Amos speaks to Marc Moss on how he built his sales team in Nippon Express as it started as a one-person team, how Marc ensures his team doesn’t fall back into the legacy route, and what transformation the freight industry has undergone.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Producer  0:06

Hi. You’re listening to Single Steps, a podcast by Hatch Asia Consulting, inspired by Lao Tzu’s, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

 

You’ll be hosted by Amos Tay as he meets Marc Moss of Nippon Express.

 

Amos Tay  0:21

Every talent has a story, and each story starts with their single steps. I am Amos, your host for today. In every episode, I invite guests who will share their single steps and how they have come a long way to where they are. I’m honored to have with me today Mr Marc Moss, a Senior Global Supply Chain leader with over two decades of proven logistics sales transformation experience, having lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the emerging market. His work experience includes DHL, GEODIS, and Agility. Good morning, Marc.

 

Marc Moss  0:54

Good morning, Amos. Thanks for inviting me.

 

Amos Tay  0:57

Well, it’s a very chilling day, a very chilling week. I think it’s been raining non-stop.

 

Marc Moss  1:02

I know. First time I’ve seen it this bad. Everyone thinks UK rains badly. But Singapore has beaten the UK.

 

Amos Tay  1:09

It’s now like our new winter, where things start to get really wet and cold.

 

First of all, thank you for joining us. And obviously I invited you primarily because you have a very diversified background, having worked in multiple locations. You also kick started the Global Logistics Innovation Centre for Nippon Express in Singapore. That was in 2017. Can you tell us a little bit more about that journey?

 

Marc Moss  1:40

Sure. You know, just as you mentioned, I started actually about nearly 30 years ago, when I joined UPS as a sales executive. And I’ve kind of done various things from process engineering, operations management, country management, key accounts, global key accounts, etc, all the way through in different regions. And that journey has brought me almost full circle, you know, through working and I loved working and living in Asia, to enable me to join a company called Nippon Express, who, when I joined, it was quite an interesting story. They had a remit for me. And their idea was they wanted to create more non-Japanese business. They’re a 20-billion dollar company in which very comfortably puts us in the top five, possibly top three. And it was a company that I’d never heard of. I mean, I’ve seen the warehouses, I’ve seen the trucks, but really had very little engagement. So when, when we’re having a discussion about almost creating a business start-up with a click organization was within a 20-billion dollar infrastructure, that up’s to something that was quite unusual and quite challenging to do. And it was also one of my other loves, which is sales, right? So, you know, the whole point was to come in and create an organization that can target large customers that don’t know Nippon Express or wouldn’t- we haven’t engaged with in the right way. So that was a journey. So, when I’ve interviewed people in the past, one of the things I say is we are a start-up within a 20-billion dollar company. Now where we are today is 3.5 years down that that journey. And we have been successful. So, the original Global Logistics Innovation Centre disappeared actually about a year and a half ago. And we’re now more institutionalized within the organization. And I’m the head of global key accounts sales within the organization, and run a small team of people in Singapore encompassing a number of disciplines. And one of the key objectives of that is, first of all, we are a sales hunting team if you want to use that analogy, although I prefer the word fishermen. And in addition to that, we have support mechanisms which maybe we can go onto later which support that sales team and is one of the key reasons why I believe our team is very successful because of the support mechanisms that are put into place to ensure that we win.

 

Amos Tay  4:03

Right. During the time when we met, I think it was three years ago, I remembered you being the only employee within the organization.

 

Marc Moss  4:10

Yes.

 

Amos Tay  4:12

Having to bring in numbers, the customers and then starting to build a team.

 

Marc Moss  4:17

Yeah.

 

Amos Tay  4:19

I know that now you have a full-fledged team with data analytics. You have a tender and solution. You have program management. How do you think you have structured the team differently from where you were before based on your experience?

