Carmit Glik, CEO and founding member, Ship4wd.
From changing consumer behavior and economic fluctuations to high inflation and supply chain challenges, domestic and global trade has faced endless disruptions in recent years. But when it comes to assessing the impact, I’ve found that emerging small and medium-sized enterprises are uniquely burdened by these new circumstances and complexities surrounding international shipping and logistics. The unfortunate reality is that these medium-sized, high-growth companies are often relegated to a secondary priority amidst larger, established entities that benefit from high-quality services from multinational shipping companies. For these companies to fully thrive, I think we need to reduce existing inequality and democratize international shipping.
I have been working in the logistics industry for over 23 years and have seen the daily challenges faced by small and medium sized businesses. My team and I at Ship4wd, a global logistics and freight forwarding company, know they deserve a better experience and first class treatment – the same resources larger companies have – that ensure more quality results that are timely, cost accurate and properly document the shipping journey for all breakbulk shipments. But this isn’t about my company or me; rather, it is about what an entire industry needs to do to address the existing shortcomings:too often just based on size— between companies competing in world trade.
Throughout my career, I have witnessed the frustration business leaders have had and how they have worked tirelessly to keep their businesses running, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is time consuming and all encompassing. They need 24/7 service, simple yet powerful technology, transparency and communication that will help them succeed. They need advocates on their side, expect and deserve them every step of the way.
What challenges does the industry face?
Businesses, especially those in growth mode, face many challenges when it comes to shipping and logistics. The industry is full of pitfalls such as price fluctuations, confusing paperwork, language barriers, unexpected customs delays and rapidly changing regulations that can be an Achilles heel for these companies. These challenges distract business owners from focusing on more important tasks, such as running and scaling their business, as well as customer satisfaction. Even the most seasoned and experienced stewards of global shipping within companies can find it complex, confusing and cumbersome – terms that have become synonymous with international transportation and logistics. Accelerated digital transformation has only recently hit the international shipping industry – a community historically hampered by a business-as-usual mindset.
Fortunately, I have noticed that the industry is making great strides and that international shipping is ushering in a new era as global trade begins to become more operationalized and digitalised. It’s no secret that the pandemic has forced a re-examination of all companies, across all industries. Unsurprisingly, the international shipping industry is seeing a significant shift as a result, with every business leader, regardless of company size, now having the ability to use the same advanced resources that only large corporations once used exclusively, freely. enjoyed. Freight forwarding companies that are digitizing will become the new normal, promoting a level playing field for businesses of all sizes competing to meet consumer demand and urgency.
But how can the industry, along with the business leaders who rely on it, address these challenges together to improve and truly democratize international shipping?
Focus on building trust.
For the entire industry, transparency is the key to trust – and trust is the essential foundation on which partnerships are built. Fixing this is step one. Through a commitment to continuously improving transparency for customers, leaders can turn the tide from being reactive to supply chain shifts to proactively addressing issues that may arise up front, enabling companies to better manage, predict and adapt to current conditions.
The shipping and logistics industry can be very opaque and elusive, so it’s important to break that barrier and build trust with companies that rely on a partner to create a more collaborative and streamlined process from start to finish to offer. Leaders can do this by providing more insight into the shipping process. Prioritize accountability, clear pricing, advanced confirmation of all charges, 24/7 personalized support, and digital-first services that cut out confusing paperwork. It is also critical to ensure that the teams supporting customers are at the forefront of providing timely advice on international issues, legislative and judicial developments and protocols that affect the current and future state of international transportation .
Carefully research the company’s capabilities and needs.
As for small and medium-sized businesses themselves, it is important that business owners carefully monitor their business and their shipping and logistics operations. Self-examination of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, and shipping and logistics needs can go a long way. Make sure you understand the specific obstacles and barriers you face in your practice, as there is no one set path in the supply chain industry. At this point you can understand and map out what needs to be done successfully.
Once this foundation is in place, some business owners may decide to outsource a shipping partner. (Disclosure: My company helps with this.) Outsourcing to a knowledgeable and connected shipping partner can improve operational efficiency and effectiveness while allowing the company’s staff to focus on core business. If you decide to go this route, it’s essential to find a partner who will advocate for you and help you navigate the intricacies of shipping and logistics.
It is also important for companies to diversify their suppliers, sourcing partners and shippers on an international level to avoid risk. Diversification can help you stay viable.
As we look ahead and shape the global trade industry together, it is becoming increasingly important for business leaders to take control of their own shipping and logistics to find new avenues that generate value. Shipping and logistics are the lifeblood of these businesses and, as such, are at the heart of both the local and global economies.
After all, while shipping and logistics may not be a company’s core business, it is absolutely the core of their business.