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   Vol. 20 No. 4
Tuesday February 2 , 2021
Why Lionel Matters
Why Lionel Matters

Most people in air cargo transportation know Lionel van der Walt for the time he served as President of Cargo Network Services (CNS).
     A short term perhaps, but it was Lionel who came to CNS as an agent of change and delivered a much-needed shot in the arm that favorably impacted the pioneering global organization dedicated to advancing the airline/forwarder partnership.
     But what you might not know about Lionel, who remains on the leading edge of change in air cargo serving as CEO of PayCargo, is that Lionel began his transportation career at South African Airways.

Nice Guys Finish First

     The thing about Lionel is that he is a genuine good guy.
     He listens well, is not fearful of tough decisions and stands up for what is right. Most endearing is that he is somebody who is always available to lend a helping hand.
     I thought when he departed from CNS that we had lost a great industry leader but Lionel gently suggested successor Mike White, who as it turned out joined Lionel and Tony Calabrese as the greatest to serve as Presidents of that organization during the past 30 plus years.
     Now as 2021 dawns, we asked Lionel to share his thoughts in the light of the unprecedented sorrow and challenge of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
     At this point let’s face it, it is a new world for all of us.
     We are all in toward bringing inspirational leaders in transportation logistics to the fore.
     Here Lionel joins Jan Krems, who we featured on January 8 in the first of this series. Lionel takes the gloves off, whilst providing some moving thoughts, and a well-reasoned roadmap to tomorrow.
     Jan is revolutionizing cargo at United Airlines, and Lionel van der Walt is a leading edge of building a payment system that will lift our global industry forever. It turns out both are dealing with the same every day challenges as most everyone else.
     Somebody once said nice guys finish last.
     Lionel is counterpoint to this rough and tumble century.
     He is always a reasoned and considerate thinker, dreamer and doer.
     There is life well lived, that is quite evident in his calm and eminently decent demeanor. There is a quick smile and always attractive air about Lionel.
     So pull up a chair and share some thoughts here with Lionel as we climb onboard for 2021.

FT:   When was the last time you had lunch somewhere with a good friend or an important business colleague? What aside from COVID-19 do you think 2020 will be remembered for?
LvanderW:  I recently had the opportunity to have dinner with Ken Nieze, who was recently appointed VP of Sales West Coast, here in Coral Gables, Florida. This was our first dinner together since he joined PayCargo and I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect in person and enjoy a good meal despite the formalities of adhering to COVID protocols. This is what I miss most since the start of the crises: face-to-face interaction with colleagues, clients and friends.
     2020 will certainly be remembered as the year that air cargo came to the rescue, both in terms of generating much needed revenues for the airlines at a time when passenger travel was almost non-existent, and for the key role it played in distributing PPE, and now the vaccine.

Imma, Lionel, Ilonka and Danelle van der Walt

FT:  What are the lessons of 2020, what have you learned?
LvanderW:  On a personal note, I am amazed at how resilient and adaptable my daughters are. Despite many changes and challenges such as working from home, limited contact with others, limited outside entertainment opportunities etc., they have adjusted well and make me proud! My youngest daughter, a senior in high school, achieved straight A grades across all subjects and has been accepted into Honors Society despite all these challenges, always with a smile and happy disposition. How can I then complain with such role models?
     Life is fragile and passes us by at the speed of light. I have learnt not to take my family for granted and to ensure that I make time to be present and enjoy activities together with them. It is the small things in life that ultimately matter most. COVID has certainly changed my perspective towards appreciating my loved ones.
     I have a newfound respect for people working from home. My experience has been that working from home means longer hours. Maybe it is just because I really enjoy my work and getting things done, but I found myself starting earlier, taking fewer breaks, shorter lunches and ending later. Curious as to how others experienced the impact of working from home? My assumption is that I am not alone in this.

FT:  How did 2020 change your business life? What is your greatest regret of this time?
LvanderW:  As with many others, I ended up working from home in Clayton, North Carolina for an extended period of time. This was a bittersweet experience, as I have never before spent so much time at home with no regular travel. My office is in Coral Gables, Florida, so my usual week starts with a trip to Miami on Sundays and then back home again to Raleigh on Thursdays. And then you add on all the domestic and international business trips. Staying at home for such an extended period was truly a system shock for me!
     As mentioned previously, what I miss most is face-to-face interactions, be it with my team, industry colleagues or clients. Zoom and other communication platforms are great, but it is not the same and I feel we lose a lot of value when you are not in the same room and do not have the opportunity to cultivate deeper meaningful relationships as done prior to COVID when getting together during meetings, at conferences, dinners etc.

