I was inspired to write these few words after reading a recent Hub entry. The observations being put forward are true, but there is another side to the story that’s rarely told?

My simple approach

Having spent my whole career in the transport and logistics industry I can only conclude its been a fantastic journey and an experience that few other sectors could provide.

When I first started as a traffic clerk after dropping out of university, I could not imagine what the future would bring.  My recipe for success in those early formative years was very simple, work hard and take the risk of volunteering for bigger more difficult roles. The first such move was to volunteer to do the back shift, the least popular amongst my peers and bosses. They all wanted a family and social life, whereas I wanted to get on. My social life was packed into the weekend and I had the career advantage of being in charge of the largest TNT depot in the country, a very busy parcels depot between 7pm and 11pm, I was the boss!

This was at a time, when TNT were growing quickly and those who demonstrated the right attitude and commitment could grow with the business.

I don’t actually think much has changed in terms of an approach today, the industry needs committed young people who have an appetite for success and the opportunities are just as good, if not better?

From those days at TNT my career hasn’t stopped progressing, from parcels to logistics, from clerk to operations manager, from general manager to country MD in The Netherlands, from TNT to Bibby Distribution, from executive firector (in real governance terms) to MD to COO to CEO of a £350m portfolio of eight companies. And now I have my own consultancy business where all those years of development and experiences I can use for the benefit of my clients.

Life Experiences

I’ve learned about people and all that goes with people.  The most fundamental aspect being they are all individual and deserve respect and courtesy whatever their job or role wherever they are in the organisation. We are all wired the same way. The motivation of people costs very little if you recognise and practice basic principles and values.  You can have a sub-optimal supply chain that is highly effective because of interested, committed, dedicated and motivated people … their discretionary effort will make it successful …. But a highly optimised supply chain with a de-motivated workforce and management will inevitably fail.

I never have understood why some managers and leaders think it’s just about telling people what to do? They know what to do, better than anyone.

I’ve learned about hundreds of clients businesses, sectors and philosophies to the extent some of them I believe I know their business at least as well as they do. Is there another sector that gives such a broad and often deep understanding of business?

I’ve also experienced a massive move forward from the late 1970’s in terms of technology. It’s gone from trucks, sheds and paper to an industry that is highly efficient, compliant, agile and sophisticated driven by or supported by technology. It’s still about trucks sheds and people though and we mustn’t forget this, not yet at least until drones are common place!

I’ve learned about strategy, a word I dislike because of the multitude of interpretations of its definition and at times an arrogance that’s wrapped around the word. When you get down to the basics it’s about really knowing where you are, where you are aiming to get and putting in place the plans to get you there recognising and adapting to the world or your part of the world as it changes around you.

I’ve learned about growth, not just winning new business but also about acquisitions and the difficulties in finding the right targets, negotiating the right price that represents value to both parties, the integration (or not) of the acquired business into your own and the most important aspect being the impact on people and the organisations ability to cope.

People are key

People, in my view, are the common thread that runs through our sector and we haven’t got enough of them. We need more drivers, we need more young people, we need rounded managers and we really need outstanding leaders.

So let’s get out there and spread the word … This is a fantastic opportunity ….  Every day provides inspiration, challenge, excitement and for those who aspire to bigger and better things a really rewarding career.

The Future

We all have a role to play.

Surely all of this means we are in a great industry, one that we should be proud of, one that is of strategic importance to UK PLC, but isn’t recognised as such. Let’s stop complaining and get on with the good, positive stuff, there’s plenty of it. We will then be listened to …. and heard loud and clear!

Author Iain Speak is managing director of Iain Speak Consultancy