As a business owner, it’s difficult to do the right work AND guide your company toward its next big initiative.
With Red Direction Business Base Camp, learn how to implement and handle processes to meet your business’s specific needs and better understand your market.
Starting the conversation:
What’s your organization’s mantra? Can you see the understanding of this driving focus in the way your company makes decisions, its presentation in the marketplace, and the way the team does work? Both software and hardware technologies (including robotics and drones) are opportunities for your organization to remain competitive while achieving your biggest goals. Harry Drajpuch, CEO at Amware Fulfillment. shares the tools you need to get the job done.
Technology always has and will continue to impact how we work. This can be exciting! It does require a desire to change, when change is right for the organization. This is just one of the tools that allow us to solve bigger and more complex problems together because technology is just that — a tool. Each person, department, and cross-functional team can be empowered to do their best work (and be proud of their work) when the CEO ensures the core functions are included in growth initiatives.
In this program, you will learn the three skills necessary to succeed as the CEO of a thriving customer-centric organization, two stories about relationships learned the hard way, and the importance of making the right decisions (versus making as many decisions as possible). Jess Dewell talks with Harry Drajpich, CEO at Amware Fulfillment, about using the right tools and cultivating the right mindset to be effective today, and to expand faster than the market to keep (and grow) market share.
Host: Jess Dewell
Guest: Harry Drajpuch
What You Will Hear:
Goal to be profitable during high competition, embrace disruption.
Behind the scenes, capital raises used to change and stay relevant with robotics, technology and drones.
You set the expectations.
The push-pull of instant gratification and the time it takes to create and deploy.
Regardless of size, behave like a small organization.
Avoid auto-pilot to embrace change (and not be surprised by it).
CEO skills necessary: seek trends — and get the data right, how to fit together many points of view, and provide focus without excluding critical components to reach your goal.
Focus on where you can show you are the best.
Change is inevitable with labor and technology.
Make the right decisions (instead of making all the decisions).
Have a mantra. Amware Fulfillment’s is “Make Growth Happen.”
Harry Drajpuch shares how customer experience is delivering too.
Technology has, and will continue, to change the way work is done.
Technology supports associates to do their best work.
The enhancement of how technology helps us work shifts associates to building relationships and taking pride in work done.
Listen and ask questions to find out if it really is working! (Perception versus reality.)
Two stories where Harry Drajpuch learned the hard way.
The 5 house rules of Amware Fulfillment.
It is BOLD to think big about technology’s transformative potential to stay competitive.
Harry Drajpuch 00:00
Whether smoke this fire trends are critical.
Welcome. This is the Bold Business Podcast. Your business has many directions it can travel. The one true direction of your company creates the journey for you to move toward a new, exciting level. We call this the Red Direction. In today’s program, we delve into one idea. The idea will support you as you work on ever-present situations, including how to stay competitive in a changing market, how to break through the business plateau, and how to anticipate the changing expectations of your stakeholders. Jess Dewell is your guide. Jess brings you a 20-year track record of business excellence, where strategy and operations overlap. Your Path comes from consistently working from the special place. Your unique True North. Now, here’s Jess.
Jess Dewell 00:55
Hi, and welcome to the Bold Business Podcast. This is the place to be to learn something new. This is the place to be to hear how others have done it. They might be farther down the path than you and their journey. And that’s what we’re all about. How did they solve a problem? How are the problems they’re facing today? Match or relate to the problems you’re facing today. And you take what they say and apply it toward what you’re working on to achieve your biggest goals. Hello, I’m Jeff stool. And this is what the Bold Business Podcast is all about. Today with me is Harry Dray push. Harry is a direct consumer, CEO of Alienware fulfillment. He’s working with operations, and keeping up and changing and innovating and disrupting the way that we keep track of stuff behind the scenes so that from your perspective, in my perspective, instant gratification, he joined VMware and as the CEO, and then became the CEO, specifically to direct strategy and operations in a new and different way. Taking an underperforming company, five years now and to where we’re at. He has a 40% over 40% change, a with significant improvements and profitability. turnarounds are seems to be his superpower, we’re probably going to talk about that. Logistics and how to disrupt are definitely a superpower. We’re probably going to talk about that. And a whole bunch of other things you just don’t even know yet. Harry, welcome to the Bold Business Podcast.
Harry Drajpuch 02:34
Jess, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me. And I’m really looking forward to to sharing some ideas that have been very successful for me over my career.
Jess Dewell 02:42
I am glad to hear it. So have you always been in the logistics and supply chain process in some way?
Harry Drajpuch 02:52
Not when I was a kid.
Jess Dewell 02:56
And I love that. What did you do as a kid?
Harry Drajpuch 02:59
I’d rather answer the first question
Jess Dewell 03:01
No prob a lot of like, gotta be interesting. Tell me all about that. No, that’s good. I like your I like it. Let’s go with there since you became part of logistics, and supply chain
Harry Drajpuch 03:12
What are yours in the business started out on the trucking side of the business of the 80s. Those were the years of deregulation when nobody knew what to do, how to deal with whether it was going to stay or not stay. And it changed from just a few a little competition to each area to all of a sudden everything was wide open not unlike the airline industry, right used to be only a few carriers would fly into a city. And then all of a sudden, everybody could fly everywhere. So after 10 years of throwing nickels around like manhole covers, because we were trying to figure out how to stay profitable during this time of competition, which had never existed before. Rates were set by the Interstate Commerce Commission. And there were no discounts and people paid the rate and that was it. And you could have a choice or to to all of a sudden, people are cutting rates which had never been heard of before. So it got very competitive. 10 years pretty much wore me out I got recruited to the other end of the business, the warehousing side of the business, which I didn’t know a lot about other than making deliveries to. So that was exciting because that was going through its own revolution from direct to business, mostly industrial to all of a sudden we’re starting to think about making shipments direct to consumer.
