Mark McCullough: “Make your employees feel appreciated”

Make your employees feel appreciated. Do whatever it takes to make your employees feel appreciated and enjoy their job. They will extend that appreciation to your clients every time they are in contact with them. If you have miserable employees, your clients will also feel and know that. It is nearly impossible to be an […]

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Make your employees feel appreciated. Do whatever it takes to make your employees feel appreciated and enjoy their job. They will extend that appreciation to your clients every time they are in contact with them. If you have miserable employees, your clients will also feel and know that. It is nearly impossible to be an advocate for service excellence if you’re not happy in your job.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark McCullough. A seasoned professional in solution-based logistics practices, Mark leads the U.S. offices for Gebrüder Weiss as CEO and spearheads its efforts to expand market share in the United States. Mark has more than 20 years of experience in international logistics and a track record for leading growth while improving outcomes throughout his career. A native of Northwest Ohio, Mark began his logistics career in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1995. He returned to the US in 1998 when he relocated to Chicago, where he still calls home. Experienced in all fields of international logistics and freight forwarding, Mark says his passion for this business and analyzing shortcomings in clients’ supply chain is stronger than ever.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I grew up in northwest Ohio, and when I was 19, I was offered a job selling logistics in Johannesburg, South Africa. Three months later, I was on a plane to Johannesburg not even knowing really what logistics was or what I would be doing. I was just excited about the adventure. That was 25 years ago this coming May.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I remember being so nervous cold calling prospects in the early days of my career. One of the first calls I made, I simply asked to speak to the person in charge of logistics. The owner came on the phone, screaming, telling me I need to introduce my company and myself and then tell him what I was trying to sell. Then he hung up. It was humbling but also very educational. Back then, I took myself so seriously that this taught me to laugh at myself and take these situations with a grain of salt and move one.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am so indebted to so many wonderful people. I have been blessed to meet so many during this journey; I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve had an amazing and diverse group of mentors over the years; Their vast differences in personality and business practices has enabled me to learn across a broad spectrum of styles and strategies. Certainly, I owe a nod to Jane Zellers, who first got me in this business many years ago. Dan Morrel, is another professional who guided me and was my boss when I moved back to the States in the late ’90s. Robert Pelsky introduced me to a more corporate way of doing things and Joe Laesser taught me to believe in human beings and give young people a chance. Heinz Senger-Weiss taught me not to take myself so seriously, and to take chances. Most importantly, my parents, who insisted I take that opportunity to move to South Africa — It changed the course of my life.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

I think providing great customer service is very simple, yet people try to overcomplicate it all the time. We all like to experience good customer service and have great customer experience, whether you are buying a house or buying gas, logistics is no different. The people we work for are usually in very high-pressure positions. Logistics itself is the definition of deadlines. The deadlines are constant, as are the challenges. Our clients expect knowledgeable, professional logistics experts to manage their supply chain. We set ourselves apart from our competition by training each Gebrüder Weiss employee in every aspect of the freight forwarding world; Imports, exports, air, ocean, road, projects, brokerage, you name it. If the employee shows interest or has a passion for the industry, we will train them in whatever they are willing to learn. However, at the very least, each employee is an expert in their particular field and our clients can see that and feel it. It’s almost tangible. When you are in a service industry and you don’t have a fancy car to let them test drive or a beautiful house to walk them through to sell it, you must use your knowledge and experience. In our business, knowledge is power and communication is key; By supplying those consistently, we create a continuous WOW Gebrüder Weiss customer experience.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

That’s a great question that I ask myself all the time. While I don’t have the answer, I can tell you I’m somewhat thankful for it, as it is this “disconnect,” which is so common, that enables Gebrüder Weiss to showcase our abilities when given the opportunity.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer?

Like many industries, we have a tremendous amount of competition that we face every day. There will always be a place for large, discount forwarders who offer volume over service. There are logistics businesses out there that only measure the pennies on the freight. While we can compete with anyone, it is the Gebrüder Weiss tailor-made solution approach that sets us apart. We truly analyze the customer’s supply chain from purchase order to end consumer. We do not have a set “box” that the customer must fit inside to have a WOW experience. Gebrüder Weiss builds a box around the customer’s needs and this strategy has been successful for us for many years.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

I have many stories of desperate phone calls made in the middle of the night from one continent to another, begging for help, and us being there to answer those calls and make “it” happen. I think that the most common WOW experience our customers have with Gebrüder Weiss is that we do what we say we will do. Again, this sounds like it should be apparent and commonplace but unfortunately, it is not. Our industry is filled with people and companies who provide empty promises. And we will do what we promise. If we cannot, we will not commit in the first place.

We had a client whose former logistics partner would always lose parts of their shipment or damage the goods during transport. Gebrüder Weiss was given the challenge of transporting their customized 30,000 person tent for the Farnborough International Air Show. The tent had to be brought from Toronto to London with a 747 aircraft nose load charter service. The transport consisted of more than 10,000+ components small and large.

The Gebrüder Weiss personnel from offices in Chicago, New York, and Toronto went on-site at the Toronto airport to monitor unloading and loading, which ran past 3 am. The team also worked out free seats for the client’s engineer and an employee to fly with the freight to ensure nothing was lost or damaged. These extra steps and attention from our team members ensured that the tent arrived at its destination complete — and for the first time without any lost pieces or damage. This kind of personalized oversight and push to go beyond is what contributes to the Gebrüder Weiss reputation as a top air freight logistics provider around the globe.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Consistently providing the Wow! customer experience is why Gebrüder Weiss is in the US today. We have proved that we can do something special in the logistics market in North America and stand apart from our competition. By being committed to service excellence and being committed to our people, we have created an amazing company that has seen tremendous growth in a short period of time. There is always room for more improvement and I am sure those “ripples” will continue to carry us as long as we remain committed.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Talk to your people. Take the time to speak to them all or as many as you can, depending on your size. They are the product at the end of the day. They make it happen. Take a genuine interest in them and their work. They can feel whether or not you care about them.
  2. Trust People. They will let you down from time to time, but you can’t take that out on the next person. Everyone deserves a chance.
  3. Empower your teams. No one person can do it alone. Teach them to think like business owners. Give them a stake in the business, whether it is through an incentive or defined career path. Give them something to work towards and the freedom to do it.
  4. Make your employees feel appreciated. Do whatever it takes to make your employees feel appreciated and enjoy their job. They will extend that appreciation to your clients every time they are in contact with them. If you have miserable employees, your clients will also feel and know that. It is nearly impossible to be an advocate for service excellence if you’re not happy in your job.
  5. Listen to your customers. Most of them know what they want, or at least know how they want to feel when they interact with you as a vendor. Be quiet and listen! Take notes! Think about it and customize your solutions based on their needs and wants.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

We ask our clients to please recommend us to anyone, and everyone they know who could benefit from having a true partner assist in managing their supply chain. If a company is looking for a long term, mutually sustainable partnership, then I can assure you Gebrüder Weiss is the partner for them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

In the world today, there are many worthy topics and movements. It’s hard to single one out. I have young kids so my priorities have changed. If I had to choose, I would begin a movement to ensure equal access to quality education for all. While we have so many needs and issues that need to be changed or addressed, there is no easy fix for all. However, by educating our youth on a more global basis and a broader spectrum of race and gender, we can truly address all the problems we have in the world today.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


Write me a letter the old fashioned way. 😉

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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