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5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team, With Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution

Doing a bunch of little tiny things adds up to big steps. I just overheard my assistant talking about the usage of water bottle containers…


Doing a bunch of little tiny things adds up to big steps. I just overheard my assistant talking about the usage of water bottle containers outside. To combat the issue, we put a sign on them that reminds people about the impact on our oceans caused by bottle waste and then bought everyone their own branded water bottle to further encourage the prevention of waste. Grand gestures very rarely succeed. The things that are usually successful are baby steps that add up over time to make a big impact. Even though not buying 100 cases of water is not going to solve the world’s pollution problem, we certainly didn’t make it any worse. If everybody did a little bit, it would add up to a lot. If we’ve got 100 people that work here, and we give 100 days off, that’s 100 days of people doing good in different ways. That’s pretty impressive.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution, a leading third-party logistics provider that serves as a strategic partner to emerging eCommerce brands. A pioneer in the industry, Maria started an eCommerce business before eCommerce existed. During her tenure at Dotcom, Maria has developed an environment of continual improvement by supporting the Senior Leadership Team and their department managers on continuous process, space labor, automation, and financial best practices.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I actually began my career as a CPA at Arthur Andersen before becoming CFO at GoodTimes Home Video, a video producer, manufacturer and distributor. Interestingly enough, I entered into a video fulfillment deal with Richard Simmons. Once I’d learned the ropes, my business partner and I tried to purchase the company to focus more on fulfillment. The deal fell through, but we were committed to continuing along this path, no matter what. We raised money from friends and family to lease a facility, and in 2000, we opened — with not one client. We were early to market; most people weren’t shipping eCommerce orders, so we relied on past customer relationships to drive business and took any project that came our way to pay the bills — especially B2B fulfillment.

Our springboard to success came when we met a Kenneth Cole board member. Suddenly, we were doing all of Kenneth Cole’s East Coast and eCommerce distribution. It really goes to show that if you do good things, good things will follow. After that came Johnson & Johnson, followed by ThinkGeek, and so on. This led to our multichannel approach.

Today, almost 20 years later, Dotcom Distribution is a leading provider of multichannel fulfillment and third-party logistics solutions for emerging eCommerce brands. We help companies grow by working with them to deliver their customer experiences, which is crucial in this saturated and growing market.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Once, during the early days at Dotcom, I was out in the warehouse late at night packing boxes for our largest client. I was all sweaty and my makeup was running down my face, and this young picker came up to me and told me I had such “style” — which I thought was hilarious because I literally looked like something the cat dragged in. After that, and even today, the then COO of Kenneth Cole (who remains a dear friend) calls me Style. This shows me that sometimes taking the time to be on the floor with the rest of the workforce is not only a critical team-building activity, but can also leave a lasting positive impression. To this day, I try to get out into the warehouse as much as I can to talk to Operations staff and check in on what life is like out on the floor. I always try to find ways to connect to the rest of the team because I want Dotcom employees to know I care.


How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

The thing that we have been doing is using the EOS (entrepreneurial operating system). The leadership team meets on a weekly basis and we have what we call Level 10 meetings. We set the priority for the week. Each one of the leaders does the same things with their team.

The key is communication. Communicate what the corporate objectives are. Communicate what each of the departmental objectives are. We communicate that several ways: through weekly Level 10 meetings, monthly feedback lunches with employees, through our newsletter, town halls, and using OfficeVibe platform. It’s really communicating all of that throughout the entire organization. There’s nothing like walking around and talking to people and getting the pulse on what’s going on by just listening to what everyone is saying — even if it’s just having a casual conversation. Something always comes up.

What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

It goes back to communication. When you’re far away from someone, it puts an extra burden on you to develop those interpersonal relationships. Without them, it’s hard to build trust. It’s hard to work together if there is no trust.

It requires getting to know the people that are in the other location. Understand what their challenges are. Understand what their environment is. You should get on a plane and go out to visit from time to time — at least annually, if not more. All of those things are important. It’s about making sure that the bridges are built for seamless communication and that there is trust. It’s harder to build trust when you are not physically face to face with someone. You have to put that extra effort into it.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Understand what is driving people. What drives one person doesn’t always drive the other person. Understand who your workforce is. Here, we have a diverse team. From the people in the office to the people outside the office [working in the warehouse] — there’s diversity there. I’m not talking just about cultural diversity, I’m talking about job diversity. Our jobs inside the office are much different than jobs outside the office. We have to make sure everyone is aligned on all the goals. We have to make sure everyone feels like it’s one team. Not “I work out on the floor” and “I’m picking and packing,” so therefore I have a different or lesser job than someone who works in the office.

It’s about understanding people and understanding values people have. For instance, a majority of our workforce outside the office is Hispanic, and we have learned that Sundays are often dedicated to family and church. Knowing that, we try not to schedule someone who can’t work on a Sunday. It’s about understanding what is important to people and trying to satisfy on that level. For some people money, status, or information is really important. Understand the values driving your workforce, clients, vendors, and board. Everyone has their own set of personal values, family values, and work ethic. Make sure there is a cultural fit through all of that.


Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

If something is bothering an employee and they don’t want to speak to their boss or have open, honest communication about it, you’re always going to lose people. If I’m doing something that is bothering you and you don’t tell me about it, how are we ever going to have that conversation? It’s up to all of us to create that open and honest feedback with each other. That’s one of the reasons why “Be Brave” is one of our core values. If something is bothering you, be brave and speak to your manager about it. As a manager, there are things you can do to make sure you’re listening. Sit down with your team on an individual basis at least once a quarter. Have a simple conversation about how they are doing. Ask: what can I (the manager) be doing better for you? Are you getting everything you need from me?

Being a manager is more of a responsibility than people might think. You’re there to serve your employees, not the other way around. You’re there to make sure they have everything they need to do their job. If you’re not providing them with the tools they need, how can you expect them to get the job done? It’s a common frustration. If you ask someone to dig a ditch, you’ve got to give them a shovel. But, again, communication is so important here, because sometimes that person needs to say, “Hey, Maria! I need a shovel!” Maybe I (the manager) just don’t understand that’s the tool you need.

There are a lot of people out there who are doing the tasks and have good ideas. It’s up to the manager to be able to solicit those ideas in a safe and friendly environment. Not all ideas are good or great, but they’re all worth listening to. Sometimes, it’s not worth implementing because it won’t work, or because of other things outside that person’s base, but it’s important to validate that it was good idea worthy of consideration. One of the comment I always get in feedback lunches is that parking is terrible. I agree, but I don’t know how to build a new parking lot right now. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be figured out at some point, though. So, while I’m not be able to solve the problem today, I am saying I hear you, I understand, and I acknowledge this is a valid concern.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team.” (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

Understand: 1) different personality types, 2) what drives people, 3) what their values are, and 4) how you can motivate them. Everyone is not the same. Something different motivates all of us. We have to understand people at an individual level and get to know what is really important to them. Make sure their values are aligned with your values, and that those are aligned with the values of the company.

Developing relationships with, and within your team will get you far. I always want to make sure that we are working kind and working fair. In fact, “Be kind and fair” is one of our core values. If you don’t develop a relationship with your team, where you trust them, and they trust you and each other, you can’t manage and motivate them. When faced with situations where team members have had some sort of conflict, I get them in a room together, confront the situation, and say, “Sit and talk to that person. What’s bothering him is bothering you. Speak to each other.”

Encourage trust and build upon it. The only way to develop trust is to go through scary things with people knowing that someone is going to have your back and not throw you under the bus. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. We need a lively debate. To expect an entire team to agree on everything is unrealistic. Only having one set of opinions isn’t a good thing either; exchanging and debating ideas results in the best ones! But you can’t do that without trust, and without it you don’t really have a team. I’ve always thought the scariest thing about being a leader was having everyone say, “YES! You’re the boss. You’re right. Whatever you want!” I don’t want to be YES’d to death. That’s the last thing you need. I want people who can challenge me and each other.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would encourage everyone to go do good. Our HR Director will be rolling out a program with that in mind. I was inspired by one of our employees who took a day off to work at a golf outing for Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Through this program, everyone in the company will get one day off to go work on a cause that is near and dear to their hearts, whatever that cause is, as long as they can demonstrate that they are going to work on an actual cause.

Doing a bunch of little tiny things adds up to big steps. I just overheard my assistant talking about the usage of water bottle containers outside. To combat the issue, we put a sign on them that reminds people about the impact on our oceans caused by bottle waste and then bought everyone their own branded water bottle to further encourage the prevention of waste.

Grand gestures very rarely succeed. The things that are usually successful are baby steps that add up over time to make a big impact. Even though not buying 100 cases of water is not going to solve the world’s pollution problem, we certainly didn’t make it any worse. If everybody did a little bit, it would add up to a lot. If we’ve got 100 people that work here, and we give 100 days off, that’s 100 days of people doing good in different ways. That’s pretty impressive.


Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you’ll be right.” The other one, which I wear on my bracelet is “She believed she could, so she did.” It’s about approaching everything with possibility. I find it very tiresome when people say, “I don’t like this. This doesn’t work.” That’s totally non-productive. OK, you believe it’s never going to work….so what will make it work? Open up your mind to how you can as opposed to how you can’t. It’s a mindset. You have to have that mindset to be successful. Always be looking at the “How can I?” If you believe you can, you’re probably right.

My own quote is “I can’t is very rarely accurate. I choose not to is often the most accurate.” I say very rarely because I can’t defy gravity. That is true. I cannot cure cancer, but maybe that’s not true. I choose not to. I choose not to do the work to do that. I choose not to spend my time doing that. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important. It’s because I don’t know how and haven’t had the training. 99% of the time what you can or cannot do is a choice. Approach everything with a positive attitude.

Originally published at medium.com

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