Ep. 77 - Setting Strategies In An Evolving Market With Worldwide Express' Joel Clum

Ep. 77 - Setting Strategies In An Evolving Market With Worldwide Express' Joel Clum

“What do we want to be when we grow up?” is the question every organization should be asking of themselves at the beginning. For the ever-evolving industry of shipping, setting strategies to grow is particularly challenging. In this episode, COO Joel Clum discusses how Worldwide Express continues to grow and keep up with the technological advances in today’s world. He shares a strategy of having checkpoints to be able to adapt to the ever-changing market and eventually reaching the end goal. He emphasizes the importance of choosing, training, and retaining the right people on your team.

Joel is the Chief Operating Officer of the Worldwide Express. It’s a $1.6 billion third-party logistics company that helps small to medium-sized businesses with their small parcel, less-than truckload and full truckload shipping needs. Worldwide Express has over 150 company-owned and franchise locations nationwide and supported over 92,000 customers in 2018. Prior to joining the company in 2015, Joel was a founding executive at the logistics consultancy, CarrierDirect in Chicago, which is recognized with an Inc. 500 fastest growing companies award for their growth in 2014. Joel began his career at Accenture Strategy in Chicago where he worked in a variety of multinational companies on enterprise strategy in the US, Europe, and China. Joel graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Finance and is a member of the Eli Broad College of Business Advisory Board. Welcome to the podcast.

Thanks, Cameron. It’s great to be here.

I’ve been coaching a company for six years called BlueGrace Logistics. Would they be a competitor to you or in the same space in some way?

We’re in the same space. The group of Bobby Harris and his leadership team is a phenomenal company and a great group of individuals. When I got into the logistics industry, I began at CarrierDirect. One of our first major clients was BlueGrace. We worked with them a lot in the early days. They’ve got a great team out there between Bobby, Adam and the rest of the Tampa Bay, Florida gang. They are great people.

I started coaching them when they were about 50 employees. They grew to about 800 and I never know who’s getting on one of our calls. They rotate people through the leadership team. It’ll be Adam, Vanessa and Randy. I get all of them on the calls and they’re great people. Bobby’s one of those CEOs who’s a charismatic leader but he’s also the core in integrity. He’s wicked smart in his space, too. He’s such a rare breed.

It was interesting when I got into the space because I knew next to nothing about logistics. Working with Bobby in the earlier days from 2011 to 2012, I learned a lot about his approach. I thought it was good. It was much more of a people-oriented philosophy. It works with a lot of Fortune 500 and Fortune 50 companies prior to that. I didn’t have this exposure to the companies that were a little bit more entrepreneurial. We’re setting up new processes versus optimizing processes. Bobby’s approach to that was one where he always put people and culture first. They’ve done a great job of maintaining that core as they’ve grown and expanded. Not to make this a BlueGrace commercial but Bobby’s done a great job with everything in that organization.

You nailed the core of him. He’s got an employee in his company one day and he said, “If I ever had to fire that guy, I would pack up the company, sell it and leave. I’m never getting rid of him.” There are some people that he’s always loved since the beginning of time. That’s what it’s more about for him, it’s the people. Tell us about Worldwide Express.

We’re a third-party logistics company, which means that we work with shippers and carriers to optimize supply chains. From the beginning, our focus has been on small to mid-sized business customers. We do work with larger shippers as well. Our core focus has to do with working with companies where they may not have the size and scale to have a full-blown shipping department where they’ve got a lot of expertise. Their main focus as a company is whatever their product or their service is. Shipping is generally an afterthought for them.

I’ve never understood why companies, if they’re not in the shipping business, would even get in the shipping business. Why would they not use a service like yours?

It’s a good point. If you’re an entrepreneur, you get this as well. A lot of times, when you’re building a company, you’re trying to figure things out as you go along. Shipping is one of those things similar to your payroll services or technology where you’re trying to figure it out as you grow. You don’t exactly know what your strategy is going to be because it’s a secondary afterthought to what you’re doing in your core business. A lot of the companies that we work with, the primary reason they use us is that we make things easier for them. We can provide them great technology, great service, and great expertise that they don’t have to have internally. It allows them to put a lot more focus on product development, R&D or taking care of their customers. They leave the complexity of the shipping process to us and it works out fairly well.

