Greg Hewitt knows a thing or two about chasing his dream job.
The Toronto-born Hewitt rose through the ranks at Loomis, a Canadian delivery company that was acquired by German-based giant DHL in 2003.
Twice he applied for the top job at the rebranded DHL Canada, and twice he was rejected.
“They said I didn’t have the right kind of experience,” recalled Hewitt, who led the company’s sales and marketing teams. “They wanted me to prove myself at a higher level.”
And so Hewitt began a career odyssey starting in 2008 that would take him to high-level posts in the United States, Belgium, Germany and, finally, back to Canada in 2011 to take over as CEO.
After a successful three years, he moved to the New York area to lead DHL’s northeastern operations in the United States. In January 2016, he was promoted to the CEO position at DHL Express USA, which has its headquarters in Plantation.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Hewitt said. “But I couldn’t be happier.”
Q: You’ve been a part of a number of corporate integrations. Can you tell us what to do and what not to do during a merger?
A: Due diligence is probably the most critical part of evaluating a merger. I have seen how mistakes are made when this process is rushed, and I have seen that when it is done slowly and carefully, it leads to fewer surprises and greater success. Of course communication is also key. It is vital that all stakeholders (employees, customers, vendors, shareholders) are on board and that you are as transparent as you can be within the confines of the legal environment that these deals often face. Lastly, I would say to make the decisions that unlock the synergies you identified in the business case to warrant the deal, but avoid the temptation to rush into smashing the companies together. Respect the employees and customers and focus on unlocking back-office synergies first. As you better understand the business, you will identify the best options to leverage the new, larger entity.
Q: You left your home and your professional comfort zone to move forward in your career. What’s your advice for people who want to land their dream job?
A: My advice would be to have a plan and work toward it. You need to be honest with yourself and consider how you stack up against others in the organization, then work on your development plan to close off any weaknesses you may have versus them. The other advice I would offer is that you must be willing to move and get the experience you need to be attractive to your company and be brave. Reach for that brass ring when you see it, and do not fear the rejection that might come with it. I landed my first CEO role in 2011, but I had interviewed for it in 2005 and 2008 unsuccessfully.
Q: How is the strong dollar affecting your business and the general import/export market in the U.S.?
A: The strong U.S. dollar is putting pressure on exports. That means that fewer people are buying online goods from U.S. channels because they can find those goods cheaper locally and that translates to fewer outbound shipments for us. Conversely, it means that U.S. consumers and businesses have tremendous purchasing power, and they are buying more goods and materials from overseas. We are seeing huge increases in our inbound delivery volumes because of this trend.
Q: You’ve set a goal of doubling DHL’s business here in the U.S. How do you plan to achieve that?
A: To accomplish our growth goals, DHL is making significant investments in growth and quality. From a growth standpoint, we have doubled the size of the U.S. sales team in the past two years and we are expecting to reap the rewards of that investment in 2016, and will then look to invest again in 2017. As for quality, DHL is making investments in facilities and infrastructure throughout the U.S. and we have more than 1,000 new frontline employees who have gone through our proprietary Certified International Specialist (CIS) training program to ensure we continue to invest in our people to carry the business forward in the years to come.
Q: How big a concern is traffic for DHL? Does traffic interfere with your delivery times? Locals complain about ever-worsening gridlock — and the numbers back them up. What can be done to alleviate the problem?
A: The traffic patterns in any city play a big role in how effective DHL can be at delivering early and picking up late for our customers. Congested traffic means that we have to put more couriers on the street, and they are less productive because they cannot serve as many stops.
In busy downtown markets, we continue to make investments in smaller electric vehicles that allow us to move through traffic and park more effectively, and also have a better impact on the environment. Specific to Miami, we’ve made a $1.4 million investment in our Doral service center that’s designed to start morning deliveries earlier so our drivers can avoid traffic congestion.
DHL is also looking at smaller service centers that are closer to the delivery areas that we are being asked to deliver into. This means that one “line-haul” vehicle battles traffic, and the delivery vehicles remain close to the customer. An example of this is our expansion in New York with the addition of our Bronx, Brooklyn and World Trade Center facilities. We will constantly look for opportunities to better service our customers and improve our efficiency.
Current position: Chief executive officer of DHL Express USA.
Education: Bachelor of commerce with honors, Queen’s University, 1993.
Personal life: Lives in Delray Beach, with Sadie, a 3-year-old Boston Terrier.
Charity work: Active member of Free the Children/Me to We. Hewitt has traveled with the groups to Kenya, India and Ecuador to build schools and medical clinics. He also focuses on enabling alternative-income programs for women’s groups.