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Writing the Next Chapter of the UPS Story

montage of UPS employees

Whenever you make any major change, in business or in life, you have to figure out what matters — and perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t.

The easiest way to identify what matters is by knowing your purpose. Put another way: What do you want your tombstone to say?

If you don’t have purpose, it’s hard to find passion. And as we all know, if you don’t have passion, you will struggle to ignite transformative change.

When I took over as UPS CEO in June, with the help of our dedicated and hard-working UPSers around the world, I wanted to answer this question: What is our purpose, what is our why? How can we leave an indelible mark (for the better) on the world around us?

After weeks of hard work, we landed on our new purpose statement: Moving our world forward by delivering what matters.

As a former finance person, I’m partial to earnings reports, but not for the reason you might expect. We all focus on the numbers, with good reason. But numbers are more than just digits on a page. They tell a story. They tell our story.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when UPSers have operated as essential workers on the frontlines of our response to this unforgiving virus, our story — and by extension, our purpose — has never been so compelling.

In that spirit, I want to take this opportunity to go beyond the numbers … I want to share my vision as we collectively write the next chapter of the UPS story.

Act with purpose

With the help of UPS’s Executive Leadership Team, we identified five non-negotiable principles:

  1. Our values
  2. Our dividend
  3. Our strong credit rating
  4. Our brand relevance
  5. Our employee ownership

If something doesn’t fall into one of those five buckets, it is on the potential chopping block. This is how we will get intentional about doubling down on what matters and weeding out what doesn’t.

As I said in a recent interview with Fortune, “A crisis is a terrible opportunity to waste.” And waste it, we will not.

To be clear, this is not some top-down mission, with our leadership dictating where we’re heading. As leaders, our primary responsibility is to help our people reach their full potential, and they can only do that if they feel empowered to advance the changes and make the improvements they see as important to our company’s future.

As a lifelong do-it-yourself enthusiast — I am a Home Depot alum after all — I strongly believe a DIY movement will fuel employee empowerment. But it’s up to us as leaders to facilitate this environment, it doesn’t happen organically.

“Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when UPSers have operated as essential workers on the frontlines of our response to this unforgiving virus, our story — and by extension, our purpose — has never been so compelling.”

That’s why I launched (a still ongoing) listening tour not long after I started; I wanted to know what people liked about our company, what they didn’t like and where we could get better.

Even at a storied company like UPS, founded 113 years ago, we have plenty of room for improvement. One of those areas is what I like to call the “happiness factor.” I want the overwhelming majority of our people to recommend UPS as a place to work. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’re not there yet.

But again, if we truly tap into our purpose, empower our people to move our world forward by delivering what matters, I have no doubt we’ll get there.

Enjoy the ride

This all leads to a natural question: Is now really the time to make such a fundamental shift, to embrace a better-not-bigger mindset?

We are in the middle of a global pandemic disrupting every aspect of daily life. There’s certainly a temptation to not rock the boat and simply ride out the storm.

However, I’d argue that now is actually the perfect time to reexamine what truly matters, when companies large and small are forced to do things differently — whether they want to or not. Why not dictate your fate rather than let events dictate it for you?

Our customers are changing, our competitors are changing and the rate of change is accelerating. We must change alongside them.

For those who don’t know, I was born in a log cabin hospital, grew up in the great outdoors of Jackson, Wyoming, and have been comfortable on skis pretty much my whole life. What better way to learn about making course corrections than going 60 miles an hour down unpredictable terrain?

“Our customers are changing, our competitors are changing and the rate of change is accelerating. We must change alongside them.”

I’d encourage UPSers, and really anybody struggling with all this uncertainty, to embrace this skier mentality, prepare for twists and turns, make adjustments and ultimately, enjoy the ride.

But to my fellow UPSers, we don’t expect you to go down this mountain by yourself. We need your ideas and passions to fuel our purpose.

There’s a reason we say “Customer First, People Led, Innovation Driven,” when talking about UPS’s strategy. You can’t provide an unparalleled customer experience or push the limits of innovation without a people-led movement.

So let’s get to work. Let’s write that next chapter. Let’s tell a story that none of us will soon forget and make everyone proud.

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