“Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver” is a new management advice book from Ron Wallace, who worked his way up from delivery driver to international division president at United Parcel Service, the Sandy Springs-based Fortune 500 company. Wallace has small-business success as well, founding the Olde Blind Dog Irish pubs, which operates a Brookhaven location and last year won the “Irish Pub of the Year” award from a Dublin-based trade organization. And on the political front, Wallace helped create the north Fulton city of Milton.
Reporter Newspapers asked Wallace about the lessons he has learned in that mix of corporate culture, small business and local government. For more about his book, see leadershiplessonsbyronwallace.com.
Q: Your new book offers a lot of leadership lessons and philosophies. What do you think is the main lesson that could apply to people managing businesses large or small?
A: Create a values-based culture and develop teams that share the company’s vision. Use simple principles within a structure that everyone can easily understand.
Q: Books on leadership have become a popular genre. What does yours offer that other don’t? How important were similar advice books in the development of your own skills?
A: “Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver” is from the front line, not from the classroom. It is not full of theories or concepts, but is based on real world experiences while working in well over a hundred countries. The style in this book is simple and direct and it works. This is an inside look at UPS that reveals for the first time what has made the company a successful worldwide organization for 109 years. Those practices are what shaped my foundational skills.
Q: UPS moved its corporate headquarters to Sandy Springs in the 1990s, and that Perimeter Center area continues to draw major companies. What made Sandy Springs a smart location for UPS? Do you think it’s still a good location?
A: It was a good decision after evaluating other major cities and remains that way today. Long commutes and high cost of living was a challenge to relocate our most skilled people to our former corporate headquarters [in Greenwich, Conn.]. In our current location, we are close to a world-class airport, and the area is a great place to live and raise a family.
Q: There’s a lot of talk about how such technologies as drones and self-driving cars might be used by businesses. From your experience in the package delivery industry, what’s your take on these technologies? Is the future of product delivery more automated? Will we always have some human touch?
A: UPS has strived and will always strive to use the most advanced technology. However, the focus will always be on people. The heartbeat of UPS is about providing the best service to our customers and that is best served by having people at every point of customer interaction.
Q: You’re a cofounder of the Olde Blind Dog Irish pubs, which include a Brookhaven location. What lessons did you learn in starting up and running a small business as opposed to working in the Fortune 500 corporate world?
A: It really is not that much different. All the things that bring success to a small or large organization, regardless of the industry, demand certain applications. Planning, budgets, engineering, marketing—but most importantly, it always comes down to people relationships.
Using the Olde Blind Dog as an example, we appreciate that there are a lot of choices. Most pubs have good locations, good food, reasonable prices and great atmosphere. What sets the great apart from the good are people. Our guests like a lot of things at Olde Blind Dog, but what they like best—and it is said all the time—is our efficient, friendly staff. At least at the Dog, that is our strength.
Q: You were involved in founding the city of Milton in 2006. What sort of inspiration or advice did you get from leaders of Sandy Springs, which incorporated the previous year? Did you learn any new lessons in the political and governmental world?
A: I was chairman of the Governor’s Commission to form the city of Milton. I knew my limitations and had to quickly bring in people that had experience. One of the best mentors I ever had was Oliver Porter from Sandy Springs [an engineer and executive who proposed the city’s privatized model of government services]. He guided me through the process, and with a lot of help from others, we had the new city ready to turn over to the new government in three months. It would be an understatement to say I quickly learned a lot about how the political system works in the world of government.