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7 habits of highly successful shipping managers

Team of shipping professionals working in a warehouse

Both the business world and your role as a shipping manager have changed dramatically over the past few decades. Remember the "old days," when customers were satisfied to get their orders in six or seven days? And a good day meant you got everything shipped?

Although standards are substantially higher now, it's comforting to know that the fundamental principles underpinning success remain the same. Here are seven "habits," adapted from the popular book by Stephen Covey, illustrated with examples from UPS customers:

1. Successful shipping managers take initiative. Arvind and Amit Nischal spotted a niche opportunity to serve wineries and wine clubs, so they launched WineCare Logistics Inc. as a direct-to-consumer fulfillment service. They turned to UPS for help streamlining warehousing, controlling inventory and improving visibility in the shipping process.

2. Successful shipping managers begin with the customer in mind. A clumsy and manual order-entry and shipping process created serious backlogs for Natures Garden. Since customer satisfaction mattered most to owners Deborah and Mike Ward, they implemented a WorldShip® system and immediately shaved five hours off their day. Now the pick-pack-ship process takes about three hours, even though volume is up as high as 600 packages per day.

3. Successful shipping managers put fast movers first. To boost warehouse efficiency, president Ayal Latz of a2b Fulfillment Inc. profiles items based on their velocity history and forecasts of future activity. He positions fast movers close to the packing station to save back-and-forth time.

4. Successful shipping managers think win-win. Giving customers more shipping options became a win-win for goFASTandLIGHT when the online seller added UPS® Ground as a shipping alternative. The company saw a 25 percent increase in online sales of its ultralight backpacking gear. Average dollars per sale went up as well, according to owner Patrick Dotterweich.

5. Successful shipping managers seek to understand their customer. Connecting with customers via social media like Facebook and Twitter helps Lumi Co. have a more one-on-one relationship with people and understand where they are coming from, says co-founder Stephen Ango. He and photographer Jesse Genet developed a do-it-yourself process for printing digital photos on fabric using only the power of sunshine. The growing company now ships dye and supplies worldwide.

6. Successful shipping managers look for synergy. Synergy often comes about through collaboration, when communication barriers fall and creativity sparks new ways of looking at problems. That's what happened at Ficks when the startup company needed to fulfill massive crowdfunded orders for its all-natural, non-alcoholic cocktail fortifier that defends against morning-after effects. A virtual whiteboarding session with solution specialists at UPS helped meet initial deadlines, ship to big U.S. customers and open distribution in the U.K. as well.

7. Successful shipping managers sharpen their own saw. In Covey's best-seller, this means regrouping and refreshing. In business, taking time out to think things through and rethinking strategies can reap huge rewards. That's what happened when Steve Therriault and his son Kyle launched autoaccessoriesgarage.com as an online operation, with no warehouse or brick-and-mortar retail locations. Instead, AAG partners with 14 distributors and over 200 manufacturers, who drop-ship direct to AAG customers - eliminating inventory hassles and expense, while boosting profit margins.

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