Leadership In Logistics: How Military Service Prepared Our Guest For A Career In Logistics

Episode 5 of What's Up Dock? Podcast with Derek Imig. Derek got his accidental start in logistics while serving in the military. There, he began to learn life-or-death leadership lessons forged under literal fire.


If your logistics team doesn’t make the on-time date, hit KPIs, or have a delivery route that’s optimal, it’s probably not a life-or-death situation. 

But for Derek Imig, Senior Director Logistics/Project Management at Marshall Retail Group/InMotion, that hasn’t always been the case. Derek got his accidental start in logistics while serving in the military. There, he began to learn life-or-death leadership lessons forged under literal fire.

Join us as we discuss:

  • How military service prepared Derek for a career in logistics
  • Advice for those new to logistics
  • What key data points a leader should look for

How military service prepared Derek for a career in logistics

Deployed to Iraq with a transportation unit, logistics wasn’t on Derek’s mind as a primary area of interest — he was still focusing on how appreciative he was for being given the opportunity to serve, something so many of his friends had already experienced. 

That excitement dulled slightly when the reality of his situation set in. 

On his very first mission, he was sent to transport empty trucks to ports to pick up containers of ammunition. Once they arrived at their destination, however, they spent an inordinate amount of time waiting. Once loaded and two hours later, Derek found himself back in that line — waiting again. 

Noticing the inefficiency, he went to work on a better system: 

“If you just put a little planning into this, you can make this a little more enjoyable,” He explains. “We can do this in segments. Why do I need 25 trucks sitting in line? We can go in groups of 10 every two hours, giving everybody a break. So I started doing things you don't actually realize were logistics.”

Anyone can get a group of vehicles from one spot to another. But paying attention to the details and connecting the dots can make that process smoother, quicker, and safer — especially when you’re dealing with the very dangerous situations Derek found himself in while deployed. 

“Logistics was an opportunity to be a very good leader. That's really what it came down to — attention to details, connecting dots, understanding root causes, and being continuously driven to do things better.” — Derek Imig

Transferring logistics skills back to civilian life

The skills Derek cultivated during his time in the military continued to serve him well beyond his deployment. 

Moving back into his civilian life, he began work for Amazon — working under a former military captain. Derek’s job was to own the logistics portion of his specific dock — such as placing the right trailers on the right doors. 

As he continued to move through his career, that initial logistics experience in the military was integral to every position, eventually leading to his Senior Director Logistics and Project Management position at Marshall Retail Group. 

Advice for those new to logistics 

For logistics newcomers, there are often a lot of questions around the kinds of opportunities they should take on — which are the right ones and the wrong ones? According to Derek, an interested party should take any opportunity they can get. 

Get experience where you can. What's making me successful here at Marshall Retail Group is knowing that there are other ways to do things — there's more ways to solve something than the way you've traditionally done it.” — Derek Imig

This means that any organization comes with the same opportunity to improve process, so long as the person is eager to avail themselves of every resource available, including new technologies. 

Getting teams to care about process

For those individuals drawn to logistics, enthusiasm for process comes naturally. But how do you get all teammates to rally around those same efforts? 

That success comes down to the first-line leaders. 

Since most employees won’t understand your motivations, it’s imperative that the supervisors leading their teams are responsible for the successes and failures of their people. This means monitoring their utilization: Create a good plan and make sure everybody's informed, and then follow up and make sure those things are getting done.

What key data points a leader should look for

While being a logistics leader requires a lot of quick thinking, making an effective plan is impossible without the right data backing up your decisions. And while Derek emphasizes that he doesn’t have all the answers, he shares some top data points to focus on:

Efficiency: Is everything running as smoothly as possible or could it still be improved?

Exceptions: Every organization will have its errors. Working through those problems effectively is what makes for an overachieving company. 

Middle of the operation: Big data and small data both come with their share of complexities. Collecting data at the middle of the operation creates more manageable solutions. 

Connect with Derek at https://www.linkedin.com/in/derekimig/

Keep connected with us by subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you get podcasts. Find all the episodes here.

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