#103: Essa Al-Saleh Chairman of the Board of Volta Trucks

#104: Essa Al-Saleh Chairman of the Board of Volta Trucks Featured Image

Essa Al-Saleh joined Volta Trucks as the Chairman of the Board in October 2020. Volta Trucks is an electric vehicle manufacturer. Volta has set out to create an all-electric truck specifically to be used in and around cities and urban areas.

In addition to Volta Trucks, Essa is the CEO of Agitero AG, an advisory and investment business based in Switzerland.  Prior to this, Essa was the President and CEO of Agility’s Global Integrated Logistics (GIL), based in Baar, Switzerland.  He had been with Agility since 1998 and assumed the CEO of Agility Global Integrated Logistics in 2007. During his time at Agility, Essa led the transformation of Agility GIL from a 300 person operation in one country into one of the top ten global logistics businesses, with over $4 billion in revenues operating in over 100 countries with more than 18,000 people.

Listen to the full discussion here:

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Connect with the Guest:

Essa Al-Saleh: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • From being an engineer to a CEO
  • Growing Agility from 400 people to a global company and 18000 staff
  • Learning from mistakes and being curious
  • Books that influenced Essa’s career
  • Finding the balance between strategy and execution
  • Trends in automation and upskilling people

Show notes:

  • [01:18] Tell us a little bit about having an engineering background to being an entrepreneurial business, CEO because they are different. So maybe walk us through a little bit.
  • [05:17] What are some sharings or lessons you can share with our audience in terms of how do you step from one framework to the other that might be useful to them? 
  • [06:00] Over the past 22 years, I made a ton of mistakes, but I think I’ve been blessed with the right team that I put in place together and the willingness to be curious and accept what I know and what I don’t know. 
  • [07:05] As you grow to become a CEO, you have to learn to influence and trust and put some parameters around and be clear in your communication and expectations as opposed to managing day-to-day the requirements of the work. 
  • [07:52] Can you name some of the books that influenced your career today?
  • [09:59] What are some of the principles that you followed or grains of wisdom that you found most useful for you as a leader?
  • [10:40] Taking action without context could be dangerous. So you have to be able to understand the context and understand the actions that you need to take and articulate that well to the group. 
  • [12:06] I’ve learned that you will find people who are strong on strategy, but not necessarily strong in execution or vice versa. And you have to recognize how to internalize that and assess that and give feedback to people around those frameworks to help them grow and learn.
  • [13:13] How are you currently in your private equity VC work that you’re doing and the startups that you mentoring and advising and being on the boards using those experiences today? 
  • [13:39] The easiest to buy is the skill, kind of the technical side of things and the physical side. The hardest thing you need to look at is the culture. 
  • [15:16] How do you make sure that you have a correct assessment of what’s going on the inside, because that can be quite tricky to do, right? So maybe you can share some dos and don’ts.
  • [16:05] Culture is an outcome rather than an action. There’s a set of values that you bring to the table, the behaviors and decisions you take in the company on top of the values, and what you actually do versus what you say ultimately leads to what you define as a culture of a company. 
  • [19:47] Are there certain things that will come into play in the next one to three years or shorter term, which you think would make the most impact? 
  • [20:53] One thing to remember is there’s no silver bullet- kind of the one thing that will solve everything, but there are different technologies enabling different parts of the value chain that are doing some really interesting things.
  • [21:56] Companies like Agility, as a result of the pandemic, figured out a way to operate under a very difficult environment and align the 18,000 plus people while they’re working from home. 
  • [23:15] What new type of knowledge needs to be coming in? And how do we as logistics executives or supply chain executives and professionals upscale ourselves?
  • [24:03] The trend in automation is going to change everything. It’s going to create new opportunities and markets and therefore what we have to do as individuals are to learn about those trends and see how we invest in or build the skills. 
  • [26:00] Have you seen some new approaches or some new ways from your experience and where do you see also the future of how do we educate, upskill, and foster in a faster way the people? 
  • [28:51] Looking back in your career, what would be one or two pieces of advice that you found most useful that helped you the most?
  • [29:47] If you want to conquer the world, take the first step, start small, take small steps, and those small steps over time, as you build confidence and you see what’s succeeding and what’s not succeeding, those steps will become bigger and bigger over time.

Related Episodes:

#100: Pier Luigi Sigismondi President at Dole Packaged Foods

#101: Kara Goldin Founder & CEO of Hint

#102: Bonnie Fetch Vice President Global Supply Chain at Cummins

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LEX GREENSILL​

Chief Executive Officer, Greensill​

Lex is the co-founder and CEO of Greensill, and a Senior Advisor and Crown Representative to Her Majesty’s Government on Supply Chain Finance. He was awarded the CBE for Services to the British Economy in Queen Elizabeth II’s 2017 Birthday Honours.

Lex previously established the global SCF business at Morgan Stanley, and led the EMEA SCF business at Citi.

Lex holds an MBA from Manchester Business School, and is a Solicitor of the Supreme Courts of England and Wales, and Queensland.