Founded 1966 in Philadelphia, BDP International is a leading transportation and logistics solutions provider which employs more than 5,000 staff across 160 offices in 40 countries worldwide and an annual turnover of $2.8 bn.
Fikret Ersoy, the managing director overseeing the Middle East, Turkey and Africa operations of BDP International, shares the story behind the success of a region with a significant contribution to BDP's global growth
What’s the story behind your business?
BDP International specialises in complex supply chain solutions, working with industries including chemical, petrochemical, oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and life sciences. Our services are air and ocean freight forwarding, road freight, heavy lift transportation, customs brokerage, warehouse and distribution, 3PL, 4PL and LLP logistics solutions.
What have been your career highlights?
With over 15 years’ experience in global transportation and logistics, I started my career in a ship-owner company, handling operation and documentation. I joined BDP in 2011 as a country manager in Turkey; I actually brought BDP to Turkey by convincing its management that we could set up a thriving business in Turkey that could be a game-changer in the market. In 2015, BDP Management expanded to Africa and I led the expansion as regional director. In 2018, BDP merged Africa, Turkey and the Middle East into one region, which I manage.
What are the main challenges facing your industry?
Like other industries, there is competition, which is good to encourage staying fresh and innovative. There is room to improve regulations for setting up in the region. We see small entities with inadequate capital structure, certifications and quality standards, which impacts the perception of our industry.
There is a need to increase logistics and supply chain management faculties in universities here to meet the expertise needed.
Global trade wars and sanctions, regional tensions, Brexit, FX volatility are other macro-level challenges we face. We see households being conservative on consumption and spends, which has a declining effect in specific industry verticals. The biggest challenge is the prediction for 2020 and beyond.
We do not have a clear picture of the future. As a result, volumes are decreasing, labour costs are increasing and there is higher-margin pressure due to competition and an imbalance of supply and demand.
How do you foster a culture of success at BDP?
It is about a common purpose and a common future within the organisation. We know who we are and how to position ourselves in front of competitors, customers and suppliers. We observe, listen, and analyse the market and customer’s pain points. We create ideas and work to differentiate ourselves from others. We show a strong reaction in the market compared to competitors. We have passion, commitment and eagerness. Our values, for which we have been awarded, foster an environment of ethics, accountability, diversity and integrity. We share successes as a team. Being a game-changer is a part of our culture.
How do you keep the focus on a purpose of organic growth?
It’s always better and sustainable to grow organically through your existing clients. In that sense, there are critical items for organic growth: exceptional service delivery and continuous cost and process improvement for our customers through innovative technology and logistics digitalization.
Are there key skills and attributes in your industry that are particularly important and how do you identify them when building your teams?
Success is about bringing the right people, at the right time, to the right place. That has been a key focus of mine for the last nine years. Since we are in the service industry, the driving factor is human capital. You might have a state-of-the-art warehouse and a thousand trucks, but if you do not have the right talent, you will fail.
What is the most important decision you have ever had to make for your company?
Taking the decision to leave my previous employer and start BDP Turkey from scratch. I established BDP Turkey when l was 27 years old. We had only 13 people and two offices in May 2011. Currently, we have 11 offices, over 200 employees and a yearly turnover of over $130m. We are in the top 10 logistics providers in the country, so to achieve that in just seven years was remarkable. Convincing BDP’s board to expand our footprint into Africa was also an unforgettable milestone for me.
What would you say to a new employee about the culture of your organisation?
BDP is a home, not a workplace; together, we are a family, not a workforce. For those that truly understand and tap into these values, it is worthwhile and rewarding. I am an example of that.
What does a typical day of work look like for you?
Usually, I am in the office two days a week and spend three days out. I enjoy being with customers and industry stakeholders such as air and ocean carriers, ports or technology companies. My Dubai mornings start with breakfast with my daughter, then once in the office, financials updates, operational issues, calls with country managers and regional sales leaders occupy my day.
Who in your career has had an impact on you as a leader?
Various people have influenced and inspired me. I have been reading about Steve Jobs, Jack Welch and Muhtar Kent; gentlemen with humble beginnings who achieved success. Rich Bolte, my CEO & Chairman, is an inspiration for me. From John Bolte, I learned how to be the engine of an organisation.
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