From Tradition to Transformation: A Look into Hellmann’s Journey of Reshaping the Global Logistics Landscape

Can you provide an overview of the strategic initiatives implemented during your tenure as CEO of Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, particularly focusing on the introduction of the Matrix Structure on a global level?

RH: In a network business, connectivity and well-defined structures are crucial. Recognizing this, I made the decision to establish clear responsibilities and accountabilities within the organization, along with implementing a foureye principle. This was especially important given the decentralized nature of the organization spanning more than 50 countries.

Our key products include sea freight, air freight, road freight, and contract logistics, each requiring specialized expertise to manage effectively. Just as in a sports team, we needed a cohesive structure where everyone understands their role and the overall strategy. Hence, we introduced a matrix structure with a general manager overseeing profit centers and back-office operations, fostering a team-oriented approach akin to a football or cricket team.

While this restructuring process may not always be the quickest, it mitigates the risk of unilateral decisions not endorsed by all stakeholders.

The ‘Hellmann Promise’, the company´s new corporate culture, emphasizes putting people at the forefront. Could you elaborate on how this cultural shift has impacted the company’s operations and relationships?

RH: First and foremost, a significant change within the company is my appointment as non-family member CEO, marking a departure from the tradition of family members leading the organization. This shift has substantial implications for internal dynamics, although it may not be readily apparent externally.

As an employee of the company, I now operate under the scrutiny of a supervisory board, introducing a new layer of accountability and decision-making protocol. Furthermore, with our extensive global presence and a workforce of 13,000 to 14,000 employees, fostering a unified culture and understanding across the network is paramount.

Hellmann had a robust culture that I sought to reinvigorate, encapsulated in what we refer to as the ‘Hellmann Promise’. This new corporate culture defines our shared vision and values, ensuring alignment and clarity of purpose for all employees regardless of their location within the organization.

For instance, our vision emphasizes collective effort towards a common goal, promoting a sense of purpose and unity among employees worldwide. Our values, including caring, reliability, innovation, and prioritizing relationships, serve as guiding principles in our daily operations. Particularly, the value of caring underscores our commitment to customer satisfaction, employee well-being, and environmental sustainability.

In today’s increasingly digitalized world, where interactions often occur through screens rather than face-to-face, nurturing genuine connections becomes even more critical. Hence, our emphasis on building relationships authentically, not merely transactional, resonates deeply within our organization.

In essence, the ‘Hellmann Promise’ serves as a compass guiding our actions and interactions across regions, reinforcing our commitment to excellence, integrity, and meaningful connections in the ever-evolving landscape of global business.

MK: The transformation within Hellmann has been profound, transitioning from a familyowned and owner-driven company to one led by an executive management team. This shift in leadership structure has brought about significant changes, especially in terms of organizational culture and values.

As Reiner mentioned, the company’s culture has always prioritized relationships, which were integral in the family-owned business. However, with the introduction of an executive management team, there has been a deliberate effort to cultivate a culture that aligns with the company’s vision and values.

Following Reiner’s arrival, there were major personnel changes on the board. This influx of new perspectives and experiences was not only a major opportunity for the company, but also posed a unique challenge in harmonizing diverse backgrounds and cultures within the organization.

Reiner emphasized the importance of focusing not only on tangible business-related topics but also on nurturing the company’s culture. This endeavor was particularly intriguing, considering the breadth of the organization’s global footprint and the diverse workforce spanning different regions and cultures.

As a member of the international executive board, I had the privilege of actively contributing to shaping the organization’s culture during this transformative period. The COVID-19 pandemic, while presenting its challenges, provided an opportunity for deeper engagement and collaboration within the executive board, fostering a shared sense of purpose and camaraderie.

One significant milestone was the alignment of values and leadership principles between the executive board and the company’s owners, who are also members of the founding family. Through open and constructive dialogue, we collectively defined the company’s purpose and values, ensuring alignment with the aspirations of both the family and the broader organization.

The subsequent rollout of these values and principles across various levels of the organization, from global to regional, and even down to individual branches and warehouses, was a monumental undertaking.

However, it is essential to recognize that this journey is ongoing. Embedding the desired culture requires continuous effort and commitment from all levels of leadership and employees alike.

Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that our culture and values are not just articulated but lived and experienced by everyone within the organization, as well as by our customers and partners. This ongoing commitment to nurturing a positive and inclusive culture is fundamental to our long-term success and sustainability as an organization.

How has Hellmann Worldwide Logistics navigated the challenges posed by climate change and the push for sustainability within the logistics sector? What specific initiatives have been undertaken to address environmental concerns?

RH: During discussions on maintaining relevance as a medium-sized, privately owned forwarding company, the consensus within our management team underscored the pivotal role of sustainability. We recognized that sustainability encompasses economic, social, and governance aspects, encapsulated in the ESG framework, which is integral to our continued success and relevance.

To effectively integrate sustainability into our operations, we first acknowledged the need for a collective attitude and commitment toward sustainability across the organization. This involves recognizing diversity as a crucial component of sustainability and fostering a culture that values it.

In practical terms, we outlined an agenda to ensure that our facilities are sustainable, whether through the incorporation of renewable energy sources like solar power or the utilization of innovative technologies. Our aim is to maximize sustainability while embracing new opportunities for innovation.


This is an abridged version of the interview published in the May 2024 issue of Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete interview, click here.


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