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HARRY’S COMMENTS: Here’s a first! I’ve been awarded a search that is not confidential — yet I am choosing to shield the identity of my client (and my client’s client) so that I can be completely transparent about the role. It took me 4+ hours to write this posting, but I didn’t want to leave anything out. Pretty much everything from my 70-minute intake call with the client appears below.

Here’s the complete, unvarnished story …

My client is a highly regarded reverse logistics company capable of solving gnarly supply chain challenges, and it’s famous throughout North America for its retail operations expertise. Long known for its ability to anticipate its retail customers’ changing business needs, my client is the best in the business when it comes to using lean practices to drive out supply chain waste.

Unlike other 3PL providers, my client can support supply chain requirements throughout a product’s entire lifecycle. Their service offerings include contract packaging; warehousing and distribution; transportation logistics; reverse logistics; inventory liquidation; damage research; and sustainability compliance. From assembly and product packaging all the way through end-of-life services such as recycling and liquidation, my client provides retailers with the ability to get the greatest return on their assets.

They do it all. Plus, they’re nice people. I have broken bread with members of their executive team, and this is really a first-rate organization. The company has been in business for decades and is known far and wide for its very low turnover of outstanding employees.

About the Reverse Logistics Industry

Since 2009, robust ecommerce sales have provided the reverse logistics industry with a fertile source of revenue. According to the NRF, ecommerce sales increased by 15.5% in 2014 and account for approximately 6.5% of total retail sales.

In the past, many online retailers charged customers for return deliveries to cover the cost of shipping and handling. Now however, in an effort to compete with Amazon, both large and small online retailers are attempting to develop loyal customers by offering lenient return policies. A fine idea, but ecommerce returns are much more complicated than returns to brick-and-mortar stores.

Simply put, many online retailers don’t possess the resources and expertise to process a high volume of returns. As a result, many retailers outsource their operations in reverse logistics task to third parties like my client. With online retail sales continuing to rise, this situation won’t abate anytime soon.

About my client’s retail customer

My client has a long deep relationship with one of America’s largest department stores. You probably shop there once or twice a month. I have six kids, and it wouldn’t surprise me if my family spent $12,000 there last year on clothing, groceries, sporting goods, furniture, consumer electronics, office supplies, etc.

This retailer’s online business was up nearly 50% last year, and the company’s CEO has decided to build out a number of massive ecommerce DC’s throughout the United States. This retailer has contracted my client to construct a 700,000 ft.² DC somewhere in the mid-Atlantic U.S. The sole purpose of this facility will be to process ecommerce orders for this retailer.

Your job will be running the operation.

My head spins when I think of the size and importance of this role. If you’re a fan of military history, think of yourself as Dwight Eisenhower during Operation Overlord: This will be a very complex operation with 70,000 SKUs and 800 employees during peak season processing 400,000 orders per day.

Your job will be to make this retailer happy, and your success will be based on the retailer’s KPI’s of on-time performance; same-day fulfillment; inventory control; and so forth. Happy is as happy does, and if you are qualified for this role, you can already imagine what those KPI ‘s are. You don’t need me to tell you.

Likewise, if you’ve been following the latest retail ops trends, then you know that every retailer’s omni-channel business is being driven by the 2-day standard. To enable a seamless customer experience within that standard, smart retailers are insisting on having complete / instant visibility into their inventory and operational activities 24/7.

That requires best in class systems, tightly integrated.

Having such visibility enables retailers to fill certain orders from their stores as a complement to their DC’s, and also it facilitates multichannel returns (like buy online / return in store). Additionally, there’s an “inventory to cash ecosystem” in omni-channel retailing where returned inventory must be disposed of, ideally through a “productive” sale in a noncompeting channel. You’ll be in the middle of all this complexity.

In fact, you’ll be taming it.

What’s so challenging about this role is that my client is still in the process of building out their new facility. Like, even as we speak. They expect to be receiving inventory in late April and they’ll begin shipping in June. All of the installation and testing of the equipment has yet to be done, and the entire operation still needs to be staffed.

You’ll have tons of help, and soon you’ll have eight (8) direct reports, including an assistant general manager; three shift managers; a plant manager; a claims manager; and more. Remember, my client has been doing this very successfully for decades, and all of these initiatives are well underway. This isn’t their first time at the rodeo — and we hope this won’t be yours.

View Harry Joiner's LinkedIn profileView Harry Joiner’s profile

Here’s a rundown of what you’ll be doing:

  • Monitoring systems in generating reports to evaluate progress throughout the day.
  • Partnering with HR and Loss Prevention to deliver training and communicate approved safety procedures and practices.
  • Maintaining all facility budgets to include monitoring and managing payroll outlays.
  • Communicating all goals and objectives to all associates within the facility.
  • Offering oversight and guidance to the operations team to help them achieve their goals.
  • Developing and implementing action plans to improve operational processes while promoting a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Developing, coaching, and mentoring managers and direct reports to maximize their individual performance and growth potential.
  • Making sure all direct reports lead by example while providing timely feedback and clear direction.
  • Fostering a positive, team-based culture that exemplifies and rewards integrity and consistently excellent work.
  • Developing staffing plans and working with HR and managers to ensure hiring needs are met throughout the retail cycle.
  • Championing all major facility projects as well as technology implementations and upgrades.

Here’s what you’ll need to succeed:

  • A BS / BA in industrial engineering; logistics; business management; or other related discipline or equivalent combination of work experience and education.
  • 5 to 7 years management experience in pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment environment (B2C or B2DC ecommerce fulfillment); plus an in-depth knowledge of parcel shipping programs and requirements.
  • At least five years experience in a high volume, fast-paced, high SKU environment with a sharp focus on exceeding KPI’s.
  • At least 3 years experience implementing continuous innovation and improvement programs.
  • Proven ability to plan and manage labor requirements in a multi-shift, highly seasonal workforce.
  • Expertise with WMS applications (Manhattan Associates preferred) plus MS Office.
  • Experience with automated fulfillment systems / processes and experience with conveyor, RF, and sort systems.
  • Ability to operate effectively at all levels in support of client relationships; demonstrated poise and self-confidence, strong relationship building skills
  • Excellent executive communication / presentation skills; ability to present information and respond to questions from groups of clients, managers, teammates, consumers, and the general public.
  • Excellent leadership skills plus a proven track record of mentoring / developing direct reports and subordinates

Thinking about applying?

Giddyup! For the first time ever, I’m going to tell you EXACTLY what questions I’ll be asking in my initial phone screen, so be prepared to go deep on these issues.

  1. Step me through your ecommerce experience. In particular, I’d like to know how you have managed large volume swings in the retail business. For example, an unforeseen spike in demand on Black Friday. What did you do?
  2. How have you built highly productive relationships with exacting corporate clients? My client’s retail partner is very well known for its meticulous operational standards. Their tolerance for performance deviations is very low. Be prepared to tell me how you have managed similar relationships.
  3. Step me through your experience in startups. Ideally, we’d like someone who has taken an online retail startup from 50 orders per day, to 100 orders, to 1000 orders, etc. Is this you? (It’s not a deal killer if it isn’t, but we are looking for someone who has managed blistering growth.)
  4. Let’s talk about failure, which happens to even the best run logistics companies. Murphy’s Law and all. How do you deal with failure? Step me through a situation where you had a plan for something and the project blew up in your face. How did you recover?


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