A Conversation with Wendy Trudeau,
Vice President, Agility
and Aimee Abengoza,
Director of Business Development, Cruise Line Logistics, Agility Logistics

Questions for this Executive Interview have been prepared
by LQ’s Executive Editors.

LQ: Do you see a career in logistics as being significantly different from one in any other business field? (Pamela Benkert, General Manager, WW Operations and Vice President, Consumer Digital Group for Eastman Kodak)

Wendy Trudeau: Significantly different, no. Marginally different, perhaps. This industry is possibly the most diverse there is. Logistics covers such a broad range of activity that it requires individuals to be flexible and have the ability to think on their feet. These are traits that are not necessarily common. However, there is also a need for the analytical, process-driven qualities often found in successful logisticians. As a service industry dealing with many regulatory requirements, we must continually educate ourselves in order to stay current with the rapid changes.

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, Apotex Inc.)

Wendy Trudeau: Too often we hear “do the right thing,” but saying and doing are often very different things. I believe in demonstrating leadership every day. I would not ask any team member to do anything that I would not, or have not, already done. I believe the most valuable tool available to all of us is communication. Whether you rely on media, information technology or good old-fashioned networking, knowing what’s going on in the field and with your competition is the key. Talking to customers, colleagues, vendors and competitors gives me the information needed to determine the right direction.

LQ: What is the most difficult choice you have had to make in your career?(Bruce Danielson, Executive Communications Manager, UPS)

Wendy Trudeau: I think the most difficult choice, for myself and many leaders, is right-sizing during challenging economic times. There is no worse feeling than knowing you are impacting a family’s future that they are not able to control. A colleague once told me that exiting an individual for poor performance is not nearly as difficult, because they had the opportunity to control the outcome. In the case of economic staff adjustments it is beyond the individual’s control.

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)

Wendy Trudeau: First and foremost, understand your customer’s needs. Obtaining as much information as possible prior to offering solutions will put both parties in a position to succeed. When you are dealing with end-to-end solutions, it is critical to develop relationships at all levels of the organization. Simply providing a competitive price will not ensure your future success. Too often, we see decisions made hastily without understanding the impact on the customer’s business. This will ultimately lead to service failures and disgruntled employees with our organization, the customer’s organization and their customer’s organization. Our primary goal is to deliver service excellence, regardless of the complexity or size of the business opportunity.

LQ: In these tough economic times, what do you see as the most important things a company can do? (Kate Vitasek, Founder, Supply Chain Visions)

Wendy Trudeau: Communicate, control costs, and manage cash. We need to be in front of our customers, understand their needs, and ensure we are offering them a competitive edge. When our industry struggles, it is the result of every other industry already struggling. There should be no surprises if we understand what our customers are experiencing. Positive communication with our staff during challenging times often encourages their creativity. These situations provide us with the opportunity to identify individuals with key attributes needed for their future career development. Cost control and cash management are just good business practices, but become even more critical during economic downturns. We need to know what our customer’s financial state is to mitigate credit risk. It’s important to identify changes to their payment patterns, understand the economic impact on their business, and discuss their plans for surviving the crunch. Likewise, we must pay closer attention to our vendors, ensuring that they are financially viable and will not put our business or our customer’s business at risk. Vendor management at the global and local level is key to providing a valuable and secure service with competitive pricing.

LQ: What members of your management team (if any) are involved in your longrange planning? (Ellen Voie, President, Women in Trucking, Inc.)

Wendy Trudeau: I involve all members of my management team in long-range planning. I’m a true believer in teamwork and that’s what they are there for, to participate in the development of our strategic direction. Their experience and knowledge adds value to the organization. We all take personal ownership of the success of the organization. We hold regular brainstorming sessions to identify target markets/customers, product offerings, employee successes, cost-saving initiatives, etc.

LQ: Are the challenges presented by an economy such as this any different for women leaders than their male counterparts? (Tom Nightingale, VP & CMO, Con-way)

Wendy Trudeau: Not at all. Ethics and integrity are not gender-specific. If these two principles have been considered in our decision-making process then we can feel confident that we have made the right choices.

LQ: How have you incorporated new thinking into your organization? (Susan L. Oaks, Vice-President and Partner, A.T. Kearney)

Aimee Abengoza: Director of Business Development, Cruise Line Logistics, Agility Logistics: New thinking to me means being innovative and constantly thinking out of the box to differentiate our organization from our competitors. To accomplish this is to set some high standards with a dedicated customer service team. Customers are constantly looking not only for personalized service, but also for consistent performance and continuous improvement with their supply chain. To be able to maintain this, I strongly believe in having a team dedicated to this mindset and to constantly challenge them to be innovative with their approach. We constantly strive to tailor solutions to our customers’ needs. I believe having this team in place has set some forward thinking in our organization and with a proven success track record. With success comes growth, and now there is an initiative to expand the team to care for a number of other key accounts.

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