To make a business truly succeed, one must look at the leadership at the top, for it is here where the vision of the company comes from. With an accomplished leader at the helm, many things can be achieved. A person that inspires others to follow them helps to drive the company forward. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, shows that those in the company that have this drive can help to pilot the course of the company.
One such individual, Mr. Xavier Urbain Chief Executive Officer of CEVA Logistics, has made it his goal to drive this attitude of entrepreneurship within CEVA Logistics. Since his appointment as CEO in 2014, he has overseen a repositioning of CEVA with a clear mandate on closer customer relations, and in turn has boosted the company’s image and standing within a staid market. The company’s Executive Board now comprises a group of seasoned executives who are all highly skilled in their specialist disciplines; this experience also cascades down to the individual cluster heads positioned around the globe. In this issue of LM, we sit down with Mr. Urbain to discuss the changes implemented at CEVA Logistics and his ambitions for the company.
Changing Models and Improving Efficiency
Mr. Urbain has held various positions across the business spectrum, and originally started his career outside the industry as an auditor. His accumulated experience and knowledge across several areas of industry have allowed him to advance to where he is today, as CEO of CEVA Logistics.
Since his appointment in 2014, Mr. Urbain has brought about many changes to the organization and structure of CEVA. The initial and arguably most significant step was taken in transforming the operating model of the business, by eliminating the traditional logistics regional model and converting this into a more agile and autonomous cluster model. The company now has 17 of these local geographical clusters around the globe, instead of just a handful of large continental regional offices. Some of these local clusters are based on a single country, while others can contain several countries in close geographical or strategic proximity. This has led to higher efficiency as the decision-making process has been shortened and clusters are better able to be reactive to customer needs.
“We created the right operating model in terms of executing at a high level, by country and cluster, but still fostering an entrepreneurial spirit at the local level,” said Mr. Urbain. “This entrepreneurship has been instilled into each office and the management within. Each of the executive board management members targets visiting between 15-20 customers per month; you don’t see that in other companies. We have a very strong focus on customers.”
“The logistics and shipping industry is still a customer oriented business, and if you don’t have the right people in the right roles to lead the show, nothing happens.”
“The type of people I look for at CEVA are entrepreneurs. The people in charge must still have a first-hand management approach in customer relations. They are empowered to make decisions, are people that are able to be close to their team and to customers, and create the right chemistry and understanding in the team. When you manage something this way, you don’t have to seek customers out, they come to you. I am fully convinced that we are delivering the right kind of product that is well received by our customers.”
Besides strengthening the communication across businesses, CEVA sees this model as a way to increase accountability and efficiency across the network. To make this happen, changes had to be made to the management team. Mr. Urbain first took the time to learn about the people working and what needed to be done at CEVA before implementing the changes he saw fit.
“We completely revamped and implemented the changes to our new system during the first three months of 2015. I don’t know many other companies that could have done this. To do this, we were very clear on what we wanted done. Previously, the top people within the company came from outside of the logistics industry. They were experienced, but just because you are good in supply chain doesn’t mean you’ll do well running a logistics company. They considered the business models to be same between contract logistics and freight management, but in my opinion they are in fact two completely different business models. Before my new team and I got to work, the focus of the company was on a handful of large clients, with not much attention paid to the smaller SMEs. You need to have the right balance between the two. I recognized that this company could become a player on the global stage, strong in logistics and able to implement the new strategy in terms of products; air, ocean, ground, and supply chain solutions.
One thing that Mr. Urbain is particularly proud of is a new area of business created upon his arrival which helped to usher in the changes and to implement best practice across the entire network. “CEVA now has a Business Process Excellence (BPE) focus, where individuals are in charge of process improvement, benchmarks, business development, and best practices,” said Mr. Urbain.
“What we really strive for, is to keep the focus on customers. If you are not impeccable in everything you do, customers will go in and out of your company within weeks.”
“The key drivers of our strategy are global logistics with key accounts. The BPE focus is on consistently improving. Impeccable service in all areas is what we aim for. Over many years CEVA has developed excellent long term relationships with its multi-national, large tier accounts and moving forwards we will focus on creating the same kind of affinity with our SME customers. I believe it is about having a balance between the two and not being an either or player. With the BPE strategy on the back end helping to push our services to the best of the team’s abilities, we become more and more attractive to potential customers.”
With the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) more focus is being placed on this region. Already a strong player in the area, CEVA is looking to leverage its position further. Recently, a new facility in Malaysia was opened, expanding CEVA’s footprint even further. “When people talk about Asia, they are normally just talking about China, but there’s so much more than just that one market available. We are focusing on China of course, but the market is currently slowing down in China, and we are focusing on other markets around Asia.”
“We are doing an outstanding job in our Mekong cluster – Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar – specifically in Thailand and particularly with our logistics and trucking areas.”
“We are starting to link up more with Intra-Asia via the Asian road network. We have the right people in Thailand to develop it further, and I have seen that the people in the Thailand offices are excited about the direction CEVA is headed. We will continue to look at the markets in South-East Asia and Mekong countries.”
Mr. Urbain has established a strong precedent for others to follow. Leading by example, his team at CEVA is becoming more and more renowned on the world stage for logistics suppliers. His approach towards fostering entrepreneurship is helping CEVA outpace the competition. “What I’m ultimately looking to achieve is CEVA being in the forefront of our customers’ minds whatever their logistics requirement. Large or small I want customers to think of us first because they are already convinced that we can offer them what they need and I that way we will both succeed and prosper.
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