You can’t find the right talent. Can you create it?

Some important take aways from my recent meetings and calls with senior executives at some of the leading 3pls in the Middle East relating to commercial activity and talent.

1. Many of them are finding it challenging to identify and hire sales professionals with enough in-depth overall supply chain knowledge and experience who can create and sell end to end supply chain solutions to their clients.

2. A lot of 3pls are struggling to find suitable freight sales professionals with a good enough track record of being able to back themselves and consistently bring the revenues for freight sales in the region

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The first point about supply chain solutions is an ongoing challenge for everyone as many of the people with the level of operational supply chain experience that’s needed don’t have the sales experience or know how (a major skill in itself!) that’s needed to be able successfully sell SC solutions to end users (as they are coming from more operational backgrounds and simply haven’t been exposed to sales).

Those that have the sales ability and experience are commanding very high salaries as they have usually already reached to a senior management level leading the supply chain function for companies in their career to-date (those are the people you need if you could afford them!)

With regards to the second point about freight sales I asked some of the employers what’s more important, the ability to sell and having a proven track record of sales?

Or having the knowledge of freight forwarding?

Most answered that’s it’s easier to teach someone about freight forwarding, the hardest part is having the sales ability in the first place !

So what are the possible solutions?

To get suitable supply chain professionals onboard from client side to logistics service provider then in my view its either a case of upping the budgets for salaries to get the senior people (which is probably not an option in the current market for most 3pls) or alternatively start creating dedicated screening, on boarding and training programs that run on an ongoing basis to first identify potential sales ability amongst mid career supply chain professionals and then ensure they have the tools and ongoing support they need to be successful.

Their are many mid career SC professionals in the market currently who are looking for a move, I am sure a few of them would make excellent SC solutions sellers!

In other words start building talent pools / talent communities and taking a proactive approach to “develop” talent for these types of roles.

For the more transactional high volume / high activity driven sales functions perhaps it’s time to look for experienced sales professionals from other sectors and teach them about the Logistics industry?

Is anyone else experiencing similar challenges, do you agree or disagree?

For my contacts outside the Middle East is this a similar story in your regions?

Any other thoughts or ideas to share?

Survival of the fittest – Global Supply Chain Interview Series

Read the full transcript from Brian Cartwright’s interview with Christian Juul-Nyholm, Managing Director, Maersk Line, UAE, Iran, Qatar & Oman. (First published November 2017 in Global Supply Chain Magazine)

Read the full transcript from Brian Cartwright’s interview with Christian Juul-Nyholm, Managing Director, Maersk Line, UAE, Iran, Qatar & Oman. (First published November 2017 in Global Supply Chain Magazine)

Brian Cartwright, Managing Director, Top Management Resources Group:

This month I met with Christian Juul-Nyholm who is the Managing Director for Maersk Line, UAE, Iran, Qatar & Oman.

Christian has a long history of living and working in the Middle East logistics sector with his first stint from 1997 until 2006. He returned to the region again in 2014 after 9 years of working in various countries across Europe and Asia Pacific.

Representing the world’s largest container shipping company, Christian was pleased to share some thoughts around current market dynamics which are influencing the Supply Chain.

What are your thoughts on the changes in alliances between shipping lines and recent mergers and acquisitions?

Despite the new alliances our industry is still fragmented. Over the coming years we can expect even more consolidation. The alliances will offer a more equal playing field for the carriers and there will still be plenty of competitive offerings for shippers. Initially, there might be some disruption to services, as new networks are put in place.

Is the rise of the mega vessels a major contributor to overcapacity?

Mega ships make sense to reduce carbon footprint and reduce unit costs when demand meets expectations but when demand suddenly/ unexpectedly drops, the economics become challenged if you are unable to fill the ships. When you order vessels it’s important to keep a relative balance between your current fleet size and the expected market growth. While there was a bit of a frenzy the past years, today the order book is at a 27-year low.

Overcapacity in shipping is a common discussion, but what about under capacity in some trade lanes which has raised shipping costs and increased lead times?

As a business you always aim to match capacity to demand to ensure utilization stays high. The space crunch seen in Europe this spring came from the normal Chinese New Year deployment coupled with an unusually strong demand from Europe to Asia (growth in excess of 12 percent).

