April 2018

Case Study: Rand Logistics, Inc.

By Jim Nalepa

Rand Logistics, Inc. is a leading provider of bulk freight shipping services throughout the Great Lakes region. The company is the only carrier able to offer significant domestic port-to-port services in both Canada and the U.S. on the Great Lakes. The company's vessels operate under the U.S. Jones Act — which dictates that only ships that are built, crewed and owned by U.S. citizens can operate between U.S. ports — and the Canada Marine Act – which requires Canadian commissioned ships to operate between Canadian ports. Headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey, Rand Logistics was formed in 2006 through the acquisition of the outstanding shares of capital stock of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd.

In August of 2016, I received a call from Paul Joaquin, Vice President of Operations, Grand River Navigation division of Rand Logistics, INC., the "American" division of the company.

Paul heard about our course through a friend who had previously attended one of my Leadership Boot Camp programs.

Paul was looking for a "Leadership Course" to help take his organization to a new level. Given his prior military experience, our program intrigued him. Being a relatively new VP of Operations—previously a Boat Captain—he knew that he had to provide a new leadership approach to help his division survive and thrive in a highly competitive environment. Every trip and every load on each boat had significant effects on the company's bottom line.

Dennis Haley, Nassry Zamora, Paul Joaquin, Jim Nalepa

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Our initial discussion lasted almost an hour as he probed about the course. He wanted to know if this was the "real deal" and not just another course which "sang Kumbaya and found your inner leadership child."

I assured Paul that we were different and challenged him to attend the next Leadership Excellence Course (LEC) in September of 2016 to determine first hand our significant difference and solid deliverables.

Paul attended the LEC and by graduation became an "evangelist". The best type of attendee is one who understands the power of the course and is willing to fight to have this training implemented internally. Paul was so captivated by what he experienced he said, "Jim, I am going right to the CEO, CFO and VP of HR and insist that we train not just MY Captains but all the Captains in the company!"

Discussions ensued and I was introduced to Nassry Zamora. Nassry is the VP of Human Resources and an experienced facilitator of a myriad of training programs, including leadership, in his 40 plus year career. "Nass" was sold on Paul's passion about the course and I invited him to my November LEC where he became an outstanding participant and an additional ally in the goal of conducting this course in early 2017 for ALL Captains. Nass also became a believer, so much so, that he desires to join us and teach the course in South America after he retires.

The CEO and CFO were so moved by the passion that Paul and Nassry exhibited in "selling" the idea of our training that they cancelled their annual meeting and shifted funding to allow the training to take place. We scheduled two back to back courses in February 2017 in Orlando, Florida. Eight additional Captains and the VP of Operations of the Canadian Division, who were unable to attend those dates, attended follow on Chicago LEC's in March and May.

The Orlando location was chosen as a "perk" because most of the Captains lived in Canada or the upper Midwest of the US, and getting out of the cold when the Great Lakes were frozen was an added incentive. The additional touch that Rand incorporated was a Commemorative Compass, which has significance to both "seafaring" and to our own course.

In total, 30 Rand Leaders attended an LEC in 2017. The course was so successful and impactful that Rand has committed to train their 30+ Chief Engineers in 2018.

The impact of the training on Rand and their culture has been significant. It has enabled the two distinct divisions, which were separate companies at one time, to more closely integrate and "speak" the same leadership language. It has further enabled the development of "ONE RAND" culture, a critical goal of the CEO, Ed Levy.

Across the board, Rand leaders are using the tools and deliverables that came from the course to deliver results to each vessel and the bottom line of the organization.

In Summary, Rand is an organization that is being positively affected by the Academy Leadership definition of Leadership. They are very clearly moving away from what used to be standard on vessels–Motivation by fear and "My way or the Highway" leadership philosophies.

The new Leadership language and practices are helping to create a culture of accountability and drive results for the benefit of all.