Where do you think the industry is headed with autonomous vehicles? Do you think about that? Does that impact your industry? Is it good or bad? Does it matter?

For the most part, it’s good. Anybody’s crystal ball is equally murky on when we get to level five in autonomous vehicles where they’re driving around on their own with no driver or anybody to support the process. The technology is out there and it’s continuously refined. By and large, it’s one of those things where it will happen over the term. It’s probably not going to be this light switch moment where one day you have driver-led trucks and the next day you have driverless trucks. It will be where there are technology and advancements to happen that probably help out with certain aspects of the shipping process like the line haul over long areas of the country. We have a little bit more driver-assist and then eventually, driverless. It’s going to be more of a gradual approach to it than a light switch moment. With most technology, it’s generally a good thing. It takes people and companies time to adapt to the changes.

Do you talk about that? Is that part of your strategy or strategic discussions of the future when you sit down?

Candidly, I’d probably say less so. Given our position, it’s more of something where we’re non-asset in the sense that we work with our carrier partners and our shippers to accomplish each of their goals. It has more to do with us adapting to changes in the marketplace. If our carrier partners started to lean more on autonomous or digitized processes, we want to be there to assist and work with them on it. It’s not something where we’re trying to push the envelope on what those next technological advancements might be.

Where do you see technology coming internally in your organization or in larger companies?

It’s one of those things where the transportation industry as a whole is exceptionally large, depending on whose industry forecast that you look at. It’s a $700 billion-plus industry. When you look at industries, whether it be transportation, finance or real estate, technology is taking a greater role within the ecosystem and everything within the business. There’s been a lot of investment in technology for technology’s sake, which is probably not always the most beneficial thing. There are a lot of great things that are making business processes more efficient.

We’re a $1.6 billion-plus organization. You have to have a technology strategy about how you’re adapting for the future, changing consumer demands on how they want to see information and how they want information pushed to them. You have to be able to keep up with that. Be willing to make those investments as a company to stay in line with not just your industry is heading but where industries are tangential to your industry and are going to be impacting you in the future. Tech is an important part of the process. At the same time, we try to emphasize a lot the people element of it. Particularly with our segment of the industry where we focus on the small to mid-sized business customers, it’s more of a relationship-driven approach than it is strictly a technology-driven approach. For us, we use technology as a support and an enabling function versus the leading reason why you would work with Worldwide Express.

SIC 77 | Setting Strategies To Grow
Setting Strategies To Grow: Whether you get a 5-, 1,500- or 150,000-person organization, communication is the single most difficult thing to make sure that everybody is aligned.

 

You mentioned something that’s always driven me crazy inside of organizations. It’s that technology for technology’s sake where it seems like the IT teams are smart and they come up with these things that we need. All of a sudden, we’re running down these rabbit holes. Why are we doing that? How do you avoid that internally at Worldwide Express?

Sometimes, that’s a good thing. If you said, “Here’s our battle plan for the next ten years and damn be the changes that happen in the marketplace or whatever else, this is what we’re going to go do,” you’d find that you’re probably far off at the end of the day. You’re always going to have a little bit of that R&D or, “We’re going to try some things out. We don’t know if it’s going to work, but it might be something that leads to the next technological advancement within the company.” You have to continue to have that mentality. You have to be willing to try and you have to be willing to fail. What happens too often and it’s something that does occur, is that you don’t realize that something isn’t working. You don’t peel back your focus, then pivot and work towards something new. With most companies, they operate this way. We have to have a healthy balance of what our game plan is going to be and executing against that game plan. At the same time, being willing to pivot when we find that we’re not making the investments in the right area, that’s doesn’t certainly go to just technology. That’s anything within your business. It’s having that right mindset.

Does that occur because of the communication and the meeting rhythms at the leadership team level that you’re all communicating with each other and you realize the pivot has to happen?

