By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
As technologies are going to dictate most of the works now and in the future, the next big thing rising is the logistics industry. Logistics will be the common denominator in the digital age.
Already, several logistics ventures are one of the fastest growing in the Philippines. Even the technology-enabled startups are catching up. Not to be outdone is Filipino-owned Airspeed, one of the fastest growing logistics companies in the country.
Airspeed Chairman and President Rosemarie P. Rafael, who is perhaps the only lady pioneer in the local logistics industry, is making a name for herself and her company.
Airspeed is an end-to- end logistics solutions and express courier company that has been in the industry for over 30 years. It offers multi-modal solutions that combined air and sea freight, and land transportation.
Just like most success stories, Rafael did not dream to be in the logistics business. But her work experiences have carved a path this way.
“I studied AB International studies at Maryknoll College. I pursued this course because I dreamed to become a diplomat, plus the course had no accounting or number-focused major subjects,” says Rafael.
But after college, she ended up working in an airline company as a passenger ticketing and reservations agent before she was transferred to sales. Then she was recruited to work for the #1 freight forwarding company. She embraced and loved the new work.
“I felt and I still highly feel that I am in the midst of business realm as I get to be exposed to all types of industries, and be part of the solution to the logistics problems of our customers,” says Rafael.
This led Rafael to set up Airspeed. Now, Airspeed is one of the fastest growing logistics companies in the country.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
The company ensures that they work to make the goals of customers happen the way they planned it to be. To do this, Rafael said Airspeed employs the right people, manages an updated system, and upholds values to fulfill all of its clients’ logistics needs.
“We help our clients grow their businesses. We customize our services based on their logistics requirements because in Airspeed, we make it happen,” says Rafael.
Airspeed builds a highly scalable business operations for both local and international distribution network.
It is proud of its extensive network and hubs. It has expanded in areas to reach wherever and whenever its customers need assistance. With over 200 owned and rented motorcycles and trucks, clients are served as promptly as possible.
All services are ably supported by more than 500 highly trained personnel.
For its freight solutions management, Airspeed offers a wide range of transport options for boxes, cargoes, commodity goods, shipload, etc. which are highly treated with utmost care and caution.
“We specialize in moving freight through various strong and established partners — via AIR, SEA or LAND. Its air freight forwarding offers worldwide export and import regular consolidations, general cargoes, and, handling for special projects, equipment, perishable goods and pharmaceuticals.
For sea freight forwarding, Airspeed also offers export and import full container load, loose container load, project consolidations and project cargo handling. And for domestic forwarding, it offers.
Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) cargo handling, and door-to-door delivery.
Airspeed also provides customized solutions for critical packages and shipment, ensuring they reach their destination without an issue. It can tailor fit services based on customer’s logistics needs, combining solutions that adhere to one’s budget and timeline. Airspeed also offers end-to-end fulfillment solutions that will surely help business reach its target.
Rafael also invests where her mouth us. She invested in the best facilities and technologies to ensure that Airspeed’s cargo is handled and monitored efficiently. Its warehouses are equipped with CCTV cameras and alarm systems to ensure safe storage. It provides nationwide distribution, door-to-door delivery, and inter-island delivery services.
The long-term goal of Airspeed is to become the preferred logistics company in the country. Parallel to this, Rafael instills values and culture the company believes in not just to their employees but also to customers, as well.
Meantime, Airspeed strengthens its business.
“To build a great company, we need to build a great culture. Culture is the #1 metric; it is the company’s DNA and identity. It becomes the tool to creating momentum, making impact, and attracting the best people,” says Rafael, married to a loving husband and a mother to 4 children.
Airspeed also believes in staying nimble to be able to adapt and be flexible to changes.
“As you know, logistics is changing rapidly. We always try to see what the market needs, and that’s where we create logistics solutions,” he adds.
At present, the biggest challenge for Airspeed is to move as fast as possible to address the ever-changing logistics climate. Airspeed though has been able to address these challenges by feeling and knowing the pulse of the market and those that they serve.
