Transcript #06 with Bjorn Vang Jensen, Global Head of Logistics at Electrolux Part 3 – Personal success stories and habits

Time stamp Speaker Answer
0:07 Radu I’ll move to the final segment, which is the personal side.


There’s a couple of very interesting questions and final thoughts. Bjorn, you made the switch—you were in shipping, and then you made it to the 3PL side, and then 13 years ago, obviously with Electrolux on the shipper side. You’ve done what a lot of people in the 3PL and shipping lines dream of doing: move to the client side.


Any advice for those that are trying to do the same?

0:34 Bjorn My advice is network, network and network. If that’s really what you want to do, then you’ve got to network.


I actually made it to the buy side or the dark side, whatever you want to call it, by pure serendipity. That’s a story I can’t really tell, but it was serendipitous moment, and you never discount serendipity in finding your next job, right? But of course, I wouldn’t have gotten on the radar screen of Electrolux if I didn’t somehow pop up on somebody’s radar. And if i didn’t have the right skills and a bit of a personal brand which I had and have, so spend time on building your personal brand, all right? Be careful about how you build it. Be visible, and of course working in the industry, it tends to be when people switch over from shipping lines and 3PLs to the buy side, it tends to be because they’ve worked with specific clients, and those clients have liked what they see.


If you’re lucky enough to work with a big MNC, and you want to switch, make sure that

A) that you make that known, and B) that you do work for them that brings you onto their radar.


I’ll also say it is absolutely not the first time that I’ve been asked this question, in fact it may be the 600th time or something. Usually, I get asked that question by people who want to make that switch. Sometimes also be careful what you wish for because you may get it. I know people who have made the switch who ultimately moved back after a year into the 3PL side. I can think of three people right at the top of my head. That has a lot to do with—you know what we talked about early in this podcast—what a humbling experience it was for me to move over on to the other side. You need to accept if you move to the other side that it’s not just about being given a bully pulpit with which to now hammer the 3PLs and do to them what they did to you and all that sort of stuff. That tends to be what’s on people’s minds, right? You have to make the effort to learn—really learn. Very often, you have to make the effort to almost totally re-educate yourself and accept that you are not on top of the food chain for a while over on the other side.


Look in very closely before you decide to make the switch. Am I willing to do that or is that just not something that I can do at this stage, right? The grass is not greener over on this side, it’s just a different type of grass. And you’ve got to be prepared for a change in diet.

3:39 Radu Great. That’s a great analogy.
3:47 Bjorn When you move over, right? So the advice is no different from any other job advice. Make sure you do a good job, make sure you’re visible, make sure you take care of your network, but also be prepared to accept the change that will come if one day you’re the dog that actually catches that car, right? Like OK, now what?
4:07 Radu And it’s a great point that sometimes people just have these knee jerk reactions, they need direction. It’s not just about this particular 3PL and shippers, but in general, right? Always we think the grass is greener on the other side. We don’t do enough background check. We don’t understand actually even what is it. You just see the shiny part, you don’t see the not glamorous part. So correct point, better do your background check.
4:31 Bjorn Absolutely. Really the most people who ask this question are people who are on the sales side. For example, you work for a 3PL, you’ve been to a number of negotiations with people like me—of course if it’s been with me, it’s been unfailingly pleasant, but when I was on the sales side, I’ve been to the very unpleasant ones. And so you can’t help but sit there and dream, “Oh man, I want to sit on the other side of that table one day! Oh man, they’re going to get it, or at least I will get out of this situation, and I won’t have to sell anymore, I have to buy.”


To those people, I always say, I spent probably half of my career in sales. I had never done more selling in my life than in the past 13 years with Electrolux because that guy that you are sitting there facing as a salesman, for example, if it’s me, I’m going to have to go out and sell you to the organization later on as a service provider. I don’t know very many people in my position who have total autonomy to just spend lavishly other people’s money. So you have your meeting with me because I want to find out if you’re worth me trying to sell to my organization. If you think you could get out of selling by just getting my job, you have another thing coming. There’s a lot of internal sales—it is also sales.