 

Marc Moss  4:33

I think one of the one of the buzzwords that we’ve all used, and probably overused for many years, but I still think it’s relevant and that is legacy systems and legacy process or legacy companies versus some of these newer organizations. And you know, you can look in our industry. The legacy companies have been around for hundreds of years, if not in a 50 years plus, right? And you’ve got an infrastructure, where you know, it’s been refined and refined and refined over the years to where it is. Now the difference between coming in and taking on an existing organization, different existing people, existing infrastructure, existing systems is very different to starting with a clean sheet of paper. So, you know, and I get to talk on this previously, but one of the things that, you know, I found quite fascinating is one of my first hires in a high performing sales team was a da-, was an analytics expert. And everyone would look at me as I’m crazy. But I honestly believe that today, we have to be so much smarter with big data and how we use big data to help us improve sales. And that was sort of something that, you know, we they sort of gave me the bandwidth to, to go ahead and sort of do that, even though within our own company, we’d never hired analytics people. Now, as we, you know, fast forward down that road, the work and the activity this team does for us is phenomenal. I- and I absolutely believe it has helped improve our success levels exponentially. And maybe we’ll touch upon that later. But that sort of point about coming in with a really clear vision of what we needed to do, how we needed to target the market, right?

And the other thing is, you think about it is really, I was a classic case of chicken and egg. I still can’t tell you which came first. Meaning, you know, we could have gone in on the Big Bang approach where we sort of tried to bring in 50 people and, and probably fail. Or it’s my approach was to start with something fairly small and prove that we could navigate the complex Nippon Express infrastructure with a non-Japanese format, right, and prove that it works. And as we prove it worked, we can then build the support levels, and support the customers and our team by increasing our support mechanisms with people, program management, as you mentioned, tender management and analytics.

 

Amos Tay  6:52

Right. A lot of time when I speak to talent, the talent will always look at the size of the organizations, the structure and after which they will talk about the compensation and all. And I think most importantly, we are seeing talent, they are more receptive to work in a start-up environment right now. But when I say start-up, they prefer to be with the mature start-up. And me, you being the only employee, you had to convince the light of some talent to join you being the second being the third, etc. Do you find it exceptionally challenging in attracting talent into your organization or your team?

 

Marc Moss  7:33

Actually, yes. It was probably my biggest challenge. And I think there’s, you know, an analogy you can look at. And you know, if you look on LinkedIn, which I’m sure this will get spread upon. There’s a lot of information there, which says that people don’t leave their companies, they leave their boss. Well, there’s also this really key point and I always believe people buy people. So, when you’re joining a company, I think one of our biggest challenges is Nippon Express had a legacy of a perception within the marketplace. And you know, if I’m really honest, I don’t necessarily think it’s the best. Okay. So, coming in new and creating something new and creating something which was so different or Nippon Express’s has done, we also had to look at the people coming in and convincing people to come and actually interview with me, right? And actually see there’s a different sides of Nippon Express that maybe the perception, right, had led them to believe. So that really was probably the biggest challenge there actually as a recruitment agent more than me, okay, because, like most. And I’m a classic salesperson, regardless of my title, I’m still a salesman, at the end of the day. People do buy people, right? So, I have no doubt that when people come and sit down and talk with me, that they’re probably going to want to come and work for Nippon Express. But getting them in the door, is really the job of the recruitment agency, right, or the head-hunters that we were working with. And that was probably one of the biggest challenges is convincing the agencies that we are different, convincing the agencies to talk to the candidates and say whatever you think you might know, think again. So that was a- that was a, I think, the biggest shift and as you say, starting from zero, well, just myself, recreating the team. I was actually supported by one of my colleagues from Japan in setting that up. So, it wasn’t just me, but yeah, I was the only non-Japanese person in that team, let’s put it that way. That’s sort of enabled us to enter, sort of start rolling and as people, I think, took that leap of faith, came in, and had a discussion and I desperately tried to put people off and that’s one of my tactics. You know, and try to really look at seeing whether people have got that fight and that belief and almost an entrepreneurial spirit, right, you know, you’re thinking about a start-up. And what I mean by start-up is all traditional, you know, you asked me before about difference between the existing company and then something in a new environment. You know, we whilst we can take some of the best systems and best platforms that the company has to offer, there is no mandated approach, we don’t have a global sales approach, we don’t have a global CRM system, or didn’t when we started. So, all these sort of things, you know, a lot of bigger companies already have in place at start. You know, we had to sort of search around, develop as demonstrated practice, work with the different regions, because we are a global organization, not a Singapore organization. We had to sort of put all of that in place and get agreement and consensus across the organization to, you know, start developing best practices, start developing framework, start developing common platform systems information sharing.

