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Leadership Lessons with... David Grinevald, Managing Director US, OVRSEA

International expansion is a daunting step for any business to take. From steps as strict as bureaucratic regulations to changes as nebulous as cultural differences, David Grinevald, Managing Director US at OVRSEA talks us through some of the more unique and less expected trials and tribulations of expanding a European business into the American market. Take a look.

Can you introduce yourself and your background before and after your move to America?

Hello, I'm David, currently serving as the Managing Director for OVRSEA in the USA, based in Miami, Florida. A year ago, OVRSEA offered me an incredible opportunity to further launch the US market. I oversee the company's operations on-site, emphasizing my commitment to leading the team in the dynamic American market.

Prior to this, I held the position of VP Sales at the company's headquarters in Paris for two years, contributing to the company's growth and expansion.

Can you tell us a bit more about OVRSEA?

Our mission is to simplify and optimise international freight management through technology.To date we’ve helped over 1,000 renowned brands. We developed a state-of-the-art platform which offers real-time tracking, centralised data, and comprehensive reporting for streamlined management. As of recently, we also started commercializing a SaaS version of this tool. 

As you can imagine, it comes with lots of advantages. One of them is the power to choose the most environmentally friendly option for your shipment. More data means more informed decisions.

What do you think about the evolution of the role of a MD in house, especially when it comes to launching a new office overseas?

As the General Manager of a European company with recent expansion into the USA, my primary responsibility is to be the company's ambassador. This involves a thorough understanding of the American market, strong intercultural relationships, and constant adaptation to local needs.

On the operational front, my ability to “zoom in” is crucial. I am committed to meticulously overseeing daily activities, ensuring effective execution aligned with objectives. This includes proactive management of local sales and operations teams to maximise our on-the-ground presence.

Simultaneously, a strategic vision is crucial, requiring the ability to “zoom out.” I work on long-term planning, identifying market trends, and adjusting our strategy to maintain competitiveness. This broad perspective ensures continuous growth and a strong position in the global forwarding market.

How do you launch an office in the US as a European company? What do you need to pay attention to?

The dynamism of the American market requires constant adaptation, and we adjusted our offering to meet the specific needs of local customers. Our operational agility has been a major asset, allowing us to keep pace with rapid changes in this competitive environment. By establishing strategic local partnerships, we effectively integrated our business into the American economic fabric.

In-depth knowledge of American business practices has been another cornerstone of our success. We developed a targeted marketing strategy, highlighting our competitive advantages to attract attention in this dynamic market. Regulatory compliance has also been a priority, ensuring that our operations adhere to local standards.

How has your management approach adapted to the economic uncertainties resulting from recent global events (pandemics, economic crises, cost of living crisis)?

First and foremost, we have strengthened our operational flexibility to quickly adapt to changes in market conditions. This involved implementing agile emergency plans and constantly reassessing our strategies to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts.

Transparent communication has become an absolute priority. We maintained an open discussion with our team, regularly sharing information about the economic situation, challenges we might face, and the measures taken to address these challenges.

On the financial front, we adopted prudent resource management, implementing cost-saving measures where possible without compromising our commitment to the quality of services we offer to our clients.

We also reevaluated our operational model to incorporate more technologies and digital solutions, which is somewhat in our DNA as well, so it was not very challenging to implement in a "start-up/FrenchTech" environment. This has not only strengthened our agility but has also allowed our teams to work effectively remotely, ensuring business continuity even in unusual working conditions.

Employee demands are evolving beyond salary and benefits. What changes do you observe, and how can the startup ecosystem respond to these changing demands while fostering motivated employees? With a growing focus on mental health in the workplace, what innovative approaches have you seen in the industry to support well-being?

As we navigate the evolving landscape of employee expectations, it's clear that the demands extend well beyond traditional aspects like salary and benefits. The newer generation need to find meaning in what they do, and it is not rare to hear candidates saying they would not work for a cigarettes, oil or pharmaceutical company. OVRSEA can really stand out in this regard, as we always embedded a strong CSER DNA and are now recognised for our supply chain decarbonation efforts. 

The perception of our organization, especially in different markets, significantly influences the changing demands of employees. Globally, OVRSEA holds a substantial presence, but in the US, we are more of a boutique entity. Effectively conveying this distinct positioning to new hires can sometimes be a challenge.

To respond effectively to these shifting demands and foster a motivated workforce, it's crucial for the startup ecosystem to recalibrate its approach. Prioritizing a holistic view of employee well-being, providing a fulfilling work environment allowing employees to grow professionally and personally becomes paramount.

What types of skills do you think FrenchTech companies will be seeking now and in the years to come? How is this influenced by industry trends and technological advances?

The influence of industry trends and technological advances is shaping a landscape where adaptability and a keen understanding of emerging tools, like AI, are paramount. With the emergence of Generation Z, we're witnessing a shift where these tools are intrinsic, much like the internet was for previous generations. They navigate this technological terrain seamlessly, and what might seems revolutionary to us is just another facet of their daily experience.

The rise of AI is undeniably a focal point, and FrenchTech companies are placing increasing emphasis on harnessing its potential. For some, AI is a tool integrated into their daily workflow, much like a natural extension of their capabilities. They leverage it intuitively, almost akin to how the internet transformed our approach to information. On the other hand, there will be those who may take a step back, contemplating how to strategically implement AI to enhance their business.

How do you promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization, and what have you learned from your efforts in this area?

At OVRSEA, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a checkbox; it's an integral part of our values and operational ethos. One of our key initiatives is ensuring a balanced representation of male and female leaders on our board.

Diverse leadership fosters creativity, innovation, and a more holistic decision-making process. We’ve come to appreciate the significance of creating an inclusive environment. It's not just about having diverse faces in the room; it's about ensuring that every individual feels heard, valued, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.

The journey towards diversity, equity, and inclusion is ongoing, and we continually educate ourselves on best practices and listen to the experiences of our team members. This commitment is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage in today's global and dynamic business landscape.

Companies and CEOs are increasingly expected to advocate for sustainability in line with the 2030 Global Goals. What progressive ESG strategies can leaders adopt to advance this agenda, and how might economic fluctuations affect sustainability efforts, particularly in the freight transport sector? You must be on the front lines as freight forwarders?

As a frontrunner in the freight transport sector, we are acutely aware of our environmental impact, particularly in one of the most polluting industries. Our commitment to sustainability is embedded in our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies. Firstly, we provide transparent data to clients, offering insights into their supply chain's carbon footprint.

Helping clients choose decarbonised options, even if seemingly pricier, is central to our sustainability ethos. With the recent EU ETS regulations raising costs for traditional energy, our clients increasingly prioritise environmentally friendly choices. On our platforms, clients can seamlessly integrate sustainability criteria into their decision-making throughout the shipment process.

Our Environmental Charter outlines our ambitious goal to reduce carbon intensity by 20% by 2030, aligning with the Net Zero Initiative. This commitment involves measuring, reducing, and contributing to environmental goals. We aim to bridge the data gap in the freight sector, providing granular insights into emissions, geolocation, and transit times. Collaborating with clients and suppliers, we actively help shippers operate a model shift from air to ocean, steering toward a 'Net Zero' supply chain.

Ultimately, our approach integrates transparency, cost-effective reduction strategies, and meaningful contributions to global sustainability efforts. Sustainability is not just a corporate initiative for us; it's a collective journey with our clients toward a greener future.

Posted on 25.01.2024

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