Due to the high number of ‘no-shows’, carriers need to overbook vessels every week. A better coordination on forecasting is vital to improve the supply chain.

How is Maersk Line contributing to creating more sustainable supply chains?

Our customers’ require sustainable products and we are seeing significantly higher interest in partnership to reduce environmental impact.

Firstly we can influence reducing average pollution per transported unit. If we can ensure that every slot is full every time a ship leaves a region, there would be significant reduction in carbon footprint.

Maersk Line continuously evaluates alternative fuels and reduced fuel consumption. Even if sea-freight is by far the eco-friendliest way to transport goods, we can do more.

Digitization is a topic that regularly comes up during my discussions with Supply Chain and Logistics professionals, what are your thoughts on digitization in shipping, and what actions are you taking in regard to this?

We are cognizant that the container industry needs to be in sync with the digitized age. Maersk Line’s focus is clear – making the entire process of getting a container from A to B seamless. We are working with companies like IBM, Microsoft and Alibaba to make this a reality in the very near future. This is also perfectly aligned with the UAE government’s focus of being completely digital in the coming five years.

What are your thoughts about doing business in Iran as its one of the countries under your remit which has some very unique challenges when compared to the rest.

The Iran market represents good opportunities in the coming years. European companies in particular have resumed doing business with Iran, and we expect this segment to experience a significant growth in the next five years. Regardless of who is the first mover, there are ample prospects to do good business in Iran.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on talent in the industry, are you finding it difficult to attract and retain people?

The company is good at retaining talent. We try to maintain a balanced mix of nationalities from all regions.  In terms of attraction, we receive many senior management enquiries from Asia, but lately we are receiving less enquiries from Europe.

Prospects in Europe have improved, causing people to stay put, and attractiveness of Dubai from a compensation/cost perspective has deteriorated in comparison.

We experience that attracting candidates with families to come and work here is proving increasingly difficult.

Have you been successful in attracting local nationals in the countries you lead? 

In the UAE we try to attract more Emirati employees, but as an industry we struggle to compete with both public and private sectors e.g. banks which are viewed more favourably. Dubai was built on trade/logistics, yet we still have a challenge to make the industry appear attractive. In Oman we have a majority of Omanis working.

Are there any specific initiatives you currently run, aimed at attracting local nationals which are proving successful?

We run a global initiative called ‘Go with Maersk’ – every year we hire aspiring young employees into our trainee program and we hope to attract GCC nationals too.

Is Maersk Line involved in supporting local communities through any kind of CSR initiatives?

Every winter we run a CSR funfair in Dubai. We invite around 1,000 customers and their families.  Our employees work the stands and proceeds are donated to projects through government approved charities. It’s a great day for the organisation to engage with customers and a great motivator for the team giving something back to the community.

Brian Cartwright, Managing Director of the Top Management Resources Group (TMR Group), is well known throughout the international Supply Chain & Logistics sector as a focused and highly proactive business leader, mentor, and thought leader. He has partnered with Global Supply Chain magazine to run a series of exclusive interviews with senior executives to uncover the facts and provide real time insight on what’s happening in Supply Chain & Logistics sector across the region.

Read the full magazine


No in-country experience, no job.

Three points nearly all the 3pl  companies are totally rigid on when hiring SC solutions / Contract Logistics BD people.

  1. Solid track record of performance selling SC / CL solutions in a 3pl
  2. Deep knowledge of specific end user industry verticals
  3. Current or previous in-country / local market experience

Sales people.jpg

In my view the first two are a no brainer but after close to ten years in the Middle East supporting 3pls I struggle to understand why companies won’t give talented people with an excellent track record in other countries a chance in a new country or region, and especially in countries where there are many expats (as expats we all got a chance to start in a new country without previous market experience).