 

Amos Tay  10:43

So you have been in the organization for almost- running this program for almost three years going fourth.

 

Marc Moss  10:50

Yeah.

Amos Tay  10:52

And a lot of time, we want to, we want to ensure that we don’t fall into the legacy path. As a leader, especially in sales transformation, how do you then ensure that your team, yourself, or even the organization doesn’t fall into sitting back, relax, and you know, going back into the legacy route?

 

Marc Moss  11:10

That’s easy. I just fire them all last week.  No, it’s really- it’s really good point, actually. It was one that I think, as we- certainly as I hit my three year anniversary with the company, it wasn’t the best time to hit that three year anniversary during COVID. And you know, from the beginning of the year, we really had to, you know, spend a lot of time reflecting and looking inwards really about how we do things and how we need to do things going forward. So some, you know, some opportunities came up with internal transfers, promotions, and, you know, within the team that we, you know, allowed them to go for other opportunities within the organization. It also allowed us the opportunity to have some fresh ideas and fresh people, you know, to evaluate who’s in the market and sort of bring some fresh people in. So as we speak, as we’re coming into this year, we’ll have almost about 40% of our team new hires within the last four months. And with that sort of new hire, we’ve also taken the chance to sort of look at, relook at what we would have been doing really well. Looking at how we can optimize, how we can change. And looking at how we, you know, take this over three-year cycle, which is actually a very Japanese thing. But you know, to take it in a three-year block. So, in other words, what are we going to do now for the next three years. So, the last three years is gone, let’s focus on the next three years. And let’s not keep doing the same things as we did last year. We’ll keep the stuff that was working. But we enhance, improve, and go on to that next three-year cycle in slightly different direction, slightly different, you know, areas.

 

Amos Tay  12:44

How do you then see in tradition the 3 years, 5 years, or even 10 years business plan has changed with the dynamics of the changing environment, the people? Do you see- do you still see the short-, mid-, and long-term strategy being relevant?

 

Marc Moss  13:02

Yeah, absolutely. And a really good example of how, you know, we, we work Japanese culture and the way the Japanese companies is, we always look very long-term. And looking long-term at our customers means that we, you know, if we don’t think we can do something, we won’t do it. It’s very clear. We won’t do something and mess it up. But equally, if we look at what’s happened, I think through COVID, there’s probably one big word that this indus-, not just our industry, but most industries are experiencing at a rapid rate. And that’s digitization. Right? Everybody’s looking to say, you know, how do we digitize what we’re doing? I mean, we’re sitting here today, having a podcast or a webcast, right? And that wouldn’t have been done typically a year ago, right? So, we’ve all had to adapt with conferences and networking and how we do business.

 