5:56 Radu Right, great point. Any early-morning routines that you follow?


6:01 Bjorn I do try to shower every day.


6:03 Radu It’s like motivation, right? Better do it daily.


6:07 Bjorn I’m an early bird. I don’t know why, but somehow I am programmed to sleep a maximum six hours, and it doesn’t really matter when. So I usually wake up on or before 6AM, and I have a morning like a lot of other people. My kids are old and don’t live with me anymore. They’re in boarding school, so that morning school routine is gone. For me, I’ve always enjoyed those early morning hours where nobody calls you, hardly anybody’s awake, and I am a fairly prolific user of social media. I start with that and a cup of coffee. And then I do my emails. Very often, get to the point where most of my emails are done or taken care of or at least categorized before I come to work. And so being a morning person is a great privilege.
7:07 Radu Productive privilege.
7:08 Bjorn And unfortunately I’m not as strong with my fitness as I should be, which tends to be a weekend activity where I then go absolutely crazy: cycling, golf, all the rest of it, but not as much exercise during the week mornings as there should be, I’m afraid.
7:28 Radu What is something that you believe in that other people think is crazy?
7:38 Bjorn I think I believe with other people, they don’t think it’s crazy. They would love to do it, but somehow they can’t do it. I am nearly 100% paperless.


So I’ve actually spent a significant amount of money and a whole lot of time in climbing the learning curve over the last four or five years both on my personal and in my business life. You come to my desk, you won’t find a scrap of paper on there, unless it’s something that’s there for my signature. And if it’s there for my signature, I’d tell people to take it away to scan it and email to me, so I can sign it on my iPad, with my Apple pencil. I built my whole life around apps like Evernote, Dropbox, and a few others—MindNode brings to mind. That really enables you once you’ve jumped the hurdle to live a totally paperless existence. Paper answers my life privately in the form of utility bills or whatever, I really can’t get them by email? I immediately scan them, throw them into Evernote, and throw the paper away.


So when people think I’m a nerd, I probably am. People think I’m crazy, but when anyone needs an important document from me, and I can produce them on my iPhone, my iPad or my computer within 30 seconds, they’re not laughing anymore. It’s a high hurdle, but a very rewarding—and I guess some people think that is crazy.

9:11 Radu I should ask you for some tips.
9:16 Bjorn I have tutored an awful lot of people.
9:19 Radu A couple of more questions very quickly. Social media—we spoke a little bit about social media. Tell me a little bit. How do you use it? Has it helped your brand?
9:28 Bjorn Well, social media can help you and hurt you. It can help you very quickly, it can hurt you even faster, right?


As a brand, if we talk about Electrolux, obviously we are very keenly aware of the power of social media. We’re all over Twitter, Facebook—Pinterest is a big one for us because that’s where a lot of people do their research on when you’re building a new kitchen or laundry rooms, Pinterest is one of the more surprising ones. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. Twitter. A lot of videos that we release these days are linked on Facebook, etc.


Again the Anova acquisition was a big eye-opener for us as well. They’ve developed the use of social media in the advertising, and social media into a fine art. We use it to communicate corporate news, etc. And that’s only going to get bigger and bigger, and of course what we’re keenly aware of is the power of social media—it’s a quick work against your brand. Let’s be honest, these days if a customer has a washing machine that’s broken down or has a bad experience, she will tweet it out, and within five minutes, 200,000 people will read it, and your response is absolutely everything. We have a large group of people that monitor that.

10:52 Radu Yeah because actually, that’s an opportunity. There’s no problem. I mean everybody screws it up sometimes, the way you turn a screw-up…
11:00 Bjorn Absolutely correct. You can turn a screw-up into something very valuable if you react swiftly, conclusively, and in a manner that will then cause the customer to go viral. That is pretty good.