I will use the UAE as an example because I am based here. A young talented SC solutions / Contract Logistics BDM is looking to make a move to the UAE from (for example) Europe or South Africa. He’s/she’s prepared to take a hit on the salary for a chance to learn the market, he/she understands they must, and is also totally willing to literally hit the pavement and knock on doors to build contacts, client base, pipeline and market knowledge from day one. He/she has an excellent track record of past performance, knows their stuff when it comes to understanding firstly their own companies logistical capability then is able to  identify clients they could realistically support, can analyse a clients logistics set up, and design and implement solutions. Basically they can win new business, yet because he/she hasn’t worked in UAE before no one is even prepared to meet them.

What seems to happen here in UAE far too often is that many 3pl companies, who are pretty much all looking to hire good SC CL solutions sales people, just want to know which clients the person can bring in order to quickly fill the latest new build warehouse, and usually expect results in 3 months… if this was related to transactional freight sales I kind of understand the 3 month expectation, but what’s the relevance of this in contract logistics where the sales process could be anything from 2-3 years or more in order to win a major contract.

In the logistics sector in the Middle East we clearly have a major shortage of good SC CL solutions selling people in most countries especially within the 30-40’s age range which means an even bigger problem is looming. Is it time to take a risk by hiring someone who has the industry experience but without the market knowledge if its clear they adequately tick the other two boxes?

What do you think is more important? (Feel free to add others in the comments).

  1. Solid track record of performance selling SC / CL solutions
  2. Deep knowledge of specific end user industry verticals
  3. Current or previous in-country / local market experience

A good leader see’s things in people that others don’t, a good leader is prepared to take educated risks when making hiring decisions and is prepared to stand by those decisions.

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Kanoo Raising Industry Standards – Global Supply Chain Interview Series

Full Transcript; Interview with Krishna Kumar, General Manager, Logistics – YBA Kanoo   (First published in June 2017 as part of an ongoing Interview Series with Global Supply Chain Magazine)

Full Transcript; Interview with Krishna Kumar, General Manager, Logistics – YBA Kanoo   (First published in June 2017 as part of an ongoing Interview Series with Global Supply Chain Magazine)

 Brian Cartwright, Managing Director, Top Management Resources Group:

I recently met with Krishna Kumar, GM Logistics for the Kanoo Group to get his thoughts on the current state of the regional logistics sector.

Krish took over the running of the Group’s logistics business 1 year ago having moved across from his previous role as Managing Director of Kanoo Terminal Services (a Joint Venture between Kanoo & Maersk), where he had spent the past 25 years. Prior to his time at Kanoo he has worked for Johnson & Johnson and Colgate Palmolive for several years and brings a wealth of insight and experience gained from major MNC’s and long established family owned businesses.

Kanoo Logistics offers Global Freight Forwarding and end to end Multimodal Supply chain Solutions to a variety of Industry Segments.

In the current economic climate business continues to be tough going for many organisations and the logistics space in particular has been impacted greatly so this interview presented an excellent opportunity to hear Krishna’s thoughts on the good, the bad, and the future of logistics in the region.

 What do you think the future of logistics looks like in the Middle East?

The future is extremely bright, but we do need to focus on encouraging more collaboration and communication between key stakeholders in government and the private sector.

The future success of the industry should be a joint story, one where the government and the private industry plays a decisive role together. It is time for both to sit around the same table and talk to each other and chart the goal and the path in phases and steps.

There are many great ideas and initiatives being shared by government and private sector organisations throughout the region, but it can be challenging to get enough traction and alignment between key stakeholders from all sides to be effective enough to make a difference, so what can everybody in the sector do to help drive this forward?

Implementing ideas will take more than just will, it will take grit and sheer determination. The tools are there, technology is available, people can be retrained –but the resources need to be given shape by the joint forces of both the government and the industry.

You have a lot of experience in Saudi Arabia, the biggest market in the region for Logistics, so how important do you see Saudi’s role in this.

As the largest market in the region, both in terms of imports and exports, Saudi Arabia will make a huge difference and impact in the way logistics is done in the region, it’s imperative that the logistics community and government in Saudi Arabia is a major supporter and influencer of change and development.

 What are your thoughts on how E-commerce is affecting the logistics sector?  

The impact of e-commerce is already seen here with players upping their game, and also major shipping lines reengineering their model to dip into the end to end solutions, via digital platforms. Technology is now a differentiator of logistics services – be it, transport, warehousing, tracking, etc. which creates the visibility for the customer. Overall, the rise of E-commerce should have a very positive impact by accelerating the need for improved cross border collaboration between countries.

