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In the Spotlight with Mark Steel

The Pall-Ex team spans many countries and continents. From master licensees to regional delivery drivers, we all work together to expand the Pall-Ex network and provide the best palletised freight distribution solutions.

Mark Steel is central to our ability to work globally and plays a pivotal role as the Managing Director of International Business Units. As the MD of everything that crosses water, his remit and responsibilities are huge. We sat down with Mark to find out more about his day-to-day life and what it takes to take the Pall-Ex brand across the globe.

What is your role at Pall-Ex?

I’ve been the Managing Director of International Business Units for about two years. In this role, I’m in charge of recruiting master licensees for our international expansion, maintaining our global relationships and improving our cross-border volume.

As an MD, what does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different. Take this week for example. I’m currently working at an airport lounge waiting to get on a flight to visit a Master Licensee. While there, we’ll meet the team, visit the facilities, run through project plans, troubleshoot issues, and scope the potential for training and technical development.

After that, we’ll be back in the UK for some important internal meetings to investigate new territories and reinforce existing relationships.

Along with this, I’m also the point of contact for some key members so I need to stay agile for any issues or questions that may arise.

So, a typical day doesn’t exist. Every week is different with loads of plates to keep spinning.

What qualities would you say are integral for anyone looking to work in a leadership role?

My priority is always the team. Being able to assess the team, determine their levels, and identify any training, support, or challenges is key.

I also pride myself on being honest, setting clear objectives and being firm but fair. Above and beyond that, I want my team to be happy so I try to ensure that everyone comes to work and enjoys the workplace.

If you can manage that, the rest will sort itself out. Managing people is mainly about trusting your team to do what they do well and I’m fortunate to have a great team.

One of the things I appreciate most is that nobody comes to me with just a problem. Instead, they’ll come to me with a problem and a few solutions, and more often than not the solution they recommend is the one we’ll go with.

With Pall-Ex expanding at an impressive rate, is there a country that Pall-Ex delivers to that you’d like to visit on holiday?

My work takes me all over. In these travels, I’ve come to appreciate the less obvious tourist destinations. Places like Poland and Romania in particular are real hidden gems.

The place that surprised me the most was Romania. It’s a beautiful country, really affordable, and is packed with snow-capped mountains, beautiful countryside, and amazing architecture. Well worth a visit.

Working with international clients comes with its own set of challenges. What skills do you think are most important to handling global relationships and cross-border volume?

Being able to understand the people and the culture is key. Paperwork and administrative tasks are the easy bit. Whereas knowing how to greet, speak to, respect, and understand the cultural demands of a region can make all the difference.

To help with this we’re fortunate to have a great research team who give us plenty of information on a region before we visit so we can start on the front foot and meet prospective licensees halfway.

Pall-Ex offers clients and members so many benefits, what do you think is the most unique?

We sell three things. We sell IT, know-how, and the Pall-Ex brand.

The IT element is all down to the amazing work our team has built from Nexus to tracking, training programmes and more.

The brand is another unique selling point. Pall-Ex is an incredible name that has lived through a recession and come out more resilient.

And last but not least, we have the know-how. We’re fortunate to have an incredible team capable of carrying out top-drawer work. We also have the skillset to upskill greener team members to our exacting standards.

How would you say your military experience has prepared you for work in the private sector?

Firstly, I’d like to say how proud I am to have served in the RAF. It was a fantastic experience and taught me a lot. The training and experience have been integral to my development and taught me everything from discipline and professionalism to dressing smart and bringing your A-game to everything. The British military is also very sociable and those who know me know how much I enjoy the social side of working together.

As a company, I’m also really proud of all the opportunities Pall-Ex gives ex-servicemen. We’re a big believer in giving people opportunities and working in logistics is a great way for servicemen to transition to the private sector.

What is the strangest consignment you have heard of or seen in the warehouse?

You see a lot of odd things come through the warehouse. One that always surprises me is seeing trees in the warehouse. Especially around Christmas time, we can get consignments of large trees, some about 3m tall.

However, the standout was a consignment of reindeer antlers. They are often turned into dog chews toys but to see a large consignment of reindeer antlers was memorable.

What are the biggest benefits of becoming a master licensee with Pall-Ex?

Becoming a Master Licensee gives you access to all of the know-how, tech, and brand value discussed earlier. From sophisticated software for tracking and management to experienced support teams for sales and marketing, being part of Pall-Ex means you have all the tools to become a global logistics leader.

What challenges do you think the international logistics industry will need to overcome in the next 10 years?

First of all, I think what we’ve experienced over the past few years will continue to be the biggest hurdle. You really couldn’t predict world events, from Brexit to lockdowns, to the war in Ukraine.

Freight between the EU and the UK is still nowhere near where it was. It’s tough to trade abroad because of the hangover of Brexit, especially given some of the relationships and simple systems we had a few years ago. It’s sad to see but we need to overcome it.

The pandemic also shook the industry but we remained buoyant with more clients requiring B2C rather than B2B services during the pandemic. This shows how resilient the industry is and how important it is to maintain B2B and B2C services.

It’s also really sad to see the war in Ukraine rage on. Hopefully, the war will end soon and peace will bring new opportunities for people in the area to rebuild and grow.

It was great sitting down with Mark to hear about the industry and what we can expect to see in the future. As a leader, Mark’s experience and insight are invaluable to understanding where global logistics can go and we can’t wait to see what he and his team accomplish moving forward. If you’re interested in finding out more about our leading palletised freight services or how you can become a Pall-Ex Master Licensee contact us today.


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