Pardon me, let’s be honest, as people we have an unfortunate tendency to only tell other people when we’ve had a negative experience, whereas the 99 customers who had an absolutely perfect experience, they can’t take that for granted, and that’s cool they don’t tell people about it. So this is great power.


Personally on social media, you know me, I’m a prolific user of Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter, for very different purposes. Obviously on Twitter, there are a lot of professional stuff. I follow a lot of influencers and news outlets that are supply chain and shipping-specific, and I tweet my opinions. LinkedIn is a more professional network of course where occasionally I publish articles that tend to get read by quite a number of people, so I’d be quite careful about what I put in those articles. Facebook is where you can get political and controversial.

12:19 Radu Personal views, obviously.
12:21 Bjorn And I am, that’s very safe. We all have to have our little outlets. You just need to be very careful. I think with your own use of social media, that you don’t mix the three, all right?
12:32 Radu Each channel has a purpose, yeah. You’re right, absolutely.
12:33 Bjorn A place for everything, and everything in its place. Basically, right?
12:36 Radu Don’t mix and match.


Final question: if somebody who is just graduating in university nowadays would ask you, what are some of the principles to follow in their careers so that one day, maybe they become Chief Supply Chain Officer or Global Head of Logistics for Electrolux? What type of advice would you tell them? What is the principle?

12:57 Bjorn Well there are principles and there are concrete actions you can take. In terms of the principles, if you need to live your life by. Martin Christopher—Professor Martin Christopher from Cranfield who is a very old friend of mine and I’ve also worked a lot with him—he had two wonderful phrases that I think he more or less invented.


First of all, if you want to work in Logistics or Supply Chain, you must be comfortable with ambiguity. OK? If you can’t be comfortable with not all the answers are there right now and by the way the situation can change in five minutes, if that’s not the type of life or job you’re comfortable with, but then don’t even think about it. To be comfortable with ambiguity and to embrace ambiguity as an opportunity, right?


You very quickly learn when you’re in Logistics and Supply Chain that there is never a 100% solution. If you wait till you have 100% solution, then the train has probably left the station. So 80% is really good enough in Supply Chain and Logistics, it just needs to be the right 80%. It has to be comfortable with their being 20% that you are not going to solve right now, maybe you’ll solve it later. So comfort with ambiguity.


The other wonderful phrase that Martin has used from time to time is the notion of the T-shaped personality. Rather than being this I-shaped person who sits very comfortably in a silo, you need to be a T-shaped personality that really understands the supply chain. Let me be clear, supply chain is not about container and warehouse. The supply chain starts in procurement and planning, and it goes all the way through your customers. And so if you really want to have a career in supply chain that’s going to take you to the top, you’re going to have to make it your business to learn all of those functions. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to work in every single one of them, but you have to make an effort to reach out to people who do and understand what it is they do for a living.


For a bunch of reasons, first it will enable you to make much more informed decisions, secondly it will ensure at least you don’t become that silo that we’re all trying to break down. The concrete action you can take is reach out to people in different fields, different departments in the company, try to find—can you work there—if you can work there, that’s even better. Try to read, educate yourself constantly. There’s no excuse for not doing it. When I started in Logistics, you have to go to a bookstore and hope they have some books on it that weren’t too old. These days, any iPhone will drown you in information if you go looking for it. Be the T-shaped personality, be comfortable with ambiguity, make an effort to reach out to different functions and learn what they do, and never stop learning.

16:10 Radu Yeah, that was super. Excellent. Excellent pieces of advice. Bjorn, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for the time. Thanks for sharing with us. Good luck, and also let’s share with our listeners, good luck in your new geography after 13 years in Asia.
16:26 Bjorn I’m moving across in a couple of months, moving to the US, but for those who are hoping that there might be a job opening here, I have to disappoint you. I am literally taking my job with me simply to a new country, and I look forward to that.
16:43 Radu Thank you, Bjorn. Good luck, and catch you soon.
16:46 Bjorn Thank you, Radu.

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