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10 Questions with Totem Ocean COO Michael Noone

Chief Operating Officer Michael Noone joined Totem Ocean Trailer Express in August 2013, bringing 28 years of experience in the shipping and logistics field. Noone received his bachelors degree in Business Administration from Wagner College and is certified by some of the nations top executive programs in Logistics, including the Smeal College of Business Administration at Penn State University and the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University. Noone also earned certifications in Advanced Management from INSEAD, and Strategic Planning and Implementation from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and is a Steering Committee Member at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

Noone manages Totem Ocean’s day-to-day operating business by creating strategic and operating plans for Sales, Pricing and Operations, ensuring the long-term growth, sustainability and profitability.

By Hilary Reeves- This article first appeared in the December 2013 issue of Totem Ocean News, the official publication of Totem Ocean Trailer Express.

Tell us about your first “real” job and why you decided to pursue a career in shipping and logistics.

A job that I believe influenced my decision to pursue shipping and logistics as a career was working nights, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., on the warehouse dock floor for Roadway Express in Connecticut back in the early eighties. I was coaching football and going to grad school, and needed some extra cash. What I gained was a “residency” in logistics. I learned how to operate with very little sleep, and gained an appreciation for shift workers and all that transpires in order to get goods to their proper destination on time.

How have you seen the industry change over time?

Over the last number of years, I have seen a shift to a “survival of the fittest” mentality by many of the major transportation companies, where earlier in my career there was great emphasis put on the personal relationships between individuals and their companies. Unfortunately, there seems to be a shift away from focusing on the human relationship that drive so many critical decisions. There has been positive movement on metric-driven performance on critical initiatives, with greater focus on execution and cost efficiency. I believe the great companies of the next era will maintain the focus on the value of relationships while constantly improving execution at the lowest possible cost.

What do you think maritime shipping companies are doing right and wrong these days?

I think that maritime companies, like many other industries, have been forced to drive efficiency into their operations. It is a very capital-intensive business, and complicated further by the fuel variable. Many of the successful maritime companies have moved to centralized and standardized platforms to support their businesses. Those that have been the most successful have been able to differentiate through value-added logistics services and customer-servicing IT tools, hence having greater impact on the customers’ bottom line through the entire supply chain and not just the transport of goods.

What I think some companies are doing wrong in this regard is not maintaining the importance of those personal relationships with customers, which through trust and credibility can allow for expansion of opportunities.

How do you expect Totem Ocean’s recent investments in technology, namely CargoWise, to impact customers?

I believe our customer experience will be one of greater consistency and improved responsiveness from our teams. Through the process improvements and standardization that this investment requires, our customers will receive a stronger, more competitive product. The online portal will allow faster and more accurate data to make decisions and enable a customer to work comfortably in this manner across our portfolio of companies, if required.

Where do you think Totem Ocean’s growth is going to come from, both in the immediate future and long-term?

What I have learned in my short relationship with the company is that we are a long-term focused organization. Our investments are tied to that line of thinking, and to the economic well-being of the great state of Alaska. What I learned during my first visit to Alaska, and what every Totem Ocean employee should be most proud of, is the impact we as a company have on the community there, and the role and responsibility that comes along with that. We benefit greatly from the state’s growth, but there is a large responsibility that goes along with consistently serving that market with the standards we have already set.

What is the biggest challenge Totem Ocean is facing during the coming year?

A challenge this year that I see, and certainly also a great opportunity, is the conversion of the Orca class that will put us in a one-ship environment for a brief period of time. We will have to have this well-orchestrated, and communicated to all our customers well in advance to limit disruption in their supply chains. I believe that given the magnitude of this effort and the positive impact to our environment, our customer base will applaud our efforts by supporting us in the long term for doing the right thing.

What do you anticipate being your biggest challenge?

The transition to the uniqueness of our environment and the Alaskan trade. This will take some time, but I am confident that at some point it will become second-nature. Although I view this as a challenge, this is one of the most exciting aspects of the opportunity that has been afforded to me in becoming COO. When I visited the team in early August, Phil Morrell and John Parrott gave me a terminal tour in Tacoma. I saw things on that visit that I have not seen in my 29 years of hanging around this business. Recently, in my visit with a few customers in Anchorage, I learned about their reliance, and their local customers’ reliance, on the on-time performance of the Totem Ocean vessel arrival. I will not ever forget that!

What do you consider your most important achievement of the past five years?

I would have to say that it is difficult to choose any one particular accomplishment, as every accomplishment comes in a different time and environment and perhaps recognized differently.

The one that sticks out for me the most was during my days as Managing Director for APL on the East Coast. Historically, APL has a very strong market share in the high-margin wearing apparel and fashion accessories business, based on their fast transit and high-service model. Most of this fashion business is domiciled and controlled on the East Coast. Back in 2008-2009, when consumer demand dropped significantly, the CEO stressed to me the importance of maintaining market share through the downturn. Part of my role was leading the various sales teams that covered the 20 eastern states. We put in place various initiatives all geared to maintain share and position for the return of the market. I am very proud to say that with a tremendous effort by our entire team, both sales and operations, APL not only protected their share (approximately 32 percent), but actually gained 2 percent in this sector upon the market returning.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I really do not think so…or perhaps they have not revealed themselves yet!

Although I am not sure it is a hidden talent, I have a passion for coaching. It started with football, but over the years and due to my interest in being involved with both my daughters’ activities, it migrated to softball. This was not your after-work, arc-pitch brand of softball, but very competitive fastpitch softball, with a team comprised of girls from all over New Jersey, that traveled and played on a national level with great success. I coached for many years and, quite frankly, it became much of our social life. I would like to give a shout out to “G,” Captain Goldsack, and Coach P, my coaching buddies. I have great memories and have created life-long family friends.

Is there anything else you would like the Totem Ocean family to know?

I am very excited to be here. I am very impressed by the professionalism, the passion and the culture that exists in the people that I have met so far. Within my first month, I can already feel that this is a special place to be employed. Everyone I have met has been very receptive and accommodating, which I greatly appreciate. I look forward to making contributions to the business and getting to know you all much better. My wife and I look forward to exploring the great Northwest together as our first ’empty nest’ project.

“What I learned during my first visit to Alaska, and what every Totem Ocean employee should be most proud of, is the impact we as a company have on the community there, and the role and responsibility that comes along with that.”