It’s being clear about what the goals are that you’re working towards is an organization, too. When your company’s aligned, at least the vision of where it’s going from a five-year basis or even next month is what we’re trying to accomplish, when people are aligned on that, they can see a little bit more clearly when they’re off on the plan or when something’s not taking them down that road. It’s not easy by any means. Whether you get a 5-person, 1,500-person, or 150,000-person organization, communication is the single most difficult thing to make sure that everybody is aligned. The more that you can do that, the more that you have the communication internally with the leadership team is. That flows throughout the company via town hall updates or whatever it might be, that’s how you know when you might be a little bit off. You can feel in your gut but then you also know, “We’re not executing against the plan that we have. We’re not moving towards the right things.”

I’m glad you brought up planning. We started an organization several years ago called the COO Alliance, which is the only network of its kind in the world for the Second in Command. In one of our events, the theme is reverse engineering and planning. We all go into that annual planning season where we have to come up with our annual plan and our strategic plan. How does the planning process work for you at Worldwide Express? Can you walk us through that maybe from the five-year back to setting your weekly priorities?

It’s a continually evolving thing. You’ve always got your idea of generally, “What do we want to be when we grow up?” At the beginning of an organization, you’re trying to figure out, “What works? How do we make more of it work and become a bigger and better organization?” For us, we do a lot with the casting of where we want to be in the next couple of years. As we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve had to step back and say, “Where is the industry going? Where do we think the trends are heading within the industry specifically? Where should we specifically as a company play within it?” A lot of times, you can look out at competitors or people in the marketplace and say to yourself, “We should be doing these things, too.”

You can have a little bit of Shiny Red Ball Syndrome and chasing down things that maybe aren’t what’s true and core to your organization. Being realistic about who your company is, what you’re capable of evolving into, staying the course of where you are today, and saying, “We want to stay on this particular line,” is probably the first step of that process. It’s setting the sights of, “Where do we want to go? What are the competencies that we need to build within that?” Those aren’t one-day off-site things. Many companies sometimes, they want to say, “We’ll get on a retreat together and we’ll set the vision. We’ll go away for six months and then see how we did against it.” It’s an everyday thing. The setting of the strategy of where you’re going should be fairly well locked in.

It’s not changing every day where people have no idea what road they’re on. At the same time though, you’re going to continue to try different things and go down to different roads to see if that’s going to get to that point that you’re shooting for. Having a high-level plan is critically important. As an organization, it’s doing your weekly and your monthly checkpoints of, “How are we executing against that plan? Do we need to make any changes?” Being willing to pivot and iterate along the way is critically important. You need an adaptable organization to deal with those obstacles.

How do you have those checkpoints? I wrote a book years ago called Meetings Suck. It was written to try to teach every employee in every company how to show up, participate in meetings, and how to run meetings. How do you run your weekly checkpoints or leadership team meetings so that you stay on the same page and prevent silos from occurring?

The biggest thing that any company deals with is when you get larger and you hit on the silos occurring. That’s the biggest challenge that any organization has and I don’t think it happens consciously. I don’t think people are like, “These are my resources and you can’t touch them,” but people do operate with a little bit of a mindset of, “This is my group.” They don’t see the entire enterprise-wide vision of what you’re doing and how what you’re doing might impact somebody else. I don’t know if we’ve got the formula figured out completely but we do keep regularly, weekly and bi-weekly meetings with the senior leadership team. It updates on where we’re going more tactically and certain things that are core to the business. We spend more time on others. We focus a lot on technology so it’s a major cornerstone of every update that we’re doing. Our CTO spends a lot of time on, “Here’s where we’re going. Here’s what we need.” It becomes much more of a, “What are the major points that we need to focus on right now?”

Make sure you’re given enough time to that to get the resources that people need. On your more tactically, weekly and monthly meetings with your team members, it’s much of the same variation of the approach where it’s like, “What are the core things that we should be focusing on? How are your teams doing? How are we executed against our plan?” You’ve got to continue to move through it and in the process, avoid hearing meetings suck comments of like, “If we shouldn’t be having meetings and if we should stop doing it, we need to cut some things out of the process as well.”

Where are you seeing blocks or your team struggling if you talk about the teams and what they’re working on? Where are you seeing leadership teams and managers struggling currently?

