Freight that keeps the city alive

Freight that keeps the city alive

Interview with ALEXANDRU PANAIT, Mainfreight

Q: At  the  beginning  of  this  year  you  were  announcing  a  two  digit  increase  of  the  business,  for  the  previous  fiscal  year.  How  did  2020  continue  for  Mainfreight,  once  the  pandemic   was   declared?   And   what   are   your   expectations or forecasts for the end of this year?

A.P. 2020  treated  us  no  different  than  the  rest  of  the  world and because we are active in several market sectors  we  have  seen  all  range  of  impacts,  from  drastic  volumes  cut  to  sky  high  demand.  Overall,  we are slightly behind last year’s figures in terms of revenue and the biggest impact is coming from our division  that  takes  care  of  Oil  &  Gas  customers.  When  we  leave  this  impact  aside,  we  are  actually  ahead of last year. Seeing this positive trend, we are confident that we can reduce to a minimum the gap between  this  year’s  figures  and  2019  if  not  even  match them.

Q: Mainfreight  is  part  of  a  multinational  company.  How  was  the  evolution  trend  of the company during the corona crisis at international level?

A.P. At  Mainfreight,  we  have  an  internal  motivational  saying  that  says  “we  don’t  do  crisis”  and  this  is  translated in the mindset of all our team members. Indeed the first months of lockdown have shown a downturn  in  most  of  our  businesses  worldwide,  but once we have understood the “new normal” we have  been  looking  for  opportunities  and  at  this  moment  there  are  regions  of  the  world  which  are  doing better than pre-pandemic numbers.

Q: What  changes,  if  any,  did  you  notice  in  your  corporate  clients’  behavior?  How  did  the  crisis  impact  your  commercial  relationships?

A.P. Just like ourselves most of our customers have put a stronger focus on costing structure and potential efficiencies in order to bring down the unnecessary costs.  For  sure  this  is  not  something  new,  but  the  level  of  details  definitely  is.  On  the  other  hand,  most  of  our  discussions  have  moved  from  face  to  face  to  phone  and  video  platforms  and  this  has  increased the need to keep our partners informed regarding  our  services  and  our  company.  For  this  reason   we   have   started   a   “newsletter”   type   campaign   where   we   have   been   informing   our   customers  about  specific  topics  and  our  reactions  to the new operating conditions.

Q: Clearly, we are still crossing a period full of challenges   and   changes.   How   do   you   prepare  for  a  permanent  shift  in  working  relationships?  What  long-term  measures  have  you  planned    for    guaranteeing    the    safety    of    your    employees (both in medical and economical terms)?

A.P. The  “medical”  safety  is  undoubtedly  the  number  one priority, just like in our personal lives, all other aspects  become  irrelevant  when  our  health  is  at  risk.  Therefore,  besides  the  strict  implementation  of  the  legal  requirements  we  have  nearly  doubled  the office space used by our team members (e.g. by using the meeting rooms left with no use) and we have given the option and strongly encouraged our team members to work from home, where possible. In    addition,    we    are    currently    analyzing    the    possibilities to enhance our office’s climate control system with an air disinfection purifier.With  regards  to  our  team  economical  stability  I  have  always  been  the  adopter  of  the  philosophy  that  the  success  should  not  be  a  purpose  on  its  own,  but  rather  the  logical  consequence  of  doing  the right things and I follow the same principle in the current situation also. In other words we, as a team,  just  focus  on  doing  the  right  things  to  grab  the   opportunities   available   in   such   uncertain   situations  and  the  security  of  our  team  is  well  taken care of by itself.

Q: Which  are  the  top  5  priorities  on  your  agenda  today?  Did  this  sanitary  crisis  shift your business strategy or priorities in any way?

A.P. As  previously  mentioned,  the  safety  of  our  team  tops the list and for the rest I would just highlight them in random order:

• Keeping a good balance in the mindset of our teams between safety precautions and business sanity

• One business priority, which has been in the back of  our  minds  for  a  long  time,  is  to  focus  on  “freight  that keeps the city alive”. This focus has helped us sail through the difficult lockdown period and for sure will remain in the top of sales team strategies.

• Just like the previous point, another topic that has received  additional  attention  from  our  side  is  the  development  of  our  domestic  network  -  we  have  reached a volume level in our distribution network that asks for further development in the country.

•   One   aspect   that   has   indeed   changed   in   our   priorities  is  the  focus  on  the  medical  supplies  market  and  recently  we  have  managed  to  sign  collaboration contracts with several players in the industry.

Q: A  crisis  always  comes  with  challenges,  but  also  with  opportunities.  Which  has  been  the  biggest  challenge  for  you  over  this period and what opportunities has this “new normal” brought for your business?

A.P. Without  any  doubt,  the  biggest  challenge  I  had  been faced with in the past 6 months was to keep my team informed about the general situations and the risks involved from a medical perspective and in  the  same  time  generate  a  climate  of  trust  and  “normality”  that  will  allow  them  to  perform  at  their  best.  In  terms  of  opportunities,  they  haven’t  ceased  to  appear  and  because  of  the  drop  in  the  international  freight  available  we  have  increased  our focus on the domestic market and it payed off. Since the beginning of this year we have managed to  sign  a  significant  amount  of  medium  and  large  accounts that have trusted Mainfreight to distribute their freight in the country.

Q: From your experience, what’s your „Focus on  ...“  advice  for  the  managers  of  local  companies during this challenged period?

A.P. To start with, I do not consider myself as the person to  give  “management  advices”  I  simply  have  too  much still to learn on these aspects. What I can say is simply what helped me in this journey. Regardless of  the  context,  but  especially  in  these  times  of  physical distance, I mainly “Focus on my team” and if I take good care of them, then it is sure thing that they will take care of our business and together we can  find  a  way  through  the  dark  days.  Several  important elements to mention are the importance of proper recruitment, complementary skills in the team and TRUST!

You can also consult the interview in the document below: