As the late Steve Jobs claimed,” You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Looking back at 20 years across the IT, Pharma, Retail and Logistics industries, Leroy Ebert’s accumulated experience adds tremendous daily value in his current role as Chief Growth Officer (CGO) of EFL 3PL Sri Lanka. For example, take a day in his life in the new normal. Just recently when his team was tasked to develop a logistics solution for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine; he was armed with the IT knowledge to map out a beneficiary managements system, Pharma expertise to understand the dynamics at the point of administration of the vaccine and Logistics acumen to help transport such a delicate commodity.

A Symbiosis of Book-Smarts and Street-Smarts

Leroy is an embodiment of the book-smarts and street-smarts types of intelligence working in perfect harmony. He is a Chartered Marketer, a Fellow Member of CIM (FCIM) holding an MBA, PG Dip (CIM) and ACS qualifications. This well-rounded educational background supplements his track record of everyday practicality, emotional intelligence and good situational understanding developed throughout years of work experience; thus, enabling him to perform at the highest level. However, it all starts for him from a balanced family life, where peace of mind at the home front fuels his corporate performance. Once you have Leroy in the groove doing what he loves; consider yourself lucky that he is playing for your team and not the opposition, because he is the guy to get the job done.

The Role of the CGO in the modern organisation

He acutely described the responsibilities of his role as CGO as follows. “In a nutshell a CGO is a strategic and thorough tactician but plays a major role to orchestrate and implement the developed strategies. The CGO needs to take things (business models, processes etc.) apart and try to piece them together in an improved form to drive sustainable growth for both clients as well as for ourselves. To do this the one needs to be a trend-jacker, staying ahead of the curve, trying new things, failing fast and adopting new tech to understand the difference between a fad and a shift. Further, one must find what it takes, for instance, new curriculum and suitable technology to upskill and empower staff and re-engineer age old processes to drive hyper efficiency and accuracy. The CGO needs to be a jack of all trades however a master of one or two.”

What Makes a ‘Great’ CGO?

Regarding the elements of a ‘great’ CGO, Leroy insisted that is an evolutionary responsibility and that it is certainly subjective—what is ‘great’ to him may seem average to another. “While I’m not the first to hold this title, this is one title that I have grown rather fond of”, he added. According to him, to function as a ‘great’ CGO one must be an experienced dreamer who is not bound primarily by numbers, corporate bureaucracy, and tall organisation structures. The ‘Work Smart, Play Always’ culture at EFL 3PL along with its stellar leadership and dynamic team contribute immensely to Leroy’s role and the overall performance of the company. He goes on to add that a CGO explores growth from all aspects of the business including HR, IT, Ops, Marketing, Sales etc. and is not restricted to a job description. Further, one should be willing to learn, unlearn and relearn on demand. “EFL 3PL is not a designation led organization, instead we are fortunate to be having an entrepreneurial culture led by the maestro Mr. Hanif Yusoof, who has managed to foster many intrapreneurs through trust and empowerment, to drive the organization” said Leroy. It is the dynamic and youthful culture that makes it conducive for a CGO just like for anyone else to perform at the highest level. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” said Peter Drucker, fortunately culture and strategy sits equal at the breakfast table to discuss progress at EFL 3PL.

Turbulent Times

A challenging period for Leroy in his current stint, was when the current pandemic emerged. “The year 2019/20 was one of the best years for our cluster and team. We smashed all records and was looking forward to the New Year to break many records” said Leroy. “Unfortunately, our enthusiasm soon took a complete U-turn. The pandemic hit, economies worldwide started shutting down and all the companies around us went into a cost cutting frensy. It put me into a vulnerable position.” This made him second guess every decision; something certainly out of character for Leroy. He mentioned that if there was one thing that he lacked at that point in time; it was certainty. In that hour, he recalled how he went to Sammy Akbar (Director of EFL 3PL and Global Freeport) and said “I don’t know how I am supposed to grow a business when the entire world and market is de-growing? You do not need a CGO, what you need is a Chief Transformation Officer hell bent on cutting costs”. That is when the company’s leadership and culture came into play. “Sammy patted me on the back, helped me to gather some Dutch courage, and we as a team got to work, harder than ever, to fast track the implementation of the changes needed to ensure that the business can thrive in the new normal” said Leroy.  The team then cracked open a couple new business models (which unveiled over the next couple of months), launched new tech, developed a new curriculum, conducted mobile app and RPA (robotic process automation) training for the staff and much more. In turn, the team accomplished more working remotely that they would have done over a year in normal circumstances. The team stayed extra committed and laser focused, giving their very best. As a result, the year 2020 rewrote the history books in terms of excellent performance.

Growth in Uncertain Times

Consequently, EFL 3PL found many avenues of growth during the Covid-19 pandemic.  EFL 3PL grew in terms of volume as they occupied more infrastructure, and in terms of human capital as the teams attained new skills and knowledge. They also managed to sign up several new clients and increase the share of business with existing clients. “This helped us to keep doing what they do best, what’s most important was that they all grew in terms of resilience, positivity and confidence.” stated Leroy. What Leroy’s team experienced over the past year helped them to build more grit which will help navigate whatever the future holds for them. Overall, they confirm phenomenal growth in 2020, which sets the foundation stone for EFL 3PL to explore new avenues of growth over the years to come.

Creating Opportunities 

He elaborated that one thing that the pandemic showed the world was the importance of a robust supply chain. He said “there were so many opportunities presenting themselves due to changes in the marketplace and if one just observed and tried to put the pieces together. Leroy drives this point home with the prime example of their management takeover of–one of Sri Lanka’s pioneers in e-commerce marketplaces—which will help them explore one such opportunity. “There are so many opportunities presenting themselves in the space of pharma/FMCG logistics; mainly in the downstream of the supply chain closer to the patient/beneficiary. Lots of products are tangible and have long been restricted to the 4P’s; instead, look at servitisation by adding a service element and it can be a game changer. We have seen online channeling, home delivery of meds etc. taking off. From a supply chain perspective there are so many opportunities available out there to help an organisation sail a blue ocean, unfortunately I do not know if it is because of lack of creativity or simply because it’s easier to copy, that companies prefer to compete by overstating their capabilities, claim to be something they are not, which ultimately erodes profit after the competition intensifies and cracks begin to appear in their brand identities”, said Leroy, describing the current gaps and lack of execution in the industry.