I interviewed Christoph Szakowski who discussed Supply Chain and Logistics Decision-Making with Consultants.
Supply Chain and Logistics Decision-Making with Consultants
Introduction and experience
My name is Christoph Szakowski and I am Managing Partner for LogCon East.
After 10 years of management career with global logistics providers in Austria, Germany and Poland I started 2009 actually in Poland a logistics consultancy offering interim solutions in Business Development, Strategy Advising, Market Analysis, Management Seminars etc.. Later it the time 2014 – 2017 we integrated this activity into the fastest growing network of consultants and interim managers for Logistics industry in Central and Eastern Europe, based in Vienna.
LogCon East is a group of companies, owned my business partner Martin Eckerstorfer. We act with 20+ partners in several countries in Europe and in Asia, advising the industry in operations management, outsourcing processes, M&A and partner search, executive search and leadership seminars. The strength which we deliver to the industry is also consisting in the access to exceptional experts.
On my own, I gained deep experience in several transformations and business development assignments in interim General Management and Leadership roles in several countries. Some years ago I specialized in the Transformation Process in Logistics in the Emerging Markets mainly where I am really passionate about to drive the change.
Why do logistics companies need consultants and interim managers?
The simple answer would be; “ because they strongly support” the decision-making process and implementation”
The logistics industry is currently undergoing a huge time of transformation because of innovation and technology on the one side and the driving forces of the competition, clients and expectations of several internal and external stakeholders on the other.
Changes are needed fast and reliably. Development of new services, on new trade lanes, is it in the intermodal transportation, rail, land transportation, air freight is expected also fast to meet the needs of clients. It goes without saying that it is expected together with highest quality and delivery conditions, competitive pricing and customer service. Result improvements are always an issue and ambitions of the owners of the companies and the top management, especially in the industry which is not operating on the highest levels of margin.
So, in short, you need quick deciders and leaders with broad knowledge of the industry with extremely high orientation on the outcome.
Interim managers can be here the game changers.
A really good interim is a master of adapting to a new project and client, working target-oriented, using his or her extensive experience which his tailors for any particular company.So he is the person paid to deliver, not to just contribute to something and be only a team member. This is the difference he makes.
So whereas the interim managers - and we’ve seen it in our projects - they are assigned for a short period, rarely longer than 12 months to execute, there is another advantage which can be brought to the industry by specialized consultants.
When we act as consultants, we address a need of 3 PL providers, freight forwarders, shipping or multimodal companies etc. which is basically :
A request for an objective review on current strategy, business plans, performance for example. Also sometimes - that is the case for rather family-owned Transportation companies - there is need of creating a Sales Strategy and provide a plan of suitable actions to go international or expand service to new Verticals Consultant might also be asked when there is a need for Problem-solving or a gap in expertise for a particular areas. For example, a major diversified very fast growing holding has neglected a little bit the areas of supply chain and carrier relations and they need an advisory for this area
Training and developing the staff and talent– we see this in particular for the areas of Negotiations, Creative Problem Solving, Presentation and Collaborations skills in the logistics companies
So there is quite a large set of needs for consultants and interim managers. In many cases, there is a geographic specialization of the providers or other specializations.
We are having the integrated approach: “ know – act – deliver “ so we combine the advisory with interim activity in case this is the best option for the client.
Personal stories and recommendations
First of all, I believe there are 3 stages of maturity of a market which you need a consultant or interim manager to consider:
In the "world champions” market of logistics , Germany, Netherlands, Austria Singapore, just to name a few, there is a high readiness for your consulting service The decision is done based on your executive and consultant career, based on your references and testimonials and on the assessment of the project and you as an expert . This is doneon an occasion of a meeting etc.
- Then we have countries of already developed markets, but not with this level of acceptance for outside experts, I include here the CEE region, it is more a question of trust-building than your particular set of experience. I consider for example that in Poland the interim market is a niche market. I think mental readiness of local C-level is lower to accept external experts as a solution. I mentioned before that we went in our activity globally to cover the needs of logistics companies with high-level service done by people with an outstanding international executive and consultant track record. But also we would see needs in the local companies for this service.
One personal story will illustrate this: once I was approached by a local General Manager of a logistics company to discuss his company’s situation. In the meeting he communicated that actually, business is running well, the staff is motivated and skills exceptionally and they have absolutely no need for improvement.
Some weeks later by coincidence, I met the representatives of the holding of this company abroad and they asked me for an advice and even an interim proposal as they considered their Polish subsidiary to be in a very bad situation with high fluctuation of people and no strategy in place.
So the perception on the same company can change …. and more and more we see that also that the local market players in Poland, the Baltic, Czech Republic, for example, are interested and flexible to consider specialized top level consultants. As consultant you need to know this.
The third category and the third stage are the Emerging Logistics Markets, like China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, countries of South East Asia where there is very high potential for leadership, performance optimization and customer developments.
Also, Business Strategy is an important topic to be covered there. Logistics players need to have the knowledge how to deal with economics in transition, regulations and customs frame work, talent shortages or lack of its quality, and particular challenges on each country’s level for example Road Networks’ issues, connectivity to Ports, supply chain risks of different nature. So you need to be here strategic on the one side but also a real international people manager on the other to master the challenges.
My recommendation would be to logistics companies simply to be open to discussions with experts.
In this rapid time of changes and also shortages of qualified people, a temporary solution by specialists who very well know your industry might be of a real value to your company. They are strongly supporting the Decision-Making process and its implementation.
So if there is any question or need for discussion I can be easily contacted on LinkedIn for example.
About Christoph Szakowski
CEO / COO / MD / VP /Logistics / General and Interim Manager in CEE, CIS, Asia, Emerging Markets