for success. There’s a good question from one our listeners. He was asking you what does the first two hours of your day look like. Before you get to work, do you follow early morning routine?
Charles: Yeah I do. I replied at that time but I just have to be careful that my wife doesn’t read it. I travel a lot, an awful lot. Some would say a crazy amount. But I do travel an awful lot. I’ll answer the question assuming I’m at home.
If I’m at home, I really use the first hour of my day to spend some time with my family, with the kids, before they go to school or whatever they’re doing. This morning I sat at breakfast with my son. I’m competing with my daughter who’s trying to watch her iPad and I’m trying to have a conversation. It’s a very modern world we live in these days. My children are quite young, they’re 8 and 10. So I really try to spend a bit of time with my family, be it with my wife, with the kids or walking the dog or whatever we’re doing.
And then I read incessantly. I love reading. Normally the best time for me to read, not emails, but external stuff – linkedin, twitter, even a bit of facebook, catch a little of what’s going on around the world, my friends around the world. I use that the first half hour to have a quick scan of what’s going on on the planet, outside of my world. Then if I’m in Singapore, I’d go to the gym. I have a trainer there who beats the living daylights out of me but it’s great. Then I come to the office and crack on with work and whatever else I’m doing. I suppose selfishly, the first hour or two is me with the family, me with myself, or me trying to make sure I’m fit to live and I got my head clear for the day.
Radu: (60:13) – Another question, “What is the book that you give most to people?”
Charles: I’ve given lots of books last year. At the end of last year, I gave out a book on e-commerce delivery by Jonathan Reeve wrote it. He’s Australian author who wrote a very good book – a very short simple book on some of the challenges and opportunities in e-commerce delivery. I’ve given every one of our managers, in case I didn’t know. But probably my favorite one is “Good to Great”. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Again I love reading but “Good to Great” is a particularly excellent book.
I made this point to a lot of employees. There a lot of good companies out there. A lot of good employees but there are few great. But the margin between good and great are so small is untrue.
I have 90 people working here in the office. If you say to me Charles, tell me something about some of your employees. Although I have 90, the ones I will tell you about are the ones that stand out in the great category, which is 2, 3 or 4 people. And the shameful part of that is, shameful for me but also shameful for them, there could be another 20 or 30 people out there that just made a minimal effort in trying to get more recognition, more visibility to what they’re doing, would be in that same category. I think it’s true in sports, it’s true in business. I tell my son this all the time.
My son is 8 and he’s a lovely little man; he’s always in trouble. But the good news is, whenever I go to his school, every teacher knows him, not necessarily in a good way but every teacher knows him. If you went to that school and say, in his age group – 8, tell me about some of the kids. I guarantee you his name would come [up] – by the way in case anybody knows him. His name would come up because he does something to distinguish himself from others. Whether it be good or bad, he does something to distinguish himself from others. The biggest lesson I think most companies, most people, most organization, most employees, my biggest advice to anyone is find those 2, 3, 4 or 5 things that move you from good to great, and if you do that, success follows.
Radu: (62:23) – It’s an excellent point. I have to share this story because we’re working with a client which I will not name. I was talking to their global head of HR which is a fantastic lady. She was sharing. She has a very progressive mind-set. She’s all over LinkedIn. She’s doing a lot of branding. She explained to me, “I’m really struggling to convince my CEO to go on LinkedIn and take on LinkedIn and just post stuff there.” And I’m like why, why is that. She said historically the company has been built on the value of being humble. And they just understand that being humble, you don’t go and broadcast yourself. But you can be humbly broadcasting yourself.
Charles: It’s not boasting or bragging. It’s doing the right things. When I was growing up as a kid, I remember people saying things like “I know he’s brownnosing or she’s brownnosing”. And that phrase ‘brownnosing’ I think is one of the worst words I’ve ever heard because it’s not brownnosing. It’s about career management. It’s so important. It’s not about bragging or boasting. I tell my son be humble. It’s about being noticed. It’s about telling the world you exist. It’s about telling your employer you exist. It’s about telling the school you exist. Humans are humans. They don’t notice you.