Jess Dewell 04:30
So it’s funny because I grew up in a time and I’m running a business in a time where overhead is low investment in capital expenditures and equipment and stuff is low. And what I think a lot of people forget me included by the way, even though when I was a kid, I did work in a big manufacturing facility in the summers. We don’t think about it, we think about the instant gratification on our side. So if we were to take a step back and pull back, not just one layer bail to the curtains, what’s actually going on behind the scenes to make it instant gratification for us just in a nutshell, to give us a frame of reference, so we can be with you in this journey.
Harry Drajpuch 05:16
A lot of moving parts, a lot of process, a lot of investment today and capital, unlike your business here, it’s now robotics, its technology, its pick to light, its drones, things that you would never think might be in a warehouse. And in the third party logistics business in which we serve multiple customers out of a warehouse, we’re really trying to apply the right solution, the right technology, the right amount of capital, to each account, to keep it competitive from a cost perspective, to make sure that the service is for lack of a better term, my tongue may fall out Amazon like, and I say that because Amazon obviously revolutionized the business. Yeah, far the bar goes right, we now we expect a same day delivery, we might even suspect the drone to drop it off. And while Amazon is not a competitor of mine, and we can get into that later, they do still set the standard for everybody on the expectation that, hey, I’m going to get it it’s going to be right, it’s going to be on time. And it’s going to be cost effective, if not free shipping. So that’s what’s going on today is to try to figure out how to keep my customers off the bad social media. Because if you get a parent kid, not what you want, you can tell the world on social media today. And here you see instant gratification, we have to make sure that we’re right not 99% of the time that 99.9% of the time, but almost 100% of the time, because it only takes a few on social media to really make an impact. So that slows are the things that keep me up at night. And I’m sure my customers as well.
Jess Dewell 07:01
Absolutely. And it’s interesting, because I know, and any Creator knows this, and any person who’s part of a bigger process, like you, Harry, know this, that there is no such thing as instant gratification, yet we have this poll we have this dynamic of but it’s gotta be for my clients to want to use me and or use my business and grow and keep the positive reviews and everything online. So where do we find the time? How have you solved this problem? Have you solved that challenge?
Harry Drajpuch 07:39
If I did, I wouldn’t be working. It’s a work in progress. It’s really continuous improvement, constantly making it better never sitting down and declaring victory of the old adage, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That’s not true. We break it. We try to break it every day. Because there’s better ways to do it. We listen. It’s an ongoing, I don’t want to say battle. It’s an ongoing journey of just constantly making things better, more efficient, more cost-effective for not just my customers, but for my employees as well, my associates, right, the marketplace for Associates is as competitive as it is for product.
Jess Dewell 08:16
It’s so true. It’s interesting that you say it’s a journey because I know. And it doesn’t matter the size of the company with what I’m talking about next. And you’ll have to tell me if I am wrong, and it does change in the larger businesses. And that is this concept of there is no such thing as set and forget.
Harry Drajpuch 08:34
Jess Dewell 08:38
Oh really, that’s a quote. I feel really good now.
Harry Drajpuch 08:41
That didn’t forget it. And that he was the kind of TV Guide, there is no set it and forget it.
Jess Dewell 08:46
Not these days, everything changes too fast.
Harry Drajpuch 08:50
It’s interesting, you mentioned small and large, the challenge when you’re working in a large organization, is to behave like you’re a small organization because it can get very difficult in large organizations to affect change. They’re generally risk-adverse, they’re conservative, that goes slow. And it can get pretty mundane all around in a large organization. So the challenge is to keep it fresh, and have that same mentality as you get into a larger organization that you can convince people around you, the people, you work for the people that work for you, that change matters, and it’s the right thing to do.
Jess Dewell 09:30
It’s interesting because a lot of people come to me and they say, I want my business to work for me. And I asked them this question. So you want it to be a lifestyle business? Or are you making a difference in the world? Because I think what I’m hearing you say is the ladder, this journey, this concept, this time, this ever-evolving process, we’re looking to improve and we’re proactively seeking it out. So we’re not taking by surprise. So we don’t get disrupted by another. So we’re aware of what’s going on in the market. Because there it’s one thing to have to be really way into all that stuff. But there’s another of just let me just make money so I can play. By the way, I’m a big proponent of play. I’m also a big proponent of doing good work that makes a difference. And so I actually asked people that because I’m not very useful myself personally, to lifestyle businesses, because of the work that I do. And it sounds and so I just am saying this. Hello, all you listeners out there, you’re listening. Some of you are lifestyle businesses, and we’re going to challenge you today. We’re gonna challenge you today, to think a little bit how can you keep growing. How can this keep going? Because regardless of your age, if you want this lifestyle to continue in 510 or 15 years, you now have the same things going on that area, and I work with on a regular basis, and he’s got way more experience than me. So listen more to him in this conversation.