What do think about the level of skills and the availability of people with logistics experience in the region?

We are facing talent shortages for some functions, but it’s going in the right direction as training and qualification in the field of logistics has become a primary guideline for selection of employees, and improving the skill sets of the already employed.

Trainability and hence employability of local population is also now being taken very seriously, with the government of each country making it a law. This has led to logistics providers making a concerted effort to engage and upskill local nationals as well as their expats employees.

What is Kanoo Logistics doing in regard to upskilling employees and raising logistics industry standards?

We are raising the internal bar first – our Group has now a dynamic team of professionals led by a Group CEO, Dr Patrick Chenel, who have laid out the cards on the table and charted out the path into the future by taking steps:  bold yet careful; fast yet consistent; local yet global; individually yet as One Kanoo.

We are raising the standard of our Group offerings with technology, compliance, people competence, Operational excellence – all aimed at one single goal: a strong customer focus & delivery.

Brian Cartwright, Managing Director of the Top Management Resources Group (TMR Group), is well known throughout the international Supply Chain & Logistics sector as a focused and highly proactive business leader, mentor, and thought leader. He has partnered with Global Supply Chain magazine to run a series of exclusive interviews with senior executives to uncover the facts and provide real time insight on what’s happening in the Supply Chain & Logistics sector across the region.

Read the full magazine

kanoo interview

The Networked Supply Chain Professional

Ensuring you remain well networked within the People Supply Chain is key to success for many Supply Chain professionals.

Networking experience and ability should be a no brainer for people in commercial management roles, but what if your whole career to date has been focused on operational management functions in the Supply Chain and you haven’t been making a conscious effort to build your business networks.

The truth is that if you are a Supply Chain professional with a pure operational focus you are probably already an excellent relationship builder and networker as your working week will involve dealing with many stakeholders both internal and external, including people from Government entities to MNC’s, local organizations and SME’s.

You will have been regularly building working relationships as well as influencing, supporting, and also challenging people in order to keep your part of the Supply Chain running smoothly.

I am willing to bet that when a Supply Chain professional has made significant improvements to an organisations Supply Chain it has been largely due to their ability to foster relationships and positively influence people from all walks of life.

Facts, figures, and overall analysis provide the visibility to know what needs to be changed or what can be improved but the only way to successfully implement these things is by winning over the people.

If you take the Supply Chain on a local, regional or even a global level I don’t think we see enough operational Supply Chain professionals actively networking with their counter parts in other organizations including those from their competitors in order to understand if they are sharing the same challenges or can support one another to run more efficient Supply Chains.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of Supply Chain focused events and conferences going on constantly around the world where SC professionals get together and briefly network during the breaks between presentations and panel discussions, there are also plenty of steering committees and industry bodies which promise to champion the cause of Supply Chain (Only a few manage to do this effectively).

That’s all good, but my big question is this…

How many people in operational Supply Chain management functions make a point of getting together with their counterparts in other organizations on a fairly regular basis just to catch up for a coffee or a bite to eat and chat about the Supply Chain in general?

For the cost of a drink and some of your time I am sure there will be good advice to share and you might also highlight some  challenges which could be overcome through sharing experiences or taking action together.

The more networked Supply Chain professionals we have in the sector the better, and with enough people having these kinds of meetings a bigger picture outcome could well be improvement of global supply chain efficiencies and standards in the future!

So if you aren’t already an avid networker then please don’t just wait for the formal industry conferences and events, I would suggest being proactive and reaching out to some of your counterparts with the aim of getting together for a chat once in a while, if nothing else I am sure you will be able to share some useful information about the market!

The Supply Chain only works because of the people involved!

Networked People

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WANTED: Supply Chain Superstars & HR Hero’s

It’s not that long ago when the job of a Supply Chain Manager was largely unknown as the collective function responsible for management of many key activities involved in bringing a product to market.

