A Conversation with Kelley Walkup, Division Vice-President and General Manger, ACS Expedited Solutions

LQ: Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”  What tools do you use to help you envision the right future for your organization? (Elsie Blauwhoff, Corporate Procurement at Apotex Inc.)

Kelley Walkup: The best tool to determine the direction a company should take is listening: listening to the needs of your customers first and foremost, to the demands and interests of the marketplace, and to the feedback from our associates.  By tapping into these sources to assist in setting the direction of your company, you also build trust.  Once you’ve earned trust, the feedback is constructive, honest and invaluable. 

We’ve used this approach in many of the products and services we have launched for the transportation industry.  Listening to our customers and how we can make business easier for them is a core value of our organization.  We ask our customers, what’s your bottom line?  For many carriers the bottom line is the bottom line—and for some that means improving processes, increasing cash flow, or looking at new opportunities. 

That’s where we come in.  The majority of the “tools” we use to close the gaps between opportunities and solutions include state-of-the-art technology.  We provide 100% imaging solutions, with fast, flexible outsourced scanning and indexing solutions.  For example, we employ image enhancement technology through TripPak Truck Stop SCANNINGÒ, where drivers submit their trip documents and the carrier receives the paperwork in a matter of minutes.  This solution was the result of implementing the tools of listening to our customers and creating unbeatable technology—establishing a state-of-the-art scanning solution that gets the driver and the carrier paid faster.

LQ: How do you ensure that your organization is open to innovation? (Susan L. Oaks, Vice-President and Partner, A.T. Kearney)

Kelley Walkup: It is important to encourage our management team to experience diverse opportunities so they can grow and benchmark with other organizations.  We encourage everyone in our organization to be on the lookout for new ideas and for organizations we may be able to learn from and those who may be good acquisition candidates. 

We have a saying that ACS really stands for “always changing something,” and quite frankly, that saying fits very well with our culture.  I believe in constantly challenging our associates to deliver new ideas.  Innovation is a core ingredient in our recipe for success.  This is proven in the innovative technology we employ for hundreds of carriers, whether it is through content management systems, indexing, imaging solutions, or safety and compliance.  Once you instill innovation as a part of your culture, it makes for an exciting and always changing environment. 

LQ: What specific actions have you employed to ensure that the organization’s vision is embraced throughout the employee base? (Susan L. Oaks, Vice-President and Partner, A.T. Kearney)

Kelley Walkup: This is a challenge for any organization, but especially for one as diverse and decentralized as ours with multiple locations.  Communication is vital and you can never over-communicate your vision.  We conduct weekly management conference calls with a specific agenda. This enables each department head to brief the management team on things that they are doing to deliver a greater customer experience.  Additionally, a weekly update is posted on our Intranet site, along with monthly updates to all our employees.  Finally, there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face with your employees.  I make a point to visit all of our offices on a regular basis and to sit one-on-one with our folks, to reconnect with them individually and to reinforce our vision for them personally and organizationally.   

LQ: Do you feel that your business decisions are based primarily on facts or intuition? (Ellen Voie, President, Women in Trucking, Inc.)

Kelley Walkup: Both. Our organization is extremely fiscally responsible and the numbers tell the story of where you are and provide a foundation for forecasting.  Intuition is also an important element in charting a course for your organization.  One of my strengths has been the ability to use my intuition to help drive many of my decisions organizationally.  In business it’s important to be able to pull everything together in order to make good decisions.  It also helps to have a strong group of people whom you admire and trust to tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.  From there, you need to trust your instincts to make the right call.  The facts are important, but they don’t always tell the whole story. 

LQ: Companies continue to outsource critical supply chain functions and business processes; what do you see is the future to managing these critical relationships so that true partnerships evolve? (Kate Vitasek, Founder, Supply Chain Visions)

Kelley Walkup: Outsourcing business processes is a core component of our business, and managing these relationships and evolving partnerships is the name of the game.  This occurs successfully when communication becomes top priority.  When every employee who touches an account knows the ins and outs of the customer, their goals and how our processes affect their business—that’s when the magic happens.  We dig deep and hold our associates accountable for communicating with one another and the client on all levels, making sure all involved have a comprehensive knowledge of the client’s business.

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