Radu: (63:50) – We are in Asia. I’ve been in Asia for 10 years. Fundamentally, I get Asian culture, right? It’s the sound of the empty vessel. Do not brag. But we live fundamentally in a world where people want to be connected to you. You need to stand for something. Everybody stands for something. It’s not bragging; it’s just broadcasting. Who are you, right? It’s important in a workplace. It’s important personally. Whatever employer you stand for, you’re representing a brand. You as the CEO of DHL E-Commerce, you are the brand. People follow you. So it’s fascinating.
Charles: My wife sometimes gets very disturbed by my son’s antics. My daughter is different. She’s much more studious, much quieter. She just focuses on doing her work. She’s a very bright young lady. She’s a princess; she can do no wrong. But my son is the opposite. My wife sometimes get very worried and I always tell my wife you need not worry about Henry. She said why. I said because he’s worked out the importance of being noticed. And that’s good. That’s a good thing; we should celebrate it. And so I do. We told him he should be humble but we celebrate his differences.
Radu: (65:15) – Perfect. Another question, interesting question, “What is something that you believe in that other people think it’s insane?”
Charles: I don’t think other people think it’s insane. But I always believed in not forgetting who you are and where you’ve come from. I started my life in DHL as a customer service agent. I was a courier for three year, one of the best jobs on the planet. You say hello in the morning to your boss and you don’t see him until 6pm in the evening. What a great job. And he got away with it.
I come from very humble beginnings. My father, if he was still around, would probably tell you he was particularly worried about me. I think he would probably feel about me how my wife would feel about my son. Not sure that all is good. I come from very humble beginnings but to the point I remember where I came from. I remember where I was. I remember how I like to be spoken to. I remember how I like to be treated. I remember how I didn’t like to be spoken to. I remember how I didn’t like to be treated.
Today in DHL E-Commerce we have 25,000 employees. 24,700 of them are fairly junior people trying to enjoy life, go home at night, feed their families or develop a family or whatever else it may be. And as I said early on, we want people to enjoy it.And so when they meet me, it better be a positive experience.
I talk a lot about being the chief energy officer. Some of the 25,000 people I may only have met ever once and for 10 seconds, or 20 seconds, or 30 seconds. So that 10 or 20 or 30 seconds better a pretty good 10 or 20 or 30 seconds. I personally believe that when I go to a market or go to a country or come to the office, I work hard to engage at every level and I know that some others potentially feel that too close in those levels, which I don’t agree with. I think you should stay true to who you are. Remember where you came from and make sure you make every possible interaction with every person you meet is enjoyable as it possibly can be.
Radu: (67:50) – Super. You definitely give that impression. Social media. We need to put it on the table. You’re very active on LinkedIn. You’re probably one of the most active CEOs that I have in mind at work on social media. I’m mind-boggled of how little it seems that people get the impact and influence and power of social media to this day. So you’re an active user, influencer, LinkedIn power profile which is great. Congratulations for that. Can you share a little bit more in terms of how does it help you? How does it help your brand? How does it help DHL E-Commerce brand?
Charles: I always believe in it. I discovered social media when I was in Africa. There a billion people in Africa. If you have a paper written in South Africa, it’s not going to reach Ghana or wherever else. The world is a pretty big place.
I recognize that social media is great way to connect with employees and connect with customers and potential employees and potential customers and stakeholders fairly effectively and very quickly. So I learned that 4 or 5, 6 years ago. It’s a fantastic tool to do that. That’s number one.
Number two, like I said earlier, if you want to be an employer of choice, an investor of choice, provider of choice. Those are three guiding principles in terms of who we want to be as an organization. If you want to do those three things, you have to connect with them. So I got huge amounts of feedback from employers and customers through additional channels.
