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You and I – Fireside Chat with Thad Bedard

Welcome to this special episode of The APLL Pulse Podcast. You and I is a podcast about the human side of logistics. We invite you to peek behind the curtain and explore how we connect people with culture as we move closer to a better world of work.

In this episode, Thad Bedard, the new President of APL Logistics, shares his vision for 2022. A condensed version of the conversation follows.

April Chapman (Host): Hello, everyone. I’m very pleased to be joined by my guest today, our very own Thad Bedard, the President of APL Logistics. He assumed the role recently but has been in a company for nearly 14 years. Prior to becoming President, Thad held numerous leadership positions, such as Vice President of Strategy, our Interim CIO, the Head of our North America Retail and Commercial teams, and the Director of Strategic Accounts. Under his leadership, he and his teams have helped the company grow, undergo digital transformations, and drive closer partnerships with customers. Thad, thank you for joining me. I know people are excited to hear from you today.

Thad Bedard: Thank you for inviting me as well. I think these podcasts have been very successful, so I’m happy to join in and contribute. So about me, I’ve been married 27 years in August. I have three children, and I’m an original resident or birthplace in Wyoming, which makes me a bit of a statistical anomaly because there’s only 400,000 people in the whole state. So that’s odd. And I’ve lived there most of my life, with the exception of two years in Arizona, on the West Coast, between San Francisco, Washington State and Portland.

April Chapman: Actually, we’d lived in a lot of the same places. I’m from California, San Jose, but I also lived in the Seattle area for seven years. I’d been to Wyoming a lot because my sister is in Sheridan. Which part of Wyoming?

Thad Bedard: I grew up in a town called Rock Springs.

April Chapman: Oh, yeah, I’ve been to Rock Springs. It’s cool, whenever you talk to people, you see that lives somehow overlap, and I always love that.




April Chapman: Well, let’s tackle some of our topics today. Two years into the pandemic, supply chains are transitioning from just surviving to thriving. We’ve seen that the most successful companies were not only able to catch their early warning signs of disruption but also responded with innovation, risk-taking, and challenging what is possible within their organization and industries. Personally, as someone who’s been with our company for five years now, it’s been exciting to see how we’ve taken that disruption in the industry, adapted to the changes, and we’re moving forward with intention. Thad, can you share a little more about how we’ve altered our trajectory based on what we’ve learned the last couple of years?


Thad Bedard: Yeah. So, it’s an interesting word “disruption” because it assumes a constant state or a steady trajectory, and I think what we’ve experienced in the last two years has moved beyond the disruption. I hate that the cliche new normal, but it’s a new way of existing for sure, and with that, a new way of conducting business and buying things.

Right in the middle of the pandemic, I was asked to take over as President of APLL, and part of that was to think through our three to five-year commercial strategy and the direction the company needs. It was clear that the way consumers, and I’ll say consumer with the capital C, the way consumers were interacting with the world was much different than what we’ve seen six months before.

One of the fundamental changes that we saw was that the traditional supply chain of origin location to big distribution centre was going to change because people aren’t going to be at an office for eight to nine hours a day and then going home. Instead, they were going to be working from home, from a cafe or in their cars, for example. That meant that they would demand that the goods they purchased be wherever they were. And people were moving quite a bit. In general, in the United States, people left their current resident for wherever they thought it was better. That dispersed the patterns retailers, and manufacturers have had around where people live and where they’re going to ship stuff.


Looking at all the big change that was happening that we didn’t see going away, at least over the next ten years. That meant that the fundamental business that we do, which is moving people’s goods and planning how those goods should be moved, is also going to change.




Thad Bedard: We had to think about being relevant. So, what we’re focused on going forward is what we call Order Management, which is essentially the end-to-end movement of product, with an emphasis on the planning and decision aspects of that move.

What I mean by that is some companies in our space are moving or shortly moving towards buying large, heavy asset-based companies. Because like us, they see the connections to be made and a value proposition around connecting different parts of the supply chain.

We don’t think that those heavy assets are necessarily the best decision, at least for us. We’d rather be the connective tissue. Similar to in your body, you have the muscular system. Around the muscular system is the fascia. This kind of connective tissue keeps the muscles in place, and it also has a lot to do with the way your muscles react and communicate with your brain. So, we’d rather be the connective tissue around the structure than buying or building big, heavy asset-based businesses.