In the past organizations had an often disjointed mix of Warehousing, Transport, Procurement, Planning, Operations etc with each seen as a specific stand-alone function and in some cases reporting to very different departments or managers. This was the norm until a more holistic approach to Supply Chain eventually became the trend.

One of the best things to have happened for Supply Chain in recent years was arguably the beginning of the global financial crisis when organizations had no choice but look inwardly at cost saving initiatives without causing too much disruption to their business in general.

The Supply Chain Superstars were born…

Once organizations adopted this approach and put in place their Supply Chain leaders they were soon presented with a high level view of all “Supply Chain” activities bringing (in some cases) immediate cost savings and efficiency improvements whilst highlighting other areas where further cost savings and efficiency improvements could be made given more time and focus.

Now seen as one of the most important strategic business functions any company could have, Supply Chain finally took its rightful place in the boardroom, and we haven’t looked back!

A Supply Chain supported by clever software systems and automation, as well as practices and methodology such as Kaizen, and Lean 6 Sigma etc won’t work though unless the combined efforts of all the people involved in the chain actually make it work.

Back we go to “The People Supply Chain” this is where the HR Hero’s come in!


When all of the above can only be driven by people why do we still see many companies with their HR departments purely viewed as an admin function, we see more and more HR business partner titles but are those HR professionals really being brought in as strategic partners to the business, or are they just paper shufflers?

Are they involved in shaping the strategic and operational focus of the company? Are the HR processes, procedures and the overall talent management strategy aligned with the company’s overall vision and strategy.

Has that other empty seat in the boardroom been filled by a Chief HR Officer yet?

Leading organizations have developed all-encompassing talent management strategies which provide support and development throughout the whole employment life cycle of its employees whilst aligning perfectly with the strategic direction of the company.

The era of the CHRO’s and the CSCO’s is upon us!

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Urgent & essential job vacancy! (It’s been open for at least one year)

Here’s an interesting question…do you employ people for jobs or do you build your jobs around each individual you employ?

Where do you draw the line?

I have regular discussions with business owners, senior decision makers and hiring managers who are looking for people to “tick all the boxes” for vacant posts as per very specific (non negotiable) job descriptions and as a result of this they haven’t employed anyone at all and usually tend to have their vacant positions open for months on end.

Imagine having a key position vacant for the past year which is (in a very significant way) going to be impacting the rest of your team, your business, your clients and ultimately revenue and market position.

In the current business climate the majority of the people and the companies which are succeeding are those which continue to be flexible, those which are constantly adapting and innovating in order to keep making money.

The good news is that more and more companies are taking an increasingly pragmatic approach to the job fit vs candidate fit by regularly adapting role profiles.

When they  meet people who they really want in their business they adapt, innovate and simply put…. find a way to make it work!


I would bet that these companies are amongst the leaders in their field.

If they are applying similar principles to the rest of their business its a pretty safe bet in my view.

If you are hiring and have had an open vacancy for a long time yet still cant find the right person then maybe the person with the skills and experience you want simply doesn’t exist or if they do then maybe your business just isn’t an attractive enough option for them to want to join?

There’s actually a good chance you have already met the ideal person for the business need, maybe you just need to find a way to make it work.

Taking a more open and flexible approach and being prepared to build a role around a person enables an organization to utilize more of each employees strengths rather than just the specific skills / experience required for a pre-set role.

The company stands to gain a higher return on investment for each person they employ and as long as the employee is receiving fair compensation for an expanded role they are normally happier as well.

The world has changed, ticking boxes is not enough.

Don’t restrict your business by looking for the obvious or by doing things a certain way just because that’s the way you have always done things.

Be open to new ideas…. be entrepreneurial!

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I’m giving you a blank cheque!

There’s a story behind this one, so bear with me…

A couple of years ago a business partner and I we’re running a workshop in Doha for IATA’s world cargo symposium which was attended by an audience of  “future air cargo executives” the next generation of leaders.

Some of the worlds most important people in air cargo were sitting in the room that day as these are the people who are going to be running the sector in the years to come.

In order to deliver the workshop so it would be best received by this particular generation (See Education… Aligned.) we decided to run a forum using snap polls (a simple show of hands), encouraging some lively discussion along the way.

After debating a range of topics we eventually came to the subject of continuing education and personal development.

