Overseeing the Shift to E-Commerce
In the midst of a global pandemic, managing peak-plus volumes, deploying automation technology, and overseeing the largest marketing initiative in GEODIS’s history is all in a day’s work for Mike Honious.
When GEODIS in Americas named Mike Honious its president and CEO, the company was deep in the middle of a major transition. It was October 2020, and COVID-19 had launched a tidal wave of industry changes due to surges in online shopping. As a third-party logistics (3PL) firm, GEODIS was helping many companies shift from an emphasis on brick-and-mortar sales to e-commerce through its suite of e-commerce solutions established prior to the pandemic.
E-commerce soared to peak-season levels as early as April and never slowed down. "I knew that we’d be in ‘peak-plus’ volumes when our traditional busy season actually arrived," he adds.
Besides supporting customers through these changes, Honious is guiding GEODIS in Americas through important marketing and technology initiatives. We caught up with him to learn more.
IL: How did you become a supply chain professional?
As an industrial engineering technology major at the University of Dayton, I focused on manufacturing and dreamed of one day becoming a plant manager. Then I heard about an opportunity to interview with Gap Inc.
I come from rural Indiana and knew very little about Gap Inc. However, my future mother-in-law told me it was a strong company with a bright future. My now-wife took me to a Gap store, and the rest is history. I joined Gap Inc.’s logistics team and worked for the company for 15 years in various management capacities before joining GEODIS in Americas in 2005.
IL: What’s one experience from early in your career that helped to shape you as a leader?
Two years into my engineering career at Gap Inc., I was working on a project called forklift utilization to evaluate how to optimize forklift travel in a warehouse. Believe it or not, that turned into a warehouse management system (WMS) project. It was the early 1990s and predates the widespread knowledge and adoption of WMS within the supply chain.
The project taught me what it takes to implement new technology and gave me a realistic understanding of timelines. Everybody wants to move fast. When you’re doing something for the first time, however, you have to work hard to understand everything the project will require and ensure you have the right resources in place to be successful. The lessons I learned during that project still hold true and help me today.
IL: When you became president and CEO, what were your main goals for the company?
My first goal was to continue our efforts to protect our teammates during the pandemic, including setting up our warehouses for social distancing and deploying the necessary personal protective equipment. My second goal was to help customers manage the shift to high-volume e-commerce operations.
To reach that second goal, among many other factors, we had to navigate capacity issues within small-parcel networks. No single company can handle all the volume consumers generate these days. To gain greater flexibility, we launched a new digital platform called City Delivery to improve and expand last-mile delivery options. This allows us to focus on where each product needs to go and the best way to get it there.
IL: Which projects get most of your attention these days?
We’re in the middle of the largest marketing initiative in the history of the company, the "GEODIS Is" campaign. It’s focused on e-logistics, which is what we call our suite of e-commerce services. The campaign seeks to educate brands that a successful business requires a successful supply chain, and to let them know how we can help.
Additionally, we were already deploying automation technology such as robotics before the pandemic. We’ve accelerated that in several areas, especially around labor, as that is especially scarce right now in our industry. I’m concentrating on how we further integrate robotics into our warehousing and inventory management systems to make them modular for rapid deployment.
We’re also always focusing on new technology that allows for the capture of more sophisticated data to ensure that we can provide our customers end-to-end visibility into their supply chains, to offer greater business agilityand resilience.
IL: How do you nurture talent at GEODIS in Americas?
We focus on fine-tuning our leadership with training customized for the individual. We have a series of executive coaching programs and have designed leadership classes that allow individuals to take the training that fits their needs. We leverage the 360-degree feedback tools, which are very popular. As a large organization of more than 13,000 employees in the Americas, we have many leaders. Everyone is unique, and it’s important to provide the right training for each one.
It’s also essential we provide leaders and their teams the right data to help them tailor supply chain solutions to the needs of each customer.
IL: How do you like to spend time outside of work?
I like to spend my free time outdoors. I live on a lake in Middle Tennessee, and I love to spend time with my wife and two sons on our boat. I also love to volunteer and have coached youth baseball, basketball, and hockey. I also like to visit craft breweries. I’m intrigued by the way they’ve taken on the big brewers and disrupted the industry. Plus, it’s always nice to enjoy a beer every once in a while.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Ask Mike Honious to name the business leader with whom he’d most like to sit down for dinner and conversation, and he proposes three very different dining partners.
"The first is Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook," Honious says. "She has been chief operating officer there since 2008. I was COO at GEODIS in Americas for about eight years before I became CEO. It would be interesting to talk about our challenges and accomplishments in our respective roles and how to push a company forward."
For his second dinner, Honious would join Dwayne Tucker, CEO of LEAD Public Schools, a charter school system in Nashville. As a member of LEAD’s board, Honious has gained great respect for Tucker’s work.
"Within a public school system, his organization has a graduation rate of more than 90%," he says. "The way he engages his teachers, his staff, and the students amazes me. There’s a lot to learn from him."
The final dinner would be with Shawn Curran, COO at Gap Inc. "He took a chance and hired me when I was new to the industry, fresh out of college," Honious says. "I worked for him for about two years, and he allowed me to explore other areas within the company and ultimately grow as a professional. He was an important mentor and it would be great to reminisce about the decisions he made, what’s important to him, and how he got to where he is today."