April Chapman: That’s an interesting analogy.

Thad Bedard: Yeah. Order Management becomes our priority and our first maxim. It’s part of the transformation and a refocusing of the APLL’s effort. We established four maxims to guide our journey, and maxim number one is to become the premier Order Management provider in the world.

April Chapman: Well, I think those initiatives will bode well for our customers. I believe they are going to be well received for their benefits. Let’s talk more about how you’re going to drive internal growth. I’ve heard you speak a few times already to our teams about becoming an employer of choice. So, can you elaborate on what that means to you?




Thad Bedard: Across the four maxims, I think the employer choice one is the most encompassing because it touches on several areas we want to focus on. It focuses on our brand image. It focuses on the way customers see us and how the market sees us. And it focuses on the kind of inherent quality or level of service we want to provide.



We want to be the kind of company, if you boil it all down, what that means is to me,

I want APL Logistics to be the type of company that I have my children working out and potentially my great-grandchildren. I want them to feel that this is a place where they’re doing something interesting, useful, having a lot of fun doing it, and bringing meaning to the world.



And the other two maxims are important because the second one is that we want to create opportunities for all our employees and commit to improving the communities in which we operate. So that speaks to diversity, and that’s a key part or component I think of being an employer of choice.



And then the third one, also important, is that we must be accountable to our employees, to each other, and to our customers. That’s essential.

April Chapman: Yeah, it sounds like a great place to work. I’m glad I already do.

Thad Bedard: I’m glad you do, too.




April Chapman: Thad, I know that you also highly value that ever-elusive work-life balance. How do you achieve your professional goals in tandem with your personal priorities?

Thad Bedard: How do I maintain a work-life balance? I think that is a question about what’s important to me and any employee. And I think that’s the guiding principle.


So, for me, the most important thing every day that keeps me focused is my family. As long as I’m on that trajectory, I’m establishing that balance, and I have been guilty for sure of taking time for family commitments over work, no doubt about it. I don’t see that as a work-life balance. I see that more as just how it should be to be a human being. I don’t think that should be an odd thing.


I don’t want to be an employer that puts employees in a position to choose between those two things because that isn’t a choice. The obvious choice is what matters to you personally. Especially your family should come first.




April Chapman: Right, thanks for sharing that. Okay. Before we go, I will do a lightning round with you, which means quick questions, quick responses. Are you ready?

Thad Bedard: Okay, I’m ready.

April Chapman: What’s your favourite time of the day?

Thad Bedard: Morning.

April Chapman: In a word, how would you describe your work style?

Thad Bedard: Focused

April Chapman: Text or phone call?

Thad Bedard: Phone call

April Chapman: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

Thad Bedard: One, occasionally one and a half but no more.

April Chapman: Surprising, since you’re in the Northwest. Okay, who inspires you?

Thad Bedard: There’s no single person that inspires me when I think of this question, which I haven’t been asked very often, I’m more inspired by the “what” of the world, and that could happen at any moment. It could be someone I meet, someone I already know.


My inspiration comes from seeing something that demonstrates a person’s courage or strength to get beyond whatever it is that’s in their way.


And the most inspirational thing I think I’ve ever seen was a colleague of mine. He was an attorney, an IP attorney in Portland. He suffered from a degenerative muscular disease, which meant that it felt like he had a charley horse and every muscle in his body every time he moved.

And despite that, he went to work every day. And I saw him by chance walking up Broadway Street in Portland from his office to the train station. And I didn’t recognize him at first because I saw this guy with two ski poles struggling to get up the street. And as I got close, I realized that that was him, and I didn’t speak to him. I just watched him. And the amount of strength and focus it took for him to get to a block was one of the most courageous things I have ever seen.

So, I think it’s not about picking some person or hero or whatever. I think it’s about paying attention to what’s around you and taking inspiration from people who are sliding through it just like you are.


April Chapman: Well, I agree. It’s inspiring, the people who can overcome. Okay, the last question, no, I have two more. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

Thad Bedard: Wherever my family is.

April Chapman: That goes back to your priority. It matches up. What’s your favourite business book? Do you have one?

Thad Bedard: I read a lot, but not often business books. So, I’m going to have to say to be discovered.


April Chapman: Well, thank you so much for the time you gave us today, Thad. I enjoyed this conversation. I know that our listeners will as well. Thanks for coming to the show.

Thad Bedard: Thank you.


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