April 28, 2011
Michael Stolarczyk likes to quote Albert Einstein, who is credited with saying, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
Stolarczyk, a 1986 B&E graduate, is president of Kontane Logistics in Charleston, S.C., a warehousing and distribution company in a critical juncture of the supply chain – from purchase order to point of purchase.
In his business, there's a lot of counting involved, for sure, but Stolarczyk's fondness for Einstein's quote stems from his focus on customers.
"You have to understand the client's business and be engaged and interact with your clients," he said. "You can't just throw technology at the issue. If you let only systems and analytics make decisions, you don't get the full picture."
What he means is having a "vested partnership" with clients that involves accountability. He's even written a book that has recently been published called Logical Logistics, a compilation of blog posts he made beginning in 2004 when he was with the A.P. Moller/Maersk Group, the world's largest shipping firm.
With that company, he held various management positions ranging from manager of international accounts with Maersk Hong Kong Limited, to managing director, Maersk Agency, in Prague, Czech Republic.
Before he joined Kontane, Stolarczyk served as CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority in Ohio, and from 2005-09 he was senior director for Exel, an Ohio-based supply chain management company.
This career led him to reflect on customer-focused logistics solutions. In fact, Stolarczyk calls his 21 years in the business "a real world Ph.D. in logistics."
"In both Maersk and Exel," he said, "you couldn't ask to be with a smarter, more driven group of individuals."
At Exel, he began writing at the end of the day to "decompress" and to help him understand what he was learning. That became a blog, and the blog a book.
Over time, he determined that technology in the logistics business is fine, but shouldn't be consider the industry's linchpin. "Technology for technology's sake is a fool's game," Stolarczyk said, "unless you have the people who understand the flow of products, money and the consumer. Every day is different and with every client, it's a new way of looking at a new problem."
Stolarczyk, 47, is from Marion, Ohio. He said he loves the logistics business and can see some renewed vitality since the 2008 economic crisis. "Business seems to be ramping up," he commented. "But 2008 through 2010 was tough. Some similar companies are not around anymore, but we're poised for growth."
And he believes there are many opportunities for graduates in the business.
"There's a great deal of opportunity," he said. "Students today should learn as much as they can in accounting and finance tracks, which will prepare them for any business pursuit, supplemented with economics, cultural experience and a global perspective. But the most important part of education is to learn to have emotional intelligence—to be able to communicate to one person or a group; to ask questions and learn from others. I've found that you can accomplish more through a question than a statement."
His advice is, "Think first and speak last."