We don’t have assets in the sense that we don’t have planes, trucks, trains or warehouses. Our struggle is how are we recruiting, retaining and developing our people in the right way. We’ve gone from an organization several years ago, where we had 60 employees that were part of the corporate umbrella. Now, we had over 1,500 that are underneath that same umbrella. A lot of it had to do with franchise acquisitions and things that we’ve done along the way but the talent is our primary concern. If we don’t have good people and we’re not developing that next rung of leadership, it will be fine today.

Two or three years down the road, that’s where the struggle occurs as an organization. That’s probably our primary focus that comes up in every meeting. It’s how our teams are doing and what are we doing to develop the next generation of leadership underneath them. Secondarily, it’s about our carrier partnerships. It’s about the relationships that we have with our asset-based carrier partners. Sitting down and making sure that we’re both executed on strategies together that are mutually beneficial that works for them and works for our customers is key. We spent a lot of time on that.

You mentioned the development of people and you talked about the recruiting, retaining and developing of people. One of my first career jobs was with a group called College Pro Painters. I remember talking to the founder, Greg Clark and he said that a leader’s job is to grow people. The more that we grow our people, the faster our organization will grow. Talk to us about the development of people and how you in your career have done that.

It is a fundamental part of any organization. If you don’t have a people-first mentality, it’s something that can hurt you. It might not hurt you today, but it could it can hurt you down the road. Speaking more broadly and thinking about my career, it’s been my favorite part of rising up within an organization to be able to spend more time on the people development in the team development. It’s cool to be able to see somebody who was in one position, a couple of years prior, then they rise up, they take more responsibility, and they accomplish more things. They start to develop leaders underneath them and it’s such a rewarding part of the whole leadership journey.

You start to learn more about yourself, how you’re able to develop people along the way as well. When I was probably younger, I had a certain approach of, “Everybody needs to be like me and if I could have a million Joels, the world would be better.” My wife reminds me that that wouldn’t be better either. It takes a community of people to do amazing things. Understand your weaknesses because we all have them. It makes it more filling when you’re able to find people that bridge those gaps and helping them to understand what their weaknesses are to fill their teams to create better and more cohesive ecosystems of people that are all working together. I don’t think there’s one great formula for doing it. When you try to step back and say, “What would be the perfect team look like?” Everybody has their various opinions but it is probably one of the most fun parts of my job at Worldwide. The most fulfilling part of my career over the years is to see people develop.

SIC 77 | Setting Strategies To Grow
Setting Strategies To Grow: If you’re a talented person and you can’t see how you’re going to move along in your career or how you can get better in your current company, you start to get the edge of exploring elsewhere.

 

In the school system, we were always told that if we were bad at something, we had to get a tutor to become good at it. The reality was we were going to become painfully average and frustrated with whatever that area was. It sounds like you’re looking at the organization more holistically and saying that, “If somebody’s bad in an area, let’s hire someone great in that area so they complement each other.”

There’s a lot to saying, “I don’t think I’m ever going to be the perfect X,” whatever X might be. Let’s find the person that excels and enjoys doing that. That’s not to say that people won’t evolve, won’t get better and won’t make weaknesses into strengths at some point because that’s possible. It might not be the thing that you’re destined to do or that you’re best equipped to accomplish. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take time and consideration to understand that part of the world. If technology is not your forte, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time and effort to understand how it all works and fits together. You might not be the person that’s running that play but taking the time to build the appreciation of those different parts of the business or your personal life, whatever it might be, is critically important though to say, “Who would be the right person? How can we get that person in that role?” They can flourish, do well and do some things that you’re probably not capable of.

Do you have many of the Baby Boomer cohort working with you at Worldwide Express? The 55 to 75-year-olds?

We do. It’s not the biggest group within the organization.

How do we get them more up to speed on technology? They have the wisdom of leadership and jumping around business for a lot longer than maybe the second half of the Gen Y cohort that was either 28 to 40 years old. The younger Gen Y adapt to technology and leveraging technology faster. How do we get the Baby Boomers to adapt to the technology more? It is awesome to have that confidence but it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Like with most things, it’s exposure. It’s being willing to accept, “I’m not going to be the most technologically savvy person,” but having open-minded people, that’s the biggest thing. I don’t care what generation somebody’s from. The labels can sometimes be disruptive because it puts people into boxes that may or may not be true given their experiences, their circumstances, and what they’ve experienced in life. At the end of the day, when people across any age or any geography have the open-mindedness to be exposed to something that they’re not that familiar with, it creates a good opportunity for you to build a unique perspective. You’re pulling in many different individual pieces to that puzzle. The puzzle becomes that much richer.