It’s a great medium for me to listen, engage, hear, take critique, and take praise occasionally, more critique than praise. It’s a great way connecting with your stakeholders, very fast and very effectively. I’m not going to get back to school. I’m pretty late in my life.
I’m 52 years now, although I did think about it the other day. I’m probably not going to school and learn something new, but you can learn so much by what’s written and posted on social media channels. Like I said early on, I spend half an hour, an hour a day reading, learning. And normally they’re quite quick reads. They’re not ten-day reads, just ten second or half an hour or whatever it may be. You can learn an awful lot of what’s going on in your sector or related sectors or the world by going through social. So yes, I’m a real firm believer.
We were talking about it the other day [that] it’s a great way for us to attract talent; it’s a great way for us to recruit. I do a lot of searching for talent through LinkedIn for example. We use LinkedIn a lot to research people, research prospective employees, research prospective customers, and engage with existing customers. It’s just some way that people to do business today. If you’re not on it, what are you doing? It’s just crazy. It’s the place where your customers are, especially in the e-commerce sector because our population, our consumer base is pretty young. My wife is not ringing a call center ever. She’s going on twitter and saying, “This is great or this is rubbish.” We do a lot of that – managing and maintaining our customer base through those sorts of things.
Radu: (71:30) – Yeah absolutely. Coming from executive search, I see that as complimentary. I don’t see it as a threat to my business. It’s a great talent-based. We’re going to start selling solutions to companies for employer branding, for social selling. It’s threat and opportunity [depending] on how you play.
Charles: For you and for us, more of an opportunity than threat if you use it in the right way. I think it’s fantastic. It’s a bit like the e-commerce discussion we had early on about threat and opportunity. That train has left the station. So far better to be on it and work at how to use it as your advantage than not.
Radu: (72:09) – Use it as an enabler. You cannot fight it. I had a very interesting discussion with somebody at the economic development board in Singapore. He was arguing the case that soon enough people are going to start fighting against technology because they will see technology as taking their jobs. Again it depends on how you play it because the core fundamental of it is an enabler. It will not be taking away all our jobs but you need to be in a constant time frame and mind-set of constant learning, adopt, use the channel that works to connect to your audience, connect to your clients.
Charles: Anybody who thinks they can fight technology is completely missing the point. It’s about working how to play with it and be part of it and use it as a success tool rather than [not]. Again you can’t stop it. It has happened. Going back to the question, I’m on social media – I am and I want it a lot. But you got to be very careful that it doesn’t destroy your other values, your other life system.
Sometimes I practice mindfulness and there are moments when I really have to catch myself and say, “You know what, stop.” I was recently in Bintan with a family this last weekend, having a break. And I make a very conscious decision that from the moment we leave the room, so from 8o’clock in the morning until 6pm at night when we come back, I don’t take my phone, I don’t take my laptop, I don’t take anything. It’s just family time and I only allocated in my head half an hour or so during my off time to catch up with work or LinkedIn or whatever else it may be. It can become quite consuming and I see that in families. I see it in my children who are consumed with their iPads. I see it in myself. It’s like everything. It’s about getting the right balance. Too much is not so good and too little is definitely not very good and none at all is definitely a mistake. Social is the right place to be.
Radu: (74:24) – I’ve had my fair share of it. My wife also has given me pretty hard time. I’m trying to balance it off perfectly. It’s a fine balance such as life in general typically. We’re just about close to an end, just a couple more questions. What has been the biggest letdown in your career so far? We learn a lot also from where we fail.
Charles: I was in the US when we just recently bought domestic company and over 2 years trying to make it succeed and it didn’t and we had to eventually close it down. This is about 8 years ago now. That was hugely and personally painful. Painful because I wanted it to succeed, and I think it could have succeeded if we’d gone about it the right way. But personally painful because we let a lot of people down, lay-off a lot of people, so it was one of the hardest periods of the life in DHL without a doubt.
