goBeyondProfit CEO Interview: Enrique Alvarez, Co-Founder of Vector Global Logistics
Friday, December 16th, 2022
The Case for Purpose-Based Culture
In part 2 of our conversation with goBeyondProfit Champion Enrique Alvarez, Co-Founder of Vector Global Logistics, we explore the case for this purpose-based culture and how it made Vector Global Logistics more resilient throughout a global health and supply chain crisis.
Trend or New Reality?
Our background’s very different from other logistics companies. We came from the consulting world, and we saw an opportunity to be successful by changing the culture and the mindset that we saw in the industry at the time. The biggest factor we wanted to implement was a results mentality. We took the time and space components out of the equation. At the time, a lot of companies measured performance with a nine to five mentality but in logistics, in particular, it just didn’t make much sense and it still doesn’t because 5:00 PM Atlanta time isn’t meaningful for someone in Brazil or China or South Africa. And the second key element for us was to start our company with this idea of logistics with purpose.
I get from some of my peers that the idea of having a purpose-driven business and a very flexible work environment where people really get back their time to manage their own lives could be considered a trend. I think it was a trend before but now, this is just the new status quo. Honestly, I think that if you don’t change quickly and realize what this is all about, I fear that you’ll not be in business for long.
So, I think focusing on purpose and values, going beyond profit and wanting to maximize something other than shareholder profits is the right thing to do. But know that it is also a profitable strategy. We’re not doing it because we’re a charity, we’re a for-profit business, but this is part of our competitive advantage, and it’s also one of our more strategic imperatives as well. The reason why I say that is because purpose is here to stay. So, if you want to have access to a top-notch talent pool and want to hire the best employees out there, this is important to them.
The Case for Purpose-Based Culture
The reason it works is because we talk about culture all the time. Culture, for us, is front and center and literally, we talk about culture all the time, in our staff meetings, in our just regular phone calls, and we use culture. So, for us, culture and our values and our purpose are not something that we say we have. It’s not something that we have a poster somewhere in our office. We use it for hiring. We use it for selecting clients. We use it for selecting suppliers. And so, when we talk about culture, it’s very, very alive in the day-to-day things that we do.
When the pandemic hit, we were ready from a culture standpoint because some of the more practical things that people struggle with had to do with how do we work remotely? How do we completely reimagine what we’re doing so that people can be locked down yet being productive? And so, with some of those things, we didn’t have that rough transition because our culture was based on the idea of flexibility from the very beginning. Our culture has always focused on results-based mentality and the fact that we don’t believe in the nine to five mentality. People can work freely from wherever they are at whatever time they want. That really helped us a lot. It gave us a competitive edge during a time when everyone in our industry, the entire supply chain, was struggling. So that was huge.
The pandemic was a global tragedy and it was a lot of hard work, but we also felt like this we had the right strategy. Even in the hard times, it helped us handle things efficiently and effectively. Culture was our number one competitive advantage before, but after the pandemic, there was zero questions about it. It was very rewarding from that standpoint. I think for the people that went through it with me, we were all really tired after all that hard work, but at the same time, we felt like it wasn’t in vain. This culture, this purpose-driven, results-oriented mentality is paying off. And it was great to see that.
Formula for Changing the World
Well, changing the world to me means making sure that you come to this world and you leave it in a better place than what it was – not only for you, but people that are sharing it with you. This is something that I have learned from my family and my parents and siblings, and I think it’s something that’s become a responsibility. And so, the way we think about it and make “changing the world” real, is really about four things.
Hiring: The first way to change the world is really about hiring more people, just bringing people over and growing this purpose-based company.
Equity and Entrepreneurship: Vector is made up of smaller teams and we currently have a plan in place to start giving equity back to the leaders of the teams. I would love to see a couple of these teams – these kind of self-standing companies – become true intrapreneurs, true business owners. That would be a dream to me. And I think that’s a very critical and very impactful way of changing the world.
Partnering with Non Profits: The third one is really partnering with nonprofits or purpose-driven organizations out there and helping them streamline their logistics and supply chains. That’s our expertise, that’s what we do, so helping these non profits or other companies that otherwise would not be able to export whatever they’re doing or send their products to other parts of the world, it’s something that we take very seriously.
Inspiring Other Companies: And the last one is just really trying to inspire other companies outside of Vector to adopt a similar purpose-based mentality or similar model and try to see that going beyond profit is really what’s going to not only change the world, but it’s also going to make your company more profitable.
Vision for the Future
We are a boutique logistics company with presence in different parts of the world, and what we have set up to do is really continue leveraging logistics to change the world. My vision and hope would be to inspire other companies, some of our suppliers, making sure that they join us on this kind of quest or movement, if you may, so that together with everything we ship, we donate and with everything we do together we are changing the world. That’s the aspiration for the future.