Now, the other thing that has happened is the way that we do business. So we built, you know, for instance, our analytics group, we built a platform that allowed us to look historically at data with market feeds from outside sources and building a very advanced tool, which allows us to analyze RFQ and tender management, right, in a live environment. Now, that’s all predece- that’s all based on old data, right? And the old data helps us learn, you know, past RFQs, past experiences to help us win. That’s brilliant, going great guns until COVID. And all of a sudden, your last year’s rates mean nothing. And actually rates have been pretty standard, pretty consistent for the last five years. So all of a sudden, we’ve gotten a completely new reality, which is changing by the week. Not changing by the year, not changing every couple of months. Changing by the week. We’ve got our customers who instead of going to an annual RFQ are coming to weekly RFQs, right. So they- you think about that as a normative as an organization and particular global accounts that we really focus on. You know, they don’t just come and ask for five lanes or five rates, they come and ask for a couple of thousand. So how do we get that amount of data, that amount of live market information to them quickly, accurately, and competitively, right? It’s a real massive challenge. So we really had to get our heads together, certainly around May- June, right, and re-evaluate what we’ve been doing and saying, “How can we re-change this now for today?” Right? How can we then develop live platforms which give us up to the minute rates, not up to the last year rates, or up to last month rates, but up to the minute rate. So that’s something that we worked on and was able to roll out. And it’s something that’s still ongoing. But again, our whole RFQ cycle in which traditional teams, tender management teams that are used to these annual things are now looking at week-by-week, month-by-month validity. So there’s so many changes that we’ve had to do. And if we weren’t agile enough, we could have just, you know, fallen over in this whole process. But we really had to sort of take that out, you know. Take that and change people and change the way that we do things and, and really just gonna- just evolve like a, you know, chrysalis in a way coming out as butterfly. But, you know, we’ve had to do that. So good analogy, by the way.

 

Amos Tay  16:20

Obviously, you have many years of experience, over 30 since you first joined UPS days. How fast you have seen the transformation over the last five years, especially within the air freight industry?

 

Marc Moss  16:34

I think the basics of the industry haven’t changed, right, in terms of, what are we actually doing. There’s airlines moving around. We’re buying space, selling space. There’s integrators that have come to place the likes of DHL and UPS. And you know, I’ve worked for both of them, including TNT, actually, now owned by FedEx, where they have their own planes. And that’s more of an express sort of structure. But I think one of the things, even when I started out very early on track and trace, which was an early form of data was really important. And I think that’s as we’ve got a long, it’s been almost as important for the customer to be data aware, right? Where is my shipmen? What’s going on with the shipment? How- whether it’s actually been delivered. So, you know, we talked about legacy systems. So, a lot of these called the juggernauts of the industry sort of 30 years ago, you know, hand the money to invest hundreds of millions of dollars needed to get into the space of track and trace and providing data on the shipments quite slowly. As we moved, you know, certainly until about the last 10 years and probably more last five years in particular, where it’s really gathered pace is, you know, cloud based computing and the Internet of Things have really helped smaller companies level that playing field. So no longer do you need to have an organization in every single country with the same platform and same use, you know, and the same systems in place, right? So you could have a network of agents who essentially share the same data platform or through the cloud base, you’ve got a single interface to present that to a customer. So that’s kind of the transformation that’s gone on from that side.

 

Amos Tay  18:13

With COVID, we know that a lot of online buying experience has been ongoing. Me, myself, I’ve ordered a lot more than usual. I ship via air and at times via sea. That gives me a lot of analytics on tracking, you know, I’m able to know where my goods are, how accurate they will arrive at my doorstep, even for freight forwarding, ocean freight, which was never before like this. How have you seen that change in recent maybe six months or so within the industry? Have you seen like, absolute surge in price or volume? And how do you see this industry moving forward?

 

Marc Moss  19:01

This is a million dollar question. There’s so many different aspects to it. I mean, the first thing is, you know, and I don’t consider myself an expert; this is my opinion. But if you look very clearly what’s happened in this marketplace: first of all, as COVID hit shipping lines has started reducing capacity because it’s sending a vessel empty when production was shutting down initially from China and some parts of Southeast Asia to the rest of the world. It enabled them to sort of start doing less vessels and, you know, filling up those vessels. That, you know, there’s a lot of costs associated with what they’re doing. So as they started doing that, that was that was fine. So that all of a sudden started to change our typical supply chain models. Meaning that the vessels, the containers were not in the right place, or the place expected given the current consumption. The other point is as airlines stop moving, you know, 65% of world freight that travels on airplanes goes by passenger plane. So the biggest part that suffered right now is passengers. You know, living in Singapore is really only returning citizens, there’s no tourism or know anything for about the last nine months. So those planes have completely come out of the market. So you’ve taken a big hole. So most of what’s going today is charters. And we’ve exponentially increased our charter rate as with most companies have done, put on services that we’ve never done. We’ve looked at all sorts of different solutions and rail services are going to- have grown exponentially. Ocean, the moment you know, you can’t get an ocean shipment for love no money almost because the prices have treble quadruple, what they have been even three to four months ago.