Harry Drajpuch 10:57
I used my neurologist. Why did you decide to become a neurologist though? You’re right. It’s like of all the doctors you can the brain surgeons, the heart surgeons? And the answer, the first answer I got back was lifestyle. Really? Yeah. He says there aren’t many urology emergencies on the weekend or late at night yet. It’s like dermatology, right? It’s no emergencies. And you’re right, I’ve got a couple of examples. I don’t want to mention names, because they’re current customers of mine. But they had a meteoric rise became incredibly successful, and decided to celebrate, put it on autopilot a bit, spend the money, become a little bit of an absentee owner, not entirely, but just enough to watch the business slip. And the competition is incredible out there. But more importantly, the information available is now there. And when you’re successful, you’re not the only one who knows that people watch competitors watch. And when they see you successful, they’re going to why reinvent the wheel, why try to figure it out, hey, they’re doing that. Let’s do it. And while you’re out, celebrating and buying an island and buying a boat and buying a plane, your competitors are now going to eat your lunch. And I’ve seen it happen on several occasions. Like you, I believe in work-life balance 100%, work hard, play hard, you don’t have to think about the business on the weekend. If you’re not working, you should play hard and recharge. But when you’re in the business, you have to focus 100% It’s got to be about that. It’s about data and information and watching it and understanding what’s important. And whether smoke this fire trends are critical.
You are listening to the Bold Business Podcast. This program was created to develop your capacity on demand by sharing insights, tips, as well as lessons learned by business leaders, unedited and uncut. Now, back to Jess.
Jess Dewell 12:57
So let’s go back to your journey. And being in two different roles at em, where fulfillment did you bring in the knee? Did you notice a change that had to happen when you were like this data were missing and we must do this, or were you able to use existing data? And that people had just to your point, just they were collecting it but they weren’t using it, they missed the pulse.
Harry Drajpuch 13:23
Do an AMA was easy. I came on board in 2015 as a consultant because they were operational challenges here for various reasons. And so that was easy, right? You already know there’s a problem, the data didn’t really exist to the extent that I needed the data. And so you’ve got to figure out what you want to measure. And as CEO, I was able to focus only on the operation of the company. I like operations, the CEO job is great. But then you deal with investors, you deal with a whole lot more. When you’re the CEO, it’s more sales more commercial. Because now your responsibility isn’t just to make the company as efficient as possible. It’s to grow it. And to make sure that you continue to build retain what you have and build on it. explore new avenues of service and new offerings to keep customers happy and interested and attract new. And because it’s all about growth.
Jess Dewell 14:18
It is all about growth. And the way growth changes. Could be whatever we can imagine, which is one of the things that I love about business and everything you’ve said so far. Just because it happened doesn’t mean it’s gonna stay that way. Most likely, because it happened means the future is going to be different. So how can we put our heads together? Look at information that we have access to, see if there’s information we want, and then can we get our hands on it to decide? What do we want to do next? And it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good pulse on all of that. So I have a question for you. When you became CEO, what skills did you have to learn within the 12 the first 12 months that you were surprised by?
Harry Drajpuch 14:58
What wasn’t my first As a CEO, you have to broaden your skill set from just assessing operations now to assessing everything else finance, human resources, sales, are the programs effective? Are the people effective? Do you have the right people on the bus? Do you have the right skill set? Is the culture good for the whole organization, you’re no longer the chef, you now running the restaurant, then you may have been the chef at one point and you know how to cook. But do you know how to keep customers coming in happy, you know how to buy properly? And you really have to look at all facets of your operation. And, but most importantly, you have to decide what it is you want to be as you’re growing up. And that might be the very hardest thing. And I will tell you my entire career. Whenever I have focused operations, that’s been the biggest challenge because people think when you focus, you do it at the exclusion of other things. So let me give you an example of [Please. Yeah.] You think about logistics, and you can do everything in logistics, from health and beauty, pharmaceutical, industrial chemicals, right?
Jess Dewell 16:07
All the way to parts and widgets for bikes.
Harry Drajpuch 16:11
Correct. What do you do? Well, and what do you have money to do? Where’s your name? Where can you impress customers? Where can you show them when they say, who else like me? Do you do it for and that’s the reason you have to focus? They don’t care that you’re servicing this industry? If it’s not there in the street. Wait a minute, we do wipes for kids? Who else do you do wipes for? We do lots of boxes, and we do paper? Who else do you do wipes? And I was surprised the first time I heard that on my career, if you don’t do it for anybody else, you don’t understand our business. So you have to focus on the side, I’ve got limited dollars to spend on marketing. And so where am I going to spend that if I’m in the health and beauty industry, let me focus on health and beauty. That doesn’t mean a pharmaceutical knocks on your door and say, Hey, listen, we’ve heard about your reputation. We’ve got some over-the-counter drugs, we’d like to distribute it through you, would you entertain us? You don’t say no. It just means you don’t have the dollars to advertise to attract that customer. Probably because you don’t have another customer like it. That’s the hardest part is to convince people when you focus, it’s not exclusionary, it just means you’re getting very good and focused and laser-like to attract a certain segment. And that’s where you’ll build your business. The thing that always make what do you think of fast food, you think and make that the pizza business is huge. It’s how come McDonald’s doesn’t send pizza? I’m sure they could. Right? Why don’t they?
Jess Dewell 17:36
There was a thing where they wanted to get on the health bandwagon. So I read once upon a time I was reading some case study similar because that’s parry what I do in my spare time. And I remember, they wanted to compete with Subway. So they started offering salads. And guess what happened, their hamburger sales went up… by offering salads, so. So you also don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get when you do it. So to the point of focus, it makes a lot of sense. And I have to say, I do appreciate, I appreciate that. And that is it is the hardest thing to do. Because not only are there things that awesome, brilliant minds within an organization can bring to the table, awesome, brilliant minds of all of our clients that are moving and wanting to grow as well. And if they’re bringing us along as a partner, they are bringing us all of these great ideas too. It’s hard to say that’s out of alignment with our focus, or it’s in, it could be harder to say, even though it’s out of alignment. It’s a really easy flip of a switch behind the scenes. So do we get to serve hand? Can we help our customers in service, and still stay focused? Those are the biggest gems I have found in business.