We asked for people to raise their hands if they had worked towards a formal degree qualification over the past 12 months.

About half the room shot their hands up.

We then asked who had taken part in any soft skills training in the last 12 months…  just two or three hands popped up.

Ok… so its evident (for whatever reason) that soft skills weren’t at the top of the training agenda.

We were now warming up to the killer question.

“If we gave you a blank cheque that you can use to pay for either a degree course or soft skills training… which would you choose?”.

$$$ Degree or Soft Skills? $$$
$$$ Degree or Soft Skills? $$$

Silence… for a few minutes, then discussion backwards and forwards, the room is divided… and with a final show of hands its a 50/50 split (I guess if you were personally very aware of a soft skill area where you would like to improve then you would be one of the soft skills choosers).

Their was clearly a demand for soft skills training in the room which hadn’t been identified by their employers (remember only 2-3 people had raised their hands earlier).

So is it more important to pay for the degree or better to fine tune your soft skills?

Well if you want to be leading people and growing a business and if you are going to be one of the future senior executives in an industry then you are definitely going to benefit from having highly mastered soft skills.

Ah but hang on though, will you ever get those opportunities without the degree? Could you handle a senior executive post without the hard skills gained whilst getting a degree?

Would qualification by experience also be enough instead of a degree?

There is no real right or wrong answer here as too many different factors are involved, but I would add that in a challenging jobs market you need to have as many strings to your bow as possible to give you the edge on your competition.

If you have the means and ability to get a degree then you should do it…. but also keep on honing those soft skills!

Procuring people. What’s the cost of getting it wrong?

Whether it’s for a start-up and this is employee number one or if there is a requirement for employing vast numbers of people an organization will always have direct costs relating to hiring and will decide whether to pay for advertising, marketing, career portal, external recruitment services or headhunting fees, assessment tests, visa’s etc etc.

The choice is there for an organization to spend as much or as little on these direct costs as they wish… but how little is too little?

It’s practically impossible to get it exactly right when hiring a person (or people) but investing time and money in developing sufficient process and procedures will increase the chance of hiring the best people in terms of cultural fit as well as ability and experience.

Finding a good balance between the cost of hiring the right people versus the cost of getting it wrong isn’t easy but when you take the time to really consider the hidden costs of making a hiring mistake then investing more time and money up front becomes a very worthwhile and necessary investment.

Hidden cost factors of a bad hiring decision;

  • Time spent hiring a replacement
  • Reduced morale of other team members
  • Disruption to clients
  • Investment in on the job training (internal and external)
  • Time taken from exit of previous hire to the replacement person reaching minimum standards to perform the job
  • Loss of confidential information
  • Damage to company brand
  • Additional work load for other employees

The list goes on and many are interlinked, but the actual cost of an employee leaving is not easily quantified as there are just so many additional factors to be considered, for example a key employee with a very specific skillset will have a greater impact when leaving an organization than that of someone in a role which is easily replicated. Smaller businesses will also be more affected by one person leaving than larger businesses.

I guess the best advice is don’t cut corners and always think about what could be the cost of getting it wrong.

Consider the hidden costs...
Beware of the hidden costs.

How does your organization calculate the cost of replacing an experienced employee?

I look forward to reading your comments.

Education… Aligned.

Advances in technology and workplace culture and environment are changing faster than ever before.

Education needs to be better aligned to suit each generation, and this comes down to understanding what makes each generation tick.

The gap in experience between generations is vast and we cannot afford to lose the skills and experience of the mature and experienced professionals or we are facing disaster. With this in mind each generation must be provided for in a flexible way which appeals to their differing learning styles.

The Gen-Y’s (Millennials) should be accommodated  for with their technological and flexibility requirements with online & apps based training, brainstorming, group workshops etc.

For the baby boomers and previous generations classroom based learning may prove more effective.

In my opinion, we must understand that today’s workplace has people working together with vastly differing age ranges, values and experience. One solution which is slowly being adopted by a growing number of organizations is training on generational awareness in order to create a better understanding and more effective internal communication. It’s time to get savvy and adopt technology, build creative brand energy, and be open to new ideas.

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