Future developments of the increasingly sophisticated logistics business seem to rely solely on technological advances. In fact, the fast-moving industry is very much a people business.
With a network that includes more than 200 branches in 50-plus countries, and probably more than that tomorrow, Crown Worldwide is constantly on the move and always on the lookout for talented people who thrive on challenge.
"We are growing every day and we want people who can take challenges and run with them," says Deborah Mannas, regional manager of HR development and strategy for Asia Pacific, Crown Worldwide Group. "People perfect for the job don't need micromanagement. Instead, they take initiative, keep up with the pace and possess good communication skills. Knowing the business is one thing but working with others to bring it all together is what makes the difference. As for managerial staff, having a sense of entrepreneurship is also valuable."
Noting that these qualities are not particular to the logistics industry, Ms Mannas acknowledges that many companies are currently searching for talented people from a relatively small pool. "It is challenging, but we won't compromise. We would rather hold out for the right persons," she says.
Handpicked candidates receive technical training in all aspects of the job plus soft skill training such as communication skills and interpersonal skills. In-house niche training deals with technical tasks that are specific to the company or industry.
For example, Crown uses a unique computer system that keeps track of everything that is happening in the business at a particular time. Whether a client needs a piece of heavy machinery urgently dispatched to the other side of the world, or just a small but nevertheless essential spare part of that machinery, the system tracks it from its origin to destination. The system is in place in all branches of Crown's network and training is given to make sure employees are familiar with the many functions of the system and "speak the same language".
Crown also specialises in moving and storing wine and fine art and this is required to be done to the most stringent standards. Employees are trained in how to handle these precious, and more often than not extremely valuable materials to ensure they do not suffer as a result of the moving process. Strict handling, storage and tracking systems have been implemented to ensure these stringent criteria are met.
The company has in place a graduate trainee programme which potentially leads aspiring individuals to management positions. Graduates from multicultural backgrounds possessing excellent communication skills are much sought after. They must also be flexible and open-minded. Participants benefit from a buddy system and mentoring by a supervisor, and spend a couple of months in every area of the business to gain a comprehensive understanding of Crown's operations, plus participating in other workshops as well as a range of web-based training.
Besides relevant training such as presentation skills, strategic thinking and staff motivation, in-house trainers including Ms Mannas take the responsibility for grooming future leaders.
As well as opportunities to move up the corporate ladder, Crown employees are nurtured in a family-like environment. Ms Mannas says, "With an open-door policy, management are easily accessible."
In Hong Kong, Crown is also focusing on the luxury goods market with its third-party logistics business, and its clientele encompasses such renowned international names as Armani and Alfred Dunhill (part of the Richemont Group), and Hong Kong's own Shanghai Tang. The company is concentrating on providing services to the fast-expanding hotel industry. Another focal point is improving efficiency and further expanding its reach on the mainland, and the company took a massive step in this direction when it opened its flagship Crown Beijing Ultracenter last year.
One major benefit of working for Crown is the possibility of relocating to another branch. "We have a history of moving people around and not just our managers. We have had customer services staff move from Hong Kong to the US," Ms Mannas explains. As well as advertising in local and regional newspapers, Crown uses an "internal opportunities database" to advertise positions to current staff and always aims to promote from within. "There are ample opportunities for growth and movement with us. We want our employees to feel they are our priorities and be part of our culture where performance and excellence are rewarded," Ms Mannas emphasises.
For candidates interested in an exciting and challenging career with the possibility of travelling the world for a company that rewards excellence, Ms Mannas advises: "Don't just focus on your academics or on the number of extracurricular activities you are involved in. It is far more important to maximise quality experiences and use the opportunities to develop skills that are transferable and can be put to use in practical contexts."