Harry Drajpuch 18:57
And the thing that helps you stay focus, or helps an organization stays focused, is to have clear direction, very clear. Keep it simple and keep the direction clear. And then people don’t always have to run everything up the chain and say should we do this? Should we not do this? We focus on health and beauty. We focus on nutraceuticals those are our sweet spots. We’ve defined the customer who is ideal, anything, any decision that’s made that moves us towards that and helps us there. You don’t have to ask, just do it. But those decisions, hey, somebody stopped in and they’ve got a different product here. They got some toys and they want it that becomes an easy decision to but again, they as you start to grow the organization what many entrepreneurs want to do is be involved in every decision. And you reach a point where you can’t make any more decisions. You’re tapped out and I went to work for a family-owned company five siblings ran a company in, in the Northeast And we would have meetings every week. And the family wanted to make every decision. And I remember one of the first, I sat down for one of the first meetings. And they wanted to ask me and said, Hey, so and so wants to promote this person to second shift supervisor at building five. Now, we had six buildings on the campus. And they wanted to promote someone, and they said, Is that a good promotion? And I said, I gotta be honest, I don’t know who’s being promoted. And so I couldn’t give you an answer to that. But isn’t his supervisor capable, and the manager of that building making that decision, and they looked at each other, so we’re not sure I says, when we probably have the wrong manager supervisor in there. But if we’re gonna sit here, and make those decisions, what beverages are being served back there, and as the meal ready, then if I’m the pilot, who’s flying the plane, if I’m gonna get involved in that kind of stuff, it’s probably natural and logical for everybody to want to be involved in every decision, but you can’t be and that’s why you have bogus and good communication and good direction and a good strategy, and you publish it to the company and let them know. And you have to let people do the job. And if you don’t have the right people doing the job, it shows up.
Jess Dewell 21:13
Yeah. That’s, it’s interesting about that, that concept of control or this, thinking that I know the pulse of my business when I make every decision. And in fact, we, what I have found, and you have to tell me, if you think, if you’ve had different experience, is that the more a CEO, a senior leadership team, owners, even when we’re getting smaller, when they are when they know that much stuff about what’s going on in the business, they are not nearly as profitable as they could be because they have no idea what’s going on outside of how to grow and what are the appropriate levers that they can actually be moving and shaking.
Harry Drajpuch 21:55
You need to be focused on the strategy of the organization making strategic decisions. And then the day-to-day tactical decisions. You have to have good field people that you trust that understand the mantra of where you’re trying to go. And little by little you give them exercises and opportunity where they demonstrate their judgment to you. And the leash gets longer and longer. But there’s always accountability. You never walk away from the business, you still walk the floor, if you will, you still talk to customers, you still talk to everybody who works for you, just to stay in touch and make sure that the information you’re getting is not being filtered, and that it’s consistent with what other people are telling you as well. You can never walk away from the business and just abdicate it, you have to stay close. But you can’t make every decision. It’s not possible.
Jess Dewell 22:45
And then why would you want to, ah, I love a lot about business. But I share also low on eating dinner and being with my family and taking vacations and having some downtime. Because that’s the only reason that’s the only way I get to read a book or watch a crazy TV show or go take a walk in the woods is if I’m not making decisions and somebody else is doing that. Did you have to learn how to do that?
Harry Drajpuch 23:09
Oh, no one is a bigger micromanager than me. Really, okay. Listen, my first multi-facility assignment was I had five facilities reporting to me. And every night I would have, I would have all the productivity reports by function receiving, picking, packing loading, I’d have them all forwarded to me and I would go through and I would call up my manager in California and say, Hey, listen, Jess yesterday, on first shift, only pick 14 orders an hour, the standard is 20 What I am the intensity and the craziness to do it. But it’s not a winning formula. You can’t it’s not sustainable. You can do that during turnarounds. And short periods of time, just like running your car at very high RPM, you can do that for a short period of time. But if you try to wind out that engine, every day, every hour, you’re driving, it’s not gonna last 100,000 miles. So I think in turnaround situations, you have to pivot you have to learn how to get involved and help people make those decisions. And then once you’re comfortable that they get it, but you have to move on to other things. But it was a learning experience for me. My phone was ringing all hours of the night, hey, Harry, we need a decision. And you start to learn, I can’t do this, I gotta get a night’s sleep. I can’t function. It’s not good. But you can learn it. And it’s about making sure you have good guardrails in place, and that you have good reporting so that again, trending is important. And I think the one thing I learned in my career about trending is people will make excuses for bad trends. Nah, it’s just a one-off boss. And then you start to look at it you find it’s not a one-off. It’s actually going in the wrong direction is an absentee problem. There’s a quality problem. There’s some other issue going on is a drug problem. There is a theft problem. Believe it or not that stuff goes on in the workplace.
Jess Dewell 25:01
It always does, I got stories for you, we could probably you could probably outdo me any day of those. But yes, they’re, I hate to say they’re a dime a dozen, but they’re a dime a dozen. And that is the truth of being able to keep. I’m gonna say the pulse, not necessarily the finger on the pulse, but understanding when somebody new that I met says, I just have a sniff test. If I if it doesn’t sniff right, then I will figure out what the right question is going to be. And maybe it’s nothing. Usually it’s something is what they said to me. And I thought that was a very interesting, and that comes from a lot of experience. I don’t have that kind of experienced yet. I look for the there is resistance there. Why doesn’t that line up for me? Oh, okay. Let’s see if I find a why. What questions can I come up with to see, I don’t necessarily need to stir a pot, I just need to understand what pot I’m using in this or what pot is being used in the line. Going back to the, going back to the, the restaurant metaphor that you were using earlier.
