When Queen's Freddie Mercury sang, "I want it all and I want it now," he really should have reached out to YPO member Franz-Joseph (FJ) Miller for help. In a recent episode of my podcast, , I interviewed Miller, who shared how he to stays cool under pressure, manages chaos, and delivers in a crisis so his customers get it all and get it now--no matter what.
Miller is the founder and CEO of time:matters Group, a business dedicated to providing emergency assistance with over 500 destinations in 90 countries to companies like Siemens, VW and DHL. In 2016, he sold to Lufthansa Cargo. He's also the chairman of Liefery, which he co-founded in 2015 to help retail players like Amazon, REWE or Zalando deliver to consumers what they want when they want it. Miller believes, "You have to be a freak for something. For me, it's being the German efficiency of German efficiency." The margin for error in his business is zero so his team must be perfect. Here are Miller's secrets to delivering everything from jet engines to stem cells under conditions of huge uncertainty.
1. Create a culture of adaptability, not perfection.
In the intense space of critical logistics support, where anything less could mean delays and money lost, you'd think perfection would be critical at every juncture. But Miller says the opposite is true. "Perfection is not part of our culture because with the little time we have to provide solutions, perfection is usually not one of the options."
Instead, he suggests hiring team members who are flexible and able to adjust to a situation as it develops. You get better results through a focus on perfecting the process. "We manage under huge uncertainty," he says. "But it's really the adaptability of the team that's making that happen."
2. Leverage passion to turn stress into excellence.
Uncertainty causes stress and stress isn't usually an experience people enjoy. But Miller claims that teams who love what they do accept chaos and stress as a part of the process. This allows them to focus on meeting a customer's needs, and turn a tense situation into a chance to excel. In fact, Miller has found that uncertainty actually drives his company's unusually high net provider score of 70. He explains: "If a shipment goes through as planned, the net promoter score is actually lower than if something goes wrong, and we take care of it."
3. Plan to manage, don't manage to plan.
Chaos is, by definition, the absence of a pattern. "You can't plan every situation because that is not possible," Miller insists. Trying to plan for the unpredictable is counter-productive. Instead, plan to evaluate each new situation objectively and respond appropriately. To do this, Miller urges leaders to build a team that is adaptable and competent. In fact, he lists adaptability as the one trait that makes an employee most valuable in today's climate.
4. Use technology to streamline process.
Of course managing situations as they come can make it difficult for a business to scale. Even so, the most chaotic situations have subcomponents that recur. Those can not only be planned for, but also automated. Miller indicates that his company has a robust "IT platform that anticipates certain modules of each transport." They use technology to anticipate certain situations of the process, freeing up team members to handle the unique aspects of customer experience.
"It's going to be something new every month. Sometimes every week," Miller says. "But when you have done it once, you can put it into the system so that the next time it happens, you can pull it up."
5. Be the buffer.
Miller sees the core of his business's success as "solving the pain of our customer." He expands: "The typical situation is the customer calls us and says, 'We have a problem. We need to transport something from A to B. It needs to be there in between X number of hours, and if it doesn't get there, there's going to be huge damage for us.' And really, in that instance, it doesn't really matter what it is." Miller's team and IT platform take over from that point, working to ensure that any chaos caused by the urgency of the customer's needs remains 'behind the scenes.' For the customer, it's just like magic. "This," he smiles, "is what our customers value."
Each week on his podcast, Kevin has conversations with members of , the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.