As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Manzione.
Michael Manzione is President and Chief Executive Officer of Rakuten Super Logistics. Manzione leads the team with over 30 years of experience in operations, focusing on growth strategy and innovation. His areas of expertise include team building, revenue and profit enhancement, process improvement, and new business development.
With a mission to empower merchants around the world, Manzione is dedicated to expanding Rakuten Super Logistics’ fulfillment services to businesses of every size, providing them the tools to compete with today’s eCommerce giants.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started in the banking field and learned that I didn’t enjoy the day-to-day work. I then moved to Florida and supported my sister who was opening a restaurant and fell in love with the day-to-day aspects of managing a business. I finally moved into the logistics business to assist in a turnaround situation with a local 3PL.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I can’t think of a story, but a couple of early lessons included:
- Find happiness with the job you have.
- Follow your gut, with choices, chances, and changes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I was working for Wendy’s, I took the opportunity to take a job in an area that I was uncomfortable with and challenged myself by becoming a “trainer” for two years. The department director was Debbie Collura, she was the true definition of a professional. She helped me to truly challenge myself and elevated my organizational and planning skills.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Ours is a simple mission that we are passionate about at Rakuten Super Logistics. Simplify and support small and mid-size businesses to compete at a national scale.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
My first experience in dealing with a difficult situation was when I moved to Miami as a District Manager for Wendy’s and Hurricane Andrew, a category 5 hurricane, caused catastrophic damage to all the restaurants and to many of our employee’s homes. I oversaw seven restaurants and not one of them was able to reopen without significant repairs. We had lost power for weeks and almost all services were unavailable for a period of time. I took two paths to maneuver through the crisis. First, was assessing our employees’ needs and setting up a communication line to support them and provide ongoing communication. The second was determining the damage and prioritizing the store needs and reopening plans based on the ever-changing resources on hand. Putting our people first paid dividends, as the reopened stores met with great demand.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
We all face times that are difficult, and you may consider giving up. First, understand that having that feeling is okay. Second, give yourself the time to understand why you feel that way. Third, seek an outcome that addresses those feelings.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Patience & Perseverance. Taking a step back, assessing the entire picture, and then pivoting your strategy based on the new facts.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Be available, communicate often, and be frank so that the level of trust can be maintained.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Preferably in-person. If not possible, ensure it’s from the right level (position) and that it’s written with sincerity, offers transparency, and answers the questions the receiving party needs answered. If the news is over a length of time (such as what happened with the ongoing pandemic) ensure that it’s timely and frequent.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Too often plans are so focused and defined that they don’t allow for the changes that always occur during the execution. Your goals should have “multiple tracks” or plans so that the company can pivot and adjust quickly.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
“Always Improve, Always Advance” is one of our 5 Principles at Rakuten that especially works during difficult times as it forces us to define the opportunities that require attention.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- Not having the finances in place for a “rainy day”. (A percentage of all profits should be set aside to prepare for the unexpected.)
- Not having a business continuity plan, that clearly outlines the risks associated with your business and then alternate plans to address the potential risks.
- Not making your people your priority. Their support is integral and most important during difficult times.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
- Understand how your customer is being affected.
- Modify your service offerings to meet the obstacles your clients are facing.
- Understand and address your people’s needs so that you can best address the needs of your customers.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Define the risk.
- Assess the needs of your employees.
- Assess the needs of your clients.
- Understand your company’s capabilities.
- Pivot your plans to put your employees first and the clients second.
When the pandemic hit, we quickly followed two paths to ensure our business could succeed. We aligned the needs of our employees with the requirements of serving our clients. We quickly communicated and provided ongoing updates to our clients so that they could make the necessary changes to their business. All employees in support positions were reassigned to work from home (they already had all the tools to easily reposition). Besides the modifications we made to our warehouses, safety, and sanitation procedures, we also addressed our sick policy for our warehouse employees to ensure that no employees felt compelled to come to work if they felt “under the weather.” We then tracked all employees that became sick to support them and understand how they contracted the virus to ensure that no employees at our facilities were at risk.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Find me on Linked In!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The art of living lies less in eliminating troubles and more in growing despite them.” Life’s journey has continuous highs and lows, understanding and learning from those challenges is the key.