So the whole market is in turmoil, and it has to level set, but we don’t know where that level set is. And I think from my perspective, one thing is for sure, it’s not going to be what it was a year ago, okay. And it maybe take four or five years, in my opinion, before it sort of gets back to any form of level of where it was then, okay. But in the meantime it’s going to be rough, you know, sort of a phasing from where we are today as the vaccines takeover, maybe more passenger planes come into play. Vessels at the moment again at the all-time high. Containers in the wrong location. So you know, there’s a lot of empty sailings coming, not empty sailings, but product that’s not moving out of countries. So it’s, it’s been very tumultuous in the industry. And every single point that we touch is getting impacted. And, you know, really it’s just how you cope with it. I mean, how we deal with it, I mean, the most important thing, and this is our customers trying to ensure continuity of their products and their services. And so you know, it’s been a huge amount of effort and the cost is kind of is there. But that’s again, those costs at some point will have to be passed on to the consumers if they aren’t already. And you know, quite often with ocean freight, when you start to look at from the time the orders are placed to the time it gets into the stores, it can be anywhere between three to six months. So, you know, we probably haven’t seen the impact of the significant rises from September-October yet. So never mind what’s happening now.

 

Amos Tay  22:17

Yeah

 

Marc Moss  22:20

I don’t- I don’t wish to be the emotion of doom and gloom. But that’s, you know, from what we see in the market, you know, I mean, our job is to stay on top of it and find alternative solutions which we’re constantly trying to do. But yeah, I mean, our business today is far more in air freight, far more about charters. In ocean freight, it’s, you know, we’ve had discussions amongst peers, you know, hypothetically, and around the industry about, you know, how our customers also have to change because one of the key things at the moment is given the shortage of available space, both air and ocean and rail, is how, you know. We talk about inventory, our planning or forecasting. And you know, there are certain customers who are brilliant at forecasting, and some that are terrible. In the old days, I say old days, pre-COVID, if somebody wanted to give us five containers and turned up with 10, or you know, 10 tons of air freights on it with 50, generally, you can deal with it. Today, they give us 10, that’s fine if they give a notification of 10. If they turn up with 20, it’s gonna be really tough to find that space. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s ours or any of our competitors. So I think that’s going to drive a certain behavior. And the type of customers that will be rewarded are the ones that commit to volumes. We’re going to give you five containers, and they give us five containers, because then we can actually move in. It’s the ones that they give us five, they say they’re gonna give us five and give us ten. Those extra five are going to be the problem. It’s not that we won’t find a solution, we’re not going to be able to find a solution as quickly as we could previously.

 

Amos Tay  23:55

So it’s all about agility, yeah.

 

Marc Moss  23:57

Yeah. I mean, you know, we try to be agile in what we do. But the reality is, you know, I mean, essentially, force majeure was called by a number of players last year and so all bets are off. And you know hence we all have to find that new reality and the new way forward. And the operation teams, not just for us, but across the industry a fantastic job. I mean you know, whilst most of us have been you know, working from home and are able to do so, you know, our operations teams and not just sales, our competitors have all been in the office and making sure you know the products, you know, we don’t hit shortages and products get out, products come in at a process so you know, to help continuity.

 

Amos Tay  24:40

So thank you, Marc, for providing your journey, insightful information on the logistic industry, and most importantly, allowing others to learn from your experience. This is Amos signing off. Until next time. Continue with your learning journey through us.

 

Producer  24:54

Thank you for listening. We hope this podcast can help in your learning journeys. Check us out on our LinkedIn page, Hatch Asia Consulting. Till next time, keep growing.

 

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