But to your point, the upside – and there is limited upside. The upside is I learned an awful lot. I learned an awful lot how not to do things going forward in terms of executing acquisitions. But it was a really an unpleasant experience. And I still to this day felt very sad about what we went through. That’s one and then secondly on a much happier note, my personal biggest dissatisfaction is I still haven’t lost 20 kilos. I’m still trying to lose 20 kilos. I’ve got down to about 10-15 but haven’t got down to 20. So I still have at least another 15 kilos to go. It drives me mental that I struggle to get these other kilos off.
Radu: (76:18) – You really don’t need to. Just accept it. You come from England and you said you are an Arsenal fan and you’re a rugby fan as well. In rugby it’s an advantage. You should not be too slim. My father is a rugby player; he’s not particularly slim. What kind of industry events you find useful? Is there any industry event that you would recommend?
Charles: There’s a lot actually. I mentioned earlier on that Sheryl and I decided when first got together about a year ago was that DHL E-Commerce didn’t have a particularly strong position in the market place around what we’re doing towards the stakeholders that we talked about endlessly. We made a decision that we’re going to speak in a lot more events. You can’t really delegate that activity. That has to be the CEO. So it causes a bit of travel congestion here and there. There are some really fantastic events around Asia, some really fantastic events in Europe, and some really fantastic events in the US. The trick is choosing the right ones. The ones that really fit with what you want to achieve. That’s been hugely successful. We get involved as an organization.
DHL sponsors a lot of activities. We sponsor Manchester United rather sadly from my perspective being an Arsenal fan. We sponsor Bayern Munich last week. That’s not so bad. They’re a great club. They did ask me how do deal with the quandary of being an Arsenal fan and having to wear a Bayern Munich jersey. I said I can get past it. We sponsor F1 and we sponsor Formula E which is a new electronic formula racing which is fantastic. It really supports and supplements our drive to become zero emissions organization. We’re really proud of that. It’s really taking off. So we sponsor a lot of activities. We get to go to attend a lot of events which we get to take a lot of our customers which is fantastic. It’s nice to spend a bit of time either with our employers or customers in a more social setting. It’s quite nice. Other than that, I don’t really have time for many other things.
Radu: (78:37) – As you mentioned, you’re taking your information out of LinkedIn, out of Twitter. Are you using any apps? Any other pieces of useful technology that you use?
Charles: Not really. I mentioned LinkedIn and Twitter primarily. There are few other ones. We have an app which is a DHL application called Yammr. But we use that to set up groups across DHL, to talk to as many people as we possibly can. It’s internal. We do a lot of that. That’s quite good actually. We use that quite a lot for e-commerce to push out information to our customers, also to our employees but also to listen to their feedbacks. Just recently for example in the US, I wanted to find out some information around how well one of our products was doing. So I asked our employees in the US and within seconds, I had lots and lots of feedbacks about what’s good and what’s bad. And again to the point early on about what do I do that others think is mad. Some people may think it’s crazy but my personal opinion is if you really want to know how something is going, don’t ask the manager; ask the courier or ask warehouse person. They will tell you the truth about how something is going. I use a lot of those platforms to get very fast research. I wish I could do the same for customers. I have to work out how I could do the same for customers. Certainly from the employers’ perspective, we use that quite a bit.
Radu: (80:19) – Super. Final question, if you could go back and give your 21 year old self a valuable piece of advice, what would you say?
Charles: Don’t eat that burger. I’d been asked this a couple of times before actually. I don’t know. It’s a really tough one. I probably would say there’s nothing in my life I would change. I’ve loved all the 33 years with DHL. 52 years in life, but 33 years with DHL. I’ve been in 110 countries in one way working or visiting. I’ve met football stars. I’ve had an amazing life, amazing opportunities, so there’s nothing I would change. I’d probably tell my 20 year old version, “Go hard and go fast and stand out even more”.
Radu: Super. Charles, great sharing. Thanks a lot for your time. Thanks for making the time to share with us. Catch you soon. Cheers.