At the beginning of my career, when I was working with Accenture, I was fortunate to be able to work overseas in Asia and Western Europe. I didn’t have a lot of experience doing those types of things but I learned so much from my counterparts, some of which were my age and some were older. I’ve learned from their views and their outlooks on life because I had a little bit more of an open mindset about what their experiences were. When you go into situations and you don’t say, “I’m the person that knows the answer to everything,” you learn so much more in the process. I wish I had like a good formula like the Joel Clum approach. A lot of anything has to do with surrounding yourself with people who are open-minded, willing to adapt, change and work together as a team irrespective of their background.

Talk to us a little bit about the front end of the people’s side. If we look back and we hit recruiting, what things have you learned on the recruiting side that we could learn from?

We’re in a constantly evolving world. The biggest thing is knowing that there’s no perfect formula or there’s no perfect one place that you can find people. The great thing about our company or different organizations that I’ve been with is that people have interesting and diverse backgrounds. They come from different places and we’re not all recruiting from the same school or they have the same look or feel. It’s finding people with the right mindset. As a salesperson, you want people who are willing to learn, to compete and are willing to put in the effort despite the ups and downs of a sales process. That doesn’t mean that that person is the same as somebody that you just hired for that role in a different market or in the same market.

It has a lot to do with the interview process to see, “Does somebody have the right approach and the right mindset to do well in that role?” For us, it’s understanding what is it going to take to do well in that position and then saying, “We need to find people that have that same tenacity or that fits well in that position.” A struggle with a lot of fast-growing companies particularly in cities like Dallas, our main headquarters, is that in today’s market, it’s challenging to find good people. That means that you have to have a place where people want to work, stay and enjoy the teams that they’re working on. It’s not just one thing where it’s like, “Once you hire him, then great. You got them.” You’ve got to keep them too and then develop and train them to get more opportunities in the future for career growth. It’s a constantly evolving living process.

Has anything changed for you in terms of the actual interview process itself over the years? Have you learned or adopted anything when you’ve got a candidate in front of you and we’re doing interviews?

The process has to be faster than it ever has been before. We’re not in a position right now where you’re in a market where people are willing to wait on the process. There are other companies that are also looking for good talent in your industry or other industries. You’ve got to be faster about being able to make the decision on good people that would be great fits in the organization. Which means that you’ve got to be faster at identifying, “Would these people be a good fit within the organization?” We’re relying on tools that we use like Culture Index which has been a phenomenal tool for us of understanding the surface level maybe a click or two down.

How do people tick? What things do they thrive in? How detail-oriented are they? What’s their patience level and their desire to win? It’s using those types of tools to help expedite the process and then reduce the back-end, I call it the bad hire quotient of bringing somebody on who we thought was good. We didn’t do enough in the process because it was a little bit faster to understand who they are. That means you need to have more adept managers and hiring managers who are understanding the types of people that we need on this team and then being willing to pull the trigger quickly to bring people on.

If you sit down and look at the entire interviewing process from we get a resume to the point of the offer was accepted, the process itself doesn’t ever take a lot of time. It’s the blocks of time in between each step that takes time. If you’ve got three interviews and they’re each an hour or two hours long, that’s six hours. If you’ve got a resume screening and you got to meet to debrief on it so you’re at a total of eight hours, what are you doing for the rest of your week? What happens is we end up putting four days in between each step and all of a sudden, it’s dragged out to be a six-week process instead of being a two-day process. Removing that space in between each step in the process is fast.

It’s a little bit of process re-engineering to say, “What are we trying to accomplish? How can we accomplish in the quickest, most efficient way possible?” The reality is that if you’re in a position where your company is growing quickly, the people that are interviewing are also the people that are managing teams. There are other things that go on and the scheduling that goes into it. You got to be deliberate and make sure that you’re putting the right energy and attention into the hiring process because it’s core. If you’re not hiring good people and keeping them on the team, it’s a painful thing for an organization.

