Ken Allen is a board member of Deutsche Post and the CEO of DHL eCommerce. Ken has been with the DP DHL group for 35 years, in various roles and capacities.
He is well known in the industry for the turn around he achieved as global CEO of DHL Express – under his leadership between 2009 to 2018, the company reversed over a decade of poor financial performance and declining market share to become one of the most profitable transportation units in the world.
For his work, he was named as Germany’s number one Turnaround Manager by the number one business magazine in Germany, as well as by AT Kearney consulting firm. The whole journey of this turnaround can be read in Ken’s book, Radical Simplicity, available worldwide.
Ken also ran ‘the Most International Company in the World’ as DHL express hired people from virtually all countries in the world. Also during his tenure, DHL Express was voted consecutive years among the world’s best places to work by Fortune Magazine.
Listen to the full discussion here:
Connect with the Guest:
Ken Allen: Linkedin
Some of the highlights from the podcast:
- Dhl Express turn around from losing 2.2 billion euro in 2008 and making 2 billion euro in 2018.
- What does being insanely customer-centric mean for DHL Express
- How to become one of the worlds best places to work
- Key leadership principles from Ken book “Radical simplicity”
- Using music as a leadership style
- “Business is a sport, not a war.”
- [01:25] How did you end up with DPDHL Group? How is it after 35 years with the group?
- [02:45] I joined DHL in the Middle East in 1985 and I started in Saudi Arabia, moved to Egypt and then came to Bahrain as the regional finance manager. A couple of years later, I became the regional manager.
- [06:21] A big part of my book, “Radical simplicity,” is showing how we improved all of our metrics. How our people engagement, service quality, and our market share went up.
- [07:38] What were some of the challenges the company was facing when you took over? How did you change it?
- [10:04] The worst case was in the United States where we were losing over a billion a year.
- [11:17] On the story of the turn around at DHL Express, what did you decide to do at that crossroad moment? How did you think about the problem?
- [12:22] It was all about refocusing the business on the piece that we could be the best in the world at.
- [13:56] We went from losing money in 2008 to making a margin of over 12% in 2018.
- [16:31] You’ve been awarded all those great awards in terms of a great place to work and you also created a certain training for DHL Express. Tell us a little bit about your process.
- [17:53] At the end of the day, the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.
- [21:51] Loyal customers, as I say, they’re your best marketing and your best route to profitability.
- [24:03] We started applying for external awards to judge ourselves in each country against the best in class and in 2008 we won over 200 awards.
- [25:47] When coaching people, how do you make sure that it is simple and easy to relate to?
- [26:50] Most strategy is about execution. 90% of strategies are execution and 90% of execution is people.
- [30:36] We want DHL to be the best in the world in terms of what we do. But we also want DHL to be an example of the world at its best, that all of us can get along together.
- [31:14] How do you use music in your leadership style?
- [32:23] The song, “Ain’t no mountain high enough,” was almost written for the company.
- [35:37] I told all my managers, “Look, if we want to be the best in the world in our business, everybody who works for us got to be a superstar in our industry. So our career is gonna be the best international express career in the world.”
- [37:02] Business is a sport not a war. We want to win, we want to be best in class but we get on well together and learn from each other.
- [37:42] What does leadership mean to you and what makes a great leader?
- [40:49] How do you see the express industry moving forward in the next 3 to 5 years?
- [44:33] As people become more used to shopping online, the more valuable stuff will start to move onto online as well.
- [46:20] What would be some of the key pieces of advice that you would tell our young audience that would help a lot in their career?
- [46:56] Whatever functional role you’re in, realize that the purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.
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