Harry Drajpuch 25:59
Technology is the thing in the 40 years, I’ve been in the logistics business that has changed incredibly, 40 years ago, if you told me that robots or drone missions, I would have said you’re crazy. I started when there wasn’t a computer on everybody’s desk, it just wasn’t there. I know. My kid says, Well, maybe you didn’t have a computer, how’d you get things done? But the other big change may be bigger is the labor force. When I started working, job hopping was a no, if you job hop, you wouldn’t get hired. And you could call up and get a reference and say, Hey, Jess is applied for a job here. And was she good? Would you hire her? Was she a good worker, and people would say nah, stay away, or she’s phenomenal add to leave circumstances, you can’t do that today, everything is a pig in a poke. Nobody will tell you anything. Even getting dates of employment today, people are very shy about that they don’t want to have be litigated. And so it’s a very different environment, the legal environment around employees what you can and can’t do, by different states, it all makes the equation that much more difficult and more the reason that you have to have with people that delegate, let them manage.
Jess Dewell 27:10
Its true, and that will not make some of the strategy things. So coming back to your strategy, you’ve said several times, it’s got to be simple. It’s got to be clear. So my first question is your strategy today? How far out does it go in the future? Are you looking at 12 months? Do you have? You know, do you have three-year goals? Five-year goals? Are you looking 50 years in the future with some statement that you’re making? What’s kind of the range with which you’ve got your strategic plan to be?
Harry Drajpuch 27:36
We look three to five years out. And we plan for three to five years out? Where do we want to be geographically what markets that we want to serve as things like that. But for us, our mantra is very simple, which is make growth happen. And for us, it’s about make growth happen for our shareholders, for our associates for our customers. And we keep it simple. And again, if what you’re doing is going to help make growth happen, and we do it. And so strategy, I would say is three to five years out know where you want to take the bus where you want to drive to how you’re going to get there, organic, or acquisition many small businesses can’t afford to acquire, right? So you’re going to do it organically. But again, because your resources are limited, your focus needs to be somewhat limited. You can’t be everything to everybody. And you can’t boil the ocean as hard as you try.
Jess Dewell 28:22
I’ve never heard that before. You can’t boil the ocean. That’s brilliant. Is that a Harry original?
Harry Drajpuch 28:28
Jess Dewell 28:31
It was because I really funneled that you can’t I’ve no? Okay, so make growth that you took my second question which was so what’s the mantra, the simple, straightforward. And that’s great because then it doesn’t matter where it comes from. It’s cohesive to every part of the business, it’s cohesive to every location, it’s cohesive to inside and outside customer, frontline investor, person on the street that might have something to say, or cool technology they’ve heard of.
Harry Drajpuch 28:58
If anything, that’s the antithesis to that is through many businesses, when you walk through many people, many associates, I’ll refer to them as associates. Because I don’t like the word employees. Maybe Walmart told me that but many associates think, think the customers the problem, the customers, the bed guy, they’re asking us to do this, or they’re asking us to do that. And I’ll stop and why do you think they’re asking you to do that? You think they wake up this morning and think how they can make your life difficult to work? And they stop and they you know, well? I’m not really sure. Well, maybe because their customers are asking, right, you know, for us, because we don’t want to compete in a commodity-type business. We want unique customers who have unique products who sell uniquely through us where you can’t buy their product from five other vendors. So we want to help them grow. We want to get that uniqueness out. We want to make sure that we put the smile inside the box not outside the box for us we focus on delivering a great How to integrate experience right? Think about yourself, you’re waiting two days for something or maybe you had to wait two weeks, whatever it was, you made a decision to buy it, you get it, it comes, you open the box and the stuff was thrown in there. I’ve seen expensive makeup, where my wife has purchased it. And she’s every time she opens a box I got to look in because I’ve got to see how competitors are packing things out. How’s it look? And I remember one order where the stuff was thrown in with a little tissue paper on top. And I said, for multiple reasons. How much did you pay for that order? It was like 250. He says $250. And that’s how it came. She goes, Yeah, but I can’t get it somewhere else. This is it. And it’s always about being observant. And so always about watching what the end user is. And the end product is it says being involved all the time, even when you’re out and you’re playing, you can still be involved and still take a look, you walk through a store, you can still see how things get done. It’s always good to make mental notes about stuff like that, but.
Jess Dewell 30:59
Always, okay, everybody. Now you know why I have Harry on the show, right? You’re listening to the Bold Business Podcast. And this is just talking with Harry Draper, the CEO of Amazon fulfillment. One of the things that I remember when we had a quick call to just make sure I would have the right starting points for our conversation today was how quickly technology is changing how quickly things change. And I mentioned, I worked in a warehouse when I was a kid. And to your point, I think the only person in the plant, there might have been two computers in the entire plant that I was in Dallas calm. And that’s just the way that it was, of course, when we’re manufacturing or shipping or doing anything, there’s a ton of technology in that. But when we think about technology, and we say technology today, we’re actually talking about software, applications of other things that are outside of the production process. Like you mentioned drones even. And so do you, are you a technology business? Are you really a fulfillment business?