“Airspeed always comes up with new ideas and we do our best to innovate. We still do the same things that are needed in the market, the usual logistics needs, but we are doing it differently based on the clients’ unique needs. I believe this is the differentiation that we have,” says Rafael.
“Just like in any company, we need to always improve on our processes, create initiatives to address people retention, recruitment of the best talents, and, maintain good financial management.”
According to Rafael, Airspeed lives by its four core values under the acronym L-I-V-E-S — loyalty, integrity, value of honor and balance, excellence, and stewardship.
“Any decision that we make will have to be guided by these values,” says Rafael.
These values have guided Airspeed in meeting challenges amid the rising number of logistics providers in the country. Rafael said they always know that competition is tough, and such understanding has made them prepared for the tough fight ahead.
“It is always expected to be tough, but we only have to know the whys behind what we do. And that gives us the encouragement and the motivation to continue to do what we know best,” says Rafael.
As a woman and perhaps the only lady leader when this industry started, Rafael admitted that it was difficult at the start.
“But I had to work double time to prove myself,” says Rafael, who became the first woman president of the Air Cargo Forwarders Association. But being a woman is also an advantage because women are naturally nurturing.
“When people are nurtured, they do great and impossible things. Caring is like an ‘inspiring manner’ that could get things done. I am happy that I am blessed with a supportive team. When we meet to come up with important decisions and we sometimes have to argue, at the end of it all we still support whatever decision has been made. Nobody can question that. There is a culture of respect and understanding among women,” says Rafael.
As a leader, Rafael loves to empower people stressing that, “Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of the people I lead so they can make good choices. And these choices should be transformed into a desired action. I also believe that the greatest competitive edge that I have as a leader is being able to care deeply about my team.”
This has translated to the company’s success. In fact, Rafael considers her people as Airspeed’s biggest success so far.
“The biggest success that I have made so far is still having the same people who more or less started with me in this company to this very date. Their success is my success. As a disruptive leader, it is important to mobilize and recruit good talent,” she adds.
Leading Airspeed for the past 33 years is a big source of lessons for Rafael, too.
First, she learned that in leading a business, “We need to continuously ask ourselves if we are doing the right things.”
She learned when to eliminate, reduce, raise its focus on certain areas, or if there is a need to establish new ones. “It is easy to get distracted if we are not clear on what we need to focus on,” she says.
Second, she has learned to keep things simple in their operations and in their processes to move things faster.
Third, it is honorable to ask for help from the experts. “It is okay to consult and ask people who are good in a particular area which you are not good at. Always look for mentors,” she suggests to young entrepreneurs.
In fact, Rafael maintains two to three business leaders whom she considers her business mentors.
“I pursue them and listen to them. I make it a point to meet with them to listen about their business experiences. This gives me the encouragement and the drive to do better than what I used to be. I try to stretch myself beyond the impossible,” says Rafael.
She has a learning culture, as she reads a lot.
As a hands-on manager, Rafael sees to it that she prioritizes what matters most during the seasonal logistics operations. “I plan and pace myself, and I make sure that whatever I do contributes to what I want to achieve,” says Rafael, who goes to office regularly to meet with her team. She also makes it a point to personally meet with clients, suppliers, partners and other industry stakeholders.
But she also knows when to take a break. She travels with family and learns from different countries’ people and culture. While she spends quality time with her kids and husband, this voracious reader also treasures her own time to read books.
Overtime, Rafael would like Airspeed to be the preferred logistics provider in the country, highly respected by its peers and clients and a brand that is synonymous with reliability and integrity. With that, Airspeed will be catapulted as an employer of choice.
As to her people, Rafael has this to say, “I want my team to take into heart that our company gets to be known for the kind of people we keep. If we have ‘people of integrity’ then our company is a ‘company of integrity’, and that excellence is not an act but a habit. We have to go after what matters most, and that is being able to add value to our customers’ businesses. We are here to build the business, build their communities, and build lives.”