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UPS CEO Carol Tomé explains what ‘job number one’ has been during the pandemic

December 7, 2021, 10:27 AM UTC

Good morning.

With the holidays approaching, delivery firms like UPS move center stage—which is why Ellen McGirt and I decided to talk to UPS CEO Carol Tomé for this week’s Leadership Next podcast. Tomé took the job at the start of the pandemic after retiring from a 24-year career at Home Depot, where she ended as CFO.  She had plans to live out her life on her farm in northwest Georgia. But her colleagues on the UPS board, where she was a director, had other ideas. “They came to me and said, ‘Hey Carol, we’d like you to be considered.’ And I’m like, me?  Am I not too old?  And they said, ‘You’re not too old.’” (For those who are wondering, Tomé is 64. That’s young in my book.)

Tomé says “job number one” during the pandemic has been taking care of the company’s half million people. UPS tracked employees’ “likelihood to recommend” as a place to work and found it sat at 51%. “That meant 49% wouldn’t recommend us as a place to work. My hair was on fire. I said no, this is not the place I want to work… So as a leadership team, we set forth a goal to get that metric to 80%.” So far, they’ve gotten it to 61%, but “we’ve got a lot more to do.”

Interestingly, Tomé argues her Teamster-union delivery force is a competitive advantage against the likes of FedEx and Amazon: “I love them because they are part of our brand. The stories you hear about our UPS drivers, doing good in the communities. You don’t hear that a lot about the other players.”

You can hear the full podcast on Apple or Spotify. I strongly recommend it. Listening to Tomé talk about how she segmented UPS customers in an effort to boost margins provides a case study in what a data-obsessed CFO can do in the top job.

Other news below. And read about new AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris’ 10-year plan here.

Alan Murray


COVID drugs

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is bankrolling tests of a new COVID vaccine in South Africa, to see how it fares against Omicron. The vaccine, from California's Gritstone Bio, doesn't rely on targeting the coronavirus's spike protein, because of the sort of mutations there that we're seeing in the new variant. Meanwhile, the WHO says convalescent plasma therapy doesn't work for treating COVID, and Glaxo says its COVID antibody drug does work against Omicron. Fortune

Musk vs subsidies

In this week's episode of "Musk Vs", the Tesla chief is angry about government subsidies, despite the fact that his company has benefited from billions of dollars in subsidies in recent years. Musk on the infrastructure bill: "It might be better if the bill doesn’t pass. We’ve spent so much money, the federal budget deficit is insane... We’re running this incredible deficit, something’s got to give." Fortune

Olympic boycott

The U.S. won't send an official diplomatic delegation to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, because of the Chinese government's human rights record. New Zealand has sort of followed suit, though it says COVID is mostly to blame. BBC

Trump media

Devin Nunes, a reliable attack dog for Donald Trump, is quitting Congress to head up the former president's new media startup, the Trump Media & Technology Group. Trump has promised that the new company will start a Twitter rival called Truth Social. Fortune


Insulin cost

"It may seem shocking that in the world’s richest country, high cost can block sick patients from getting a drug that they need to survive," writes Fortune's Geoff Colvin about the difficult many diabetic Americans have in accessing insulin—a drug that costs 800% more in the U.S., on average, than it does in other developed economies. Fortune

Crypto froth

More than half of current investors in Bitcoin only got into the cryptocurrency this year, according to a survey by crypto firm Grayscale Investments. And what a wild ride this year has been; following carnage over the weekend, Bitcoin is up 8% in the last day. Fortune  

Revolving doors

Elizabeth Denham ceased being the U.K.'s top privacy regulator a week ago, and two days later announced as a new employee of law firm Baker McKenzie—which represented Facebook against Denham's actions as Information Commissioner during the Cambridge Analytics scandal (the social-media company ended up getting a paltry £500,000 fine and no legal liability). This is fine under the U.K.'s rules, as she was neither a civil servant nor a minister, but now campaigners want the rules changed. Politico

Web3 buzz

Is there real heft to the "Web3" buzzword, ponders Fortune's Nicole Goodkind in this useful explainer of companies running on blockchain platforms: "Right now Web3 does exist, but it exists largely in the crypto universe that involves digital currencies and the exchange of NFTs, and isn’t widely accessible to the average Internet user. Young entrepreneurs are trying to change that." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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