2012 continues, we no doubt live in a world that has expanded boundaries
in just the past few years, from down on the ground all the way into
cyberspace and beyond.
So like many of us, you are probably resigned
to accepting that change is inevitable.
It can be difficult to manage change—you
either move with the world or it passes you by—but it’s
easier to understand how to do it if you know someone who not only handles
change, but also takes it in stride.
He comes from the land of clocks and the
way we figure it, understanding what makes this guy tick is incredibly
Imagine that you are working for an airline,
operating a nicely profitable air cargo division, and then the airline
The airline comes back under another name
with new management, and once again you ramp up the air cargo operation,
it profits, and away it goes.
A mega-airline powerhouse that has one
of the most aggressive and influential air cargo operations in the world—stocked
with talent galore—buys the airline up lock, stock and barrel
and there are all kinds of eager executives itching to get their mitts
on what you’ve got.
Well, say hello once again to Oliver Evans,
Chief Cargo Officer of Swiss World Cargo.
In 2012, Oliver Evans celebrates his tenth
year at his post, having probably seen more change (and weathered it
better) than any other major cargo executive in airline history.
Today, Swiss World Cargo is among the
most efficiently run, profit producing, and well-respected air cargo
resources in the world.
Swiss World Cargo operates with a handful
of highly trained and well-motivated people on the third floor of the
carrier’s world headquarters on a quiet tree lined street in Zurich.
Oliver Evans’ command center is
an unassuming corner office, where everything he needs, from contacts
to knowledge of flights and shipments is easily within arm’s reach.
One of the ways Oliver stays close to
both employees and customers is by regularly writing a very well constructed
blog on the Swiss World Cargo website.
He is also quite active in TIACA and also
GACAG, an air cargo special interest group.
So after having turned in a solid 2011
performance, Swiss World Cargo takes off again in 2012, confident and
ready to deliver its special brand of cargo products to an ever-growing
But back in the beginning, none of this
success was certain, to hear Oliver talk about it.
“Our family was finally settled
into living in Holland, where I had worked for KLM and then BAX Global.
I had already moved my family several times during my career.
“But Pieter Bouw, the Chairman of
Swiss and an air cargo man to boot, made an offer I couldn’t refuse
to come here, and that is how it began a decade ago.
“When I got here, things were running
and people knew what to do because they had been part of a great air
cargo company, Swissair.
“But underneath all of that, there
really was no strategy.
“First we talked about getting freighters,
but decided against that idea.
“We figured that there were plenty
of long haul gateways already.
“Thinking back, not going into freighters
was my first important decision, albeit an obvious one.
“In the end we decided to become
an industry leader in a variety of niche markets that require a certain
level of expertise, and our results since then have confirmed that decision.
“But it was quite rough here for
“We were losing between one and
two million Swiss Francs per day.
“We had set up our global network
but were heading for a second bankruptcy.
“I was asked if I wanted to be part
of the team to turn the airline around moving ahead in 2002.
“I believed in the plan so I stayed
on and became part of it.
“That meant a significant downsizing,
including rationalizing the network and types of aircraft, so that in
2003 we downsized by roughly 25 percent.
“One of the immediate realities
that came out of the bankruptcy of Swissair was people realizing that
rescuing the airline meant jobs would be lost.
“That meant taking down the employees’
numbers from just under 400 to 300.
“Of course, the disproportionate
number of layoffs was here in Switzerland.
“But 2003 was a tough year, and
although we sat down and spoke to everyone and helped as much as we
could, it was difficult for people who were let go to secure immediate
employment, and many people suffered.
“I was fortunate that prior to SWISS,
I had worked as mentioned at KLM and BAX Global and never had to be
involved in the kind of wholesale restructuring that was necessary here.
“So rather than bringing in a downsizing
specialist or a hatchet-man, I stayed out in front of everyone and carried
on the downsizing on a case by case basis with care and respect for
“Switzerland has been a fluid job
market for some time and we can look at those employees from Swissair,
now at work at Swissport and also at handler Cargologic, and in other
employment in and around the airport here and elsewhere.
“Our strategy is to sell niche markets
a high service delivery product in the air cargo business, including
valuable shipments, pharmaceuticals and the like.
“It’s also a high proprietary
knowledge business we conduct, so for SWISS World Cargo, we believe
that the GSA route will not work.
“The culture of service and training
of our people, which we have developed amongst 300 people worldwide
for the past eight years, is not easily duplicated.
“Our business continues to grow
and we manage to absorb the growth through improved productivity as
we get better at controlling various processes.
“I must admit that although I believe
in my philosophy and plan for success, it never ceases to surprise me
when you see how things are working and realize the deep pool of capability
there is in every one of our people.”
Recently Oliver invited an IATA manager
to come spend a day in Switzerland.
“Glyn Hughes arrived and watched
first hand what we do and how we do it.
“He spent three days here and mentioned
to me that he had been speaking to me the entire time, although I was
traveling and only saw him the last day he was here.
“I asked him what he meant by that,
and he said,
“‘Everyone here seems to be
speaking with one voice.’
“So I guess we must be doing something
right,” Oliver Evans said.
Speaking with Mr. Evans, we are reminded
of a musical play called Damn Yankees, which centers on a character
called “Shoeless Joe” who faces down both the Devil and
the Yankees to effect change for a small town baseball team with the
hopes of winning the World Series.
Shoeless Joe is a fighter—a man
referred to in tall-tale forms—and the only hope for the Washington
Senators baseball team.
came along in a puff of smoke?
Joe From Hannibal, Mo.!
as the heart of a mighty oak?
Joe from Hannibal, Mo.
are we to be havin' him.
Joe from Hannibal, Mo.
If the Devil and the Yankees are the tides
of change, the forces that keep pushing air cargo forward and trying
to break our limits, then by example at Swiss World Cargo, and for all
the good he does everywhere else for the industry, Oliver is our Shoeless