Gareth Joyce has been leading Delta Cargo for just over 30 days, and in that time, he has been working with the Cargo Sales team to vet ideas for making the logistics arm of Delta an entrepreneurial, customer-centric powerhouse.
Joyce joined Delta in May from Mercedes-Benz Canada, where he served as CEO and President. A quick glance over his resume will tell you exactly why Delta’s leadership team snatched him up – he’s got a passion for customer service, a track record of transformative business decisions and a humble approach to leadership.
“We have an opportunity to make Delta Cargo an entrepreneur inside of Delta,” said Joyce. “My goal is to create a nimble, profitable and agile business that can cut through the jungle a little quicker perhaps than Delta Air Lines as a whole. Then we can help forge the path to make it easier for them. If we can achieve this, then we are thinking about our Cargo team differently.”
In a recent interview with Delta News Hub, the Johannesburg native and racing enthusiast shared insights on his outlook for Delta Cargo, outlined his leadership approach and explained how his dog has already earned Diamond Medallion status.
Delta News Hub: What’s been your biggest takeaway having led Delta Cargo for about a month?
Joyce: Delta Cargo has the potential to redefine the product and service we offer. We have an opportunity to make this business far more customer-centric and consumer-oriented. Until now, Delta Cargo has operated on very transactional lines - fill the bellies of the planes we’re flying, move the product from A to B on time and on target. But there is a consumer component that we need to bring to the business.
We need to listen to our customers and understand what they are trying to get from where to where. We must have empathy for the demand that’s out there and be sensitive to what would delight our customers, because if you want to be great in the cargo game you have to go beyond transactional.
You have to get to a more relationship-driven operation that understands what the customers need out of the business. And that’s not just being the most affordable.
DNH: What’s the plan for growing Delta Cargo?
Joyce: My early impression is that we need to double down on our greatest strengths. There are two key priorities.
Priority one: leverage Delta’s domestic network. We fly more than 5,000 flights a day in the U.S. and we need to better manage that capacity for our customers.
Priority two: think global. We have to build from our domestic capabilities and enhance the international community, leveraging our joint venture partners to grow relationships with customers and become their preferred carrier over the long-term.
I want our customers to come to us with new business because they know we’re the best. When you’re delivering a product that your customers celebrate, you’re doing it right. I’m challenging my teams to ask questions and deliver ideas that will make Delta Cargo head and shoulders above our competition in service delivery.
In a market that is oversaturated with capacity, if we get this right, we have a better chance that customers will bring their business to us through value creation and not just price.
DNH: With an extensive background outside of aviation and logistics, what unique expertise and strengths do you bring to Delta Cargo?
Joyce: At Mercedes-Benz we led a very complex network of business functions that included moving 60 million parts around the country, doing 2.5 million services on cars and supporting nearly 2 million call center customer interactions each year. Transporting parts is a core component of machinery behind a service organization that is there to delight customers.
More than logistics, Delta is centered on service. Great service is delivered when three components hit the target simultaneously: strong and stable processes and systems combined with highly capable and motivated people. All three of these apply to our challenges within the cargo business.
We need strong processes to make sure that we can utilize our network capacity to get our customers’ product from A to B successfully, on-time and with the best possible quality. We need good systems to make sure that those processes run seamlessly with minimal human interaction. This enables the people to focus their energy and efforts on taking care of the customers' interests and creating value for them.
DNH: So people are the key?
Joyce: Without question.
Things go wrong in the real world. You need great people when things don’t go according to plan. And those people, when they are energized, motivated and know what the mission is, they plug the gaps seamlessly. That’s when you can truly stand out from the crowd.
But to find and keep those people, leaders must set the tone and create the right environment to attract talent. Aside from our core business objective, if we can make our business one where we’re thought-starters, a little more curious, more willing to take risks like a company in Silicon Valley, then we can be a seed environment for human capital.
We need Delta Cargo to be a cool place to come and work for our current employees and those looking to join Delta. That’s the culture I hope to help grow in Delta Cargo.
DNH: What is your biggest challenge as you lead Delta Cargo forward?
Joyce: The leadership inside Delta that I’ve encountered in the first 30 days is inspiring. There’s an executive leadership team here that has humility, vision, appetite for measured risk and a true sense of caring for the people in Delta.
My biggest leadership challenge inside the cargo business will be to make sure that leadership strength is cascaded into our organization.
Joyce: First of all, you have to understand that leadership is not management.
Successful leadership requires straddling two spheres. One is to create a compelling vision that your team wants to follow you to achieve. The other is to break that down into digestible components of work that make a tough challenge, a tough mission, something that can be accomplished, something that you can measure your progress against. Otherwise it’s simply a grand idea.
Good leaders give their teams the energy, passion and enthusiasm to enhance the business, empowering their teams to willfully engage in that challenge. As leaders, we are here to serve our teams and make sure we are making it easy for them to accomplish their mission.
Leadership must always be humble. Never get disconnected from your constituents and never forget who you’re there to serve.
DNH: What’s your leadership style?
Joyce: I ask a lot of questions and listen.
I’m a leader that plays to win and I really play hard to win. But I always play by the rules. I ask my teams to play hard and leave nothing on the field. And if you lose, that’s okay, but you have to reflect on the game you’ve played to see where you can improve.
I’m in the game right alongside my team and lead through action.
DNH: What’s been your biggest challenge or career setback and how did you overcome it?
Joyce: When I left South Africa and moved to the Netherlands, I had my first experience of leadership in a different culture. As someone who traveled globally extensively for business up to that point, I assumed it would be business as usual. That was one of my biggest mistakes.
What I discovered is that leadership has to be sensitive to the culture that exists inside the organization and country. You won’t change a population of 15 million people from thinking and acting a certain way. You have to figure out how to get the best out of those people inside the cultural context and adapt your own leadership style to fit the environment.
My biggest challenge was learning that lesson and then overcoming that obstacle, because for three or four months, I just plowed down the path that I believed to be right. Then I realized, after making no progress, I had to adapt my leadership style to the environment.
DNH: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at Delta?
Joyce: Priority number one is spending time with my family. I have a young daughter and want to be able to see her grow up. So my time away is spent with my wife, my daughter and our miniature wire-haired dachshund - who has well-earned Diamond Medallion status in the house.
I also run, cycle and play squash.
Beyond that when I have a little extra time, if it’s got an engine, I’ll race it. I love racing. When I get a chance I’ll definitely go as fast as I can. I just got back from the Indy 500 last week, which was a blast.
DNH: What’s the first trip you’ll take with your Delta travel privileges?
Joyce: My first trip will be London with my wife, daughter and my daughter’s best friend. This started as a joke one day when we were talking about going for ice cream in London in the summer. That was the genesis of it, and there’s no turning back now.
Gareth Joyce, President – Delta Cargo
Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
Education: B.S., University of Witwatersrand; Master of Commerce, Rand Afrikaans University