You talked about recruiting, retaining and developing people. Do you have any systems or tools in place to use to retain good people?

Yeah. It’s not even a question anymore of the perks that you have within the organization. You have to offer the minimum of things that people need to accomplish their goals in life from a compensation standpoint, health benefits and things of the like. At the end of the day, when you’re focused on a workforce that has a lot of opportunities, you also have to be mindful of the team atmosphere that they have. We invest a lot in our office space to make sure that it’s new, modern and it’s a place that people are proud of going to every day. It’s a place that they want to be at. It’s a place that when they’re walking by a building and they’re with their friend, their spouse or kids and they say, “I work in that office.” “That’s cool.” We focus a lot on that.

SIC 77 | Setting Strategies To Grow
Setting Strategies To Grow: Surrounding yourself with good people who can remind you of the importance of the virtues that you’re trying to achieve is critically important.

 

The most key part, but I don’t think it’s new necessarily, is training and development. It’s one of the cornerstone aspects of anybody across generations. In my career, the question has always been, “How can I get better at what I’m doing? How can I level up in my career?” For a lot of people who are reading, if you’re a talented person and you can’t see how you’re going to move along in your career or how you can get better, you start to get the edge of exploring that elsewhere. How do we continue to give our people more training and tools for developing themselves both in their contributor role and as a manager? Also, not just giving people new challenges or tasks but new mountains to climb that keeps them excited about coming into the business.

If you say to somebody, “You’re going to be doing the same job for the next five years,” most people would say. “It’s not for me. I don’t want that.” If you can give them opportunities to grow, take on more responsibility and see their career flourish over time, that’s what keeps people excited. The office space, the perks, and all the rest of the stuff, that’s important, too. That goes into the mindset of what they bring into the office every single day, but if you can keep giving people opportunities to become better versions of themselves, that’s what gets people excited. We have benefited because we’ve had a lot of growth as a company. There’s been a lot of those opportunities for people to take on over the years.

You touched on something that’s key as well. You said that you’re a self-driven learner. Part of truly building that great growth organization is hiring more people that are growth-oriented learners themselves and giving them those tools. You can’t teach people unless they want to learn.

Some of it comes down showing people what their career paths can be. A lot of times, people will say, “I want to know what my career can look like. What can I do? What can I be?” A lot of companies do a good job of saying, “You start here then you go there. Here’s the timeframe that it takes everything else.” What we try to emphasize with people is, “There are career paths that you can follow. You’re great for passing. You’ll learn a lot over the term but we’re a fast-growing company where things are constantly changing. If you think that there’s an opportunity or if you could see something about taking on more responsibility, choosing your adventure and building your career in the way that you went about, let’s talk about that and let’s brainstorm.”

I love the conversations that I can have with someone within Worldwide Express, friends or people that I mentor where they say, “Here the things that I want to do. How can I build a career that allows me to do those types of things?” Companies are having to be more creative about the way that they can give those choose-your-own-adventure types of approach to career development. Frankly, those are the people that we want as the future leaders of the company. There’s a healthy balance somewhere between there.

How about your career? Where have you had to focus on growing your skillset to become effective as a COO?

There are things that I’m naturally good at and there are things that I probably struggle with more than the average person. When I went to Michigan State University, I benefited a ton from the experiences that I got there. I’m naturally an introverted person. I’m naturally someone who doesn’t communicate well with the outside world. It’s more of thinking analytical type behind the scenes, at least in my head. I had to learn a lot in Michigan State and I had a lot of opportunities to take on more leadership roles. I was forced to become a better communicator and I was forced to understand how can I become more effective at communicating my ideas and my visions to get people rallied around those concepts. When I went to Accenture, which is one of the greatest companies out there, they did a tremendous job taking a lot of analytical type people that are more methodical. That’s why they tend to be in those types of roles and helping you to develop the skillset to be able to communicate with people that are far and beyond in their careers.