Harry Drajpuch 31:58
We’re a fulfillment business that uses technology to get the job done. We’re not leading edge. We’re not early adopters, whether it’s a fault or not a fold, right, we understand what saying the cost of technology comes down over time, we’d ever want to be so far behind that by the time we get it. It’s always stuff like power windows, but we want to make sure that there’s value to it, it’s working, the bugs, for lack of a better term have come out. So we have robots in our facilities, they don’t to this day, the robots cut down on walking. So we have associates that stay in zones now. And they don’t have to walk through the warehouse. Now the robots come to them. The robots tell them what to pick, they verify to the robot that they’ve actually picked the right product, the robot will walk to the next location, if it’s within their zone, they walk with it. If it’s not, they wait for the next robot to come. And when the robot It has everything it needs to have it comes to a pack station, it stays there. And ultimately, the robot gets recycled into doing that. So 50% in a warehouse, for instance, 50% of the expense is spent traveling just walking. So if you can have robots do the walking now think about it. Then people stay in a position and they’re productive all day, and they’re efficient. They’re less tired as they’re less walking. We have drones that do inventory missions at night. They’re automatically programmed. Listen, that’s a year ago. Have you told me I have drawers in my warehouse? I would have left. My neighbor flies drones. He’s always over my backyard. Trying to watch my wife sunbathe. But now they’re in the warehouse. Yeah, automated it night. They go out on their own, they take pictures of the locations we ask them to. During the day they can do inventory checks where we can disrupt someone and hey, let’s get somebody over with the drone runs over takes a picture of it, we know what we’ve got. We’ve got voice actuated picking where you’re instructed in Spanish or English what the pic you have to acknowledge back to the computer. Yes, I’ve got it picked and done and move on. We’re now looking at automated guided vehicles for putting product away and it does it on its own. We’re looking at unloading trucks now with a robotic arm that will actually unload the product from a truck and put it on a pallet. It’s just changing so rapidly, it’s again is the labor force becomes challenging, harder to get people COVID pandemics, which can shut down buildings. Automation plays a bigger and more important role. But it’s easy to overpay, it’s easy to buy automation that can’t be used across a broad spectrum. And you don’t want to do that because then it’s got limited applicability and limited payback. But if you don’t do it, it’s going to be hard to be competitive.
In every program, we share stories, tips and concepts that benefit short-term goals and increase confidence in long-term positioning. For additional perspectives on your growth strategy, Jess Dewell is your business advisor and consultant. Now back to Jess.
Jess Dewell 34:52
As you were talking, here’s what I heard, for better for worse and we’ll see if I even like what I say when it comes out of my mouth or if I accidentally stick was right in there. But this is when we are expanding and we’re looking to maybe we’re looking to bring in some brand new product, or we’re looking to go down and build something new, we’re going to need to understand the people we need, the processes that we need, and what that experience is. And we put a lot of thought into how do we do that with our people so that we know we’ve got the right problem solvers, we got people who understand our culture and have a desire to do good work and be around. And I, all everything that I just described there, I have never heard anybody talk about integrating technology with the same kind of parameters. To really support my people doing the work, we have to understand that we’re, you said not overpaying, you also said not limited in functionality. So really knowing the job to be done is what helps you help your people, your business, your customers, and then of course, your profitability.
Harry Drajpuch 36:06
Resourcing your employees and allowing them to have the dignity of doing a good job is what management…
Jess Dewell 36:13
Huge, huge, necessary. Number one.
Harry Drajpuch 36:17
As a turnaround specialist, one of the things that I look for when I walk on the floor is the equipment that’s there. And is it working properly? If I see something, it could be a scan gun, it could be a piece of equipment that’s parked, it could be a printer that looks like it’s pretty dusty and hasn’t printed anything for six weeks, I’m going to ask, How long has that been out of service? And what have you done about it who’s been notified? Because it’s interesting, you wind up when you don’t six equipment that’s broken, employees no longer tell you when something breaks, because why waste the time? Nobody does anything about it here. If you really want to get everybody in the game, and you really want to have people have pride, you have to resource them properly. Some of it is technology, right? And some of it is other equipment, it might be manual, but it’s got to work, it’s got to be available. And you’ve got to allow them to do a good job. And when you do things like that’s where it starts when you’re analyzing your operation. And you’re taking a look, and everybody tells you everything here is great it works for your leadership team will always tell you that and then you walk the floor and you find out what’s really going on. That’s why technology is critical. And that’s why it needs to work. And that because again, it’s very easy for employees to get discouraged because when things don’t work, the onus falls on them to still have a job done, orders still have to get out the door, they still have to be picked, they still have to be packed. Our customer expects it. And that’s why sometimes employees turn on customers and think they’re the problem because there’s so much work is opposed to a Math Resource properly. I don’t have enough people to do it. I don’t have enough equipment to do it. They don’t have enough instruction to do it.