FT:  What is the price tag of success?
LvanderW:  For me this has been not being able to spend as much time with my family, especially when my daughters were younger, as I feel I should have done. There is only so much time in the day and I found myself focused on an industry that I love and passionately devoted my time to work at the cost of not giving them as much attention as I would have liked to. I have no regrets though, as this amazing industry has afforded me the opportunity to develop an incredible career and through that the ability to provide my family with a once-in-a-lifetime international experience, quality of life, and many other opportunities that would not have been possible without all that hard work.

FT:  What in your work routine do you plan to do differently in 2021?
LvanderW:  Travel! On January 10th I started my weekly commute to Miami again. Love being in the office and having face time with the team. And once it is safe to do so, add additional domestic and international trips to meet with industry colleagues and customers. And my family and I are looking forward to an international vacation again; our planned 2020 trip to Scotland was cancelled due to COVID. Looking forward to that trip, hopefully soon.

FT:  Do you see accelerated benefit to IT as the result of the 2020 experience?
LvanderW:  Yes! One lesson learnt in 2020 is that those companies that had the foresight to invest in new technology and digital transformation were well positioned to respond to the challenges that COVID posed across the supply chain. Those that were not so fortunate ended up having to scramble to implement technology and processes that enabled them to continue doing business in the new era of remote and contactless work practices; not an easy objective when solution providers were drowned with similar requests from many others who were in the same boat. Additionally, if these businesses were lucky enough to implement the technology to respond to COVID, it probably came at a higher cost than those that had the foresight to already start the process of transforming their businesses prior to the pandemic.
     COVID has certainly accelerated digital transformation across the logistics supply chain and with the current momentum, I predict that this trend will continue. However, one question that remains uncertain is as to how long the air cargo industry will maintain its “hero” status and the business priority it has gained the past year. My fear is that once passenger travel picks up, much of the attention at airlines and airports will refocus again on passenger related priorities. However, that does not appear to be the case in the near foreseeable future if you go by what IATA and other associations are predicting. I am sure that everyone in the industry is praying for that day to come sooner than later, but in the meantime, we have a silver lining around this cloud of doom, and that is the accelerated transformation of our industry. We should use this opportunity to get as much done as is possible while we have this bright light shining on our industry and the attention of governments, industry leaders and company board of directors.

FT:  Will there be less or more emphasis on trade shows and group gatherings ahead?
LvanderW:  Our business has always been built on relationships; this is a people-focused industry filled with passionate individuals. As such, I would wager that, like me, many are looking forward to the day that things get back to normal and we can once again attend trade shows and group gatherings. You can count on me to be there as things normalize. However, I think we need to be responsible and face the very tangible risks that COVID poses and ensure that it is safe to do so before rushing out to meet up again. We owe our loved ones, our teams and our industry colleagues the respect and consideration they deserve to ensure that we are not placing anyone at risk before doing so.

FT:  Will Zoom become the new normal when you want to generate attention, hold meetings, build contact via social network?
LvanderW:  In my opinion, Zoom and other online communication platforms are going to play a big part in our daily lives in 2021 and the foreseeable future, however, I have no doubt that face-to-face interactions will ultimately prevail once we have COVID behind us. As an eternal optimist I am hopeful that we will see some sense of normality by the end of the year but am certain that 2021 is going to be another challenging year for many. So yes, Zoom will continue to be the new normal for now.

FT:  Will you work from office as before or have we, like Caesar, crossed the Rubicon and from now on now our way of doing business will be different?
LvanderW:  Addressed in answer above, I am already travelling weekly and back working at the office.

FT:  Would you share your feelings about weakness, old age and luxury? As the page turns on another year after one like no other, what do you want your service partners to know about PayCargo? Thanks.
LvanderW:  Complacency and arrogance are two of the most dangerous traits both in business and in our personal lives. I never take anything for granted, be it good health, friends, family, success, income etc. and constantly remind myself that today’s success and good fortune are not guaranteed tomorrow. This drives me to always try and be as humble as possible, irrespective of the situation and to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities that will stretch me beyond my comfort zone and enable me to achieve personal growth.
     My message to our service partners is that in 2021, we are aiming to further cement ourselves as the leading global logistics online payment platform of choice, and to continue growing our 3,000+ Vendor and 19,000+ Payer network to the benefit of all participants. We are committed to serve all Payers and Vendors across the entire value chain and provide each of them with best-in-class, efficient online payment services that are cost efficient and offer transparency, security, and an exceptional user experience. And finally, we thank each one of them for their continued support, without which our success would not be possible.

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Access complete issue by clicking on issue icon or
Access specific articles by clicking on article title
Vol. 20 No. 1
We are Stronger Together
Chuckles for January 11, 2021
Get it on Volker
When Cargo Qares

Vol. 20 No 2
Our Martin Changed Air Cargo
Chuckles for January 19, 2021
Vaccine Arriving on Global Runways
Operation Warp Speed USA

Vol. 20 No. 3
Take a Tip from the Tulips
Chuckles for January 24, 2021
Petal to the Metal
LH Cargo FRA Facility Revamp

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

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