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What It Took For People to Believe in This CEO's Vision

July 04, 2017 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated September 02, 2020 11:45 AM UTC

XPO Logistics’ Brad Jacobs says it’s all about helping others succeed.

Brad, you came to be CEO in a very unusual way. You really were a deal maker first. You did hundreds of acquisitions in your career. And then, you started several companies in very diverse fields-- trash collection, construction equipment, oil trading, and now you're in logistics and trucking. What has been the secret to your success? The success I had was finding something that I really wholeheartedly believed in and could get a bunch of other people to also believe in it and work together to succeed those big visions. It's really about creating a community that's very energized and focused on accomplishing something big. Many people doubted that you could take a small trucking company and build it into a multi-billion Fortune 500 company, but you did do that. So as a leader, what did it take to get people to believe in your vision? Susie, people still doubt us. They've doubted me in my whole career. And that's good. That keeps you on your toes and keeps you not being-- so I work on XPO from when I wake up to when I go to sleep, pretty much seven days a week, with a few exceptions. I love it. It's not a job. And that's what I look forward to. I look for people who are true leaders, meaning they want to do this job. And it becomes a magnet to get other people who also want to do the job. It's really about people in the end. And another challenge for you, really, has been merging all these acquisitions and all of these different cultures into one single corporate culture. How did you pull that off? Through a lot of communication and a lot of listening, not just talking. So we do business in 34 countries, and each country has something that's a little bit different than the other countries, not just language-- business practices, all kinds of stuff. We were one of the beta projects for Facebook in their-- it's called Workplace. It was called Facebook at Work at first, which is our social network, only for XPO employees. And it's the first thing I read every morning. The very first thing is I look at what people have posted from all around the world. And it keeps me in touch, as it does all of our other users of that tool to what's going on inside the company. That's one of many, many different ways of communicating to be knowledgeable, to keep feedback loops going within the company, to keep everyone focused on results. I'm guessing, though, that there was some resistance to all this change and these mergers and all of that. And how did you deal with that resistance? Less than you think, because we have a sparkling-type of company. There's just a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, and morale is very high. That's really important. Because you can have the greatest strategy in the world, the greatest plan in the world, but if the employees aren't buying into it and really don't like the company, you just can't make it happen. Brad, as you look on your very long and successful career, what's the best leadership advice that you've ever received? And why was it so critical in shaping you as a leader? So my main business mentor was a gentleman called Ludwig Jesselson, passed away in the early '90s, and was a great influence on me, because he was very smart and wise in business. He was the chairman of Philip Brothers. And I remember one day, I went to go have lunch with them. And he said, you look kind of glum. He said, you don't look like your normal chipper self. I said, oh, yeah, I got this problem. I got this problem. I got that problem. And he said, hey, look, you picked a profession-- the business world. That's about solving problems. So every time you have a problem, that's a good thing. That's an opportunity to create value. So that clicked on me. So your take-away on leadership was what from him? Positive reframe. Don't get into a loser mentality of, oh, my god, I'm a victim. I have this problem. I have this problem and this problem. Rejoice. Embrace the problems and solve the problems. And move on to new problems. Keep solving problems. Problems are good.