Jess Dewell 37:55
I also could say I would add, maybe our technology isn’t actually helping us the way that it should our technology might be doing the wrong job. And I think that’s huge. Do you have you found a set of questions that you work with your associates to ask and have started to encourage to understand that to let them to your point of pride and their resource? Well, but so they can also help be part of the innovation and be part of making growth happen? At Ambler
Harry Drajpuch 38:26
Yes. It’s amazing how intimidated associates could be when you want to just walk the floor and talk to them. They’ve been so programmed, the boss is coming. Don’t say anything of this or that. But you break the ice with them. And one is how do we treat you? Are you happy working here? I’ll start with that. I know I open up myself up and maybe I lead with my chin. There’s no other way to do it. You’ve got to gain trust and you want information. So are you happy working here? Do you enjoy the job? What frustrates you? What could we change here? What would make your job more efficient? I never say easier. I want to be careful. I want to make sure they understand that I don’t want you to pick up 100-pound boxes. That’s not the job here. But what can we do? If you have to pick them up to help you do that? Does the equipment we give you work? Is it the right equipment, you’ve got to have a pretty detailed conversation with employees if you really want to get good feedback and find out if things are working on the floor as they should because if they’re not the best strategy in the world, everything else can be great. If it’s not working, where it needs to work with direct associates who make the difference and where you earn your money. Nothing else will matter. Did you learn that the hard way? I learned everything the hard way. Give me I gotta tell you an exciting story. I got my first as in the trucking terminal. I was in sales, which I said I would never do. But when I had a marketing degree and got out of college, all I would get was sales jobs. So I started selling and then I got into operations. And it happened to be a teamsters facility and I was a supervisor as an operations manager actually, and I had to have a gave out the routes for the guys. And he made a mistake. So I went down on the floor, the guys were about to leave holding guys, hold on. I said you got to backstrip these trailers, I loaded them wrong. And so this is the way it’s got to be loaded. So we have the paperwork, and they were all in a huff have walked away says, Hey, what’s the problem, guys, I said the rate of pay is the same, what’s the difference. And while the younger guys turned to me and said, It ain’t about the rate of pay, it’s about I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something due here to, I don’t want to I don’t want to load it unloaded and reloaded. Even if you’re paying me the same amount of money, I want to feel like I’m getting something done. I’ve never forgotten that it had to be was a little bit over 40 years ago that that exchange took place. I never forgot it. I’m thinking at the end of the day, these guys don’t care. You know how many people they punch in? Alright, I’m here, what do you want me to do for eight hours? And I’m not gonna come to you when I have nothing to do, you’re gonna have to find me. I learned a lesson about human behavior. Everybody at everybody. Most people, the majority of people want to do a good job, want to do it one time want to do it, right? Want to understand what it is they have to do? I mean, after that day, the guys came up to me and said, Look, why don’t you let us route the bills? We know how to do that better than you. Why don’t you just let us do it? And I developed the relationship with those guys. And ultimately, I needed to trust them. And they needed to trust me. And and that started my career of growth and success. And just understanding that you’re not going to do it in spite of people. I don’t care how smart you are, how good you are, how great your ideas, if people don’t believe it, and they won’t support it, and they’ll work against it. But if it’s their idea, and it’s almost as good as yours, and it’s 80% is good, but they believe it, and they’ll embrace it, let them go with it, let them run, they good people will take you where you need to go. And you need to make sure you have good people. But that starts with a good relationship with good communication and with trust. And I will tell you that at the end of my career, I would have drivers stop back and come into my office and just want to chat for 1520 minutes and just and then they would tell you their personal stories, cancer in their family, they would open up the things I never thought people I was young at that time. And I was probably Illinois drivers had to be 10 to 15 years old of them. But they came in they trusted they wanted to talk you become the father figure. And someone they trust, you control the purse strings, you’re the boss. And I learned how powerful it was that those relationships even go beyond and transcend ideas and include people because at the end of the day, if you have a good relationship with people, they will do right by you as long as they believe you will do right by them. That’s the mantra that you have to have as a reputation wherever you go.
Jess Dewell 42:51
About a hard lesson that you learned from technology integration.
Harry Drajpuch 42:58
Be prepared to spend a whole lot more and time is gonna take longer, because everything else they’re selling you something, right you that technology is competitive, and the field is competitive. There’s lots of robots out there, there’s lots of voice accurate. So everybody is going to tell you what’s good about their system. So the lesson I learned is to the extent you can get them in a tent with you with guarantees of some sort. But you need to be prepared to spend a little bit more and it will take a little bit longer. And test if there’s one thing I would walk away with, it’s that you can’t test enough. Testing has to be rigorous. It’s got to be ongoing, and it’s got to be rock solid so that when you turn the switch and it goes live, it’s right because your customers are the experiment. And if it doesn’t go right, that ain’t pretty. We do 17 million shipments a year at Mr. Stasi. So you can think if there’s a mistake, the impact the number of shipments, even in a day is just incredible. phones start ringing customer service lights up, they pay for all those calls, it can get very expensive, and very time-consuming replacement shipments, damaged reputation. You’ve got to really test technology before you flip the switch.
Jess Dewell 44:16
Have you thought about ways that you can support the customer service side not only during potential issues that are trying to be avoided, but just regular every day? Customer service related to creating developing shipping?
Harry Drajpuch 44:32
If you’re in my line of business, the people that probably have the most influence on a decision to stay or go or your customer SERP or my customers customer service people. They are the people who get the phone call who get the irate customers that in our case, but Jan because we never disappoint a customer, right? But they’re the ones that you have to get close to always put a face to the company because they don’t really deal with. They don’t really deal with us directly but they deal with their costs. numbers directly. And if they hear nothing but bad news all day long, they’re gonna say, Hey, you got to do something about these and more guys, they can’t get a shipment, right? They can’t get it right. So to the extent that you work closely with them, get in front of them, be empathetic to what they do, it’ll go a long way to getting a little bit of forgiveness should something happen, because they know it didn’t happen because you didn’t care. But they’ll understand that stuff does happen. And they’ll work with you, if they understand the humanity that they’re dealing with. I would say customer service people, whether it’s internal or external, because they are the face of the company, and they’re the runt of the like the gate agent, when the plane is late. You’ve got to treat those people, right, you’ve got to resource them properly, you’ve got to take care of them, they got a tough job, they don’t ship the shipments, they don’t pick them, they don’t pack them. But if it’s not right, the other ones that are going to hear about it first. So you got to get them to know you the operation, the people, we all care, mistakes do happen. And when a mistake happens, we want it in the best possible light. But we don’t want to lie. We don’t want to be dishonest about what happened. And we don’t want you to put your personal reputation on the line. But we all on the same team. We’re all trying. Stuff happens.