You’re thrown into situations where you’re talking in a boardroom to somebody who’s been running the sales organization for the past fifteen years for a multibillion-dollar segment of a big company. You got to get good at being able to communicate. That was probably the biggest thing that I had to learn to become a more effective communicator both verbally and written, PowerPoint and all dressed up fun stuff. The part that’s probably become important for me is relationship building. It doesn’t matter if your company’s five people or 500,000 people, you have to have the ability to build strong relationships with people particularly when you’re higher up within an organization. There’s not one thing that I do that doesn’t impact somebody else within the company. You have to have a strong relationship with our CFO, CTO and our head of sales. It expands the gamut of the people within the company to be able to accomplish my own goals but then at the same time, we help them accomplish their goals as well. When you’re more analytically-minded, effective communication and building relationships aren’t the things that you’re born with, so you got to develop those skillsets on top of your given characteristics.

That relationship building is probably one of the core things I learned when I went away to University as well because I didn’t have my parents to be pushing me into things. I didn’t have my core group of friends that I’ve been growing up with school. All of a sudden, it was me in this big university and it was like, “How do I start meeting people and developing friends?” You’re at an age where that introspection kicks into gear heavily.

Not to belabor the point but you’re also part of a new population of people that are different than what you grew up with. I grew up in a small town between Lansing and Detroit, Michigan. It was a great place. I love where I grew up but when I went to school, it was a completely different environment. It’s a total open mindset about new cultures, new backgrounds and new people that didn’t come from the same place you came from. If you close down and you say, “I’m not willing to learn,” then you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to grow as an individual.

I’m at a stage where I’m taking my oldest son off to his first year at university. We’re moving into residence and it’s a bit of a strange. Those flashbacks and it was a tough time.

I remember when my parents dropped me off and I was sitting there like, “Things got real.”

I looked at the window and I kept staring at it but I knew I’m never going to see their car but maybe I will. Joel, if you were to think back to your 21 or 22-year-old self, you’re graduating from university or starting your career, what would you give yourself as that one thing that to be true now that you wish you’d known earlier on?

I don’t know if I could boil it down to one word. I learned it early on but it’s had to do with the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. I don’t necessarily always mean good people from just talent and moral standpoint. People should have stronger stuff and should have integrity. I firmly believe in the concept of the average of the five people that you spend the most amount of time with. Surrounding yourself with good people who can remind you of the importance of whatever it is in your life, the virtues that you’re trying to achieve is critically important. I came to Worldwide Express because it was a great company and it was grown a lot. I looked at the team and I thought to myself, “These are people that can help make me better. They’re the people that can challenge me. They’re the people that I can learn a lot from. They’re the people that I can maybe impart some knowledge on as well. I can learn a lot from these people.” I have and our CEO is somebody who I respect a ton. He was a big reason why I came here.

When I was developing the most of my career at Accenture, it was because I was learning from people that were exceptionally talented and had done interesting things, had interesting backgrounds and I could learn a bunch from. That gets lost sometimes because people, particularly in their ‘20s, tend to chase the paycheck and the title. Those things are good but at the end of the day, when you’re in your first decade out of college, your major focus should be, “How can I continue to get better? How can I become a better version of myself? How can I learn and grow as much as possible?” In the rest of those things, the title, the pay and everything else that comes with it is a byproduct of becoming a better version of you. I was fortunate to learn those types of things early on in my career. Sometimes you learn it by not following that advice and those sometimes were the most lessons. I would probably write down a note be like, “Open this when you’re 25.” The big thing is surrounding yourself with good people that make you a better version of you.

Joel Clum, the Chief Operating Officer for Worldwide Express, thank you for sharing with us. I appreciate it.

Cameron, this is great. I appreciate it. Thank you.

That was awesome.

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About Joel Clum

SIC 77 | Setting Strategies To Grow

Worldwide Express is a $1.6B third-party logistics company that helps small to mid-sized businesses with their small parcel, less-than-truckload, and full truckload shipping needs.  Worldwide Express has over 150 company-owned and franchise locations nationwide and supported over 92,000 customers in 2018.

Prior to joining the company in 2015, Joel was a founding executive at the logistics consultancy, CarrierDirect, in Chicago, which was recognized with an Inc 500 fastest growing companies award for their growth in 2014.  Joel began his career at Accenture Strategy in Chicago, where he worked with a variety of multi-national companies on enterprise strategy in the US, Europe and China. Joel graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Finance and is a member of the Eli Broad College of Business Advisory Board.

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