Jess Dewell 46:13
We’re human stuff happens. We’re human, I have a T-shirt, and it says stay human on it. And it’s my favorite t-shirt, Harry. And that’s for whatever reason, we can’t walk what everybody else is walking. We can’t understand on somebody else’s experience. And most importantly, all we can do is be there and listen and know, how can we make it better. How can we understand what’s happening? And to your point of relationship? transparency, honesty, and accountability is what it sounds like. It’s first and foremost.
Harry Drajpuch 46:45
But you but so communication with me I said earlier on is Yeah, you did? Yeah, keep going. I have a customer who may ship 10,000 shipments a month, right? And they’ll sign up for 99% accuracy on 10,000 shipments. And so they’re right yet nine, you know, what do I say? Yeah, but you know what the 1% is? You’ll make a mistake. 1% of the time I says yeah, but on 10,000 shipments, that means every month 100 customers are gonna be unhappy, they’re gonna call you. And if you have 100,000 shipments, you’re gonna have 1000 customers that are unhappy. Oh, wait a minute, let me pull back from the table. So, so 99% is not really that good, right? No, we needed better than 99%. You have to let people know beforehand, what they’re signing up for what the realities are what to expect. We work out of the lesson we work out of the mantra of no surprises, bad news doesn’t get better with time. And so when you know it, you got to be upfront with customers all the time. But more importantly, when you’re establishing a relationship, a service level agreements, what they should accept, expect, rather, not just the pilot, not just the 99% side, because that sounds great? But what is the 1% mean when you’re honest about that? And they have problems and they say, Hey, listen, we signed up for 99% This is what we know we’re gonna get and we’ve got it. You know what, maybe on the next go-round, we’re going to ask them to tighten that up and improve it. But at least they feel Hey, listen, Harry was honest, he told me he didn’t focus on the 99%. Because I’ve been in this business. And I’ve made sales goals with sales guys. And they it’s like, 99.9, we’re gonna give it to you. And I said, tell your customer what the point one is. So that they know right now, I don’t want to ruin the sale, I said, You won’t ruin the sale, you’ll have a better customer for doing it. We have five house rules that we at the company that we use, and everybody knows them. So our culture is fairly simple. One is shoot straight, tell it like it is. Number two is over-deliver, right? Keep your promises, but over-deliver if you can. Number three is own it. Do it like it was your own. The fourth one is stay safe. And the fifth one is to have fun. It’s not hard to know that we live it, we breathe it, we act it. And as long as we treat each other internally and externally with those rules, we’re gonna be okay, we’re gonna do fine in relationships.
Jess Dewell 49:03
What makes a bold what makes it bold to recognize that technology can actually help our businesses be better, without taking away from the awesomeness that we already are.
Harry Drajpuch 49:20
As I mentioned earlier, growth for survival is critical. You cannot survive without growing and you have to grow faster than the market is growing. So if the market is growing 15% And you’re growing 5% You may be happy that you’re growing, but you’re losing market share. And if you lose market share, all the jobs will be gone. So in order to survive and prosper and everybody should prosper, right? The Rising Tide should lift all boats. employee should share in the success of the organization. And if you’re willing to do that, and if you’re not willing to do that, you’re going to have a problem. But when you’re willing to do that, people embrace Since the laws of physics don’t cease to exist in my warehouse, there’s only so much room for so many people, my customers businesses growing, I can’t keep paying people to get that done. We need technology, I need a better tool. If my car only goes 10 miles an hour, and I want to drive 1000 miles a day, I got to get a different car, it doesn’t, I can’t get more people to do it. So it’s not just about the people, we’ll protect the people. We don’t want to lay off people, we don’t want technology to replace people. We want technology to be a better tool that you have. So that you can be more efficient, you can potentially do more, without necessarily working harder, or more hours or more overtime, that you can get more done in your job, not breaking a bigger sweat. It’s just about making people that you have to sell that because it’s true. If you think you can just beat people who get in the work more time or get in the work harder. No one signs up to that. I gotta tell you start when I first went to work for the West Coast company, the HR guy took me around, and company had challenges. And so I was the third CEO and four years. And so he said to everybody, here’s Harry, he’s a great guy, a lot of experience in the industry, track record of success. So we’re here to make him successful. Everybody, we’re going to work harder for Harry. So I stopped them right there. I said Is anybody in this room capable of working harder, not one hand went up. And I said, I’m glad to see that. Because I’m sure you’re working as hard as you can. My job isn’t here to make your work harder. And you’ll never hear that again, from my HR manager. I’m going to give you the tools you need to get the job done. I promise that’s my commitment to you. And that’s how you sell technology and you sell tools. And that’s how you get people in the tent with you.
The Bold Business Podcast is brought to you by Red Direction. Jess Dewell dug into one idea in this program. Her goal is to ignite your creativity and spark different thinking with the presented material. How you apply this to your current priorities is up to you. Jess Dewell can bring the missing voice back into your company. With you, Jess will solidify your company’s TrueNorth. Your unique Red Direction. Provided you are ready to work with Jess, email her at [email protected]. Special thanks to The SCOTT Treatment for technical production.